Essential Exercises for Electric Bass

by Beth McPherson about a year ago in how to

The Best Way to Establish a Solid Foundation for Bass Playing

Essential Exercises for Electric Bass

Learning a new instrument can be very discouraging to anyone who is just picking up an instrument for the first time. It is crucial that anyone beginning their studies of a musical instrument learns proper technique in order to avoid injury and to allow them to learn how to do anything they want to on that instrument. Good technique is the foundation for learning anything and is the best place to start learning an instrument.

Basses typically have four strings, tuned E, A, D, G. The lowest string would be the E string and the highest is the G. Before continuing reading this article, make sure your bass is in tune and you are familiar with the anatomy of the bass guitar. However, before you can actually play anything on your instrument, you have to learn how to properly hold it and maintain good posture.

How to Hold the Bass

When it comes to bass, it's important not to grip the neck with your whole hand. Place your thumb on the back of the neck, parallel to the frets. Your thumb should not reach around over the top of the fingerboard (like in the photo for this article), but rather the tip should be about in the center of the back of the neck. There should be space between the neck and the palm of your hand; Your palm should not be touching the bass neck. Your fingers should be reaching around to touch the strings just with the fingertips. The thumb of your right hand should be placed atop the pickup above the E string.

It's also important to remember that when fretting the bass, the string should not be pushed down on top of the fret. Your fingertips should be pushing the string down just behind the fret, so as to avoid a buzzing noise. It's also important to remember to keep the neck of the bass held slightly upwards; It should not be hanging at an angle below the bottom of the bass. This will prevent your wrist from being bent at an awkward angle, which will prevent injuries such as carpal tunnel.

Your First Exercise

One very important thing when it comes to learning the bass is the one-finger-per-fret rule. This means that we use our first finger (index) on the first fret, our second finger on the second fret, and so on. An excellent way to get used to the way the bass feels while establishing this important concept is to practice the following exercise:

G --------------------------1234---1234--------------------------

D ------------------1234-------------------1234------------------

A ----------1234-----------------------------------1234----------

E --1234---------------------------------------------------1234--

You should be using both your index and middle fingers on your right hand, alternating each finger for each note you play. Practice this exercise as slow as necessary, and make sure you practice with a metronome to establish a solid time feel! Start at a slow tempo, such as 60 BPM, playing quarter notes.

Once you're comfortable playing this at a certain tempo, take the metronome up a few BPM and practice that until you are comfortable with it. Continue doing this, but take it slow. It may take months or even years before you can play this exercise super fast, but practicing this every day and making sure its clean and precise will ensure you will be able to play just about anything on the bass at just about any speed.

That's all for now!

If you are interested in a more personalized practice routine or have something specific you want to learn on bass, I offer Skype lessons! Email me at: [email protected] for more information!

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Beth McPherson

Electric and upright bassist of 10 years studying Jazz Composition and Performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and playing in bands of all styles, offering Skype lessons and writing for my own metal band.

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