An Introduction To Bass Guitar
What's a bass?
A bass guitar is like a guitar, but with only the lowest four strings: E A D G. The strings are bigger and give you a lower sound than a guitar. The other difference with a bass is how it's played. The bass player's job is (usually) to "hold down the bottom end" and provide a "groove". What's that mean? Well, first, it means your part in the sound mix is the low range -- you're giving it the deep sounds. Second, you're part of the rhythm section! That's right, if you play bass you stick with the drummer. Together with the drummer, you provide a rhythmic base for the other instruments to play with: a groove. The groove you try to achieve is going to be much different depending on whether you're playing jazz, punk, country, pop, metal, or any other style!
You don't strum a bass like a guitar
You pluck, pick, pop, tap or slap the strings. Many bassists play strictly with their fingers, while others use a pick. This is not only a personal preference, but also affects what kinds of sounds you can get from your bass. For example, most punkers use a pick, while most jazzers use their fingers. Plucking with the fingers is probably most common. And if you're looking to get funky, you're going to want to learn how to slap and pop!
How to get started!
Here's a lesson for beginning bass players that shows you the basics of placing your fingers and plucking the strings. That's the technique; now, what to play? Bassists play what's called a bass line. That means they follow the chord progression of the song. Start by playing the root note. That's the note that the song is based on. If the key of the song is E, the root is E. It's usually (but not always) the first chord in the song. Try finding the root and playing it along with the song. Try to match the rhythm of the song. You'll notice that at some point, the song changes to a different chord -- try changing to that note when it does. If you have the sheet music, you can follow along with the chords.
When you're getting accustomed to following the chord progressions of songs, you can start learning some real bass lines. You'll notice that certain styles of music have commonly used bass lines that give them their characteristic sound. Blues might use a boogie woogie sound, while country might have a twangy "walking" bass line, and punk and thrash metal use more fast, aggressive bass lines.
Fender have a selection of other bass lessons to help you learn the bass: click here to go to their Bass Home Page. Try the easier ones and you'll learn about different styles of bass playing (blues, jazz, rock, funk) and learn some important techniques. Here are some good lessons for beginners: