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1 chapter An Introduction to Bass Guitar This is where you learn what the bass
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chapter
An Introduction
to Bass Guitar
This is where you learn what the bass guitar is and what it does. More
importantly, though, this is hopefully the beginning of many good times
playing and enjoying music. Let’s get started!
COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

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What the Bass Guitar Does . . . . . . . . . .
What the Bass Guitar Does
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Your Milestones
Get Started
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04_048506 ch01.qxp 11/2/06 10:55 AM Page 4 What the Bass Guitar Does
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What the Bass
Guitar Does

Most of the popular music you hear today is built on the foundation of the bass guitar. It provides the basic building blocks necessary to make a song, and it can also add just the right part here or there to make some timeless music.

Elements of Bass Guitar Playing

Elements of Bass Guitar Playing

Whether you listen to pop, rock, jazz, folk, funk, or most

other genres of music, chances are you’ve heard a bass guitar in the mix somewhere. Since it was created and popularized in the 1950s by Leo Fender, the bass guitar has become an indispensable part of the music of today. Far from just being

a rhythm-section instrument, bassists from Sting to Bootsy

Collins to Victor Wooten have moved from the background of the rhythm section to the forefront of popular music and made sure that the bass guitar claims a central role in many bands. When you become a good bassist, there will always be a group waiting for you.

A good bass guitarist combines rhythm, harmony, and style

into a package that makes a song sing and a body want to dance. Let’s take a look at each of those elements.

and style into a package that makes a song sing and a body want to dance.
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04_048506 ch01.qxp 11/2/06 10:55 AM Page 5 An Introduction to Bass Guitar chapter1 Rhythm
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An Introduction to Bass Guitar
chapter1
Rhythm

The first duty of the bass guitar is to keep the rhythm. Keeping the pulse of a song is central to your role as a bassist. Whether it’s a simple country two-step or a complicated jazz-fusion riff, the bass guitar always makes sure the rhythm and tempo are clearly defined.

Most times, you’ll be playing along with the kick drum of a drum set; however, you could also be working together with the player of a different rhythm instrument or just holding the rhythm all by yourself. In any of these cases, it’s vital that you keep the rhythm and tempo of the song moving and clearly defined. Check out Chapter 10 for more information on common rhythms.

Check out Chapter 10 for more information on common rhythms. Everybody has rhythm. It’s in the
Check out Chapter 10 for more information on common rhythms. Everybody has rhythm. It’s in the

Everybody has rhythm. It’s in the way that you walk or the way that you talk. All you’re doing here is translating your natural rhythm to the bass guitar. Relax and let it come to you as you practice.

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translating your natural rhythm to the bass guitar. Relax and let it come to you as
04_048506 ch01.qxp 11/2/06 10:55 AM Page 6 What the Bass Guitar Does (continued)
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What the Bass
Guitar Does (continued)
Harmony
Harmony

At the same time the bass guitar is keeping the rhythm, it’s also providing the basic harmony for the song. In most cases, the bass note defines the key of the song and the chord the instruments are playing at any time in the song. Where the bass leads, the others follow.

time in the song. Where the bass leads, the others follow. The notes you choose to

The notes you choose to play create the character of the song, so it’s important to learn as much as you can about what makes a chord sound the way it does, and how to make your bass lines flow easily from one chord to the next. This contributes greatly to making the song memorable and worth listening to. Look at chapters 8 and 9 for more information on chords and harmony.

Remember, all songs are made up of melodies over a bed of rhythm and harmony. Other instruments build on what you create and define.

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04_048506 ch01.qxp 11/2/06 10:55 AM Page 7 An Introduction to Bass Guitar chapter1 Style
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An Introduction to Bass Guitar
chapter1
Style

When you can keep a rhythm and know the song’s harmony, all that’s left is to play the song with style. Style is a word that’s hard to define sometimes, but you always know when you hear it. You might hear it called “swinging,” “rocking,” or “grooving,” but it always means that the bass guitar part is exactly where it should be: playing its role and making sure everything goes smoothly.

Style might be the hardest part of the bass guitar to master, but the road to style is based on being comfortable and having fun. The more you practice with your bass guitar and the more you listen to the bass guitar’s role in music, the more comfortable you’ll be playing it. The more comfortable you are, the more fun you’ll have. When you’re comfortable and having fun, the style will naturally come to you.

you are, the more fun you’ll have. When you’re comfortable and having fun, the style will
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04_048506 ch01.qxp 11/2/06 10:55 AM Page 8 Get Started It’s possible for you to play
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Get
Started
It’s possible for you to play your first song the same day you get your first bass guitar and ampli-
fier. With just a little time and effort, you can be on your way.

Some Basics

Some Basics

YOUR BASS GUITAR

You don’t need to buy an expensive instrument to start. A good-quality starter model will help both your playing and your budget. Chapter 13 tells you what to look for when you’re buying your first bass guitar.

to look for when you’re buying your first bass guitar. YOUR AMPLIFIER Again, you don’t need

YOUR AMPLIFIER

Again, you don’t need an expensive, six-foot-tall mountain of speakers and circuits to get started. A small practice amplifier enables you to hear your bass without irritating your family or your neighbors. Chapter 13 also helps you with choosing the right amp.

hear your bass without irritating your family or your neighbors. Chapter 13 also helps you with
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04_048506 ch01.qxp 11/2/06 10:55 AM Page 9 An Introduction to Bass Guitar chapter1
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An Introduction to Bass Guitar
chapter1

THE ELEMENTS OF PLAYING A NOTE

Although it might take some time to fully master the tricks and intricacies of the bass guitar, the fundamental parts—fretting a note and plucking it—are something you do the very first day. Add a couple more notes in the right rhythm, and you’ve got a basic song ready to go.

Chapter 5 shows you more about fretting a note, whereas Chapter 6 teaches you how to pluck one. The metal strips on the bass, called frets (you’ll read about frets in Chapter 2), help to keep your notes in tune. Get the basics of those chapters down, and you’re ready to go. The rest of the chapters add to your knowledge of the bass guitar and make you a well-rounded player. It’s best to start at the beginning of the book and follow the chapters in order, but you can always feel free to jump back to other chapters for reference as you build skill and experience.

in order, but you can always feel free to jump back to other chapters for reference
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04_048506 ch01.qxp 11/2/06 10:55 AM Page 10 Your Milestones
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Your
Milestones

Playing the bass guitar means learning something new every day. The key is making sure you keep learning. And you keep learning by practicing. Although learning the bass guitar is a journey, it doesn’t have to be a race. You’ll learn more by keeping a steady pace than by going in fits and starts. It’s important to make time every day to play the bass guitar in a place where you have as few distractions as possible.

in a place where you have as few distractions as possible. Make Time for Practice You

Make Time for Practice

Make Time for Practice
Make Time for Practice
Make Time for Practice

You don’t have to devote every waking moment of your day to learning how to play the bass guitar. In the beginning, it’s important to set a regular practice time and stick to it, even if it’s for only a brief time. Try setting aside 20 minutes at first every day to go over the basics of the bass guitar. Pretty soon, you can expand it to half an hour spent warming up, reviewing those basics, and learning new material. Pretty soon, you could be up to an hour or more of serious practice time. Your play- ing will improve with the more time you spend practicing; however, it’s important at first to get into the habit of practicing. Habits are hard to break, but the creation of good habits will only help you get better.

into the habit of practicing. Habits are hard to break, but the creation of good habits
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An Introduction to Bass Guitar
chapter1

Find the Right Place

There are a couple of good reasons why musicians are often banished to the garage or basement to practice. One, sometimes they can be a little loud. Two, and more importantly, it gives them a space where nothing is happening beyond the activity of practicing. Just as it’s difficult to read Shakespeare while the radio is on and the television is blaring, it’s difficult to concen- trate on practicing the bass guitar with other things going on around you. Find a quiet, comfortable place to practice, and you’ll see that having fewer distractions means you learn more quickly.

Notice the items in the picture. These are essential items to your practice space:

A comfortable chair, preferably without arms

A CD or mp3 player to listen to songs or examples

A music stand to hold paper (or this book) for easy viewing while playing

to hold paper (or this book) for easy viewing while playing Finally, make sure your practice

Finally, make sure your practice space is out of the way, so that people aren’t constantly coming through and distracting you. You don’t have to devote an entire room to practicing; your bedroom or living room will work. Just make sure that the only thing happening in there at that designated time is you enjoying your bass guitar practice.

TIP
TIP

Practice should never be a boring chore. When you practice, play what you like, set many goals, and you’ll never get enough.

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