How hard is it to learn bass guitar? There are different levels of playing the bass guitar, which means the timeframe of learning it is also very diverse. Nonetheless, if we’re talking about basic notes or tabs, you can typically learn to play the instrument within a week or two.
Paul McCartney from The Beatles, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, and John Entwistle from The Who. You just can’t talk about the bass guitar without mentioning the names of the best bassists of all time.
An entire band’s performance will probably fall apart without the bassist. They provide the structure and foundation necessary to make a song sound good. If you’re planning to play this integral role in a band, you might be wondering if you can learn the bass guitar quickly.
Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll talk about the basic and most important things you need to know about learning the bass guitar.
How Hard is it to Learn the Bass Guitar?
Of all the instruments in a typical band, the bass guitar is perhaps the easiest one to learn. It’s very beginner-friendly, and someone with little to no background in music can probably learn it in a few weeks.
The first step towards learning the bass guitar is understanding its structure. You can find more on that below.
Bass Guitar Tuning
Unlike other types of guitars, the bass guitar typically only has four strings. Its standard tuning is E-A-D-G, which is the same as the lower four strings of an acoustic guitar. The only difference is that it’s one octave below.
Some bass guitars have five strings, but instead of the standard tuning of the lower five strings of the acoustic guitar, which is E-A-D-G-B, the five-string bass guitar’s standard tuning is B-E-A-D-G or E-A-D-G-C.
It depends on where the fifth string is. If the additional string is on a higher range, then the string’s note is B. On the other hand, if the additional string is on the lower range, then the string’s note is C. This is to follow the perfect fourth interval between the strings of a bass guitar.
You need to memorize this, as the bass guitar’s tuning is important when learning how to play it.
Notes Instead of Chords
Perhaps what makes the bass guitar a relatively easy instrument to learn is the fact that you play notes instead of chords, which is what you do with acoustic or electric guitars. If you’re not aware, a chord is a collection of notes, which is why you press multiple strings when playing it.
You don’t have to do this with a bass guitar. Since you only have to play the note, basic bass guitar playing would only require you to fret one string and pluck it with your finger. The most important thing you need to learn when playing the bass guitar is how to swiftly and smoothly transition from pressing one note to another.
Learning Which Notes to Fret
There are two methods in learning which notes you should fret on your bass guitar. The first is by understanding how to read a music sheet. This is an effective way to learn the bass guitar because you’d have in-depth knowledge about playing music.
However, as we’ve mentioned, the bass guitar is beginner-friendly, and people with little knowledge about music can play it. So, how do you know which notes to fret without studying how to read a music sheet? You can learn bass tabs or tablature instead.
This is basically a simpler system that indicates which string and fret of the bass you need to press down. You can find a lot of these online by searching the songs you wish to play and including the keyword bass tabs beside them.
Basically, a bass tab includes the strings of the guitar, which are E, A, D, and G, listed vertically and inversely. This means that the E string is at the bottom while the G string is at the top. Next to it are numbers that indicate which fret you should press the corresponding string on.
For example, a bass tab would look like this:
This means you should first press the E string on the 3rd fret, followed by the A string on the 5th fret, then the D string on the 5th fret, followed by the E string on the 2nd fret, and finally the G string on the 1st fret.
One major disadvantage of bass tabs is that the rhythm is not indicated. Nonetheless, if you’re reading it while listening to the song you’re trying to play, you’d most likely figure out when and where to fret the strings.
Fretting, Plucking, and the Strings
If you have played an acoustic or electric guitar before, you might be surprised when you transition to a bass guitar. That’s because the latter’s strings are twice or thrice as thick as the typical guitar string.
This can significantly affect your bass-playing skills. The thick strings can sometimes cause your left fingers to slip or hurt quickly when you press too hard. On the other hand, pressing too lightly may not produce the sound you desire. That’s why a proper fretting technique is vital.
Some bassists use two fingers to fret the string. Either two of the fingers are holding down the string, or the index is fretting it while the middle finger is behind the index, adding pressure.
Your right hand should also be in full control of the strings when playing the bass guitar. That’s because the pickups are rather sensitive to force, which means pulling the strings harder will produce louder sounds, while pulling it lighter will produce softer sounds.
Right and left-hand coordination and control over the strings are important in playing the bass guitar efficiently.
It is true that there are a number of things you need to consider when trying to learn how to play the bass guitar. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the easiest musical instruments you can learn.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can quickly move on to the next step and learn the different bass-playing techniques that improve your melody and music.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.