The Electric Bass Guitar for Beginners

Welcome to Bass Guitar Rocks, the place to learn all about the electric bass guitar! Read on to find out more about this amazing instrument.

The Bass Guitar Rocks

It has been theorized by Jim Roberts, former editor of Bass Player magazine, that Rock n’ Roll music would never have evolved into the dominate force that took the world by storm in the 1950’s and 60’s were it not for the invention of the Fender bass guitar. Almost overnight, the bass guitar could suddenly be heard as well as felt, helping to propel rock music in bold new ways.

While these are the humble origins of the instrument, the electric bass is still compared to many other instruments like the violin or piano, with much left to be explored.

The bass guitar holds an interesting place in the musical landscape: straddling the line between the rhythm and the melody. Its main role is to anchor the band with a sonic foundation upon which the other instruments can shine. While some may slight the electric bass for being “easy” or “boring”, these people do not know the true power of the bass frequencies. It’s almost magical when you first learn how to listen for just the bassline to a great song and understand how it works to improve it. Once that happens, you’ll never hear music the same way again.

Bass Guitar Myths & Falsehoods

Some will tell you that playing a bass guitar is “easy” because it only has four strings. While it is true that the original electric bass consisted of four strings, there are now many types with five, six, seven strings and beyond. Realize however, that the number of strings an instrument has is not a perfect way to measure the music it can create – remember that the violin and cello also only have four strings (and most consider them to be difficult to play!).

Playing bass is as much a state of mind as it is a role in the band. There are no limits to what the bass guitar can achieve in the hands of a true master. While it is true that playing bass guitar may be easier initially than guitar, violin, keyboards or drums – there are still elements of challenge in the sheer physicality of the instrument, especially the acoustic bass guitar.

Bass Guitars vs.Electric Guitars

Compared to the electric guitar – an electric bass is bigger, heavier, has thicker strings and a wider neck. Playing a difficult riff on the bass guitar in many ways can be physically harder than executing the same pattern on a guitar. The bassist also rarely strums, so each note needs to be articulated where a guitarist may hold a chord for several beats. In genres with a fast tempo, the bassist needs to possess almost superhuman endurance to play a flurry of notes at speed for long periods of time.

If the bass guitar was as easy to play as some would have you think, amazing bassists like Jaco, Jamerson, Wooten, Clarke and many others would be common place. Don’t let others dictate what bass guitars are capable of; leave that to the musician and the music. I bring this up because I want to dispel the myths that many bassists starting out are forced to swallow, long before they learn the truth for themselves.

When you come right down to it, an instrument is a tool. No matter how much you pay to buy one, it’ll never play itself! The music comes from you, not the instrument. Despite what some may tell you, the number of strings on your bass guitar, the style of music that your play and even the technique that you use won’t determine if you are a “real bass player”. The music ultimately comes from you and whatever particular instrument, style or sound you come up with is yours alone.

Only you can determine what works best for you. Try everything and use the technique or instrument that makes the most sense for you.

Becoming a bass player was a great choice for me. I’ve had many wonderful experiences and played a wide array of musical styles as an ambassador of the low end. Perhaps as cool as it is to be a bass player – we need to identify not just with the bass, but with the song. Our goal shouldn’t be to craft exquisite basslines, but to create exquisite music. We are playing songs and music; we are musicians first and low frequency specialists second. Serve the song, not the ego and when in doubt – play less (and start listening)!

One of the magical aspects of being a bassist is that you’re somewhat anonymous. Even world famous bass players like Sting and Paul McCartney are more commonly known as “singers”. Bass guitar is often only noticed when it is absent altogether. When we do our job right – everyone else sounds so great that we are often forgotten about. Becoming a bassist is a good way to develop some humility and shrink your ego; you may need to learn to accept compliments paid to other instruments as compliments to yourself as well.

Even though bass guitars can rattle pant legs and shake the ground under your feet, most people are oblivious of how the electric bass allows them to feel the music and get into the groove, and that’s okay. So what if we go unnoticed? We know where it’s at and can handle not always being the center of attention.

If you’re thirsting for the glory of solos on center-stage, the bass guitar is probably not for you. However, if you can wrap your head around providing a solid and supportive groove, can show up on time and work well with others – you’ll never look back again. Heck – you might even get a chance to solo now and again!

Thanks for reading about the electric bass guitar. For those looking to learn more and get started playing the bass, I highly recommend checking out a copy of Bass Guitar for Dummies
at your bookstore or public library and keep visiting Bass Guitar!