Going to a music store for anyone interested in learning to play is like taking a child to Disney World. Most musicians will agree that this is the first most important step into finding your "weapon", shall we say. I, for one, will admit of losing track of time in a music store. All the instruments covering the walls, keyboards and drums lining the floors in many different flavors...it's easy to spend an entire day in there. It's also a good way to meet other musicians, talk to them, and get some ideas in the right direction of what you are looking for. Sometimes, some hobby players will hear someone playing a song, grab an instrument and play along. Music stores have an environment all of their own.
Tips On Buying:
If you have not bought your bass yet, but are interested in getting one, go to your local music store and spend some time with various bass models. Important factors include sound quality, durability and weight. Looks are on the bottom. It's ok to want to look good, but not at the expense of sounding good. The one you keep going back to the most is more than likely the one for you.
Once you get a bass, assuming you picked up an electric bass, you are going to need an amp. Using the bass you have picked out, try out the various models with that bass only. Listen for any distortion, humms or other annyoing sounds usually not tolerable in music creation/playing. Remember, you are going to have a sound all of your own and what sounds best to you is more than likely the gear for you. You don't really need anything fancy, but if you can, an amp with some effect controls and input ports for practicing wouldn't hurt...but this is NOT an neccessity.
If you don't want to fork out for an amp right now, you could easily grab a TASCAM BASS TRAINER which will allow you play in private using headphones. One model allows you use CDs (this includes burned CDs) and another uses MP3s. Both models allow you to control the speed of the song without effecting the pitch. These also come with tuners built in which is handy. I highly recommend this now or later...a very useful tool to have around.
If you don't get anything with a tuner in it, you will need one of these as well as a cable to connect it all together.
Learning Your Bass:
Learning your bass is as easy as one-two-three. And it doesn't matter if you have a left or right-handed bass. Sitting in a chair, hold the bass like you was going to pick it. Observe where the strings are. If you bought a 4-string bass, the top string is your "E" string, the next one down is your "A" string, the "D" string follows that with the "G" string on the bottom. If you have a 5-string bass, only the top string is different, which is your "B" string. The rest are the same as a 4-string.
Each string is named because when you pick any one of the strings without holding down a fret, known as an open string, this is the key they should be in tune to. Let's tune your bass now.
Tuning Your Bass:
You can tune your bass in a couple of ways, but the most effecient way is with a tuner. I recommend a clip-on or one that the bass can be connected to over a chromatic tuner. The reason for this is simple, it's hard to hear the bass over a chromatic tuner when it is not connected to any amp, and there will be times, if you perform, that you won't be able to use this style of tuner.
Turn on your tuner and however it connects to your bass, clip-on or through a 1/4" cable, attach your bass to it. Make sure it is set in "BASS" mode if you have one for multiple instruments. Now, with a single finger, and not holding any frets, pick your "E" string. If it is out of tune, your tuner will do one of a few things: Either show a red color, or if it has a meter, will be on either side of dead center. You want a green color or the meter to show dead center. Using the tuning keys on the bass, slowly tune the string. Once in tune, do the same for the other strings.
If you want to, once the "E" string is in tune properly, hold down the 5th fret on the "E" string and pluck it, letting it vibrate while you pluck the "A" string. Both of these strings should sound the same. If they don't, then you need to adjust your tuning. You can do the same for the "D" string by holding the 5th fret on the "A" string, and again for "G" string by holding the 5th fret on the "D" string.
Now that you are in tune, you are ready to learn how to play.
Learning How To Play You Bass:
You are probably going to want to put in your favorite song and play right away. That's ambition and a good thing to have. So go ahead, and get a feel for your instrument while fine tuning the controls to get the sound of your liking.
Tablatures (aka TABS):
Most of the songs you will find on here (Ulitmate Guitar) and in most music books will be in a format call tablatures, or TABS. These are very simple to read and understand. I will show you, now, how to read this easy notation.
Take a look as this blank tab:
The letters on the left represent the strings. What fret you play will be shown in the tab on the string you are to play, and how to play it, like so:
In the above example, the tab is telling us to play the "E" string without holding down any frets represented by the "0". Play this now (hint: play it in a rock style like Kiss' Lick It Up)
Now, here is a more advanced tab to try:
In this example, the "E" string is picked with no frets held down for a count of 4, then, while still strumming, the 2nd fret on the "E" string is held. Without hesitation, we switch to the "A" string without holding a fret down (letting go of the "E" string when we do), and finally, still strumming, holding down the 2nd fret on the "A" string. You can try this now if you wish. I'll wait...
Tabs can be a very valuble tool to have to learn new songs. Beginners and professionals use this simple notation to learn new songs or for showing others how they did it.
You probably missed a few notes and was scratching your head going, "How did they do that?!?" Most of us have been there ourselves and know how frustrating it can be, especially when you are playing by ear. There is a trick you can do to improve the speed of your fret and picking hand. It actually can be the one of the most important exercises you could teach yourself and a great warm up before a stage performance!
Scaling is a technique to play notes across the fret board at a fast pace. But it can also be used to practice and teach your hands to move. This won't be an overnight success as it depends on how much time you spend on the instrument and how often. Taking too long to return to the instrument to play can rob your training.
How To Scale:
To scale, you are going to use each string open at first on a single pick, moving to frets 2 and 3, picking the string for each of those. To tell you what I mean, I will break it down followed by a tab for it.
Starting with the "E" string and not holding any frets down, pick the "E" string one time. Now, hold down the 2nd fret on the "E" string and pick. Hold down the 3rd fret on the "E" string and pick. When you get to this point, you are going switch to the "A" string, repeating the frets, then to the "D" string and finally the "G" string.
Here's what it looks like in a tab:
Start out at your own pace, working on not missing any frets and string changes as you go. When you reach the last fret on "G", perform the tab backwards.
Doing this, starting at your own pace, and working on doing this faster when you are comfortable can help improve your playing skills over time. When you are comfortable, move up a fret, exchanging the open string for the first fret, and frets 2 and 3 for frets 3 and 4. Working on this technique will help you overcome playing techniques performed by professional performers.
After this, the rest is up to you, which will develop into your style of playing...and we each have own way of playing.