In the spring of 2016, I decided I’d like to try playing an electric bass guitar. I played for a bit, stopped, and recently re-started. Here are some of my lessons learned.
Lesson #1 – There is a HUGE difference between a super cheap bass and a decent “inexpensive” bass. When I first got the idea to play, not being sure if I would stick with this idea, I didn’t want to spend a lot on a bass. Being left-handed, I couldn’t just go to my local music store and try out a bunch of bass guitars. I found one on Amazon for $140 that included a bass guitar, an amp, a cable, and a strap. It arrived and I started playing. It was difficult to play, but I just assumed that was because I don’t play. I just needed to practice. Fast forward to last week when I decided I play often enough to warrant an investment in a decent bass guitar. Did some research and decided an Ibanez SR200 or SR300 would be a good choice in the “inexpensive” range. A new Ibanez SR300 sells for around $300. Luckily, I found a left-handed used SR300 on Guitar Center’s site for $180. (Remember my earlier bass came with an amp, a cable, and a strap, so the actual guitar is probably only worth $75-90). This was going to be worth a lot more than my cheapie. But would it be better? YES, yes it would be. Besides just having a much nicer look and feel, it’s a zillion times easier to play. It sounds nicer. It’s constructed better (the screw to hold the guitar strap fell out of my old one just before this one arrived). And did I mention it’s a zillion times easier to play? Totally worth every penny. As soon as it arrived, I was able to “gold star” several songs on Yousician that I hadn’t been able to get for a while now.
Lesson #2 – The proper set up is everything. I’m sure part of what makes my Ibanez seem so much more playable is that it was properly set up. There is (or can be) a lot of set up to do on a new bass. Because mine was used, much of that was already done. Not knowing any better, I assumed the new bass I got from Amazon was ready to play. Not so. I can clearly see now, it needs set up. The strings are like 1/3 of an inch above the frets, no wonder I was working so hard to play! But even a previously set up bass needs set up for your personal style of playing. My Ibanez arrived and I noticed one of the strings had some pretty serious fret buzz. Since the rest of the bass was set up, all I had to do was adjust the string height of that string at the bridge. Bonus, now that I have a GOOD bass an don’t really care about the Amazon cheapy, I can practice doing an entire set up. (Don’t know what the heck I’m talking about? This explains it.)
Lesson #3 – The proper equipment is everything! Even something as simple as the cable from your guitar to your amp. Even with my nice new Ibanez, I had a lot of hiss and pop. After a quick Google, I realized it could simply be my cable (again, I was just using the super cheap one that came with my super cheap guitar). I ordered a new $16 cable from Amazon. WHAT a difference! No pops! No hiss! Totally amazing what a $16 investment can make. (Next on the to-do list, buy a new amp as I’m certain the difference will be just as amazing).
Lesson #4 – You don’t always have to do things the “right” way. This one is probably a life lesson, to be honest. But when I first started practicing I had a book, I was learning the notes, and doing it the “right” way. And it was hard, and not that fun, and a little boring. I didn’t want to learn bass tabs because that seemed like cheating. And I quit practicing because it was hard, and not the fun, and boring. I re-started in January of this year. I got Yousician. I’m using their bass tabs. It’s fun! It’s easy! I can so easily see progress! What would the right way have done for me? Annoying bragging rights? Who cares. I’m having a blast and playing bass, no one cares how I learned it.