Bass Guitar For Dummies

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Play rock, blues, jazz, country, new wave, and Latin

Get ready to rock and roll on the bass — even if you can't read music!

Want to play bass? This instrumental guide shows you how, with expert advice in everything from choosing your bass to playing basic scales to improvising lead solos. You'll discover how to tune your bass and keep it in great shape, as well as left- and ...

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Overview

Play rock, blues, jazz, country, new wave, and Latin

Get ready to rock and roll on the bass — even if you can't read music!

Want to play bass? This instrumental guide shows you how, with expert advice in everything from choosing your bass to playing basic scales to improvising lead solos. You'll discover how to tune your bass and keep it in great shape, as well as left- and right-hand techniques, timing tips, and in-depth examples in various musical styles.

All this on the audio CD

  • Author demonstrates the rhythms so you can hear how it's done
  • Exercises help you master grooves and reproduce the sound
  • Hear sample rhythms played with a real drummer
  • Put your fretting skills to the test

About the Author:
Patrick Pfeiffer has been a professional bassist for more than 25 years. He played with Paul Griffin from Steely Dan and also taught Adam Clayton of U2.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764524875
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 6/28/2003
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Pfeiffer is a professional bassist, composer, clinician, and bass instructor in New York City. He has recorded with George Clinton, Jimmy Norman, Phoebe Snow, and many others. His other published books include Improve Your Groove—The Ultimate Guide for Bass and Daily Grooves for Bass. Pfeiffer is co-founder of Bass Remedies, Inc. (BassRemedies.com).

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Read an Excerpt


Bass Guitar For Dummies



By Patrick Pfeiffer Will Lee


John Wiley & Sons



Copyright © 2003

Patrick Pfeiffer, Will Lee
All right reserved.



ISBN: 0-7645-2487-9



Chapter One


Bass Bass-ics: What Is
the Meaning of Bass?

* * *

In This Chapter

* Differentiating between bass guitars and other guitars

* Understanding the function of the bass

* Checking out the parts of a bass guitar

* Getting ready to play bass

* Expanding the bass range

* Experiencing different music styles

* Taking care of bass-iness

* * *


Bass ... the glue of rhythm and harmony ... the heartbeat of the band!


The bass has unique qualities that draw you to play it - perhaps it's the rich,
deep, mellow sound or the hypnotic rhythms. In the right hands, the bass is a
tremendously powerful tool, because it gives a band its feel and attitude. The
bass is at the heart of much of the music you hear today. But what exactly is
the bass? What makes the bass so powerful? And how does it help give music
that irresistible feel? Whether you're a raw bass recruit or a seasoned veteran,
this chapter can help you answer these questions.


Discovering the Difference between Bass
and Its High-Strung Cousins

Bass guitars differ from their high-strungcousins (otherwise known as the
other guitars) in several significant ways:

  •   Basses normally have four strings, while guitars have six. In the 1970s,
    some bassists started adding strings. Nowadays you find five- and six-string
    basses (and beyond), but four-stringers are still the norm.
  •   Nearly all bass guitars are electric. Other guitars come in all flavors:
    electric, acoustic, or a combination of the two.
  •   The bass strings are an equal distance musically from each other. The
    sound of each bass string is tuned an equal distance from the string
    above it, making the instrument perfectly symmetrical. So if you play a
    scale starting on one string, you can use the same fingering to play that
    same scale starting on a different string. This type of tuning makes playing
    the bass much easier than playing the guitar, where the second-highest
    string is tuned differently from the others.
  •   The bass has a lower pitch than the guitar. The deep notes of the bass
    fill the lower end of the sound spectrum. Think of these notes as the
    "bass-ment," or foundation, of music.
  •   The bass is longer than the guitar, thus making its strings longer. The
    longer the string, the lower the pitch; the shorter the string, the higher
    the pitch. Think of a Chihuahua and a Saint Bernard: The Chihuahua has
    short vocal chords, and a rather high-pitched bark; the Saint Bernard ...
    well ... you get the idea.
  •   The bass player and the guitarist serve different functions. I won't
    bore you with the guitarist's job description, but the bass player's makes
    for fascinating reading, as the next section shows. (By the way, if you do
    happen to want to know more about the guitarist's job description, you
    can check out Wiley Publishing's Guitar For Dummies, by Mark Phillips
    and Jon Chappell.)


Understanding the Bass Player's
Function in a Band

As a bass player, you play the most crucial role in the band (at least in my
opinion). Everyone in the group depends on your subtle (and sometimes
not-so-subtle) lead. If the guitarist or saxophonist makes a mistake, hardly
anyone will notice, but if the bassist makes a mistake, everyone in the band
and the audience will instantly know that something is wrong.


Making the link between
harmony and rhythm

You're responsible for linking the harmony (chords) of a song with a distinctive
rhythm (groove). This link contributes to the feel, or style, of the music.
Feel or style determines whether a song is rock, jazz, Latin, or anything
else. Chapter 7 tells you exactly what you need to do to establish excellent
grooves, and Part IV discusses the different musical styles you're likely to
play. You want to be able to emulate any bassist in any style and, at the same
time, be creative - using your own notes and ideas!


Moving the song along

Every song is made up of chords that are special to that tune, and all the
notes in the tune relate to the sounds of those chords (see Chapter 5 for
more information about chords). In some songs, all the chords are the same,
and so all the notes relate to that one chord sound, making such songs easy
to play. Most songs, however, have different kinds of chords in them; in these,
the first group of notes in the tune relates to the first chord and has one kind
of sound; the next group of notes relates to another chord sound; and so on
throughout the song.

By playing one note at a time in a rhythmic fashion, you propel the music
along. You set up each chord for the other players in your band by choosing
notes that lead smoothly from one chord sound to the next.

Good music creates a little tension, which then leads to a satisfying release of
that tension (a resolution). For example, you can feel the tension and release
in as simple a tune as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." The tension builds as
you sing the first line: "Twinkle, twinkle, little star." Can you end the song
right there? No, because you want to hear how it ends. That's the tension.
When you get through singing "How I wonder what you are," you feel a resolution
to the tension, a sense of coming home. You can end the song there; in
fact, that's how it does end. The bassist plays an important role in creating
and releasing tension. You're pretty much in the driver's seat!


Keeping time

Keeping a steady rhythm, or a pulse, is one of the bassist's primary functions.
I refer to this function as locking in with the drummer, because you work very
closely with the drummer to establish the rhythm. So be nice to your drummers.
Listen to them carefully and know them well. And while the two of you
are on such cozy terms, you may want to spend some time together reading
what Chapter 3 has to say about rhythm.

Nothing works better than a metronome at helping you develop an unfailing
sense of time. The steady (and sometimes infuriating) click that emanates
from it provides an ideal backdrop for your own note placement, be it on or
off the beat. You can find out more about the metronome in Chapter 3.


Establishing rhythms

As a bassist, you need to have a very clear understanding of exactly how the
rhythm relates to the beat. You need to know where to place the notes for
the groove in relation to the beat. And you want to make your grooves
memorable (see Chapter 7 for more about how to create memorable
grooves). If you can't remember them, no one else will be able to
either - including the listener (who, of course, makes the trip to hear you play).


Looking cool

While the guitarists move through their aerobic exercises, dripping with
sweat and smashing their guitars, you get to be cool. You can join in with
their antics if you want. But have you ever seen footage of The Who? John
Entwistle was cool. And, if you ever get a chance to see U2, check out their
bassist Adam Clayton. He's one cool cucumber, too. Great bassists are just
too busy creating fabulous bass lines to join in the antics of their band mates.

Whew! A bassist has important responsibilities. Good thing you picked up
this book.


Dissecting the Anatomy of a Bass Guitar

You can call it a bass guitar, an electric bass, an electric bass guitar, or just a
bass. You hear all these labels when you discuss music and musical instruments - and
you may encounter individuals who believe that only one of
these labels is correct. But it really doesn't matter which term you choose,
because they all refer to the same instrument.

Figure 1-1 shows you a picture of the bass guitar (or whatever you prefer to
call it) with all of its main parts labeled.

You can divide the bass into three sections: The neck, the body, and the
innards. The different parts of the neck and the body are easy to see, while
the innards aren't so obvious. You have to remove the cover (or covers) to
get at the innards, but knowing what they're there for is important.


The neck

The neck of the bass guitar falls under the dominion of the fretting hand
(usually the left hand). The following list describes the function of each part.

  •   The headstock: The headstock is the top of the neck. It holds the tuning
    machines for the strings.
  •   The tuning machines: The tuning machines (also called tuners or tuning
    heads
    ) hold the ends of the strings. (The other ends are anchored at the
    bridge on the body; see the next section for more info about the body of
    the bass.) By turning the individual tuning heads, you can increase or
    decrease the tension of the strings (which raises or lowers the pitch).
  •   The nut: The nut is a piece of wood, plastic, graphite, or brass that
    provides a groove for each string. It forms one end of the vibrating
    length of the string.
  •   The fingerboard: The fingerboard is the flat side of the neck, beneath
    the strings, that holds the frets.
  •   The frets: The frets are the thin metal strips that are embedded,
    perpendicular to the strings, along the length of the fingerboard. They
    determine the pitch (sound) of the note that's played. Frets are arranged
    in half steps (the smallest unit of musical distance from one note to the
    next). When a string is pressed against a fret, the string's vibrating
    length, and thus its pitch, is changed.
  •   The strings: Strictly speaking, the strings are not part of your bass,
    because you remove and replace them periodically. However, your bass
    would be absolutely useless without them (except maybe as a "bass-ball"
    bat). The strings are connected to the tuning machines at one end
    and the bridge at the other. The vibration of the strings produces the
    sound of your bass.
  •   The back of the neck: The back of the neck refers to the part of the
    neck that the thumb of your fretting hand rests on. The fingerboard is
    attached to the front of the neck. The neck and the fingerboard are
    usually made up of two separate pieces of wood, but not always.


The body

The body of the bass guitar falls under the dominion of the striking hand
(usually the right hand). The following list describes the function of each part
of the body:

  •   The pickups: The pickups consist of magnets that are embedded in a
    plastic bar that lies underneath and perpendicular to the strings. You
    can have two magnets for each string, or one long magnet for all the
    strings. The magnets form a magnetic field, and the vibration of the
    string disturbs (or modulates) that field. This modulation is then translated
    into an electric signal, which in turn is converted into sound by
    the amplifier and speaker.
  •   The controls: The controls are the knobs used for adjusting the volume
    (loudness) and tone (bass and treble) of the pickups. They are located
    toward the lower side of your bass (when you have it strapped on).
  •   The bridge: The strings are attached to the body at the bridge. The
    bridge holds one end of each string and is located at the end of the
    body. Modern pickups, such as piezo pickups or lightwave pickups, are
    sometimes installed inside the bridge. These pickups read the vibration
    of the string at the bridge.
  •   The strap pin: The strap pin is the metal knob on the neck end of the
    body where you attach one end of your shoulder strap (usually the
    thick end).
  •   The end pin: The end pin is the metal knob on the bottom end of the
    body (by the bridge) where you attach the thin end of your shoulder
    strap.
  •   The jack: The jack (also called the input jack) is the socket used for connecting
    the cord from your bass to the amplifier (for more on amplifiers,
    see Chapter 17).


The innards

The innards aren't obvious to the eye (they're hidden in the cavity of the
instrument and covered with plates), but they are essential to the sound and
feel of the bass guitar. The following list describes the innards of the bass
guitar.

  •   The truss rod: The truss rod is an adjustable metal rod that runs the
    length of your bass guitar's neck. The truss rod controls the curvature of
    the neck and fingerboard and keeps them stable. The truss rod is usually
    accessed through the top or bottom of the neck if you need to make
    adjustments.
  •   The electronics: The electronics is a collection of wires, pots (pots are
    electronic capacitors, the round devices connected to the other side of
    a volume knob), and other important-looking electronic items that help
    convert the vibration of the string into sound. The cavity for the electronics
    is usually located under a plate on the back of your bass guitar's
    body. It may also be located under the control knobs on the front of your
    bass.
  •   The batteries: If your bass has active electronics (electronics with their
    own power source), you have one or two nine-volt batteries attached
    to the electronics (via some wires). These batteries are located in the
    same cavity as the electronics or in an adjacent cavity on the back of the
    body. If your bass has passive electronics (electronics with no batteries),
    you don't have to worry about replacing batteries.


On a Need-to-Know "Basses":
Gearing Up to Play Bass

Getting yourself ready to play both physically (with exercises) and mentally
(with theory) is essential to being a good bass player. You also have to pre-pare
your instrument by tuning it and by playing it correctly. When you play
the bass guitar correctly, your fingers can move with ease from note to note.


Coordinating your right and left hands

Because you play the bass with two hands (one hand striking and the other
fretting; no, it's not worried!), both hands have to be well coordinated with
each other. With the exercises in Chapter 4, you can warm up your hands on
a daily basis (just like an athlete warms up before a sporting event).


Mastering major and minor
chord structures

Two basic tonalities prevail in music: major and minor. Each tonality has a
distinctive sound.

Continues...




Excerpted from Bass Guitar For Dummies
by Patrick Pfeiffer Will Lee
Copyright © 2003 by Patrick Pfeiffer, Will Lee.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction.
Part I: The World According to Bass.
Chapter 1: Bass Bass-ics: What Is the Meaning of Bass?
Chapter 2: Getting the Tools and Skills to Play.
Chapter 3: Reading, 'Riting, and Rhythm.
Part II: The Bass-ics of Playing.
Chapter 4: Warming Up: Getting Your Hands in Shape to Play.
Chapter 5: Understanding Major and Minor Structures.
Part III: Making the Moves, Creating the Grooves.
Chapter 6: Expanding the Range: Going for the Second Octave.
Chapter 7: Creating the Groove.
Chapter 8: Going Solo: Playing Solos and Fills.
Part IV: Using the Correct Accompaniment for Each Style.
Chapter 9: Rock On! Getting Down with the Rock Styles.
Chapter 10: Swing It! Playing Styles That Rely on the Triplet Feel.
Chapter 11: Making It Funky: Playing Hardcore Bass Grooves.
Chapter 12: Sampling International Flavors: Bass Styles from Around the World.
Chapter 13: Playing in Odd Meters: Not Strange, Just Not the Norm.
Part V: Taking Care of the One You Love: TLC for Your Bass Guitar.
Chapter 14: Changing the Strings on Your Bass Guitar.
Chapter 15: Keeping Your Bass in Shape: Maintenance and Light Repair.
Part VI: A Buyer's Guide: The Where and How of Buying a Bass.
Chapter 16: Love of a Lifetime or One-Night Stand?: Buying the Right Bass.
Chapter 17: Getting the Right Gear for Your Bass Guitar.
Part VII: The Part of Tens.
Chapter 18: Ten Innovative Bassists You Should Know.
Chapter 19: Ten Great Rhythm Sections (Bassists and Drummers).
Part VIII: Appendixes.
Appendix A: How to Use the CD.
Appendix B: Really Useful Pages.
Index.
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2014

    To person whp wrote will

    This book is one how to play bass, its not on fish....:3

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2013

    Never buy a book for dummies or idiots

    You are better than that.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Will

    *he walks in with a fishing rod and a bass slung over his shoulder*

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2008

    learn to play bass

    this book helped me learn bass very easy. With this and some lessons, you will be able to play. The only downside is it doesn't teach you how to play chords.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2005

    ooops!

    Ok when i first read this book I was like 'what!?'. Then after reading it over it clicked and that same day I lost the book and now I am depressed that I have to shell out another 20 bucks for it. But it is worth it. Just read it slow and really digest what he is telling you and I swear you'll catch on. Thanks Phiffer!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2004

    ANYONE can learn from this.

    I have played for about five years on bass and I was accually getting discouraged because I couldn't find a way to improve my skills. I had learned how to play initially with some book but it couldn't hold up through the years. I was like, 'I need to LEARN MORE about this instrument.' So I picked up this book and, WOW! I learned so much technique, styles, proper fingering positions, great (and easy) ways to tune up, chords, scales, and so much more. I learned more from this book in two weeks than I have with the first book I started out with plus my few years of experience. A must have to anyone who wants to play bass. Thanks Mr. Pfeiffer!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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