Bass Guitar For Dummies: Book + Online Video & Audio Instruction

Bass Guitar For Dummies: Book + Online Video & Audio Instruction

by Patrick Pfeiffer

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Learn to:

  • Play many different musical styles
  • Improvise using the proper scales
  • Develop solid rhythm and timing
  • Groove on the low end like a pro

Get grooving with this complete guide to playing bass guitar

Bass Guitar For Dummies, 3rd Edition, provides fresh, updated practice lessons, teaching

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Learn to:

  • Play many different musical styles
  • Improvise using the proper scales
  • Develop solid rhythm and timing
  • Groove on the low end like a pro

Get grooving with this complete guide to playing bass guitar

Bass Guitar For Dummies, 3rd Edition, provides fresh, updated practice lessons, teaching techniques, and access to online sample tracks to hone your skills. Whether you've never held a bass before or you're looking to improve your skills, this resource will get you playing quickly!

  • The world according to bass — develop the skills you need to play bass in a band
  • The bass-ics of playing — explore the techniques for turning scales and chords into great music
  • Making the moves, creating the grooves — discover the joy of creating just the right groove for each musical genre
  • Doin' it with style — use new sample tracks, updated practice lessons, and example teaching techniques to discover the nuances of jamming out
  • Make your bass an extension of you — find out what to look for when buying a bass guitar and how to care for it like it's your baby

Open the book and find:

  • A ton of grooves in a variety of different styles
  • How to change strings and perform basic maintenance
  • All-new exercises to improve your technique
  • Warm-up exercises, same-string strokes, and string crossing
  • Bass styles from genres from around the world
  • Instruction on composing your own grooves
  • Advice on buying and maintaining a bass guitar

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Product Details

Publication date:
For Dummies Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

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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
    ) 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

  •   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

  •   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

  •   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

  •   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.


    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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