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Lessons for Beginners: Rhythm

Rhythm is a necessary skill for all musicians, but rhythm is especially important for a bass guitar player. You can start developing your rhythm right now without a bass guitar.

Listening to music is a good way to start developing a sense of rhythm. This sounds simple, but in order to develop a better sense of rhythm you will need to actively listen rather than passively sitting back and enjoying the music. So eliminate all distractions, put on headphones, and turn on a song by a band with a bass guitar. If you do not know what to listen to, try something by U2 or Lynyrd Skynyrd.

As the song plays, focus on the bass guitar. These are usually the low notes strumming along in the background. If you are like most people, you typically pay attention to the vocals and lead guitar, while the other instruments blend in the background. It may be difficult at first, but try to focus only on the bass guitar. In order to actively listen, tap your foot or clap your hands to the beat. This will probably seem strange, and I do not suggest doing it in public unless you want people to look at you and wonder. Try this with several different songs, preferably at least one rock song and one blues song.

After a while, you will be tuned into the beat and bass notes. If your favorite songs start sounding different to you, then you are making progress. This means that you are beginning to listen to music like a bass guitarist rather than an ordinary person.

Using a metronome will help you sharpen your sense of rhythm. A metronome is a device that emits a steady stream of clicks. Metronomes can be mechanical or electric. The tempo of a metronome can be adjusted to an exact number of clicks per minute. If you do not have a metronome, there is a website that has a metronome you can use for free: click here for metronome

To practice using a metronome, set the number of clicks per minute to a reasonable pace (I recommend 60 beats per minute). Clap your hands in time with the clicks. If you do this properly, you will not be able to hear the clicks very well as the sound of the clapping will drown them out. This is much harder than it sounds. Keep doing this until you can comfortably keep up with the beat. Then turn of the metronome and try clapping your hands at the same rhythm. When you turn on the metronome again, see how far off you were. If you can maintain the same number of claps per minute without the metronome, then you have a good sense of rhythm.

Once you have developed your rhythm so that you can keep up with a metronome at 60 clicks per minute, set the tempo a little bit faster. See if you can clap in time with the clicks at 70 and 80 clicks per minute. Once you can move between various beats and clap faster or slower in time with the clicks, you have a great sense of rhythm.

The key points of this lesson are:

  • Listen to music. Set aside some time to focus on listening for the bass guitar in several songs. Listen actively by tapping your foot or clapping your hands to develop a better sense of rhythm.
  • Metronomes are valuable tools for developing your sense of rhythm. Clap your hands along with the beat at different tempos in order to increase the precision of your rhythm.
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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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