10 tips for bass players

We asked the wonderful Matt Donald for 10 tips for Bass players. For more on Matt checkout his website:

  1. Buy a pedal tuner & use it
    I know this may be an obvious one & yes, it doesn't tackle any of your technical ability as a player but let's get real, your bass needs to be in tune & it's not acceptable to unplug your guitar to do so. A pedal tuner makes it dead easy to tune; stamp on it, your signal is muted & the lights make it really simple to use. Make sure you are in tune.
  2. Invest in good equipment
    I know we all have dreams of entire walls covered in hanging basses of all different shapes, sizes, colours & types but let's be honest - it's much better to have one great bass that you can play well than a wealth of average basses.
  3. Know your rig
    Lots of people are unaware of the features or limitations of the equipment they do have. Familiarise yourself with every dial on every piece of equipment you own. If that's just your bass, what do the dials do? If you have an amp, can you use all the dials? Understanding the entirety of your rig will help craft the sounds required for any environment.
  4. Practice
    Now we mention the first technical aspect; practice makes perfect. This is not just a phrase. The truth is the more you do anything, the more your ability grows. So practice. If we go spiritual for a moment too, if we understand our role as a worship musician is to facilitate what God says through musical response, then we need to be prepared to move in whatever direction He calls.
  5. Trust the sound engineer
    If the sound engineer says, 'That bass is too loud' or 'That bass sounds too bassy' then trust them! It is their job to make sure everything sits in the mix.
  6. Know & play the part
    This is not because we don't think you can make something up on the spot but parts are written for a purpose. There will always be time to move away from a part but your default position should always be to play what was written first. Don't rewrite it.
  7. Relax
    Take a deep breath. We're bass players, often known for our relaxed demeanour(!). Nothing has ever been improved by adding stress into the mix, so relax. It'll help.
  8. Ask for feedback
    Unsure of how or what you doing? Ask! You will rarely be playing completely by yourself, so talk to the musicians around you. If you're preparing for something particularly daunting then ask for feedback from musicians you know in advance.
  9. Always Listen
    I know I've already said practice & know the part but that's not an excuse to turn your ears off. Listening should probably be all ten of these points, whether learning a song, practicing an exercise or playing in a band your ears are the most important tool in making sure everything is fitting as it should be. Practice listening to music & describing all the parts or singing along to every aspect.
  10. Understand the harmonisation of the major scale
    I should probably mention at least one music theory point(!). The harmonisation of the major scale is how (pretty much) everything is fitted together. Understanding how this works will not only help you play in those spontaneous sections but also add nice flavours to the parts you know. When those moments do arise where you can stray from part, what are going to play? Understanding the structure of harmony works will help.
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