10 Ways to be a Better Bass Player

By Gareth Bertolani
In Jun 2, 2013
10 Ways to be a Better Bass Player

10 Ways to be a Better Bass Player

Not too long ago I wrote about 10 ways to become a better guitarist, well, this time, I decided to write for our bass brothers with 10 ways to be a better bass player.

1. Listen

Always listen. Listen to as many bass players as you can, listen to what makes them good, or bad. Listen to their tone, technique, timing and their unique voice. By listening to other players you will start to understand what you want to be as a bass player.

2. Bass is actually allowed to be melodic

Don’t believe me? Listen to Paul McCartney‘s melodic lines in the Beatles. Paul set the standard for melodic rock bass lines with songs like ‘Lady Madonna‘, ‘Day Tripper‘ and ‘Paperback Writer‘.

3. Give that 5 and 6 string a go

If you only play a 4 string you might be a bit apprehensive to change your number of strings, but changing could open up a whole new world to you: the bottom end you get with the low B string, or the harmonies you can get with the high C string on the 6 string. Just experiment and have fun.

4. Start walking

Learn your arpeggios. Practice your arpeggios. Start playing walking bass lines. The concept behind walking is pretty simple but it takes hours of practice and experience, and there is only one way to do that.

5. Take a back seat

Being the bassist, you often need to take a step back so that the guitarists or vocalist can be in the spotlight. This can be hard information to take in but always remember that part of being in a band is that you have to try and do what is best for the music. Even if that means just playing the root notes in the pocket with the drummer while the guitarist is doing a lightning fast solo inside a rotating cage 10 meters above the stage!

6. To pick or not to pick

Before you pledge your allegiance to finger-style  or the pick, try both styles with an open mind. Both styles have their place in bass playing. Using a pick can get a nice consistent attack and finger-style gives you a warm, soft attack. Being able to use both of these techniques will make you an even more well-rounded player.

7. Use good strings

This simple ‘modification’ will make a bigger difference than you think to your sound, especially if you have a cheaper bass.

8. Play as many different styles as possible

If you are a metal bassist, learn to play funk and jazz. If you are a jazz player start learning some rock and metal bass lines. You might just find something you can bring into your own style.

9. Don’t forget about that picking hand

It’s a common trap we all fall into, we focus on our fretting hand and forget the picking hand. Get the metronome out and start practising to get a consistent attack and smooth alternating picking technique.

10. Listen to your drummer

Use those ears. Your ears are the most important tools you use to play music,  otherwise, you wouldn’t know what sounded good or bad. As a bassist, you need to use your ears to listen to the drummer’s playing so you can lock in with them to groove. With this in mind, listen to drummers and try to understand what they are playing so you can groove with them more easily.

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*Is currently doing his BMus (Hons) with COPA *Loves paying all types of blues even when he’s happy *Plays in “Book of Thieves” and “Sons of Apollo” *Has been gigging for 6 years *Has 4 years teaching experience *Gets beaten at Guitar Hero by small children *Jams with his cousin the legendary Albert Frost and shows him a few licks too *Platinum Instructor

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