How To Practice Bass Guitar – 2021 Player’s Guide

Craig
| Last Updated: March 23, 2021

Bass guitar is an instrument that can be easily neglected, especially from the audience’s perspective.

But, any professional musician knows that the bassline is a true foundation of a good song.

That’s why it’s very important to make it sound solid. And this quality can be achieved only by practicing.

How to Practice Bass Guitar

Here are some ideas on how you should take on practicing your bass guitar:

Make a Plan

Practicing without a specific plan may not be so rewarding for your playing progress. Also, jumping from one to another playing technique or mindless roaming all across the fretboard won’t get you anywhere. 

That’s why defining your plan before you even start practicing is a great thing. Define your weak spots and try to find exercises for resolving those issues.

Learn the Basics First

There is fun saying that if you can’t play it slow you’re not going to be able to play it fast either so let that thought sink into you.

We understand the urge to slap and play all those cool funky lines, but without learning the basics first it won’t sound right. Focus on how to create a clean and consistent sound first. Once you understand that it’s more important to sound clean than play fast and busy lines you are on the great road towards you

Break it down

No, not a bass - exercises!

Sometimes exercise can be really rewarding but it may be too complicated for you. That’s why you can cut it in the smaller portion until you get it right and then extend it to the full size. Let’s say some exercise requires you to do both up and down runs and you’re struggling with it - split it into doing only ups first and then only downs. Once you’re satisfied with it and you can perform it without mistakes, join them together and do the full exercise.

Record yourself

Don’t be afraid to take a listen to what you have just played. Analyzing your flaws will only get you better as you will be aware of the things you have to work on and what’s most important, you will have clear evidence of how it sounds.

Recording can break all illusions about your playing whether you’re having high or low esteem - it will sound just like you have played it.

And what’s even more important, if you repeat the exercise a couple of weeks later you can compare and see what progress you have made.

Why Practice Bass Guitar Scales?

You may think that scales are just too basic to be used in real life. Well, while Nirvana’s “Man Who Sold the World” may have something to comment on, no one ever said you have to practice scale in sequence. 

Playing scales doesn’t have to be boring music theory. Yes, a simple run up and down may sound plain and completely uninteresting, but you can always change the pattern to make it more fun and challenging. 

By changing the note duration or sequence you’re building into your finger a muscle memory to remember that specific shape so the next time you encounter it will be much more familiar to you.

But whether you play it in an old-fashioned way or make some interesting creative approach, scales are the best way to memorize notes on the fretboard. And let's not forget that bass guitar is an instrument where the chord is not played so often, so the only progression you’re going to have are single note runs. Those notes are usually played in the song scale so mastering your scale knowledge can get you far.

Eventually, it will improve your hearing and it will make you more sensitive when some notes are not on the scale. Learning some advanced scales and learning how you can integrate them over other scales used in songs can make a difference and define your style as well.

How To Practice Scales On Bass Guitar

You can practice scale by going up and down in intervals - playing only thirds or fourths and going up and down, so for example you would play C and E then D and F, and so on for C major scale. 

You can also stack 5 notes up and then advance to the next note in the scale and repeat the pattern until you get to the top note and then go back the same way down. 

Once you get better you can also use chord triad progression, include stops and mutes in certain runs, and eventually speed-up the whole practice incrementally.

Practice with Other Musicians

Sometimes, if you’re experienced enough, the best practice is to engage with other people. Putting yourself in a real situation can evolve your playing more than any other practice you can take on your own. Whether it’s just jam, gig, or studio work, you will gather the most valuable thing from it - experience. 

Experience is what makes a real difference between an amateur and a professional and while practicing can lower that gap it can’t compensate for the mileage of real-life situations.

Bass Guitar Practice Techniques

Here are some of the most important techniques you will need to practice:

Plucking 

String plucking is the core bass guitar technique and it’s essential to more than 90% of tones you’re about to create. Making those plucks consistent even while alternating your fingers is something you should pay most attention to as it will help you to create the best sound possible.

Muting

Besides plucking, muting is probably the best friend for improving your overall sound. The key is to mute the lower strings and the easiest way to do it is to place a thumb above the string you’re playing covering the lower strings or perform a pull across the technique.

Slapping

The next step for everyone is the infamous slapping. Nowadays almost all music genres are prone to include slapping in their songs so it won’t harm to have such playing technique in your arsenal even if you’re not so familiar with funk music.

Using pick

If you’re playing rock or metal music, playing with the pick might be the best way to go, especially for those fast-paced tracks. You can get a bit more speed and the sound will have much more punch and definition which is often more than welcome in the overcrowded mix.

Top 5 Bass Guitar Practice Tips 

We can go on and on about bass guitar practicing but here are the most essential tips that can be applied to everyone:

A Metronome Is Your Best Friend

Besides the drummer, of course. But, joking aside, while other players may “afford” to rush or drag a bit, you’re the one holding them all together and that’s why you have to be very precise. This can be done only by practicing with the metronome as much as possible.

Play With Your Ears, Not Hands

You’ve probably heard it so many times, but try to listen to what you’re doing while practicing. Practicing can get repetitive and you may turn your mindset into auto-pilot mode without even noticing you’re doing it all wrong.

Challenge yourself

The only way to progress is to put yourself to the test and try something new. Maybe you won’t use that lick or pattern anytime soon, but it will help to expand your knowledge and you may even surprise yourself when you find a spot to utilize it.

Use Backing Tracks

Practicing all alone can get you somewhere. But, all the practice is just preparation for the real thing - playing with a live band. That’s why finding a backing track that goes with your style might improve you even further as you’re going to put all the technique and theory into a real frame called - music. Feel free to experiment, jam over it, and have some fun!

Learn Songs

There might be some songs that you love - learn them and see what’s so specific about them. By analyzing the bassline pattern you may learn something new. The same goes for popular songs - even if you hate the specific song give it a go and check if that bassline has something you can use.

How to Play a Slap on a Bass Guitar for Beginners 

Slap is a very rewarding technique that creates that lovely tone everyone loves and makes a fundamental part of funk music, so here are some basic tips on how to perform it accurately:

First, relax your hand and place it over the strings and rest it around the neck joint area. Make sure your thumb is running parallel to the strings. Next, rotate your forearm just like you would do to turn a key in the lock. From this position, you can perform both slap stroke (turn forearm towards the strings) or pop stroke (turn forearm away from the strings).

For both techniques try to go across the string as much as possible with your thumb - avoid getting into the bass or down too much.

If you want to sound nice and clean use a smaller portion of your thumb as much as possible. Ideally, you would be using that side joint between the last knuckle of your thumb and the part where the nail starts. Try to control the string hit and avoid hitting it too hard.

If you would like to watch what we have just described, check the link placed below:

Conclusion 

No matter how far you are from your goal at this moment, always remember that nothing good comes overnight or by chance. No talent can surpass devotion and consistency, so take your time, make a good plan about your practice, and don’t worry, practice makes it perfect.

People Also Ask

This section is intended to be similar to an FAQ section. Please provide a concise reply to the question(s) below and begin the discussion with a short intro.

How Long Should I Practice Bass Each Day?

There is no such thing as practicing too long, only wrong exercises for the purpose you’re trying to achieve. If you want to become a professional going towards 5 or 6 hours a day might be the right way to do it.

What Should I Learn First on Bass Guitar?

While you want to learn how to play some songs, the first thing you should learn on bass is how to place hands correctly and learn the notes’ placement around the first couple of frets because it’s where the most of basslines are created after all.

Should I Learn Guitar or Bass First?

While they may resemble, those two instruments are completely different. We can see that learning guitar might be an easier instrument for a kid as it requires less effort to pull the string, but for an adult, bass might be even easier to play as there won’t be so much theory about the chord structure, at least in the beginning.

How Often Should I Practice Bass Guitar?

It won’t harm you to practice every day, but for the start, playing every other day is something you should try to achieve. Some skills are acquired only if you have a routine so it won’t be good to practice for three days in a row and then leave it for five days.

How To Practice Bass Guitar Quietly

Bass guitar can be played unplugged and its strings will generate a bit of sound that might be enough to practice without creating too much sound. But, it would be a shame not to combine proper headphones with so many apps available on both computer and handheld devices these days.

How Long Does it Take to Get Good at Bass?

Learning bass isn’t anything different from learning other instruments - it all depends on how much time you invest. If you are consistent with practicing you can become “fully operational” even after a year. But, to call yourself a pro, it will probably need at least 3 or 4 years of continuous practicing.

How Do I Practice Bass Guitar With My PC?

Of course. There are so many VST programs available that will simulate bass amp behavior. All that you need is a good USB audio interface. But, bear in mind that you will need a proper speaker or set of headphones - bass guitars produce low frequency so it may sound odd on a small computer or laptop speakers.

Can You Practice Bass On a Regular Guitar?

While the string tension won’t match and the feeling might be different, it is possible. The first 4 strings on the regular guitar are the same like on an electric bass guitar but bear in mind that the sound you will produce will be one octave higher.

Can You Practice Playing Bass On an Acoustic Guitar?

Because acoustic guitars have heavier strings than electric guitar, they will create a string tension closer to the regular bass guitar. So in case you have both an electric and acoustic guitar, we would advise you to use an acoustic one for bass practicing.

Do I Need To Buy an Amp To Practice My Electric Bass Guitar?

It’s not mandatory to buy an amp. There are VST programs that simulate bass amps and some of them are even available as a mobile app. But, nothing beats the “oomph” from a real bass amp, so if you plan to become a pro player, having an amp is something you should think of in the long run.

Craig

Hi there, my name is Craig. I took over Gear Savvy in mid-2019 and have had a blast writing content about music ever since. My role here is to steer the ship and ensure readers have the best information available for learning a thing or two. When I’m not working on content, I’m a husband and a dad. I enjoy spending time with my family, playing guitar, or messing around in my woodshop.