Our guide to bass guitar

Our guide to bass guitar

First published date April 02 2014 Amended date April 28 2014

The bassist in most bands tends to be overshadowed either by the frontman, lead guitarist or drummer, or in some cases, all of them, but that’s not to say that their talent is any less impressive or a lesser skill than the rest of the group. Though comparatively understated, the bassist and bass guitar bring a lot of power and rhythm to the music their band is performing, much the same way as the drummer. Some of the top musicians of all time found their trade playing the deep tones of a four-stringed bass. There are many bass guitar courses available in the UK, so whether you want to learn an instrument or want to perfect your ‘slap’ technique then there will be a course for you.


I’ve never picked up an instrument before...

It doesn’t matter, as long as you have an enthusiasm for music and a patience and willingness to learn, even the newest of beginners can slowly start to get to grips with any instrument. With a bass guitar, there are obviously just the four fairly spaced out and chunky strings which make it a little easier to get the hang of than, say, a regular guitar. There is still a lot of music theory involved in bass playing but as it is more notes driven, you don’t have to worry so much about remembering and interchanging between difficult chord shapes.


Courses available

There are many different levels of courses in bass guitar available for all kinds of players ranging from beginners to advanced and everything in between. So if you have an old bass lying around the house gathering dust because you gave up trying to learn it or if you’re looking to buy one, beginner courses will ease you into it all. Beginner courses will work on the basic techniques of bass playing like timing and groove, as well as finger picking. Starter courses are designed for novices so don’t be put off if you think you can’t do it, everyone has to start from somewhere, and under the watchful eye of a pro is a great way to learn and not pick up bad habits.

On the more intermediate and advanced side of bass guitar courses you will be taught some trickier methods and techniques. This could involve arpeggio, which is when notes in a chord are played in a sequence, or pizzicato which involves the plucking or pinching of notes or even the funk style of ‘slap and pop’ where the phrase ‘slap the bass’ comes from.  These types of courses are just the thing for you if you are looking to move up from the basic skills you already have under your belt to more varying techniques and styles. Honing your skills and perfecting them will build your confidence with the bass and could lead you on to taking your hobby further and maybe playing in a band.

Taking on a bass guitar course is always an option for you if you’re already a pretty competent guitar player as well, or any other instrument for that matter. With the same basic picking principals and styles as the more difficult guitar, the step to playing bass should be a manageable one,

The vast majority of courses on offer won’t offer you any kind of professional qualifications but will be flexible to suit your busy schedule and needs so you can take lessons in the evenings and weekends.


Some famous bassists

Paul McCartney – The former Beatle, known more for his song writing prowess and voice than his bass, McCartney still knew his way around the instrument and was pretty good for someone who only reluctantly decided to play the bass for the iconic 60s band.

Flea – Perhaps the most flamboyant on this list, the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s bassist is best known for his fast paced and heavy funk style of playing in which he demonstrates his flawless ‘slap the bass’ technique which you can hear here.

John Entwistle – Though the name may not instantly be recognisable to you, The Who’s bassist is highly regarded as one of the best bass players of all time. He gained the nickname ‘Thunderfingers’ for his encapsulating abilities. He had the rare ability of being able to turn the bass into a lead instrument rather than a backing one. Sadly, Entwistle passed away 2002 but his gift can forever be accessed here