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Lessons for Beginners: Basic Techniques

Basic techniques include how to hold the bass guitar, position your fingers, and play the strings. These are some of the most rudimentary skills, but also some of the most important. Using the proper technique will make it easier to play complicated chords and series of notes later on.

Holding the bass guitar properly is important. If you are right-handed, then you should hold the body of the bass guitar in your right hand and the neck in your left hand. If you are left-handed, then place the neck in your right hand and hold the body of the bass guitar in your left hand. Hold the bass guitar at a comfortable level on your chest. Adjust the strap so that the bass guitar stays at this level. You should always use the strap when you play the bass guitar, as it distributes the weight across your shoulders and back, taking some of the pressure off your hands. To make sure that you are holding your bass guitar correctly, look at the strings. The thickest string should be on top and the thinnest string should be on the bottom.

Fretting is holding down the different strings of a bass guitar on the neck. The fretboard refers to the wooden board on the neck just under the strings. Fretting is obviously very important, because how you press down on the strings will affect the sound that your bass guitar produces. First, make sure that your hands are clean and that your fingernails are short. Long nails can scratch the fretboard and make it difficult to press down on the strings properly. Dirt on the strings can negatively change the sound.

Press down on the strings between the frets rather than directly on top of them. Practice pressing each string, and be sure to use all of your fingers. Most beginners have a tendency to only use their index finger, but in order to develop as a bass guitarist you will need to use all of your fingers. There is a good chance that you will get blisters on your fingers, but don't worry - this is a natural part of becoming a bass guitarist.

Plucking refers to the strumming action of the fingers over the body of a bass guitar. If you are right-handed, then you will be plucking with your right hand. If you are left-handed, then you will be plucking with your left hand. Some bass guitarists use a pick, but most of them just use their fingers. I recommend not using a pick when you are first beginning. Hold your hand over the strings on the body with the palm facing the strings. Relax your hand. Place your thumb against the body of the bass guitar just above the strings, and use it as an anchor as you move your hand. Move your index finger over the top of one of the strings, press it lightly, and move it towards you a little bit as you let go of it. You will primarily use your middle and index fingers for plucking. Practice plucking each string with your index finger, and then switch to your middle finger. The sounds shold be clean and crisp. Do not go too fast, as plucking should be done at a leisurely pace while you are still learning.

The key points of this lesson are:

  • Holding the bass guitar correctly is important. Always wear a strap, and make sure that the thickest string is on top and that you are using the proper hand on the neck.
  • Fretting should be done by cleanly and firmly pressing each string between the frets. Be sure that you are using all of your fingers.
  • Plucking should produce a crisp sound. With your thumb as an anchor, focus mainly on using your index finger and middle finger to pluck the strings.
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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.

Click here to order