I am a Music teacher. I hold a Ph.D. in Music Composition, studied piano for several years, and now I want to play the bass.

My concern is that every resource I find to become self-taught ends up covering very basic aspects of music theory (notes, scales, chords, functional harmony, rhythmic notation etc.) and it seems to overweight the importance of the very specifics of the instrument. I feel stuck into things I already have grasped for years, and just don't know what to skip, for fear of missing something technically important in such process. The outcome is very little advance into technical aspects and limited expression through the instrument.

Do you know any resources or strategies that could help me through this?

  • 3
    When I started bass, I just dived in - I was in a band before I'd even taken delivery of the instrument! What are you hoping to do with it? Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 16:10
  • @topomorto I am relaxed into this; I just want to learn for the sake of playing and having fun. I have an academic career that provides my living, but I started to feel less like having fun with music in latest years. I always loved the sound of bass and now I want to explore it. I just feel I can do it now.
    – SeuMenezes
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 16:47
  • Do you see yourself playing in a band, or solo pieces? Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 16:49
  • I see myself gigging and grooving with my friends.
    – SeuMenezes
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 16:51
  • 7
    There was this guy. He once met a bass teacher, who convinced him to give it a try. So he did. First lesson, they played the E a bit. Dum dum dum dum... Week later, now let's try that on the A string. Dam dam dam... Next week. Tell you what, we can switch between those notes! Dam dum dam dam dum... Next week, student didn't appear. Months later they met again by chance on the street. Teacher asked, where have you been? Didn't you want to learn the bass? Ah sorry, no time for that. Got too many gigs... Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 20:02

5 Answers 5


If you are taking the theory knowledge as a given, off the top of my head, you're left with

  • Instrument choice
    Fretless? 4-, 5-, or 6- string (or more?) Short scale? Active or passive? In some ways, bass is like a family of instruments. Do you want to focus on one, or spread yourself around a bit?

  • Posture and holding the instrument
    Just standing and hanging the instrument on a strap in a way that the neck doesn't 'dive' is important. Unforunately many basses 'dive' naturally, meaning that half of what your left hand does is just hold up the instrument. It's the equivalent of trying to play a piano with a lid that you have to hold open. Don't let this happen to you!

  • Left hand stuff : fingering and hand position
    You can find plenty of basic information about this online, I'm sure. It can be a bit personal : people's hand sizes very a lot, so often there's no one correct way to finger.

  • The basic right hand techniques : fingerstyle playing, pick playing, and slap/pop
    You may not be interested in all of these - the easiest starting point is probably playing with a pick, depending on the styles you are going for of course.

  • Muting
    Muting is more important on bass than on most other instruments. You'll be using both your right and left hand to do this.

  • Instrument setup
    how to select, modify and adjust your instrument for the sound you want to get

  • Amplification and signal processing/effects

  • The practical musicianship of locking in with a drummer and being part of the rhythm section

Bass is no easier than any other instrument to play really well, but a lot of songs have simple bass parts that are really not that tough to play well enough, even for a novice. I would suggest that if you want to play with a band, then that's your starting point; Just by being aware of the areas mentioned above, you'll be able to address the specific issues you face as they come along.


Do you also have the basics of the instrument's hand positioning for chords, etc. down? No one can teach feel...it must come from your soul. That said however technical ability can be taught - you say you are all set there. Excellent!! Now, find your voice and play! I suggest that you choose a few amazing Bass Players in the genre of music you prefer, find videos of live performances and study, practice, study. practice. I know many technically correct instrument players and vocalists who lack 'feel'.... You will get there...this is the same for any instrument.

  • 1
    "find your voice" is very true. The bass can be played (and set up to play) in a bunch of different ways - a lot of the process is about working out how to achieve what you want to achieve. Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 16:20
  • Nice to see this. The fact is that I am a total noob to bass, but a fairly experienced musician overall. My point is that I really need to get the very rudimentary aspects of bass playing (although I can find notes in the fretboard, I lack everything related to fingering, posture, tone etc.), but these are generally so attached to rudimentary aspects of theory that they end up getting more attention than the bass playing itself.
    – SeuMenezes
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 16:45

There are numerous online resources available. See Scott's Bass Lessons on YouTube to start with. He as an excellent video on postures, fingering, etc. for electric bass guitar. I'm sure with a simpe search you could find the same info for stand-up / acoustic bass as well.


It's often been said, and I certainly agree, that teaching something makes you learn it really well. You're already a teacher, why not get the bassics (sic) and start some pupils. You will always be a few steps ahead, if not more! Finding your way round a bass is not difficult, and techniques can be your own. Nothing wrong with that.

For the more advanced stuff, which may be a little while away, I found that videos were the best choice, so I could emulate what I saw and heard, but I taught myself ( I play guitar, which helps a little) way before I resorted to other teaching aids. Playing with others, as topo morto says, also concentrates the mind. As does playing along with the radio, C.D. etc. Just go for it!


Some basic things to learn.


  1. Root Fifth
  2. Root Fifth Octave
  3. Root Fifth Flat Seventh
  4. Root Fifth Sixth
  5. Boogie Woogie Bass

Chromatic Approach Notes

Straight & Shuffle Rhythms

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