5 Ways to Start Learning Guitar or Bass

5 Ways to Start Learning Guitar or Bass

Learning how to play the guitar or bass can seem intimidating to anyone who has never plucked a string before… If you’ve grown up in a house full of instruments the story may be different. Either way, the beginning process can take many forms; it can be very formal, serious and even academic or it can simply mean tirelessly plucking away at the old dusty instrument in the basement until it sounds somewhat like music. If you’re ambitious and want to achieve a certain level of playing quickly read this article on 5 different ways to get started immediately… ???

Trial & Error

This method can be used for absolutely anything in life, and we often do it unconsciously, but it may be the slowest way to learn something. This is usually the first method we try when we pick up a new instrument. You start by getting your bearings around the instrument’s neck, fretboard and tuning pegs with one hand and the other hand (all 5 fingers) around the strings. Trial and error playing can work super well for certain individuals, especially those with a good musical ear. Pick up a guitar or bass, press certain fingertips on certain frets, pluck or strum the strings and listen to what sound is produced. If it sounds horrible, try something else, if it sounds good, remember it. This is easier said than done for certain people, if you’re the type of person who “doesn’t learn from his/her mistakes” then this method may be a slow learning process.

the struggle is real

Chord charts: Throw some shapes

Everyone who starts playing guitar wants the satisfaction of strumming a chord as soon as possible. Playing around with single notes can get boring and learning scales can be tedious. If you want to strum all six strings and make it sound lush and harmonious all you need to do is look at a chord chart. It’s the most visual way of learning the guitar because what you see on the chart is exactly what you see when you look down at your chord hand (although this is not exactly the case for left-handed players, who require an additional step of mental flipping). After reading this article, type “guitar chord charts” (or “bass chord charts” into Google and get going, or maybe even buy a huge poster of chord charts for your bedroom wall, you’ll be throwin’ shapes in no time!

Tablature: An indispensable tool

Learning how to read tablature (or tab for short) isn’t this the same thing as reading sheet music! It looks like notes on a staff, true, there are 6 lines, but on a tab they represent the 6 strings of a guitar (4 lines for bass). Instead of notes there are numbers, denoting the fret position on the respective string. The principle is quite simple, and learning this skill can enable anyone to play scales, melodies and chords with just a bit of focused effort. Take this tab of the guitar classic “Smoke on the Water” from tabs.ultimate-guitar.com as an example:

One on one: Private classes

Possibly the most efficient way to learn any instrument is to get instruction from a professional, face to face, one on one (or in a group class). The benefit of private classes is that you get immediate correction and feedback on what you are doing, this is especially useful for technical aspects like finger positioning, posture, finger picking and picking with a pick. Private classes or lessons can either be a supplement for a student studying music in an academy or they can be attended without the scholarly component. In fact many students learn guitar privately without ever learning how to read sheet music. But, of course, the benefit of learning how to read music is that it can be translated to virtually any instrument.

YouTube & online classes

The future is now, the future is on the Internet, and this also rings true for learning. YouTube is such an immense resource for learning anything, guitar and bass included. There are numerous YouTubers and guitar and bass enthusiasts volunteering their time and effort for the purpose of teaching us how to play, and this ranges from beginner techniques to master shredding to djenting to slapping. And it’s all for free so get on it, no excuses!

How did you first start playing guitar or bass? In retrospect was it effective? What would you highly  recommend for beginners? Let us know in the comments! ✍️ 

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Joe has been singing since he can remember and started playing guitar when he was 10. He's been using it as a songwriting tool ever since. He is passionate about melody and harmony and admires musicians who create these in unique ways. Check out his alternative / indie projects Best of Feelings and Zef Raček.


    Which to pick then? The bass? Or the guitar?
    The thing is, guitar has a steeper learning curve. You need to practice hard before you can play in a simple band and play pretty easy songs.
    On the bass it is different. You can give anyone a bassguitar and a pick, and 5 minutes later, they can play in your simple band, and can play the pretty easy songs. So the learning curve is really low. At first.
    If you want to step up from being a bad bassist to being mediocre, or even good, you will need to practice, a lot, and hard! Your fingers will hurt, bleed even! Blisters will be there, a lot! But in the end (that’s not correct, the learning never stops), you will be an amazing bassplayer!
    I also wrote an extensive article about this: [http://beheydt.be/en/is-playing-bass-guitar-easier-than-playing-electric-guitar/](http://beheydt.be/en/is-playing-bass-guitar-easier-than-playing-electric-guitar/)

    Hi Bjorn! Thanks a lot for your input! You’re right, one is not easier than the other. Bassist have the added challenge of knowing when not to play, each note being a lot more powerful than a guitar note. With this power comes responsibility, holding back is hard to do. Thanks for sharing your article, great!!

    Been a Bass player 50+ years now, still learning all by ear. I started out trying to play guitar, but a year later the little garage bands we were forming lacked Bass players in the neighborhood, so I foresaw an opportunity to always be in demand plus not many Bass players SANG lead at the same time either! I worked on both functions simultaneously and got lucky to always be working till this very day. I also revisited my old friend THE GUITAR bout 10 years ago and finally got the hang of it enough to play rhythm guitar and play most everything I play bass on, I can do on the 6 string. Been a long hard road, but very rewarding at long last. It’s all so much fun!

    very curious and wants to learn fast

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