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Introduction to Bass Guitars

By: Pat Newsome

Everyone loves that driving bass guitar that forms the foundation of rock and jazz music.  It is an instrument capable of much improvisation and skillful play, but is also one that you can master the rudiments of fairly quickly.  This makes it a desirable instrument for many people.  Especially if you already have some familiarity with the guitar, a bass guitar can be a nice addition to your instrument family.

Bass guitars usually have four strings.  These are tuned like the lower four strings of a guitar, except they are an octave lower.  In other words, they are tuned, from the lowest to highest, to E, A, D, and G.  The bass runs you have learned to play between chords on the standard guitar can be played similarly on the bass.

One thing that makes the bass a little easier to learn than other instruments is that you can pick only the bass note of each chord, once for each measure, when learning the instrument.  In other words, you can go slow and still provide an important contribution to the music being played.

Bass guitars come in electric solid body form most frequently, but they are also available in electric hollow body models, and even in acoustic form.  The solid body basses are the ones we usually think of first.  They come in other string numbers as well as four.  If you get a five string bass, the new string will be tuned to a B, like the second string on a standard guitar.  A six string bass has the high E string as well.  Basses can also be found with seven or eight strings, or even more, but they are certainly not seen often.

An innovation sometimes seen on bass guitars is the absence of frets.  They may be marked with a line, but the metal bar is missing.  This makes the bass player able to slide from one note to another without moving from note to note in a jerky pattern.  Fretless basses are used most often in jazz and jazz fusion styles of music, and are preferred by many professional bassists.

The solid body of a bass guitar is usually made of a hard wood.  There are some beautiful exotic woods used in the manufacturing of some brands of bass guitars, and the finishes on these woods are beautiful, too.  In fact, some of the most expensive brands of bass guitars are hand made individually with personal attention paid to the artistic beauty of each instrument.

When buying your first bass guitar, it's smart to ask around for recommendations.  Remember you will need to budget to buy an amplifier as well as the instrument itself.  Perhaps you can get a good deal on a used set, and be on your way to providing that bass line in your own personal jam sessions!




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