Practice makes perfect.
That is true for anything you try to learn.
And lots of practice is also how to get better at bass guitar.
However, not all practice is equal.
You want to make sure you get the most out of your limited practice time.
You want to spend that time doing the things that bring about the most improvement.
So what should you be doing exactly? Keep reading for tips and advice to help you get the most out of your practice time and see the most improvement in your bass playing.
Table of Contents
How To Get Better At Bass Guitar
The only surefire way to get better at bass is to consistently practice and have an open mind for new experiences.
Rehearsing the practical aspects of music theory (like chords and scales) is equally important as improvising, polishing existing techniques with the right bass guitar exercises, and striving to learn new techniques.
It is also important to try your hand at numerous playing styles and music genres. Each category of music has a unique twist on how music should be played and holds a key to broadening your musical perspectives.
In a nutshell, practice, learn new things, work on your weaknesses, and strive to top your best performance. These are some of the things that anyone can work on to become a better bass player.
When I started playing bass, I was petrified by the sheer gap between my (lack of) skills and those of my heroes. I admired Geezer Butler, Steve DiGiorgio, and Glen Benton, and I hoped to reach their level someday.
The motivation to become better affects more palpable elements that you can work on. Whether you aspire to be in a band, be famous, make timeless music, or simply be better than you were yesterday, I think this drive to improve is a prerequisite for steady growth.
More concretely, several items should be on your list if you wish to be a better bass player, including consistency, mindfulness, improvisation, practicing known techniques, and attempting to handle more advanced ones one bit at a time.
Playing any instrument is a very mechanical activity. You use muscle memory and rely on prior training to play a riff (or an entire song), much like a basketball player would lean on their training sessions to score a basket and win a game.
To become better, you’ll need to practice as often as you can, even if it’s just a couple of minutes each day. You’ve probably heard the phrase “I’ve grown rusty” from players who’ve not been able to play for a while.
Inconsistent practice leads to just that–your playing will be sloppier, you’ll use more energy, and playing won’t feel as smooth as it used to. By practicing consistently, you’ll slowly get faster, more accurate, and sharper each day.
Most bassists eventually realize that there’s more to playing bass than just hitting the right notes at the right time. The best advice I can give to bass players of all skill levels is to try to be mindful of your playing whenever possible.
Give some thought to the chords you are playing on your bass. Why do some chords sound a certain way? Think about chord progressions on bass, too. Why do certain chords sound better in combination with certain other chords?
The same goes for notes, scales, and even bass licks you randomly improvise. This is how you can come to understand melody without rummaging through scores of music theory books.
Think about the songs that you like best and why you like them. Is there a specific theme, or does the bassist accentuate certain notes more than others? Are there simple techniques that you may have missed?
This will help you understand the nuances of “grooving” and song structure.
The next time you’re trying to learn a technique, but are making little progress with, try to think about the obstacles, rather than brute-forcing your way through.
Do you lack the speed to tap with both hands? Do you feel you lose accuracy when playing at higher tempos? Thinking and being aware of what you’re attempting to do is as important as actually doing it.
I like to think of improvisation as “style building”. When you’re improvising riffs and licks, your authentic style gets to shine as the accumulation of everything you’ve learned, practiced, and strived to do on a bass guitar.
Don’t neglect improv sessions, but don’t force them either. I simply adore putting a random backing track with just bass and piano in the background and layering it with slick bass grooves.
This helped me improve my own style of composing bass lines and continues to help me keep my edge when I’m bored with more traditional practice methods.
Keep Practicing The Techniques You Know
Even though playing an instrument is not supposed to be a competition, there is a set amount of things you can do with a poor arsenal of bass techniques. I’m talking about slapping, popping, sliding, hammer-ons, pull-offs, divebombs, and everything your bass heroes are doing on a regular basis.
My advice to both beginners and more experienced bass players is to constantly strive to learn new techniques while revisiting old ones as often as possible.
There’s no such thing as “mastering” a technique. Let’s take sliding techniques as an example. There is no “right” way to do it, but we can define it as “gliding up or down the fretboard”.
The more you practice it, the more you’ll realize that you can control the volume and tone of your slides, the “angle” of the leap, and the strength of the attack and decay. There’s so much more to all of the basic bass techniques, and it’s up to you to not ignore them once you’ve learned more exotic ones.
Be Patient And Take It Slow When Learning New Techniques
Speaking of which, you should also strive to keep learning new things all the time. Theoretically, you can play most songs as soon as you’ve tackled alternate picking and slapping, and I understand that not everyone feels confident enough to try learning arpeggios and 2-hand tapping.
But it’s worth it. Make a structured plan and set milestones. Imagine that there is a time limit each week for you to make at least some progress on a certain technique (this could also apply to tricky songs you wish to cover).
Even if you fail, remember how much progress you’ve made. Keep at it, and you’ll eventually master even the most difficult techniques.
Pacing is initially very important. I made dozens of mistakes when I started playing bass, thinking that I could immediately play bass solos as fast as the original player. Be patient, be as slow as you need to be, and gradually increase the tempo. You can’t learn to run before you learn to walk, after all.
Bass Guitar Tips And Tricks: Final Thoughts
Getting better at playing the bass guitar takes a lot of practice. But you want to make sure you practice the right things, to avoid wasting any of your precious practice time. That’s why you need to know how to get better at bass guitar.
The bass guitar tips above will help you practice the bass in a more focused way. That ensures the best use of your time, meaning the most possible improvement from each practice session.