Bass Basics


Date: Tue, 6 Feb 1996 15:21:19 -0600
From: Donl Mathis donl@Auspex.com
Subject: Beginning Bass Player

| I bought a bass amp yesterday, and have a book somewhere at home if I can
| find it. I used to have a chart that hade all the notes on the bass listed
| on it. showing you what fret etc. they were on. I would really like to get a
| chart like this again... does anybody have one they could e-mail me?
| 
| If so great, if not Ill look around for one.
You know what might be better than finding such a chart? Making one! Writing it all out will help you learn and remember it, too. You have to know a few simple things, starting from the *very* beginning, though you probably already know this stuff:

And that's enough to do the job. Start on the low E string; there is no E#, so we go straight to F on the first fret. The second fret is F#, also known as Gb, and the third fret is G. And so on, for each of the four strings, up to the twelfth fret, where it starts over again.

Put your brain in motion and make the chart!

As a check, the 4th fret on the A string is C#, and the 10th fret on the G string is F.

If you really *know* the fingerboard, you'll be miles ahead. Find all the E's, as quickly as you can. Find all the C's. Keep practicing until you can find any note, anywhere, quickly.

There are two notes that are (nearly) always safe to play for any chord that the rest of the group is playing: the root, and the fifth. Or octaves thereof. The "root" is the note with the same name as the chord, so if they're playing a C, you play C. The "fifth" is either five frets below that note, or seven frets above it (these are octaves of each other). So for a C, you can play a G as the fifth, and for E, you can play a B as the fifth. These (nearly) always work. Play notes in different octaves, and with creative but appropriate timing, to spice it up.

And with that, you're a bass player. :)

The next most appropriate note is the third, which for a major chord is four frets higher, and for a minor chord is three frets higher, than the root. So for E, you can play a G#, and for F#m (a minor F# chord), you can play an A.

And probably the next one after that is not as solid, because its not part of the chord, but it is certainly interesting: you can play the sixth. This would be nine frets higher than the root, or three frets lower. So for an A chord, you could play an F#, and for a G, you could play an E. You'd often use this as a "passing tone" to get to the fifth or the root, or as a jumping-off point for the next chord.

And with that, you're a more interesting bass player. :)

- donl


Back to Christopher Whitt's bass page.
Last updated February 8, 1996