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Published on March 22nd, 2022 | by Gerry Galipault


5 Tips on How to Move from Guitar to Bass

Changing from a six-string guitar to a four-string bass may seem like a piece of cake, but it may not be as simple as you might first think. Yes, they are shaped similarly, and yes you strum each one of them to make sounds. The differences are subtle when looking at the two, but there are differences in length and the thickness of the strings. Each of them plays a vital role in a song, but with very different jobs.

When you are ready to make the move, or when you are asked to slide over and fill a void in the bass section of the band, you need to understand five things in order to make the move successfully.

1. Play For The Song: Playing the bass requires a lot less movement and a ton of patience. You will not be strumming and playing all out through the entire song, like you are used to doing. You will need to follow along with the song, play the bass notes when they are called for, and realize that you are no longer the lead guitar player. Playing the bass is similar to playing the drums. You bring out the boom when needed, and sit in silence until then.

2. Drummers Are Friends: Speaking of drums, the absolute best thing that you can do to make the transition easier is to make friends with the drummers. They are used to only playing on and off throughout the song, and since it is so important for them to hit the notes at the correct times they have learned to listen to the beat and follow along with the notes. Get yourself some good bass tabs, keep an eye on the drummers, and support the song that is being played.

3. Modify How You Play: The style that you had while playing the regular guitar will not work for playing the bass. You will need to adjust your style to fit the size of the bass that you are going to play. Remember that you are one of the main underlayments of the song, creating the rhythm and tone for the rest of the band to follow. The main issue that you will have to deal with is the thickness of the strings and the extra length of the neck. Both are different from what you are used to, and both will require you to adjust how you hold and strum.

4. Retain Your Knowledge: Up until this point we have been telling you that you need to retrain yourself to be able to play the bass effectively. And that is true, up to a point. The thing is, though, that when you were playing the guitar you learned how to read the tabs and to play along with the beat of the song. The bass sets the beat of the song, but the same basic principles will still apply. You will need to play along with the song, along with the rest of the band, and will need to figure out how to use the “leading tones” correctly.

5. Bass Fills: This is where you can use your knowledge and add a little flair to the transitions within the song. You can lead from one section into another by playing a bass fill. Be careful that you do not go overboard, though. What you play in between must make the song flow together more smoothly, and not add chaos to the beat.

Switching over from a guitar to a bass is a move that most guitarists have done at least once. The reason for this is the similarities that they do have. It is a good idea to work on mastering both of these instruments because if you plan on playing in a band you may have to slide back and forth to keep the songs flowing.

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About the Author

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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