newbie with some questions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by vincentpghpa, Apr 30, 2004.

  1. vincentpghpa


    Apr 24, 2004
    I am new here and I bet these questions have been done to death!

    I have decided that after owning one for more than 10 years I am finally going to learn how to play it.
    I need some pointers for a beginner. How do you tune? How do you learn? Do you start with other songs (which I really don't want to but will) What are some beginner exercises to get fast fingers. What are some beginner exercises to get fast fingers. Any other pointers and tips are welcome too.

    And just for entertainment Who is your favorite bass blayers

    Mine: Jaco, Billy Sheehan, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool.
  2. Well you have chosen a good instrument to learn, good for you.

    Some of those things are subject to opinion.

    Tuning is not however. If it is a 4 string bass you would most likely want to tune it E A D G from the lowest string to the highest. The bigger the string the lower the pitch. When tuning the strings, always tune up to the desired pitch. Tuners work with tension.

    hope this helps.

    anymore questions email me at

  3. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    1. Take the time to find a good instructor to learn proper mechanics.

    2. Keep muscles relaxed.

    3. Develop your ear by playing along with recordings, picking out the bass lines as accurately as you can.

    Good luck.
  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Welcome to the world of bass Victor.

    The tuning portion has been explained. I suggest a chromatic tuner by Korg. It is about $35 and has a microphone and input jack. You can buy a non-chromatic tuner, but if you ever decide to later in life buy a fretless, it will come in handy. Plus, a chromatic tuner can help develop your ear. As has been explained, you tune the instrument E-A-D-G, starting with the lowest note, which is also the heaviest, thickest string.

    Buy a metronome.

    This next part I cannot stress enough. I firmly, with all of my convictions and beliefs, suggest that you find a teacher. If you feel that you cannot afford a teacher, take 3-4 lessons. Surely one can scrounge up the money, (save the trip to McD's, put off buying the new CDs for a month, ask a friend), for at least 2 lessons, although I suggest a minimum of 3-4.

    If you are able to afford a teacher on a regular basis you will find yourself in a wonderful position. You can take a weekly lesson, or biweekly lessons. There are many ways to finding teachers. You can find webpages, by googling, or possibly your area has a unique classified listing. (e.g., here in San Francisco we have Craig's List and the Bay Guardian and the SF Weekly newspapers). If none of these things work, got to a jazz gig. Yes a local jazz gig. Not a rock show. I understand you may not want to play jazz, but go there anyway. Ask the bassist, (preferably not during a song or solo), who his/her teacher is/was, or even if that person themselves is a teacher. (Jazz players are more likely to have had a teacher than an original rock band player). It doesn't matter if the cat is playing an upright, as most upright teachers and players will not only play electric, but be excellent teachers. Next, remember that the teacher does not have to be the best player in the world, just a good teacher. There is some great advice in this forum about finding a good teacher. I suggest a quick search or use the newbie link thread.

    If you cannot afford a teacher, your journey will take considerably longer, and be paved with many more mistakes. But, you have to do what you have to do. All is not lost however, as there is a wealth of information and material available to you.

    First, as you begin playing, technique will be an issue. If you find that anything you are doing is causing so much discomfort that you become extremely sore, or even worse, injury yourself, the odds are great that there is something wrong with your technique. Playing an instrument, any instrument really, can be physically demanding. Your body will adjust over time, but at first you will be committing repetitive actions that your body is not used to. The most important thing here is to listen to your body. If something becomes very sore while you're playing, it's time to take a break, or stop for the day. Learn how to stretch your wrists. It will do the tendons and ligaments a world of good.

    The setup on your bass should be comfortable to you. This is where a teacher would come in handy, but if not, take the bass to a trusted person who knows about these things. Perhaps that action is not set properly for you, and these things can be adjusted.

    Click the link in my signature. Become familiar with the terms in my lesson. The information that is contained in that lesson is essential information to communicating in music and music terms. This information will build a foundation for which, if you choose, you can continue on in your theory knowledge. The basic information is definitely something that will increase your ability in playing.

    Have a well-rounded practice. There are many components to musicianship. You should work on ear training, sight reading, scales, arpeggios, songs, techniques, rhythm and much more.

    In ear training, you want to develop your ear to the ability to where you can here chord changes, basslines, and much more, but you have to start somewhere. I highly suggest starting with a song you know very well. There are many threads in General Instruction about ear training, with a great one by member Lump. Personally, I suggest starting with the blues. I think it's a great way to go because you are going to typically know the chord changes already, assuming you find the right key. And hey, listen, there is nothing wrong with hearing a note on the CD, pressing pause, not having any clue which one it is, and just hitting every damn note on the bass until you find it. We ALL start there. But, with the blues, you know the structure, or what the structure will be like. And here's the golden thing about that, that blues I-IV-V structure is used very commonly in popular music. It's probably the most used chord progression. Having repeated exposure to hearing those chord changes will do your ear a world of good. Also, when you decide to sit down and learn a song by ear, first listen to the song, three times, without playing the bass. You want to get a feel for the structure, (e.g. intros, choruses, verses, etc.). This will help you internalize the song, and make learning the bass line easier.

    Sight reading is often neglected, but very important. I like the beginning book "Note Reading Studies for Bass" by Arnold Evans. You can use the book on your own, without a teacher's assistance. The great thing about sight reading is that it's going to increase your familiarity with the fretboard, help your rhythm and time, give you melodic ideas and concepts, and much more. Also, it gives you the ability to communicate in the language of music. Victor, this next part is my advice, and I believe it as strongly as I believe anything about bass. You'll find people that disagree, and ultimately, of course, you must do what works best for you, but I so firmly and stronly believe that you must avoid tabs. Tabs, in my educated opinion, will hinder and slow your progression as a musician. They do not teach you how to play the instrument, they simply turn you into a machine putting your finger here or there. Besides which, often they are wrong. You lose the idea of the structure of the song, you no longer see the intervallic relationship of the notes contained within the bassline, you lose the rhythm, you lose the key signature and idea of viewing a bassline within it's scale, you lose the ability to navigate the bass how you feel comfortable. You lose so very very much, and in the end, you have just barely learned one song, and probably with many errors. I feel very stronly that they should be avoided.

    There are many websites, like, where you can find information on how to play scales. The lesson I asked you to click on earlier will show you how to derive scales, but you also have to learn how to play them. Making scales and arpeggios a regular part of your practice is essential. Scales and arpeggios are the foundation of what we, as bassplayers, do. Always always always always always always always practice them with a metronome. Start slow, you're not trying to impress anybody, and it sure as hell ain't a race. You just want to be accurate. Start the clicks at 50bpm, or slower if you want, and play the scales, all of them, and arpeggios with the metronome. Always have that metronome near by. Yes, I know that scales can be boring. Checking out Jamey Aebersold's first play along volume, "Learning to Improvise", (or something like that), can help add some fun to play scales and arpeggios. But, before you start there, you should just try practicing them alone, so that you have a feel for it, and your hands get used to playing. Try, when you can, to make things musical. You don't have to play the same old thing all the time, and there's no rule saying that when you play a scale or arpeggio that you have to always start with the first note. Play around them, try different things, explore. There are no rules here. Just focus, use the metronome as often as possible, and listen.

    Check out my thread in General Instruction called "Practice Practice Practice". A good practice routine is essential at the beginning. The important thing is to keep you practice fun and exciting. I suggest that when you do practice, make it the priority. In other words, give yourself a quite place, try your best, where you won't be disturbed. Don't take phone calls unless necessary. Focus just on what you're doing. I think that one of the worst things you can do is watch TV while your practicing. Randomly moving your fingers over the fretboard doesn't help much of anything. Music is auditory. It's about listening, hearing. The mechanical part comes after. You must hear what you're doing, hear how things sound when you play them, because as many believe, the ultimate goal here is to be able to play what you can hear and sing. Also, as you become better and better, challenge yourself. It's not really a practice session if you are just playing that song that already know. The goal is to learn and try different things. It's not fun, but what you want to practice most is what you are struggling with, the things that are challenging for you.

    Find the time that you can for bass, but life is hectic. Just because you can't devote an hour a day to bass, doesn't mean you won't be successful. If you can only play 20 minutes, then play 20 minutes, but challenge yourself, play something difficult.

    You'll notice that I didn't say anything about faster fingers. Faster fingers are a side effect, they're not something you work on. You become faster by doing the things I mentioned. But now, not only will you be fast, just like those robots and Guitar Center that practice speed speed speed at home and come tear up the display basses, but unlike them, you'll be saying something musical while you do it. Speed will come with time, when you don't even realize it.

    Ultimately, you will get out of bass what you put into it.

    And, after reading all that, click here: Proverb

    Oh yes, my favorite bassist is a guy named Eric. I don't know his last name. I can't find him.
  5. Joe Turski

    Joe Turski

    Jul 29, 2003
    Wow jazzbo, that was a great post! :)

    But, I think his name is Vincent?
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Thank you Joe.

    Sorry about messing up your name Vincent.
  7. jbass


    Mar 22, 2004
    Man, you could write a book.

    That was a great post jazzbo and sure is a lot of help.
  8. vincentpghpa


    Apr 24, 2004
    Thanks so much to everyone. Especially Jazzbo. I have had many more worse names than Victor.

    I have decided to save for lessons but will have to wait to find out where I will be stationed. I am looking around here and in Norfolk. I have a chance to live there or here in Hawaii longer.

    More questions though...

    Anyone know of a site that I can tune my bass to using regular tuning?

    What strings should I buy? I know I need to it's been sitting for a few years now.

    How much are metronome? What brand should I get? What do I look for in a good one?

    Same questions about a tuner?

    Jazzbo Can you please explain more about what you mean by setup? Do you mean how I hold the bass and stand or do you mean by what gear I use? Like amp and bass?

    I am printing up the Introduction to Scale and Chord
    Theory and am going to look through it and read it. Is it going to help me read music? I am trying to leard how to but am having trouble understanding any of it.
  9. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    If you mean a site that will play the notes through your speakers, check out One of the icons in the lower left corner of the screen has a tuning-fork icon. Click on that. They also have a configurable metronome.

    You can get a cheap click metronome for about $20. You can get a chromatic tuner (Korg CA-30) for about this price as well.

    I'd get a metronome that can be set from 40-250 beats per minute (bpm) at the minimum. I think this is standard.
  10. vincentpghpa


    Apr 24, 2004
    I checked into lessons and I have been looking at tuners. The lady that teaches at the only store that I went to teaches Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, and Banjo. I think she might be spreading herself too thin and might not be concentrating on Bass. I left my number anyways and will talk to her (hopefully) this week.

    I also checked into tuners. There was a sabine with a metronome for around 40 bucks. I can use it for bass (primary) Ukulele (Second) I have just never heard of the brand and was wondering what anyone thought about it. I bet I can find it cheaper too.
  11. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I say go with the Korg CA-30 Chromatic Tuner. It's the best I've ever used. Quick response, accurate, lots of settings, small, batteries last forever, automatic shut-off.
  12. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ

    Hey, something we can agree on! :hyper: :D
  13. radi8


    Feb 10, 2004
  14. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Have you considered using a piano, if you have one available? has an online tuner. But, we've talked tuners already.

    Man, I really don't know. I've never bought strings before, (except for the upright). That's just a really tough call. I know there's someone here, or in the STRINGS forum, that can help with that. I bet GARD would be a good person to ask.

    Metronomes are fairly cheap. I think you can get one for about $20. I use a Qwik Time Quartz Metronome. It ranges from about 40bpm up way past 250bpm. It uses a 9volt battery. I've had it for probably 8 years. I've never replaced the battery.

    Setup refers to the makeup of the bass itself, not the peripheral gear, like amps or the like. One example is how the high the strings are set off the neck. This is referred to as the bass's "action." If you have high action, or strings that are high off the neck, you can get a good solid tone, but it can be more difficult to play. If you have low action, you can play easier and quicker, but with more fret buzz or possibly a weakened tone. Personally, I've never been too much into setup unless there's a glaring problem. There are a lot of luthiers on this site, who are very knowledgable about this sort of thing, and can talk at greater length than I ever could. For me, unless something is really obvious, I just don't know any better, I just play with what I have. Assuming nothing is extremely uncomfortable, you should be okay. So, like I mentioned, if you have a trusted musician friend, possibly you can have him/her look over the bass.

    The lesson I wrote does not help you read sheet music, but it helps you understand music, theory, chords, scales, arpeggios and more. If you want to learn how to read music, check out the "Note Reading Studies for Bass" I recommended in my original post.