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Teach Yourself VISUALLY Bass Guitar

ISBN: 978-0-470-04850-4
304 pages
December 2006
Teach Yourself VISUALLY Bass Guitar (0470048506) cover image


Do you learn faster by seeing and doing than by wading through tedious instructions? Then pick up a bass guitar and start plucking! With Teach Yourself VISUALLY Bass Guitar, you'll quickly progress from playing notes to experimenting with plucking and slap-and-pop techniques. You'll learn about tuning, fretboard fingerings, alternate fingerings, down picking, palm muting, and more. The bass usually sets the tempo, so you'll learn basic note values plus common popular rhythms from straight rock to syncopated reggae. Downloadable MP3 files on wiley.com complement the book and let you hear exactly how things are supposed to sound as you play.

Concise two-page lessons show you all the steps to a skill and are ideal for quick review

  • Each skill or technique is defined and described
  • Step-by-step instructions accompany each photo
  • Detailed color photos demonstrate each step
  • Helpful tips provide additional guidance
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. An Introduction to Bass Guitar.

What the Bass Guitar Does.

Get Started.

Your Milestones.

Chapter 2. Parts of Your Bass Guitar.

Parts of the Bass Guitar.

The Head.

The Body.

The Neck.

Fretted and Fretless Basses.

The Bridge.

Bass Guitar Strings.

Four Strings or More?

Right-handed versus Left-handed Basses.

Passive and Active Pickups.

Control Your Bass Guitar.

Chapter 3. Holding Your Bass Guitar.

The Guitar Strap.

Sitting or Standing?

Your Fretting Hand.


Playing with a Pick.

Using Your Thumb.

Chapter 4. Tuning Your Bass Guitar.

Open-String Notes.

Relative Tuning.

Electronic Tuning.

Chapter 5.
Basic Fretboard Fingering.

Proper Finger Placement

Shift Up.

Shift Down.

Shift Across Strings.

Stay Close to the Fingerboard.

Chapter 6. Plucking and Picking.

Alternate Fingering .


Alternate Picking.

Pluck with Your Thumb.

Mute Your Strings.

Chapter 7. Play Your First Scales.

Basic Music Notation.

Notes on the Fretboard.

Basic Tablature.

The C Major Scale.

The G Major Scale.

The F Major Scale.

Chapter 8. Playing with Chords.

What Makes a Chord?

Major Chords and Scales.

Minor Scales and Chords.

Seventh Chords.


Chapter 9. Common Chord Progressions.

Chord Symbols.


I-IV-V Progressions.

I-VI-IV-V Progressions.

More Chord Progressions.

Cahpter 10. Basic Rhythms.

The Metronome.

Quarter Notes.

Eighth Notes.

Sixteenth Notes.

Apply Rhythms to Songs.

Walking Bass.

Blues Shuffle.





Chapter 11. Slapping and Popping.

Slapping Technique.

Popping Technique.

Some Basic Slap Patterns.

Chapter 12. Getting Your Tone.

How Should You Play?

Playing in a Band.

Dialing It In on Active and Passive Bass Guitars.

Chapter 13. Buying a Bass Guitar and Amplifier.

What to Look for in Your Bass Guitar.

What to Look for in Your Amplifier.

What Else You’ll Need.


Chapter 14. Care for Your Gear.

Before You Play.

After You Play.

Change the Strings.


String Height.

Plug It In and Unplug It.

Chapter 15. Some Last Words.

Where Do You Go from Here?

Learn Songs by Ear.

Reading Music and Music Theory.

Appendix: Some Especially Noteworthy Bassists.


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Author Information

Ryan Williams is a bassist based in Indianapolis, Indiana. He’s shared the stage and studio with everybody and everything from Grammy-award-winning hip-hop artists to a full band of bagpipes and drums. He received his master’s degree in music technology from the Indiana University School of Music in 2003. He’s the author of Windows XP Digital Music For Dummies, and has written several articles and tutorials on music and music technology for several publications and websites. He’s a frequent panelist on digital music and home studios at music conferences around the nation.

Technical editor Richard Hammond, originally from New Zealand, is now based in New York City. He started playing electric bass at age 13, and by age 20 he was one of the most in-demand acoustic and electric bassists in Auckland, playing numerous studio, touring, and television dates. He moved to Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1991, earning a bachelor’s degree in performance, after which followed a master’s degree in jazz from the Manhattan School of Music in 1996. Richard quickly established himself as a musician able to move freely between a vast array of styles with equal depth, fluidity, and sense of groove. As a professional bassist, he has recorded and toured with a diverse array of bands and solo artists, including Jonatha Brooke, Chiara Civello, the East Village Opera Company, Erasure, House of Red, Anjelique Kidjo, and Dar Williams.

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