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The bass guitar’s importance in adding texture and character to any song is universally acknowledged, as is the bass guitarist’s role in many styles of music. To fulfil this role, a bass player must be familiar with the bass guitar notes on the neck of his instrument.
To play bass lines correctly, one must have a solid musical foundation, which begins with basic music theory. Beginner bass players should start by learning the natural notes on the bass’s neck and progress from there.
This guide covers bass guitar notes and applies to both standard acoustic and electric bass guitars, but not a regular guitar or any bass variations.
5 Steps to Learning Bass Guitar Notes
Learning to play the bass guitar notes, like learning to play the traditional electric guitar, requires paying attention to the notes on the fretboard. You will not be able to master the art of speed playing or improvisation unless you learn and memorize the locations of the notes on the bass neck.
This isn’t the most exciting bass guitar notes lesson, but learning the bass guitar notes on the four strings doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a training plan you can use to ensure you’re learning the notes effectively and quickly. The routine is adaptable, allowing you to tailor it to your own pace.
Recognizing the location of the notes on the bass may appear to be a simple task requiring (somewhat) simple memorization. It isn’t easy to train your fingers to remember their positions so that you can recall them instinctively. This will necessitate a lot of practice and time. Maintain consistency in your practice routine, and you’ll be playing the bass guitar like a pro in no time.
Step One: Begin by memorizing the open string notes.
The first step is to learn the names of your bass guitar’s four strings. When you progress to more complex bass lines, you will be working with this frame of reference. We’ll begin by playing the four strings without touching the fretboard in the open position.
We will strum each string from the lowest (thickest) to the highest (thinnest). We’ll say their names aloud as we move along the strings. (This will be E-A-D-G from low to high.)
Bass guitars tuned this way are in standard tuning, and bassists play with their instruments strung this way unless the song requires otherwise.
If you’re just getting started with the guitar, it might be good to repeat this exercise for a few minutes every day at first, once from low to high and then from high to low. Keep these open bass notes in mind!
The 6 stringed bass guitar notes sounds differ slightly.
Step two: Get yourself a Notation Chart.
It is best to be well-prepared for the following lessons on playing bass guitar notes. Many students keep a notation chart handy for reference, and your accuracy will improve as you refer to this chart for note locations while playing.
The diagram below depicts the bass neck, with the nut at the far left and the open string notes to the side.
You’ll see the following symbols on any such chart: ‘#’ for sharp notes (like F#) and ‘b’ for flat notes (like Gb). Natural notes are all of the full notes.
While we recommend keeping a notation chart nearby, you should memorize which notes have sharps and flats. This will help you learn the bass guitar notes and any other instrument you choose!
Many players use a horizontal notation chart, while others use a vertical one. However, there is little difference between the two, and the note sequence remains unchanged. The only difference is that instead of four columns on a vertical chart, you’ll have to work with four rows on a horizontal one.
Once you’ve identified the open-string E-A-D-G sequence described above, simply move up and down the fretboard one fret at a time. As a result, you can stick to any style you are comfortable with. We’ll stick with the vertical chart in this tutorial.
Step Three: It’s Time to Start Making Notes
We’ll begin learning the notes on each bass guitar fret now that we have a notation chart for them. Like all musical instruments, the bass guitar notes are composed of twelve letters. A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, and G#. Sharps and flats are denoted by a # or a “b.”
It’s worth noting that any #(sharp) notes can be replaced with the following note’s b(flat). The A# note, for example, is the same as the Bb note.
Each successive note on the scale from A to G# is half a step higher than the previous note, as we explained in detail in our article on standard guitar notes. Furthermore, one fret corresponds to half an action on a bass guitar. As a result, moving up a fuss on the neck raises the message you’re playing by half a step.
The fifth note up the guitar neck on the lowest string corresponds to the first note on the following highest line, as shown in the notation chart. The only exception is the G string, which does not follow this pattern as you progress up the neck one fret at a time.
As a beginner, you should keep saying the names of the notes on the fretboard aloud. As you practise every day in both straight and reverse sequences, your fingers will gradually begin to remember the location of the letters. They will eventually be able to recall the position of notes on the fretboard instinctively.
Step Four: Recognizing and Learning Octaves
Once you’ve mastered the first twelve bass guitar notes, you should move on to the next important concept associated with the art of guitar playing – learning how to play octaves.
On the bass guitar, the first 12 notes from the first octave. Following the first G#, the 12 notes will repeat on a higher octave.
There are methods for quickly locating Octaves. Playing any note on the E string is our favourite. Two frets up (on the D string) and two frets down the neck will appear again. The two strings + two frets rule governs this. Try playing all instances of a specific note on the fretboard simultaneously. This sequence can be found in all of the natural notes.
While practising the octaves, use the notation chart to improve your accuracy. We recommend starting slowly and gradually increasing your speed as you become more familiar with the location of the notes on your bass guitar neck. StudyBass has an even more detailed article on Octaves.
Step 5: Study the Play Bass Scales
Scales, like playing a 6-string guitar, are an excellent way to practice moving your fingers quickly and precisely, but they can also help you learn the fretboard.
Learning the bass guitar notes on the four strings may appear to be a slow and laborious process. An endless stream of possibilities opens up once you’ve mastered the fretboard and its notes. You will now be able to easily participate in jam sessions because you will have no trouble picking up complex patterns of notes and playing along.
The Final Note
Long before Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, Chuck Rainey, or Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers became famous, we’re sure they spent a lot of time learning each set of bass guitar notes, how to move an octave lower, and where to put their middle finger for a “G note.”
Spend the time now to learn the notes, octaves, and scales, and it will pay off in the long run! These are all fundamental bass guitar skills that you will use hundreds of times while playing.
Check out more information about bass guitars while you’re here!