“Practice makes perfect” - Anonymous
You probably won’t spend ten hours a day practising bass. Practising for ten hours a day is a quick way to get sick of it. That said, you can play for less than that and still become a great bassist. This will take you longer, of course.
According to a study by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you can become a professional. However, not everyone wants to become the next Paul McCartney!
Here’s some advice on how often you should play bass.
Define Your Objectives as a Bassist
Learning to play the bass is an objective in itself. However, this is a longterm and vague objective. You’ll probably have no idea how to get there.
When you’re doing something like losing weight, stopping smoking, or learning bass, it’s tricky to know where to start.
You need a short-term and achievable goal:
- For losing weight, for example, you’ll need to know how much weight, in how much time, and how you can do this.
- When quitting smoking, you’ll need to think about when and which method. Are you going to stop cold turkey or break off gently?
When it comes to learning the bass, you should consider how much time you’re going to spend each day.
Which methods will you use? How quickly do you want to learn how to play?
To play a musical instrument, be it the piano, electric guitar, drums, bass, etc., you’ll need to outline your objectives.
For example, do you want to play bass in a rock band, improve your sense of rhythm, improvise, or sing and play bass at the same time?
It’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important.
“Success is a journey, not a destination.” - Arthur Ashe
To achieve a goal, it’s better to break it down into steps. These smaller steps will help you to become a better bassist and help keep you motivated throughout the learning process.
Even if the bass is a simple instrument when you get started, it requires a lot of work. So get ready for it!
Create a Practice Programme
Having established your overall goal, you’re going to have to now work out how much time you’ll need to spend achieving it.
How many times per week can you play bass? Once, twice, three times?
How much time can you spend each day playing? 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour?
Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a clearer picture of how much time you’re going to spend playing bass. Your training programme will be planned in accordance with this schedule. Make a note in your diary when you’re going to practise.
We often think that you can just buy your first bass guitar and start playing, but you actually need to think about what you’re going to work on.
An Example of a Bass Practise Schedule
Here’s an example of what you could be doing to learn how to play the bass.
- Stage 1.
- Week 1:
- Tuning the bass
- Work on fingerpicking with your index and middle finger at a tempo of 60bpm.
- Work on your fingering with your left hand (60bpm)
- Week 2:
- Same fingerpicking exercises at a tempo of 80bpm
- Same fingering exercises at a tempo of 80bpm
- Practise the riff from Seven Nation Army
- Week 3:
- Same fingerpicking exercises at a tempo of 100bpm
- Same fingering exercises at a tempo of 100bpm
- Practise the riff from Stand By Me
- Week 4:
- Same fingerpicking exercises at a tempo of 120bpm
- Same fingering exercises at a tempo of 120bpm
- Practise the riff from Stand By Me and Seven Nation Army
- Week 1:
- Stage 2:
- Week 1: Major scale
- Week 2: Minor natural scale
- Week 3: Triads
- Week 4: 7th chords
- Week 5: Major pentatonic scale
- Week 6: Minor pentatonic scale
You can also find advice on practice programmes online. There are also blues and rock songs for beginners.
Dedicate some time to learning the basics of music theory so that you can read bass tabs and sheet music. You should also keep in mind that you can even work on your bass guitar playing by practising your time keeping by tapping out a measure as you listen to music.
Find out why bass is a great instrument to play.
Having a Good Bass Practice Session
Regular practice is key to improving your bass playing.
The human brain works better when doing repetitive and regular activities. When learning something new like an arpeggio or a scale on the bass, your brain needs to create new neural connections. This process takes time and repetition can help consolidate these connections.
Thus, patience is key when it comes to learning how to play an instrument.
It’s much better to practise for 15 minutes every day than two hours once per week. Regular practice will help you to progress much more quickly than sporadic binging. Of course, it’s better to practise for between 45 minutes and an hour every day if you want to learn more quickly.
Picking up your bass regularly and practising is the way to go.
Find out which accessories you'll need to play bass.
An Hour-long Bass Practice Session
You should spend around 10 minutes of warming up before each session. In the beginning, try to focus on your posture, finger positioning, and making a good sound. Make sure you keep time well by using a metronome, for example.
During your beginner bass guitar lessons, you should also warm up your brain. The goal is to let your creativity run wild without trying to reproduce something that you’ve heard before. You’re going to struggle at first but as you become a better musician, this will become much easier. This is an essential exercise for anyone who wants to compose music or learn to play jazz.
Then, you can spend 20 to 30 minutes practising technical aspects of your playing: a certain style of music or a particular song, a new rhythm, or a scale, for example. Stay focused throughout and slow things down at the end.
To play more quickly, you should start off slowly and build up to it.
Finally, for 10 to 15 minutes, you should put what you’ve learnt into practice. Put on a song at the end and try to play along. At first, you’ll want simple songs. Play along as if you were a member of the band.
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A Typical Week for a Bassist
Throughout the week, you should try to get the most out of each session by keeping things varied.
- Monday: 15 minutes working on your rhythm during your lunch break without your bass.
- Tuesday: 30 minutes working on bass rhythms once you get home from work.
- Wednesday: 15 minutes working on your rhythm during your lunch break without your bass and an hour of bass lessons in the evening.
- Thursday: 30 minutes practising a riff or song.
- Friday: 15 minutes working on your rhythm during your lunch break without your bass.
- Saturday: An hour or two with your bass including a warmup, working on your rhythm, a few exercises, and working on a particular song or riff.
- Sunday: Rest
With regular practice, you’ll get to a good level within the space of a year.
What Do You Need to Know to Become a Good Bassist?
There’s no secret to getting good at the bass. You need to practise, practise, and practise. However, without a goal in mind, you’ll never really get anywhere. Here’s why you need to define your learning objectives and keep track of your progress. If you’re teaching yourself, you’ll need to be really organised.
More advice one succeeding at bass:
- No excuses or you’ll never make it past the first hurdle. Don’t say you’re too old or you’re not from a family of musicians. Your work will pay off!
- Don’t be too hard on yourself: Patience and compassion are great qualities for anyone wanting to be a good bass guitar player.
- Don’t take shortcuts: Sometimes we think we know something but we haven’t really mastered it. This can lead to problems further down the line.
- A good bass doesn’t make a good bassist: Get entry-level gear when you first start. You’ll need to make more of an effort to make it sound good!
So are you ready to start learning how to play the bass?
If you need help, consider getting instruction from a private bass tutor. They can help you with choosing instruments, classical ear training, improvisation, and becoming a better bass player. Additionally, their lessons will always be tailored to you! You can get one on one private tutorials, online tutorials via webcam using a service like Skype, or group tutorials, which are cheaper per person.
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