This article explores the details, efforts, and time required to practice the bass guitar. At first glance, people may assume that playing bass guitar is somewhat “easier” or less technical than playing electric guitar. After all, there are fewer notes to play with, and it’s unusual to see chords played on bass, right? Well, not quite so.
Every instrument has its own particular challenges, and the bass guitar isn’t any exception in that capacity. The unique aspects regarding its construction, the string gauge, and multiple other factors can be influential when dictating the particular techniques involved when learning this instrument and how much time is to be spent doing so.
Today we’ll explore the fundamentals of a good practice routine for learning a musical instrument, with the bass guitar in mind. All concepts and ideas mentioned will help us understand how long a practice routine should be and how long it takes to become a good bass player.
How many hours a day should you practice bass guitar?
Every practice routine should be elaborated according to the player’s needs and overall weekly schedule to become part of a natural habit. However, at least 20 minutes a day should be enough to get started. Every challenge, like learning an instrument, demands many hours of practice.
It’s hard to get there, but there’s no other way to get better without practicing first. It also applies to every major task you may want to get into losing weight, playing chess, or acting on a stage; all of them require years of consistent training.
It would be perfect if we could live more than 24 hours daily to do everything we enjoy every day. But that’s not the case, so a good practice routine should be established to get things done correctly. Stipulating your week’s schedule is an excellent way to start this. It’s highly suggested that at least 20 minutes a day should be spared to play the bass, as your brain will not forget about new concepts so quickly, and your muscle memory won’t fade away. But more important than playing every day is to have a nice, productive study every time you pick up the instrument.
The ideal practice routine is one taken daily, mixing different scenarios. For example, you can have a day designated to learn new songs, another to play with a band, other focused on nailing techniques and rhythm, and so forth. It’s not so essential to practice endlessly for hours because if you don’t do it with a pre-determined goal, it will exhaust you and not be so productive. Making the best out of a 20-minute practice session is more welcome than playing randomly for 02 hours.
How long does it take to learn to play bass?
You can safely say that it takes 6 months to a year for someone to be considered a solid beginner player. The more time you spend practicing and studying, the less it’ll take to become a good bass player. Considering you’re having a periodic practice routine (without taking classes), you can start seeing some progress in your playing from one month to another.
Of course, the more effort you put into your studies, the more compelling results you’ll see. Don’t be overwhelmed, though: forcing yourself to play for many hours may be tiresome and not as effective as it may seem.
A great way to keep note of your progress is by recording yourself. You can easily record the audio or video with your cellphone. The image or sound quality isn’t the goal here, but instead, the ability to hear and see yourself clearly is. You can keep the progress over time, and you’ll clearly see your evolution, besides having the perfect measurement of what you should focus on next. For example, if you see that your right-hand positioning isn’t very good, focus on that for another month, and so on.
How to play bass guitar effectively?
You can play bass guitar effectively by developing a constant routine towards it. If you’re willing to be a bass player, then be one! Don’t be afraid to include it in your day-to-day routine. The more you play, the more familiar you’ll be with the instrument and all the required techniques.
Creating a playing style isn’t easy, and it all comes in due time. If you fell in love with bass playing, there’s probably a reason why. Maybe someone really inspired you to play, or maybe you just love to play some band’s songs. The reason why you play matters only to you, and it should be the driving force behind your dream.
With or without a teacher, you’ll eventually create a solid habit out of bass playing in a proper study routine. It should be consistent in your life, but not in a harmful or tiresome way. If you’re comfortable around a bass, playing every time you can, you’re probably going to be a great musician.
If you get the chance to play with other musicians, you’ll see how fast your musicality will develop. Playing in a band significantly increases your chops because you’ll be interacting with other people musically. It’s the time to put to the test everything you learned, having the most fun out of it. Recording sessions can also be a great challenge to see if your rhythm skills are well-trained since playing alongside the metronome’s click or the drumbeat demands a high level of study.
Playing constantly in all these situations will prepare you with the best knowledge to effectively play bass guitar decently. Don’t be afraid to venture into this learning process because this can be very fun and rewarding, artistically and personally speaking.
What are the main bass techniques?
Some popular bass techniques can be specific to the instrument – such as slapping the strings and playing pizzicato – while others are more common to be applied on stringed instruments (like doing hammer-ons, pull-offs, and glissandos). Right-hand positioning and fingering are also important to list.
The best way to start developing your bass skills is through practice, but it’s important to know what to practice, exactly. You can have a good time learning some songs you like, but your knowledge will expand even further if these bass techniques are jointly improved. This is why it’s utterly essential to master basic techniques, such as a decent note fingering with your left hand (or right hand if you’re left-handed). Aside from playing each note properly, it’s crucial to know the notes throughout the fretboard, as this can make your musical thinking a lot sharper and more effective for learning more and more.
Specific techniques, such as slapping, can make a characteristic sound out of the instrument. Most musicians are familiar with slapping because it’s a specific sound that defines the bass guitar, and some songs even stand out because of this. For instance, think of the main theme for the “Seinfeld” TV show. Pizzicato is also connected to the bass because most players prefer playing the strings with their fingers (but there’s nothing wrong in playing with a pick, though).
These techniques should be trained and improved daily in order for some progress to be seen. Don’t expect to get any better without doing so!
What are the levels of bass playing?
The levels of bass playing can be classified concerning the progress you’ve made so far, so you’ll have three main levels of knowledge: beginner, intermediate, and expert. Each level can be determined by which techniques you’re studying and how well you can play them.
Being a beginner means that you recently started playing or you’re starting to get comfortable with some easy songs to learn. By this point, you should begin to learn the appropriate way to hold your bass without having any pain in your wrists, fingers, or some other part of your arm and hands. Here you can also start to see for yourself if you prefer to play the bass with a pick or your fingers, but keep in mind that maintaining both picking styles should be more valuable. This is also the stage where you’ll start to get comfortable learning new songs.
The intermediate level reinforces how willingly you’re towards learning this instrument. Here, you’ll start consolidating the basic techniques developed so far and introducing a few more. In addition, you’re expected to know how to have consistently appropriate hand-positioning by this point, which will enable you to start to dwell on techniques like slapping. For example, slapping the strings isn’t so complex, but a significant amount of focus and muscle memory will be required in order to play it right. Other ones, like hammer-ons and pull-offs, should also start to look familiar to you, as they can expand your musical vocabulary consistently. And finally, an intermediate player should also be able to know at least a good part of the notes on the fingerboard by memorization if needed.
The expert player is truly a bass connoisseur. Every regular technique will be under your control, as you can play them and use each one masterfully, in the most musical way possible. All the notes along the fretboard will be as clear as possible to you, enabling a more fluid and versed playing style. An expert will also develop a nice musical hearing undoubtedly, as practicing for so many years will sharpen your listening skills and eventually be the torch that guides your music when playing with other musicians.
Alas, an expert bass player can be consistently playing live shows, recording sessions, and jamming, because this is really what music is all about.
Each level is more of a different stage in the learning process than a simple “better or worse” judgment. The shared passion drives beginner, intermediate, or expert players to play music, and the only difference is that each is in a different learning stage. Crafting a bass style of your own is very difficult and will definitely take years of study, no matter what people may try to say.
To become a masterful player and musician, you’re required to spend an enormous amount of hours studying, playing with other musicians, and being comfortable with recording sessions. The beautiful part is that the more you do so, the better you’ll become. Plus, you can continuously improve, even if you’re a great player already.
How can I develop my bass techniques?
The best way to develop your bass techniques is by practicing and studying the instrument. A practice routine is the only way you’ll ever get to improve your skills, so this should be the main process for technique, rhythmic, and melodic development, taken as a daily task.
Studying is when you’ll learn something new: a class about scales, a new song, or some cool lick. This is the moment to sit down and take notes and absorb the content you’re trying to learn. It’s inviting to be set in a quiet, comfortable room that provides the best ambiance, just like when studying for a stern test at school.
If you have classes with a teacher, always ask them if you have any questions and pay close attention to their explanations. Of course, it’s possible to learn an instrument independently, but having someone experienced right in front of you may save you a considerable amount of time and can be the perfect way to nail that technique.
Playing an instrument requires patience, hours of study, and much passion involved. It’s a long process in which the player will always be forced to go beyond their limitations, always with a promising goal to be achieved.
Multiple techniques can be developed, and many more songs to be learned. Multiple bands, styles, and riffs are out there, just waiting for you to learn and add the knowledge to your musical vocabulary. Don’t be afraid to go learn on your own, but a teacher might be the perfect professional to give you the best pieces of advice and watch your development closely.
Defining a clear practice routine will get you in the musical mood easily and ensure the bass guitar will fit your day-to-day life. It’s common to get unmotivated when practicing and training, so be sure to always focus on what you really like and take small steps at a time. Eventually, you’ll find yourself playing with beautiful phrasing and tone for years.
Remember to play what you love and do it with passion. Musicians around you are your best friends, so be sure to get out of the bedroom and make some actual music once in a while.
See you next time!
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Eduardo Cardoso is a musician and audio producer based in São Paulo, Brazil. He studied both music production and theory in college and has successfully launched his career as a solo artist in 2021. With over 10 years of experience with the music business, he currently acts as a session musician, music producer, audio editor, and content creator.