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Intermediate Lessons: Improvise

Improvising on the bass guitar is not easy. You have to know many chords and be comfortable playing them. Also, a bass guitarist who improvises should have a good ear for music and know what sounds right.

Improvisation refers to playing notes that were not originally written for a song, and making up these notes on the spot.

Only advanced bass guitar players will be able to consistently improvise with good results. However, I think that trying to improvise when you are still an intermediate player is a great way to learn. It will give you a new perspective on the songs that you play, and get you to start thinking about how they could sound differently (and possibly better).

As you play a song, focus on the rhythm. When you are first learning how to improvise, you should not try to change the beat or tempo of the music. Play different notes and see how they sound, but make sure that you keep the rhythm of the song the same. The first few times you try this, you may cringe at the result. But realizing that what you played sounded bad is actually a key step to learning how to be a better bass guitarist.

One of the easiest ways to improvise is to replace a note with its octave, that is a note one octave higher or lower than the note. Another way is to replace a note with its 5th, that is the note that is five half steps higher than the note. Try playing a song and replacing only a few notes with an octave or 5th. Do this at least nine or ten times, and then decide which version you thought sounded best.

Improvising will help you develop an ear for music. It will also make any song you play your own. This should make your practice sessions more interesting.

The key points of this lesson are:

  • Improvisation refers to making up new notes for a song and playing them on the spot.
  • Most notes on the bass guitar can be replaced by their octave or 5th. This is an easy way to vary the sound and improvise.
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Further Reading

Where to Find Bass Guitars for Sale Online - Discusses the best online musical instrument stores for bass guitars and other gear.

Beginner and Cheap Bass Guitars - Find out what you need to know before buying an inexpensive bass guitar.

Bass Guitar Resource Guide - Learn more and improve your bass guitar playing ability with online lessons, books, DVDs, CDs, and private lessons.

Beginner Online Bass Guitar Lessons - No Bass Guitar Required - Start learning the bass guitar right now, without an actual bass guitar, by studying music and notes. If you have a bass guitar, you can use these lessons to begin practicing as well.

Guide to Amplifiers - Learn how amplifiers and other sound equipment make the bass guitar sound louder and better!

Hal Leonard Bass Method - The Complete Edition

Learn to play the bass guitar with the help of this book. This is one of the best books that I have found for learning to play the bass guitar.

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