I’m going to spill the beans on a rock music secret – the difference between an absolute beginner and someone playing bass guitar in a rock band is about three months. The bass guitar is an easy instrument to play.
Now, before all the bassies out there start tweeting angrily at me, I’ll qualify that statement further. The bass guitar is an easy instrument to play as long as you stick to simple bass lines. Fortunately, rock music is full of great and well-known songs with bass lines that would fall into that category.
With my interest in Edtech as well as my experience as a professional guitar tutor and frontman for several amateur rock bands, this article was inevitable. What I’m going to do is outline a four week schedule, to take you from beginner to band-ready. To achieve this, we’re going to rely entirely on Edtech, specifically videos and apps. However I’d also recommend finding a local or online tutor and taking a lesson each week to help you power along.
Week One Part One: Laying the Foundation
Firstly, you need to know your way around the bass and how to tune it. For this, we’re going to use two sources of learning: YouTube videos and an app – because seeing the same thing presented in two different ways is a great strategy for making it stick. We’ll start with the video: Learn Bass Lesson 01 – Introduction to the bass guitar
For tuning, we’re going to use a popular (and free) tuning app along with another YouTube video: App: GuitarTuna by Yousician which is available on iTunes and Google Play for free. YouTube video: How to Tune Your Bass
Week One Part Two: From Nothing to Something
As mentioned, we’re going to review the same content as in part one using a free app called Beginner Bass Method HD LITE, then spend the rest of the week continuing through their ‘Level 1’, which will teach you how to use a pick, read tab and start playing for real. Here’s the app on iTunes and Google Play.
Bass Method HD LITE is an example of solid, simple Edtech, since it’s well thought out and combines video with diagrams, enabling multiple ways of learning. It also allows you to slow down the video in order to get a better look if need be. Level 1 is free and is all you need for the purpose of this guide. However, if you feel that you’re learning particularly well via this app, you might want to consider paying the small fee to access their higher levels.
Week Two and Three: Learn Your Set
Over the next two weeks, you’re going to learn your first ‘set’ of five songs. From this list of 50 easy bass guitar rock songs, select your favourite five. Remember, your love of these songs will carry you through the tough moments over the next couple of weeks, so pick well.
Now it’s time to bring in our third and final app to make the learning easy, organised and fun. The app is called Songsterr and it costs $4.99 USD per month. You can grab it from either iTunes or Google Play. Songsterr has a bank of half a million songs in tabs and chords format. These include both six-string guitar and bass guitar. See where I’m going? With this app, you can learn your five rock songs using tab, charts and play-alongs.
Songsterr is a great educational app that’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal as one of “The Best Apps for Learning to Play Music” and was the Apple App of the Week as well. It’s very interactive and has a whole range of features such as giving you backing music to practice with, displaying real-time, scrolling tab and being able to slow songs to half speed.
Now, if you’re wondering if it’s possible to do this without spending anything, the answer is yes. The drawback is you won’t get the interactive learning support that the Songsterr app provides, which is considerable. However, if you’re feeling brave, all you need do is search in Google for your five songs, including the words ‘bass guitar tab’ and the song title.
Here’s where the hard work comes in. These two weeks are the key to the whole one-month plan. You need to spend at least an hour (preferably two) every day working on these bass lines. Master them one at a time and memorise them gradually. At this stage, when you make mistakes, rewind the song a little and go over the same section again and again until you’ve mastered it. Only then should you move on. This is the time for a little perfectionism.
Week Four Part One: Getting Audition and Gig Ready
You’ve come a long way, you’re fingers are sore but you’ve lived to tell the tale and can now play five rock songs by heart. You’re not perfect and you’re still making mistakes, but that’s to be expected.
Now we’re going to get you in shape for a band audition and your first gig. The main difference between playing with a band and practising by yourself is that a band won’t stop when you make a mistake. Instead, you’re expected to quickly recover and get back in the groove before too many people notice.
So, what you need to do this week is play each song, one after the other, with the goal of getting through no matter what. Rather than stopping the song when you make a mistake, you’re going to learn how to get back on your feet after stumbling, by getting back into the song as soon as you can.
Having said that, if one particular section of a song trips you up every time, you should revert to the previous practice method of going over and over that section to perfect it before coming back to this new way to practice.
Week Four Part Two: The Finishing Touches
As well as the ability to play bass guitar, there are other skills that can improve your chances of getting into a rock band. One of those is the ability to sing some backing vocals. Singing is obviously a whole topic in itself, but if you’re already a semi-confident singer then all you need to do is learn a little about mic technique and start singing a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ while practising your bass lines.
Another important element is whether or not you gel with the existing band members. Of course, a large chunk of that is simply down to personality, but some of it will be down to your ability to chat about music and the music industry in general. So, take the time to read up about the artists who made your five songs famous. Do some research about the songs themselves. Next, learn a little about the local music scene such as venues for gigs, small festivals and radio stations.
Lastly, there’s a bit you should know about music tech. Read up on the gear you might need as a bass player when playing at small venues and, if streaming and downloading music is all you’ve ever known, fill in the gaps in your knowledge of music tech in general (yes, there was music before Spotify).
Now you’re ready! Time to start replying to ads for bass players. My advice is to be honest that you’re a beginner but to say that you’re a very quick learner. The best places to look for bands are in Facebook groups for musicians in your area and on classified listing sites like Craigslist and Gumtree. There are also some good sites dedicated to helping musicians find bands.
I wish you all the best on your music journey.
Featured photo credit: https://pixabay.com via pixabay.com