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What You Should Know About the Different Bass Guitar Playing Styles

So you’ve completed basic lessons for playing the bass guitar. Are you satisfied with your current repertoire? If not, here are a couple of neat bass guitar playing styles or techniques that are easy to learn and can immediately add depth and variety to your music.

Double Popping

Most people who have only recently started playing the bass guitar make themselves content with a simple slap groove. This is because few novice guitarists are aware of advanced techniques like double popping, which makes use of other fingers and creates more complex arrangements of popping.

The formula for a double pop is simple to memorize and master.

  1. Start with a slap (S).
  2. Proceed to hammering on (h).
  3. Pull-off (p).
  4. Pop using your first finger.
  5. Pop using your second finger.

Sweep Picking

With sweep picking, and especially through arpeggios, the best thing novice bass guitarists can do is to take things step by step. Begin with sweeping two strings. Master this. Conquer it. And only after that should you move on to something more advanced.

When you research online for tips and exercises for sweep picking, you’ll notice that advice tends to vary about the finger positioning and the upstrokes and downstrokes used. There is no right or wrong advice, though. What matters is that you choose the method which you’re most comfortable with.

Harmonic Tuning

Techniques are not all about playing. There are also essential advanced techniques which focus on maintaining the quality of your music and the condition of your instrument. Using harmonics to tune your bass guitar, for instance, is a critical technique to learn because you get to listen to both notes as you work on the pegs.

Harmonic tuning works best when you’ve plugged your bass guitar. Now, start by placing our finger over the E string’s fifth fret. Play it using either your thumb, picking finger, or with a pick. The high-pitched note it produces is a harmonic. Release the string and allow the harmonic to play out. How was it?

Practice, Practice, Practice

The techniques listed here for playing the bass guitar are just the start, of course. There are many other techniques to learn. If you want to be a great bass guitarist then you need to constantly practice. You should also welcome every opportunity to learn new things because that’s the only way you can hone your craft.

About the Author: Belle writes for SherwoodMusic.org, where you can read her recent post on guitars and beginner piano lessons online. You can also check out her other writings on Bill Monroe Bluegrass Music, her other musical love.

Bass Note Savvy

As a guitarist who has always played with my fingers, as opposed to picks, I have always been very interested in bass notes. My right-hand thumb is always free to go looking for bottom end notes, and I’d like to pass on some of what I know.

We all associate bass notes with root notes. It certainly makes sense to play, for example, an E note as the bass note of an E chord, or a D note as the bass note of a D chord — after all, that’s the note which names the chord. But what about the other notes that make up a chord? Simple chords consist of the I, III and V of the scale, I being the root note. Can the III and V be used as bass notes also?

They sure can. Let’s use G as an example. A simple G chord consists of G(1), B (3) and D (5), and is written “G”. If we want to use the 3 as a bass note, we would write G/B, pronounced “G over B”, meaning “a G chord sitting on top of a B note”; if we want to use the V as a bass note, we write “G/D”, meaning “a G chord sitting on top of a D note”. All three are G chords, but all have a different context. These chords are sometimes referred to as “slash chords”, because of the “/” used when naming them.

Go to this lesson page for a look and listen to what I’m talking about. I’ve loaded up some RealAudio files of an example progression. I play the chords normally first, then play them using alternate bass notes. The example uses the III as the bass notes of a few of the chords, and you should be able to hear the difference.

This lesson highlights the need to be able to zero in on chord notes in terms of their scale value. The 1, or root, or tonic, is always easy to spot, the 3 and 5 need to be memorized in the context of the chord shape. Once you can pinpoint the scale values of all notes in a chord shape, you will then be able to visualize the scale notes that surround the chords. This is an integral part of being able to improvise, whether chords, melody or harmony.

Have fun with this one. It will open up a whole new world of “inversions” for you to look into, inversions being the term used for this alternate order of chord notes. For simple chords, the usual inversion is (from bass to treble) One Three Five. The other two are Three Five One, and Five One Three. You should always investigate the sounds of these inversions in the context of the piece of music. More often than not, there’s a more interesting way of “voicing” your chords.

Don’t forget, the ‘trick’ to keeping track of music, including all the above, is revealed in my book PlaneTalk — The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Book, and demonstrated on the video. If you want to save yourself years of poking around the fretboard looking for the “constant”, the one landmark that everything else refers to, I divulge the one I discovered in this package.


Kirk Lorange is one of Australia’s best know slide guitarists. He is also the author of PlaneTalk guitar method. Check out his sites: www.KirkLorange.com and www.ThatllTeachYou.com