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Joker94's avatar

Is bass guitar difficult to learn?

Asked by Joker94 (8180points) April 26th, 2011
13 responses
“Great Question” (1points)

I’m currently trying to get a band together with a few friends, and they’re in need of a bassist. We’ve decided it would be best for me to try and learn bass guitar to ensure that we don’t have to go look for another band member.

Now, as far as instrument experience goes, I only know how to play piano. Would it be difficult for me to try and pick it up with no prior guitar knowledge? Let me stress, I have next-to-no guitar knowledge

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incendiary_dan's avatar

It’ll be a bit tough with no guitar experience. You can still do it, though. For me, it was more about practicing to gain some stamina in the hands. And the good thing is that bass still sounds pretty good even if you’re just playing a few single notes.

Are your hands big? It’s not necessary, but it helps.

koanhead's avatar

If you have small hands you might experience some slight physical difficulty- it takes a certain amount of strength in the fingers to play bass, and your hands might need to stretch more than you are used to (or not, since you play piano).
Since you already play another instrument (and therefore know something about music) that will be a big help.
Guitar experience is less helpful than one might think.

cockswain's avatar

If you know how to play piano, you’ll figure out the bass without too much difficulty overall. I say that because I play piano and taught myself basic bass guitar. Once you know the various ways to play a scale, you’ll notice all keys are the same pattern, just beginning on different frets. Just play a lot and it’ll come to you.

I’m not too great (due to lack of practice), but I learned how to slap a bit, and that’s really fun.

josie's avatar

If you learned scales in piano, you will not have much problem.
The challenge with bass is as much timing as it is knowing your way around the fretboard.

john65pennington's avatar

Bass guitar was my first choice of an instrument to play. Then, I sat behind a set of drums and discovered I had a natural talent as a drummer. The rest is history. I suggest you first listen to the bass parts in many different songs. I learned a lot this way. Big hands are really necessary for playing a bass guitar, but there are several instruments out there that will suit your hand size. I believe there is a bass instrument shaped like the keyboard of a piano. Go to a music store and check this out. This may be just what you are looking for.

cockswain's avatar

Another thing that helped things click for me one day was noticing that bass can be played kind of percussively. I don’t know exactly how to describe that, but when you start slapping and hitting the thing, particularly in a band, you’re kind of setting a beat like the drums even though you’re also playing a melody. I don’t know. Thinking about it like that kind of helped me dig in more, feel the instrument better, for lack of a better description.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Slapping like @cockswain said also wears on your thumb a lot, but it is a lot of fun. :)

Joker94's avatar

I have averaged sized hands, but I’m generally good with stretching my fingers out over distances Thanks, piano!

@john65pennington That instrument actually sounds pretty sweet, not gonna lie

cockswain's avatar

@incendiary_dan Agreed, until you get that fat callous. Tires out your wrist too, vibrating it that fast.

You can do an awful lot only playing with your thumb.

Kayak8's avatar

I am a bass player (started on piano, then played guitar since I was about 10, then played bass fiddle). I am female and do not have unusually large hands (but I have pretty strong fingers from playing bass over the years). Because you have some choices of which string you wish to play to derive a certain note, with practice you can figure out how to play a tune without a great deal of left hand stretch (at least on a fretted bass guitar). And because of the design of the instrument, the thicker strings can be played with your stronger fingers and your weaker fingers (pinky) is in perfect position for the higher pitched, less thick strings. To build up finger strength, I often squeezed a small ball in my finger tips (a tennis ball was too big for my hand size).

Maybe due to the order I learned the different instruments, how I think of playing them are very different. I don’t think I rely much on my mental sense of the piano scales when I am playing bass but I think in terms of circular patterns when I play both guitar and bass and piano feels more linear to me somehow.

I don’t think you will have any trouble learning how to play bass guitar. I suggest finding a few songs you like (not your band, but recorded music with a decent bass part) and playing it over and over with the bass turned up and the treble turned down. Start with your instrument in its case and just listen to the bass parts. Get to where you can hum the part and feel like you know all the bass notes of the chorus (for example). Now take your guitar out and figure out the notes. This can be a slow process, but if you learn the part before you try to find the notes, it will go MUCH faster.

There are a number of songs with excellent bass parts that are interesting to learn. Once you get a sense of what bass players are doing by learning a variety of covers, then you can start to figure out bass lines for your band’s original material. You will be pretty limited in what you can write without getting a real sense of what other players do first.

You didn’t indicate what kind of music your band plays, but if you would share that, we can probably name some good bass players for you to listen to and learn from in the style you are interested in learning.

jerv's avatar

I think that the biggest problem is building up your finger strength. Just about ever bass player I’ve known has had a grip like a vise. I know that I personally have had a hard time playing @koanhead‘s bass because, unlike him, I am not strong enough to crack walnuts with my bare hands. Even the smaller bass players I’ve known (those under 200 pounds) tend to have extraordinary strength in their hands.

As for length, I have found my long fingers to actually work against me whenever I pick up a guitar or bass.

irainy143's avatar

the bass guitar is the easiest musical instrument to learn after the drums. basically you start working on your fingering and remember that it is precision that is the focus and not speed. speed comes to you naturally with time. then you start learning scale after scale. you shouldn’t have any problem at all.

auhsojsa's avatar

With bass you just gotta feel it.

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