Tips for Bassists Switching From Guitar by UG Community

What to expect and the most common mistakes.

Ultimate Guitar
Tips for Bassists Switching From Guitar by UG Community

Been playing the guitar for long? Want to get started with the bass, but don’t know where to start from? 10 tips from our users Thomme, RubberSoul54321, interforce, smtp4me and arvarna will help.

1. Get the thing set up by a pro. Bass setup and intonation is much more crucial than on guitar. Producing single notes instead of chords, it's imperative that it sound "right."

2. Get good strings. A lot of starter basses come with really harsh strings. A good set of strings will make it sound better, make it more comfortable and encourage you to play more.

3. Learn scales, keys and the circle of fifths. These are universal languages that span all instruments and having an understanding of these, you'll be able to adapt much better to your playing situations.

4. Don't upgrade the bass, upgrade the rest. While most starter basses usually come with subpar electronics, in the case of Bass (versus guitar) your amp is the main determiner of tone. On cheap amp, the tone doesn't come through too different between different basses, be that vintage wound, hot wound or quarter pounder. Running through a good amp, you'll get much more articulation, clarity, and thump to your tone.

5. Try thinking in terms of rhythm rather than melody/leads/etc. It's up to the bass player to lock with the drums and lay the foundations - don't try to compete with the guitar line, compliment it.

6. Major/ minor scales, and practice technique, for example being able to fret strings with all four fingers, will stand you well. A big part of what we bassists do is rhythm and playing with feel, you can get away with, and recover from playing a few bum notes on a gig, but lose the groove and everyone will know. Practice playing with a metronome, or better yet, get some drum loops of different types of music, and in different time signatures.

7. Whatever you play, play a lot of it. Compared to the guitar the bass is a strength instrument.

8. Learn the bass line for the songs you like. Play along. Pay attention to how the notes follow the chords played by the guitarist and/or keyboardist. Listen to how the bass player is in sync (hopefully) with the drummer.

9. You need to consider that you'll be using different muscles or hand techniques when you play the bass. If you do stuff like finger permutations, the speed and precision of your practice on the guitar won't be as great on the bass, so you’re recommended to start thinking about practicing your technique.

10. Learn proper fingering techniques. Once you learn how to properly walk your fingers, your playing will get much faster and cleaner.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Good advice here - the only other thing would be if you're not aware already....don't FTFO at the price of strings....
    As a bass player myself I can say that these are not only pretty solid but things that just about any beginning bass player should pay attention to
    It's all well and good saying 'learn proper technique,' but what IS proper technique? Here's a snippet I posted on the forum concerning fretting thumb position: Thumb on the back of the neck at all times. Yes, a lot of things in music are personal preference, but there is absolutely a correct way of doing things when it comes to technique, Your thumb is there as a support to allow you to fret notes properly. It gives you something to press against. Yes, your palm can do that as well, but nowhere near as efficiently - remember back to physics. Smaller area with same force equals more pressure. Additionally, try this. Hold your neck with your thumb over the top. Try and move your fingers, stretch them across frets etc whilst keeping that thumb position. Now try the same movements with the thumb on the back of the neck. Much more freedom. Additionally, with having the thumb on the back of the neck, you should have a gap between your hand and the bottom edge of the fretboard. Less contact is less friction, allowing you to move your hand around the neck easier. There are only benefits to thumb on the back of the neck aka proper technique,
    Last advise helped me a lot in personal relationships as well. Thank you!
    As a guitarist who occasionally dabbles in the bass arts, this is pretty solid article. But he left out the most important rule: In order to switch from a guitar to a bass, you need to put the guitar down and pick up the bass. It's really hard to play bass while there's still a guitar around your neck. That's not a metaphor, just a physics lesson.
    I'm both a guitar and a bass player. great tips The only thing i miss here is some tips for pick players. I can play with fingers but definitely prefer to play bass with a pick when it comes to play with other people, in a band situation or when I'm recording my own songs. I'm a big fan of Duff Mckagan. I also like players like Nikki Sixx, Genne Simons, Rex Brown... that kind of players (you guys can listen to my guitar and bass style at there you will find some of my own solo songs in which I wrote and played almost everything. I'm DAVE ROCK by the way) HERE IS MY TIP: It's important to develope strength and speed with the pick. It's harder than with a guitar. You should warm and exercise it form time to time with simple exercises or riffs that you create on your own