Tips for Playing Rock Bass
by: Sean McEvoy
Rock bass-guitar players incorporate numerous musical styles to create powerful bass lines that match the intensity of the drums. If you are a beginner bass player, find a music instructor who can teach you the fundamentals of bass playing. Once you have the basics down, use the following tips to improve your rock bass style.
Practice with a Metronome
Rock songs usually have steady tempos, so developing your ability to play in time is vital. To develop an internal sense of timing, practice playing your bass guitar to a metronome. Start at a low tempo. Once you can play consistently at a particular tempo, speed it up. Don’t worry if you find it difficult at first. Eventually you will gain an internal sense of rhythm that will help you stay on track even during challenging rock songs that involve tempo changes or high-speed playing.
Play with the Kick Drum
Rock bass players try to complement the drummer with their playing. The deepest-sounding drum in the set is the kick drum, which provides the steady, low thumping noise typical to so many rock songs. Bassists often match the rhythm and intensity of the kick drum by writing bass lines that mirror the exact placement of the kick drum hits. This creates a powerful, unified rhythm section, perfect for the vocalist or guitarist to perform over. To develop this skill, listen for the kick drum in some of your favorite songs. It will have a rhythmic and intense pounding sound. Then practice playing your bass to match the kick drum. Remember to hit the correct notes of the song. Over time, you will develop a feel for the drummer’s timing. If possible, practice building this skill with a live drummer.
Listen to the Greats
The best way to learn the fundamentals of bass playing is to hire a professional teacher. Once you have the basics down, start listening to and imitating the best bass players in rock. Notable players include Geddy Lee, Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Pay attention to the tricks they use and the styles they incorporate in their playing. If possible, watch videos of their performances to see how they play their parts. Try to mimic their playing, even if you don’t intend to use their style for your own songs. The tricks they use might help you develop new methods for playing your own bass lines.
Using these tips will improve your bass playing. With practice, seemingly difficult techniques will become easy. Music is a communal experience, so work with other musicians as much as possible. Their advice and guidance will prove invaluable.