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Beginning Bass Guitar Exercises And Grooves

Exercise #1: For Finger Dexterity – Use Alternating Index-And-Middle Right-Hand


G _____________1_2_3_2_________________________3_4__
D _________1_2_________3_2_________________3_4______
A _____1_2_________________3_2_________3_4__________
E _1_2_________________________3_2_3_4______________
i m i m i m i m r m r m r m r m r p r p r p r p

Exercise #2: For Rhythmic Feel


1) Lightly lay your left hand on your strings to mute them… when you do this and pluck a string,
you should just hear a rhythmic “thud”.
2) Start counting to yourself “1, 2, 3, 4”, with each count happening about a half-second apart (if
you have a metronome, set it to 120 Beats Per Minute and set the time signature to 4/4)
3) Place your right hand in position as you would if you were playing, and walk your index and
middle fingers back and forth so that they are plucking the low “E” string (your thickest string). For
every count, walk your fingers one “step” each (it feels like “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”).
4) Start making up rhythms by not hitting the strings on every count. Keep your fingers in a
constant walking motion. You should try to hit the “count” with your index finger and the “and” with
your middle finger.
5) Some examples of rhythms you can try are:

1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x (standard quarter-note walking bass feel)

1 x x and 3 x x and (common pop or country feel)

1 and x and 3 and x x (reminiscent of “My Girl”)

Starting off with a common sound


Yes. Everyone has heard a major scale. Yes. It sounds silly. Yes. It is necessary. Yes. We will get through this as
quickly and painlessly as possible. Here is a common C-Major Scale:
G ________________________2___4___5___4___2_____________________
D ____________2___3___5_______________________5___3___2_________
A ____3___5_______________________________________________5___3_
E ______________________________________________________________
C D E F G A B C B A G F E D C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

The numbers below the letters are just as important as the names of the notes themselves! This is because once you
have learned the finger pattern for a major scale, you can move this anywhere on the neck of your bass to make a major
scale in any key. For example:
G ______________________________________________________________
D ________________________4___6___7___6___4_____________________
A ____________4___5___7_______________________7___5___4_________
E ____5___7_______________________________________________7___5_
A B C# D E F# G# A G# F# E D C# B A
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Is a standard A-Major scale. The finger pattern is the same, and the numbers of the notes are the same, so you can now
play the “four” of any scale just by knowing where the scale is.
Beginning Bass Guitar Exercises And Grooves… Page 2

How to read the Numbers on a Chord Number Chart


While the guitarist and piano players are typically playing chords, the job of the bass player is typically to hold down
the structure of the chord and to be playing the lowest note in the band (lowest pitch… not lowest volume).
Depending on the feel of a song, you will play differently. For a waltz (3/4 time) you will typically play one note per
measure. For a rock song you may be more likely to play a droning eighth-note feel. In a blues or country shuffle, you
are probably going to play a walking bassline. All of this will be noted out with either chord letters or chord numbers.
In this method you will learn to read both, along with the value of numbers for the ability to immediately transpose to
any key. For example, since you know from above that an A-Major scale is composed of A B C# D E F# G# A, you
could read the follow chord number chart as such:

1 4 1 5
1 4 2- 5
1 4 5 6-
4 5 1 1

to mean you will be playing over the following progression:

A D A E
A D Bm E
A D E F#m
D E A A

There are multiple ways to play over this progression, depending upon what style of music you are playing and what
the groove of the song is.

POP QUIZ:
In the Key of G, 6- would be a/an ________ chord and 3 would be a/an ________ chord.

A Quick Word About Left-Hand Technique


1) When you are supposed to put your finger “on” a certain fret, that actually means that you put your finger just
behind it. For example, if you were to put your finger “on” the second fret, you would actually put your finger
between the first and second frets, but keep your finger as close to the second fret as you can without actually being
“on” it.
2) Always keep your fingertips straight up and down, perpendicular to the fretboard of the guitar, as
though you were driving spikes into a railroad. When moving to the next note in the song, make sure
that you have silenced the last note.
3) As a side-note to #2, make sure that you are not letting your fingers touch any strings other than
the ones they are each respectively supposed to be on. If you are keeping your fingers perpendicular and
using your fingertips, this should not be a problem.
4) Sorry, no cheating allowed! You need to really squeeze down those notes hard if you plan on
getting any sound. Yes, it hurts at first. It is something your hands will become accustomed to.
5) Try to keep your thumb behind the neck of the guitar, directly across from your middle finger (as
if you were touching your thumb and middle finger through the neck of the guitar). Keep your thumb on
the thickest part of the neck of the guitar.
Beginning Bass Guitar Exercises And Grooves… Page 3

Three Common Basslines to Start With


Typically you will be dealing with a bassline that stays on the root, alternates, or walks. There are many exceptions as
you progress, but these are the starting point. All other basslines really are just alterations of these three techniques.
All basslines shown here are played over a G-Major chord
Root Only Bassline: Alternating Bassline:

G __________________________ G __________________________
D __________________________ D __________________________
A __________________________ A ______________5___________
E __3__3__3__3__3__3__3__3__ E __3_______________________

G G G G G G G G G x x x D x x x
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

Walking Bassline:

G __________________________
D __________________________
A ________2_____5_____2_____
E __3_______________________

G x B x D x B x
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and