Beginners and Parents Guide To Bass
by Andrew Challoner
This guide is to answer 2 questions: What is a
bass guitar ? and how is it different from a ‘normal’
The bass guitar or bass is a member of the string
family in music. It is called a bass guitar but is referred to as
a bass, whereas guitar implies the ‘normal’ 6-string
guitar. Bass is a bigger instrument than guitar, with generally
only 4 strings that are thicker to handle the lower notes. Almost
every band needs a bass player to play those low notes. It can be
played with a pick like a guitar, or with your fingers.
Sometimes bass and guitar will play the same thing
but the bass will be an octave lower so it sounds bigger and fuller
than just a guitar on it’s own. It also sounds really cool
when they play together. Other times the bass will play something
completely different. You generally don’t play chords on a
bass, but you get to be create basslines that move between the chords.
Bass is a little easier to start with than guitar, because you are
only playing one note at a time.
Because there are 10 guitarists to every 1 bass
player there are a lot more opportunities for bass players. Guitarists
will often only ever play on their own, but bass players will often
be in bands because they are in demand. And playing in a band is
a great experience! A bass player is like the glue in the band -
they join the rhythm of the drums, and the notes of the other instruments.
Bass is needed in almost every style of music and every band. School
concert bands and jazz bands will usually have a bass player (or
2 or 3), but not a guitarist. Another example is in modern r n’b
music which your kids listen to; the bass has a major role whereas
sometimes there is no guitar at all.
Some cools things you can do playing bass are
- walking bass lines, slap and pop, playing the low notes that no
one else can play on their instrument, create you own bass lines
over a chord progression, groove with a drummer and become a rhythm
section, play fretless bass, control the dynamics of a band, alter
the harmony by substituting different bass notes, write your own
riffs and songs, and make people dance as they can feel the bass.
You also have your own space in the music and do not have to compete
with guitarists, keyboard players, trumpets etc who are playing
in the middle and higher registers in music.
Bass players are more likely to learn to read
notated music (the dots) than guitarists who can quite often only
read tab. This is because it is easier, more practical and necessary
to read music on bass.
Bass can also refer to double bass, which is a
huge stringed instrument like a big cello played standing up. This
can be played with a bow or with your fingers and is used in classical,
jazz and country music.
A lot of bass players begin as guitarists and
then switch over to bass (that is how I started). It is not that
hard to change instruments: the left hand technique is basically
the same. The 4 strings on a bass are the same as the lowest 4 strings
on a guitar, but are an octave lower. E.g. A Bass is tuned E, A,
D, G from low to high, whereas a guitar is tuned E, A, D, G, B,
E. So a guitarist can easily learn some bass, once they understand
the right hand technique and the role of the bass.
Hope this helps you understand the instrument
that is the bass guitar!