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Bass Guitar - the Most Useful Knowledge You Will Ever Need


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The Most Useful Knowledge You Will Ever Need

So you want to learn more about playing bass? I’m about to tell you everything you need to know on 1 sheet of paper.

“I didn’t follow the standard rules of bass playing, and many musicians on many different instruments who became noteworthy for their unique or particular style did a very similar thing.”
-Billy Sheehan

One of my biggest sayings is that “There are no rules.” In music there are only theories. Hence the term “music theory.” The way you play an instrument is the way you interpret that instrument. Yes there are better ways, and better techniques than others. What I hope to do with just a few minutes of your life is to help you find them.

So who am I? I discovered the bass in 2006. I played for youth groups, local bands, anywhere that would let me. Crowds of 5 to 5,000. The outdoor playground to the arena, and have also played and worked with Grammy & Dove award-winning artists. Oh! I also love building relationships & creating art.

Now go ahead and get to it!

There are 7 notes; C D E F G A B
Between each note are sharps (#) and flats (b). Most commonly this is all referred to as
C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, Bb, B, and then you start back over at C.

To explain it more- C# could also be called Db just as F# could be called Gb. However, F could never be called Fb because there is no Fb or E#. In the case of E to F and B to C, there is only 1 half step; there are no sharps/flats there.

Whole Steps & Half Steps
To take a half step up from C, move your finger to C#. To take a whole step up from C, move your finger to D. To take a half step down from D move your finger to C#. To take a whole step down from D, move your finger to C.

If you know where just one of these notes are on an instrument, then you know where all the notes are on that instrument. Follow that 12 note progression walking up or down in half steps and you’ll find every note.
C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, Bb, B

Major Scale
A major scale starts on one note and goes up 7 until starting back over at the note it started on (the root note.) For example; a C major scale: C D E F G A B then back to C.

There is a whole step - half step formula to creating a major scale.
Now take a look at this for a second time-

Do you see the formula happening that creates a major scale?
Now look below. For the C major scale, the black keys mean a whole step, and the absence of a black key means a half step.

The scale is important on bass. You’ll know which notes are in the song you’re playing by following the scale. Just begin on the root note, (the key of the song) and walk up the scale.

Now you know everything you need to know before playing bass.

I call these “The 3”

1. ALWAYS lock in with the kick drum pattern.
If the drummer is playing a random kick pattern, and not a consistent kick pattern, ask them what the pattern they are playing is so that you can lock in with them for a tight sound.

2. Less is More.
Right now you want to focus on getting solid. Play the notes of the song, don’t focus on becoming Flea or Victor Wooten just yet. Those guys KILL their parts in the genres and styles of music that they play, but that dosen’t work in every style of music. On any instrument, you must respect and play the genre. Don’t try Victor Wooten stuff in a rock song. Only try Victor Wooten stuff if you ARE NOT playing a song, but just jamming. There are 3 guidelines to modern/timeless bass playing of any genre- Solid, Simple, Tasteful.


Simple: Play simple. Leave Victor Wooten out of any genre except Jam or Freestyle.
Solid: Locking in with the kick drum. Accenting with the tom, snare and cymbal hits.
Tasteful: Make up your own riffs and add them at various places throughout the song. But don’t forget simple and solid.

Tone & Technique

90% of tone comes from your fingers.
Playing a note- press down right before the next fret. If you’re playing a C, press down with edge of your finger touching the fret marker for C#.

Technique is important.
The best part is that you’ll develop your own technique. Practice sliding your fingers from the low C (A string, 3rd fret) up to the high C on the same string. Let it ring out then slide your finger down a half step to B. Next take a whole step down to A. See if you can “hear” your way back to C (3rd fret) by playing the notes you think come next in the scale. That’s a bass riff, and you used technique!

Write me on facebook or email if you ever have questions! @mitchperritt on twitter

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