Beginner Tips for Electric Bass

 Get a good strap! 

Practicing with your strap on your bass will help support proper playing technique. The strap helps your bass balance against your body and lets you to have your hands free to play the bass and not have to hold on to it. Have your strap at the right height, and it’s best to always play with a strap on your bass even while sitting down.

There are a few different ways that straps attach to the bass. One way is at the ends of the strap, there will be an opening where the strap buttons on the bass fits through.

A better and more secure way to do this, is to use strap locks. Strap locks, lock your strap onto your bass. This is the best way to prevent your bass from falling while you’re playing. 

There are different kinds of strap locks. I like using Scheler strap locks.

It’s also important to set your strap height so that your bass falls between your rib cage and your waist. If your bass is too low , it will change the angle at which your hands approach the bass and can cause technique problems. Setting your strap at the right length feels comfortable too!

The bass can be broken into three segments:

Body: This is where all the electronics of the bass are housed and where your right hand plucks the strings.

Neck: Your left hand presses down on the frets to get different notes out of the bass.

Headstock: To tune your bass, you turn the tuning knobs on the headstock.

The Music Alphabet and Half Steps and Whole Steps 

There are only 12 notes in “Western” music which is almost everything we listen to. These notes repeat over and over in different registers. (low, medium, high) 

The musical alphabet uses 7 letters A through G (the white keys on the piano) and 5 symbols called sharps and flats (the black keys on the piano) Each black key has a sharp and a flat name. There are twelve notes all together.

The easiest way to see this is to look at the piano.

The white keys on the piano are given all the letter names, which are called naturals. To name the black keys, we start with a nearby white key and then use sharp to raise it or flat to lower it. So, the black key between A and B could be called A# (A raised one note, which is to the right of the white key) or Bb (B lowered one note, which is to the left of the white key). Therefore, there is a sharp name and a flat name for every black key. 

There are two places on the keyboard where there is no black key – between E and F, and between B and C.

Now let’s talk about Half Steps and Whole Steps : (The basic building blocks of chromatic and diatonic scales. )

On the piano keyboard, the distance between any two keys, white or black, is a Half Step. The Half Step is the smallest interval. Using only the white keys on the piano, there is a half step between E and F, and also between B and C, because there is no black key between them (see the piano keyboard above) There is a half step between C and C# because there is no key between them. It doesn’t matter if the key you start from is white or black. To be a half step, they have to be right next to each other. 

Two half steps equal one whole step. The notes G and A are one whole step apart, as are the notes B flat and C.

What Are Half Steps?

In Western music theory, a half step or semitone is the smallest interval between two notes. On a piano keyboard, the note C is a half step below C sharp. The notes C and C♯ are next to each other on the keyboard with no notes between them.

Any scale that only moves in half steps is a chromatic scale. When you play a chromatic scale on a piano keyboard, you play every white key and black key in order—all twelve tones. There are only 12 different notes! 

What Are Whole Steps?

A whole step is the distance between two notes that have one note in between them. In other words, a whole step is equal to two half steps. If you play the note C on the piano, the note D is one whole step above it, and B flat is one whole step below it.

Any scale that proceeds in whole step intervals is a whole tone scale. This type of scale sounds unstable and almost ethereal. If you have ever heard an old film score evoke the sound of “dreams” or “time travel” you may be familiar with the sound of the whole tone scale.

Half Step and Whole Step Pattern in Major Scales

The building block of Western music is the major scale, which consists of seven notes. The lowest note of the scale is called the root and gives the scale its name. All major scales progress in the following pattern, regardless of key signature: root, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step (back to the root an octave higher). 

Half Step and Whole Step Pattern in Minor Scales

The minor scale is a fundamental part of Western music. There are three minor scales, the natural minor scale, the harmonic minor scale, and melodic minor scale, but it’s the natural minor scale that is most common in Western music. All natural minor scales progress in the following pattern: root, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step (back to the root an octave higher).

Music Theory can be fun! Once you learn a few basic things, you can use them forever to help better understand music and play your instrument at a higher level. 

  • There are 12 notes
  • We use the letters A through G, plus sharps and flats, to name the notes.
  • There is a sharp or flat between all the letters except E to F, and B to C.

Here’s how to find half steps and whole steps on the bass and how to find the notes in the key of C major on the bass.

How To Fret 

Basic Left Hand Technique 

The strings of the bass should be tuned to the notes E, A, D, and G. The E string is the thickest string closest to the ceiling when you’re holding the bass. 

By pressing down on the different frets, your left hand is what changes the pitch of the strings and allows you to play a bunch of different notes with only four strings. You use all four of your fingers to fret the notes, while your thumb stays relaxed and resting on the back of the neck. 

Your fingers on your left hand should be slightly curved and relatively parallel to the fret wires.

 (avoid slanting your fingers towards your body)

Keep your palm off the neck, and use your elbow, wrist, and finger angle to reach the frets. 

Aim for the middle to the end of the fret with your fingers. This helps avoid fret buzz, and reduces the amount of pressure you need with your left hand to get a clean sound. 

Do your best to stay relaxed, get a good sound and have fun! 

How To Pluck

Basic Right Hand Technique 

When you play bass, your right hand is used for plucking the strings. When you pluck, you have to anchor your right thumb by resting it on the pickup or a low string you aren’t playing while you pluck the higher strings. You alternate your right index and middle fingers back and forth to pluck the strings. Pull across the bass, not up and away from the bass.

if you’re plucking the E string, that means your plucking finger will hit your anchored thumb after the pluck. If you’re plucking your higher strings, your finger should collide with the next lowest pitched string after the pluck (after plucking the A string, your finger rests on the E string). This is crucial for getting a good solid sound out of your bass.

Bach Cello Suite in C

Now you know about the parts of the bass, and basic right and left hand technique. You’re ready to start to expand your playing!

If you want to learn more sign up for lessons here Bass Lessons

Here are some suggestions for some good, relatively inexpensive options for basses, amps and accessories.

Squier Affinity Precision Bass PJ

Squier Affinity Jazz Bass

Rumble 25 Bass Combo

Acoustic B15 15W 1×10 Bass Combo Amp

Levy Wide Bass Strap

Fender Jazz V 1999 Sunburst I recommend Sudbury Guitars for used equipment.

Lesson Resources