How To Sound Confident On Bass
You can do things that will dramatically change the way you sound when performing bass lines.
It’s not the gear. It’s not the years of practice.
This especially applies to you if you’re a beginner bass player.
The ideas I want to discuss here will help you sound good even if you’ve been playing for just a month or so.
If you focus during practice sessions on the elements I mention here, you should be able to see a more drastic change in your overall playing level.
And yes, these are things other musicians and bass players will “judge” you by when listening to you playing in a video, on stage with a local band, etc.
So let’s get started!
#1 – Play In Time
Seems like a pretty obvious point, but the number one thing you should focus on when beginning to play bass is to learn how time in music works.
You need to start developing this skill early on.
This means that you should learn about the beat in music and things like what is a bar of music.
What different note durations are. How to play whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes on the bass.
But all of the above is essentially a theory, like knowing how many and how long you should play each note to be playing eighth notes in one bar of music, for example.
To sound more confident on bass, you need to practice performing bass lines and get good at playing those lines in time.
To achieve this, no, you don’t need to spend hundreds of hours alone with a dreaded metronome ticking away.
You need to spend time performing bass lines either with other musicians in a band setting (most of you won’t have this option, I guess) or be playing bass lines over music backing tracks – the ideal option for those of you who don’t have musician friends to play with as well as beginners on bass.
What this all means is that you should first get confident playing whole notes over a slow backing track and be able to do it consistently. Before moving on to more complicated stuff.
So if you have a music track that’s 4 minutes long, you need to be able to perform a bass line following chord changes and just playing whole notes only for the entire track, without having issues keeping time.
If you can play whole notes and pluck those notes in time with the music at the right place exactly and do it consistently for at least a couple of minutes – then your overall bass performance will sound more confident.
It’s crucial that you get good with these basics and not just skip to the “fun stuff.”
It’s a trap, trust me.
Bass players just skip these essentials and learn stuff “in theory” rather than spend enough time actually practicing it.
Just ask them to perform a minute or two of the most simple bass line ever, and see how well they do. You don’t wanna be in this situation.
If you take a route of not practicing basics enough, you will have trouble playing music in time, keeping a good rhythm, and so on. Your bass playing will just not sound so confident at all.
In my course, Bass Guitar 101, you will spend a lot of time practicing these essentials before moving on to more complicated stuff.
The exercises and assignments in the course, where you need to shoot and submit a video of your practice, will make sure you get solid bass skills foundations in place.
Spend more time practicing easy stuff, and it will transform your playing for the better!
#2 – Connect Notes In A Proper Way
This is a completely overlooked aspect of a beginner bass player’s development path.
If you have trouble with this technique, your performance will significantly suffer.
What I’m talking about?
It’s how you connect notes when performing a bass line.
Essentially, there are two ways to go about it:
- Play “staccato”
- Play “legato”
When you play “staccato,” it means that you’re performing a note which sound distinctly detached from the next one.
You play a note and then make a slight pause before you sound the following note.
Visually it would look like this: [Note] > [Silence] > [Note]
On the contrary, we have “legato” playing, which makes notes sound connected. When you play “legato,” you smoothly flow from one note to another.
You connect them seamlessly.
Visually legato playing would look like this: [Note]>[Note]
What does all this have to do with sounding confident on bass?
The thing is, when you’re a beginner on bass, you will have trouble controlling this aspect of your playing.
You won’t be able to play “staccato” or “legato” intentionally.
Instead, from this or that technique issue, you end up playing “rather staccato” but totally unintentionally. It always sounds staccato when you’re just starting out on bass.
Now, to sound good when playing bass as a beginner – you need to develop your playing technique so that you can sound more “legato.”
You need to smoothly connect two notes without any abrupt pauses or unwanted drops happening.
This will come in place with the correct left and right-hand bass technique. Focus in your practice sessions to work on your bass playing technique, do all the exercises and everything that will help you develop chops so that you’re in control of the way you sound notes on the bass.
When you do this, your bass performance will sound much more confident.
#3 – Dial In A Pleasing Bass Tone
Three things play a role in the bass tone: gear, how you set up your gear, and your playing technique.
I want to address the need to dial in a good bass tone that complements the bass line or song you’re performing.
Always start with neutral settings on the bass amp, with all the knobs in the 12 o’clock position.
Next, look into tone controls on your bass.
Bring the volume all the way up on bass to get a strong signal into the amp.
Following action you take depends on the type of bass you have, whether it is passive, active, and controls it has and everything.
Turn up the controls to the neutral position and go from there.
Try to come up with a tone of the bass that is not outrageous in any way. So, for example, you don’t really want to turn the bass knob on the amp all the way up or treble knob all the way up.
Instead, find a balance so that your bass tone is rich in all the right frequencies and cuts through nicely through a mix of the song. So if you turn up the music in your room, you want the bass amp sound to complement it and blend in.
It might seem obvious, but you need to have an excellent tone to appear confident when playing bass and sound like a ‘proper’ bass player.
Other things that will influence tone except this gear-related stuff is, of course, the way you play – your technique.
Examine your technique, and I recommend recording a video of your playing to be more objective.
For example, beginner bass players sometimes play too soft or do not utilize the proper right hand (plucking) technique. This makes them sound kind of “weak” when playing a bass line. Even though the line is played correctly, they are playing in time and have a good sound setup on the amp.
It Is worth looking at the dynamics of our playing and how they affect our bass tone. I have made a unique mini-course just covering that topic to complement your journey through my Bass Road Core Learning Path.
To sound confident, play with proper tone and technique – and if you do that, even as a beginner, you’ll sound great, performing simple bass lines well.
This can be practiced, and you should practice it from the first day you pick up the instrument.
Moving on to the final tip, where you get to have fun.
#4 – Build Experience Playing With a Band/Music
This is the most crucial bass tip I can give you to feel and sound more confident on bass, even as a beginner.
Practice playing with music whenever possible.
It doesn’t matter if you’re jamming along with a song on Spotify, or you’re practicing along with a music backing tracking inside an online bass course, or you have a musician friend over for a jam session.
The only way to get confident is to build up your playing experience.
Many beginners like to practice bass without accompaniment.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s all fine, and you should do that when figuring things out.
But to get better at bass and sound better – you need to focus on applying everything you’re learning.
I have taken this approach with my online bass instruction for beginners. In the Bass Road Learning Path’s core courses, you need to submit video assignments of your performance.
Furthermore, the emphasis is on practice and practical exercises by playing along with the music backing tracks.
I believe this is the only way to get good at bass – you need to practice, put in the hours, and you need to practice the right things.
So if you find yourself noodling on bass without actually playing along with:
- Music backing tracks
- Other musicians in live settings
Then you’re not doing it right. ⚠️
You need to build experience of playing music with others.
That is the number one thing stopping you from sounding confident on bass.
I call it the bedroom musician syndrome.
One time, I’ve organized an audition for my band. We were looking for a guitar player.
They would come in play a song or two with us that they hhadprepared.
Guess who lacked confidence?
A guitarist who was known to have excellent skills, highly advanced.
If he’d blast a solo for you on his amp at home, he would blow you away.
How did he fail then?
Well, he had an issue playing confidently with others.
He spent too much time on the exercises or solo playing with a metronome.
His playing just didn’t sound so good if you put it in a band setting.
He had trouble adapting, setting the right tone, keeping time and his playing sounded kinda flat.
Simply put – it lacked confidence, big time!
So if there is one thing you can do well as a beginner on bass, then it is to starting building your experience performing bass lines with music. Do it from the day 1.
If you don’t know what to practice, play the song you already know and put in your best effort to play it as perfectly as you can.
But always practice with a backing track or music.
It will pay off big time in the long run!
Confidence on bass comes from a number of things, and the good news is that you can work on all of them from the first day you pick up your bass.
Practice developing solid foundations.
Work on your technique chops through focused exercises.
Experiment with your gear and how to dial in a good bass tone.
Most importantly, play with music. Never play bass “alone”.
I’ve made the Bass Road Core Learning Path following all of these pillars of success.
It’s made for absolute beginners on bass and it features practical assignments.
The focus is on performing music, ramping up the playing experience and it all comes together.
If you want to join us, check out how you can become a member of the Bass Road Academy:
Thanks for reading this post, hope you’ll find the ideas inspiring to work on.
Bogdan, Founder BassRoad.net
I give detailed feedback on all video submissions in the Bass Road Academy, and would love to check out your performance and give you tips how to improve your playing.
Hope you’ll find the tips in this post helpful.