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John Myung from Dream Theater doesn’t pretend to play bass, he actually can do it | Photo: Markus Hillgärtner, CC-BY-SA-3.0
John Myung from Dream Theater doesn’t pretend to play bass, he actually can do it | Photo: Markus Hillgärtner, CC-BY-SA-3.0
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5 Tricks To Convince Your Audience That You Can Play Bass

This article is for all aspiring bassists who haven’t quite mastered the art of slapping, tapping, and fast runs on the fretboard but who are ambitious enough and wish to impress the audience with their (very limited) skills. Especially suitable for teenagers trying to impress the prettiest girl in class. Wait a minute... I’m talking nonsense. Girls don’t care about bass players. So, how about this: especially good for teenagers trying to impress their older classmates who have a band that girls are interested in. Okay now? Let’s start then.

1. Pretend you know how to tune a bass

Any musical virtuoso can tune up their instrument. So, you can, too, right? Of course, you can’t, but that’s okay. Keep touching the tuning pegs like an expert, just be careful not to actually move them! The recommendation is that you use the tuner in privacy to get your instrument in tune beforehand. It’s also quite impressive to take a quick, expert look at the neck. How to do it? Grip the instrument firmly with both hands and raise it to your eye level. Then narrow one eye and look from the end of the fretboard along the E string (that’s the thickest one) towards the headstock. Shake your head sagely and throw in a zinger, such as “It could use a little tightening, but never mind.”

2. Amplifier at full

All rockers know that if you think it’s too loud, you are getting old! And of course, that’s true with bass, too. Turn it up real loud so the listeners know that you have the guts to do it. You’ll wow them with massive decibels, and there’s a good chance they’ll remember the experience of your playing long afterward thanks to the intense “beep” sound in their ears.

3. Slap always works

Learn a simple slap riff using octaves. I recommend the opening bass line from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ "Higher Ground" (it’s actually their cover version of Stevie Wonder, but don’t bother your listeners with such unnecessary facts). Here’s how to play it. Hit the E string with your thumb, then pluck the D string with your index finger and simultaneously press the second fret on the same string with your left hand. Repeat the process similarly on the third and fifth frets of the E string and you’re done. As easy as pie!

4. If slapping doesn’t work, tapping will

That’s right. Use both hands on the fretboard and you’re a virtuoso. I recommend playing something on the G string (the thinnest one on the bass). You need to play fast and move rather wildly while doing that to distract attention from bad phrasing or fret rattling.

5. Any bass riff by Flea from RHCP or a cover version of "Hysteria" by Muse

If even that’s too complicated for you, play "Under Pressure" (or "Ice Ice Baby," ha-ha)—and the crowd’s in your grasp. One bass to rule them all, one bass to find them, one bass to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them…

Tagy humor Bass Guitar

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.