6 Essential Bass Lessons

Looking for bass lessons? Then you’re in the right place, we’re going to talk you through 6 essential tips that you need to know if you want to play bass guitar.

In this free bass lessons you will learn:

  • The no1 secret to becoming a bass master.
  • 3 root note hacks which will enhance your playing.
  • 2 must-know lessons that will expand your fretboard knowledge.
  • 2 essential tips that will take your bass playing to the next level.

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What is a bass guitar?

Often, the bass guitar gets a bit of a bad rep from guitarists. However, bass guitarists hold the band together.

Without a bass guitar, a band would be nothing. It’s the bass guitar that allows the band to sound HUGE.

Check out 40 of the greatest bassists of all time, in this article by NME: 40 of The Greatest Bassists of All Time | NME

bass lessons

What’s The Difference Between Bass Guitar and Normal Guitar?

A bass guitar is quite different to a normal guitar. A bass guitar has 4 strings, where as an electric guitar has 6 strings.

An electric guitar is tuned E, A, D, G, B, E.

A Bass guitar only uses the strings E A D G, however these strings are tuned on octave below the guitar.

What Does A Bass Guitar Do?

A bass guitar often plays bass lines which support the rest of the band.

As the strings on a bass are tuned down an octave, it provides an extra bit of low end thud which just isn’t provided by an electric guitar.

Here’s a great example of rock band royal blood taking bass guitar to it’s limits. Who needs guitars anyway?

Before we look into some bass lessons. Let’s learn about the bass guitars anatomy.

Bass Lessons – The Anatomy of A Bass Guitar

The bass is quite similar to a guitar however there are a few subtle changes:

bass lessons

  • The strings.

There’s only 4 of them. These are tuned E A D G.

  • The fretboard.

This is similar to the guitar, but the fret board and neck are longer.

  • The frets.

Exactly the same as a guitar. These are the pieces of metal on the fret board.

  • Tuning pegs.

These are used to tune the bass.

  • The headstock.

This is where the tuning pegs are held.

  • The bridge.

This is where the strings are held in place.

  • The body.

The core part of the bass guitar.

  • Pickups.

These amplify the sound of the bass.

  • Volume and tone knobs.

Volume knobs controls how loud your bass is, the tone control how bright or dark you want your bass to be.

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Bass lessons – How To Play Bass Guitar

One of the main roles of a bass player is to play root notes.

It’s important that we have a good grasp of what a root note is as you’ll be spending most of your bass playing life, playing root notes.

bass lessons

Bass Lessons – What Is A Root Note?

The root note is the FIRST note in the chord. It’s important to understand what this is, as this holds the band together.

Bass players, don’t usually play chords, they play single notes.

Guitarists are more likely to play chords (ie. a group of notes which work in harmony together.)

If a guitarist is playing a chord, the bass player usually plays a root note of that chord.

For example, if a guitarist is playing a G chord, the bass player will play a G root note underneath this.

Why Is This Important To Know?

The root notes are what hold together a chord, there’s something extremely powerful about a bass playing a root note which is an octave below the original chord.

Bass Lessons – Learning The Root Notes

On a bass guitar, it’s important to know all of the root notes on the E string. If you can play and understand where these root notes are, you can accompany any guitarist in a band.

Here are all the root notes on the low E string:

bass lessons

What About Other Notes?

Here are all of notes on a bass guitar:

bass lessons

You don’t need to know EVERY note on a bass guitar. For the first six months of your bass journey, just focus on the low E string.

How Do I Use This?

Now you can see what all the root notes are, let’s see how we can use this practically.

Let’s say you’re playing with a guitarist, they’re playing the chords G – C.

If you were going to accompany them on the bass, you would play the notes.

  • G on the 3rd fret of the E string.
  • C on the 8th fret of the E string.

You would play these notes, because they are ROOT notes of what the guitar is playing.

That would sound something like this:

Can you hear how this adds a low end thickness to the guitar? It sounds huge!

This also works for minor chords.

For example, if the chord progression was:

Em – Gm

You would play the following notes:

  • A open low E string.
  • 3rd fret of the low E string.

bass lessons

Bass Lessons – Learning Arpeggios

Another way you can expand your root note is to use major and minor arpeggios.

This can add an interesting colour to your bass playing!

What’s An Arpeggio?

An arpeggio is simply a chord which is broken up into individual notes. When we play a chord, we often play a group of notes together.

Where as when we play an arpeggio, we play the same notes individually.

So for example, here’s what a chord sounds like on a normal guitar:

Here’s what it sounds like when we arpeggiate it:

I’ve used an acoustic guitar for this example, because if we did this on a bass it would sound a little muddy.

bass lessons

Bass Lessons – Learning Arpeggios

In music, two of the most common chord types are major and minor chords.

So if we want to accompany these on bass, it makes sense to learn the major and minor arpeggios of these chords.

Bass Lessons – The Major Arpeggio

This arpeggio works exclusively over the major chord.

We’re going to learn this arpeggio in the key of A.

bass lessons

If you wanted to use this arpeggio, you could use it over an A major chord. Just pick any of the notes within an arpeggio.

Bass Lessons – The Minor Arpeggio

This arpeggio works exclusively over a minor chord.

We’re going to learn this arpeggio in the key of A. Therefore this is A minor arpeggio.

bass lessons

If you wanted to use this arpeggio, you could use it over an A minor chord. Just pick ANY of these notes.

Bass Lessons – Transferrable Shapes

The best thing about arpeggios is that both of these shapes are transferrable, you can use them on the E string (6th string) and A string. (5th string.)

Try this:

Play a minor arpeggio starting on the 3rd fret of the E string.

  • This is a G minor arpeggio.

Now move this shape across to the 3rd fret of the A string.

  • This is a C minor arpeggio.

This also works for major arpeggios, try this as a challenge:

  • Play a major arpeggio on the 5th fret of the E string.

This is a A major arpeggio.

  • Now move this shape to the 5th fret of the A string.

This is a D major arpeggio.

Why Does This Work?

This works because you are changing the root note of the arpeggio. You can move both of these shapes to the E string and A string. All you have to know is the root notes on each of these strings.

Here they are:

E String Root Notes

bass lessons

A String Root Notes

bass lessons

What Does This Mean For Bass Players?

As an arpeggio uses the same notes which are in a chord, bass players can use this to their advantage and play arpeggios underneath chords.

For example, if a guitarist was playing a G major chord.

The bassist could play ANY of the notes from a G major arpeggio underneath it, as they would ALL work.

The same goes for minor chords too.

Let’s say a guitarist was playing a E minor chord.

The bass player could play ANY of the notes from a E minor arpeggio underneath it.

bass lessons

Bass Lessons – Tips For Playing Arpeggios

When you want to play specific arpeggios, you don’t have to play every note! The beauty of arpeggios is that you have a choice.

Let’s say you have an A major chord.

You don’t have to play the A root note over this chord.

You could play:

  • The 4th fret of the A string. (The 3rd note in the chord.)
  • The 7th fret of the A string. (The 5th note in the chord.)
  • The 7th fret of the D string. (The octave note in the chord.)

All of these notes are in the chord, so they all work. Experiment with each of these and see what works for you.

Do I need to understand the theory behind chords and arpeggios?

Don’t worry too much about theory. Just concentrate on nailing major and minor arpeggios.

For now,understand that:

  • Major arpeggios work over major chords.

And:

  • Minor arpeggios work over minor chords.

 

bass lessons

Bass Lessons – Learning Scales

Another key part of learning bass is to learn scales. Just like arpeggios, there are two types of scales.

These are:

  • Major scales.
  • Minor scales.

Let’s learn them.

Bass Lessons – The Major Scale

Let’s learn this scale in the key of A.

bass lessons

Here’s what it sounds like:

So just like our arpeggio counterparts, we could use this over an A major chord.

Bass Lessons – The Minor Scale

We’re going to learn this in the key of A too.

bass lessons

Here’s what it sounds like:

We can use this scale over an A minor chord.

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again. Click here to download your copy.

 

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Bass Lessons – Using Major And Minor Scales

Another way to add interest to your bass lines, is to use notes from a scale.

Theoretically:

  • Any notes in a major scale work over a major chord.
  • Any of the notes in a minor scale, work over a minor chord.

So, let’s say you’re accompanying a guitarist. He’s playing the chords G major and E minor.

Here’s what you could play over the G major chord.

  • A G root note.
  • A G major arpeggio.
  • A G major scale.

Any of these notes work over a G major Chord.

Here’s what you could play over the E minor chord:

  • A E root note.
  • A E minor arpeggio.
  • A E minor scale.

All of the notes here work over a E minor chord!

The tricky thing when playing the bass is switching between the two, so if at first it seems too complicated. Keep it simple!

Your role as a bass player is to hold the groove. However, if you feel you can expand on what you’re already doing. Try and do it by using scales and arpeggios.

bass lessons

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

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