The bass guitar is one of the most popular musical instruments in the world, spanning nearly every genre of music. There are a surprising number of benefits associated with learning how to play bass guitar and practicing/playing regularly.
Whether you're playing your first note or making a living playing the bass, I hope to inspire you to continue your musical journey with the bass guitar as you read this article. There is so much to gain from learning a musical instrument like the bass, and I've selected what I believe to be the top 11 best reasons.
The top 11 benefits of learning and playing bass guitar are:
- Enhances The Understanding Of Music
- Improves Coordination/Dexterity
- Improves Discipline & Concentration
- Improves Memory
- Builds Confidence
- Provides A Creative Outlet
- Introduces A New Language
- Yields Transferable Skills To All Other String Instruments
- Building Relationships
- Bassists Are In High Demand
- Therapeutic Benefits
- Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
- Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
In this article, we'll discuss each of the benefits listed above to understand better how learning and playing the bass can improve our lives.
Related My New Microphone articles:
• Top 11 Best Online Resources To Learn How To Play Bass Guitar
• Top 13 Best Electric Bass Guitar Brands In The World
• Top 11 Best Bass Guitar String Brands On The Market
• Top 8 Best Bass Guitar Pickup Brands On The Market
• Top 11 Best Bass Guitar Amplifier Brands In The World
• Top 11 Best Guitar & Bass Stand Brands On The Market
• Best Microphones For Miking Bass Guitar Cabinets
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Enhances The Understanding Of Music
Bass guitars are commonplace in most musical genres. These versatile instruments can be heard across the musical spectrum. Learning how to play the bass will open us up to such genres, thereby expanding our knowledge of the musical styles that exist.
As our musical horizons broaden, we may find interest in new genres of music. Knowing the fundamentals of bass, we can learn new styles of music more quickly and effectively. In doing so, we improve our understanding of music, along with our bass-playing skills.
The bass guitar, more than other instruments, is often tasked with a rhythmic and harmonic role in an ensemble or band. It's often called upon to hold down the groove and offer the music's harmonic backbone.
Developing our technique on the bass guitar often focuses on the rhythm of the right hand (assuming it's a right-handed bass). Technique with the left hand is required for melody and harmony.
Since the bass guitar plays in the bass register, it often has a function in harmony that determines the root of the chord and the overall movement of the music. Consider, as an example, a piano playing a C major chord (C, E and G). If the bass plays a C below this triad, it will sound a lot like C major. However, if the bass plays an A, all of a sudden, we have an A minor seventh.
From the basic example above, we can extrapolate that the bass guitar can provide harmonic movement (beyond being polyphonic and capable of producing chords by itself). Learning how the root note can change the overall harmonic content of a chord or chord progression is a tremendously useful skill, which can be explored easily with the bass guitar.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Improves Coordination/Dexterity
Speaking of the bass guitar's rhythmic and harmonic nature, we must develop the necessary coordination to get a bass sounding great.
Whether we're playing fingerstyle, with a pick, or slapping, we need to time our right hand with the tempo of the music. We must also coordinate our left hand to finger notes and chords to match the harmonic demands of the music. Again, I apologize if you're a left-handed bassist!
To coordinate both hands, and often our eyes if we're sight-reading tablature, sheet music or chord changes required tremendous dexterity. Learning to synchronize our hands in such a way will help us learn other instruments and perform other high-dexterity tasks throughout our day-to-day lives.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Improves Discipline & Concentration
Learning the basics of bass guitar presents a fairly steep learning curve, which requires work to overcome. Mastering the instrument demands unwavering dedication to the craft.
As we learn how to play the bass, we work on our discipline and concentration. The more these aspects are trained, the stronger they become. Learning and playing bass takes discipline and concentration, which once developed, spill into other aspects of life as well.
From the mechanics to the in-depth theory, learning and playing the bass guitar are fun ways to learn music while simultaneously improving our discipline and concentration.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Improves Memory
The idea that learning a musical instrument improves memory is widely accepted thanks to a variety of studies and publications on the topic.
With proper training, we can improve our memory (source). The auditory and tactile stimulation of learning and playing the bass guitar, combined with the visual aspect of reading music, stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus, which play a role in emotions and memories (source).
Consider all the factors of learning and playing the bass that involves memory:
- Memorizing songs (with rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre/tone)
- The notes of the bass guitar (tuning-dependent)
- Chord shapes
- Theoretical knowledge of music (rhythm, harmony, melody)
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Builds Confidence
The Meriam-Webster Dictionary defined confidence as “a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something”.
When we learn and grow as a bassist, we become capable of playing the music on the page or in our heads. With these developments, we have proof that we are becoming successful with the instrument. The immediate auditory feedback we get from the bass as we play tells us if we're on the right track or not.
As we go through the process of becoming better bass players, it's only natural that confidence gained spills over to other areas of our lives. If we can learn how to play the bass, surely we can learn other musical instruments and other life skills, more broadly, so long as we exercise our discipline.
Furthermore, we can get to a point where we're in a position to play with and/or for other musicians and audiences. In doing so, playing the bass can help us overcome shyness and stage fright. Building the confidence to perform in front of friends, family, strangers and even virtually/online will pay dividends through many other aspects of our lives.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Provides A Creative Outlet
Though creativity is a skill and a process that everyone has in some capacity, there is a certain obviousness to creativity in the arts (source). Learning to play the bass gives us a creative outlet to write our own music and also to perform the music of others in our own fashion.
Studies show that learning musical instruments like the bass guitar creates connections between the brain's two hemispheres. Learning the bass and regular playing/practicing can actually increase the size of the corpora callosa, the bundle of axons that effectively connects the two hemispheres (source). With new neural pathways, we add additional ways of thinking (consciously and subconsciously), which surely improves our ability to create novel musical ideas.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Introduces A New Language
Written sheet music (including tablature) and learning by-ear are akin to written and spoken language, respectively. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind” (source), and though this can be argued technically, there are certainly vast similarities between language and music.
Making music with the bass can prompt certain emotions in the listener and even tell a sort of story with or without vocal (or other) accompaniment.
Beyond the language and terminology of music and bass guitar and the written music, we have song arrangement, harmonic movement, rhythm, lead/melodic lines, and the general feel and emotion of the piece are all part of the language in their own right. Tapping into the powerful information of music is a huge benefit of learning any instrument, including the bass.
Furthermore, studies show that learning a musical instrument like the bass helps strengthen the same parts of the brain responsible for language processing (source). Learning bass guitar not only introduces the language of music but also enhances our brain's ability to learn other languages.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Yields Transferable Skills To Other String Instruments
The bass guitar is one of many string instruments. If we start our investigation of string instruments with bass guitar, we'll give ourselves a headstart when it comes to all the others.
It's fairly common for guitarists to start with the bass guitar. This is my personal experience with music. In terms of the basics, the bass guitar is arguably easier to learn than other instruments.
- The bass guitar often only plays one note at a time (no need to learn chord shapes or strain to make our hands play them).
- The bass guitar has a flat, typically fretted fingerboard (unlike the double bass or other members of the violin family).
- The bass guitar isn't overly large/bulky, yet its frets are often spaced enough apart to make single-note playing easy to accomplish.
The list could go on. However, this isn't to say that the bass guitar is an easy instrument to master. In fact, as a guitarist (primary instrument), I have a difficult time slapping and playing harmonic passages on bass guitar, not to mention that my right-hand fingertips haven't developed the necessary calluses to keep my fingers from blistering during extended sessions.
Though the slapping technique is largely bass-centric, it can be applied for cool effects on other instruments. Learning the fingerstyle technique can translate, even indirectly, to other plucked stringed instruments. The same can be said for learning to play bass with a pick (don't let the purists get you down)!
Bass guitars are typically tuned in fourths, which translates directly to double bass and the majority of standard guitar tuning (though there is a major third between the G and B). Though many other string instruments with fingerboards (mandolin and most of the violin family) are tuned by fifths, developing the technique of fretting a fingerboard will translate to other string instruments.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Helps Build Relationships
Music brings people together. It's fairly self-evident, then, that learning such a popular instrument as the bass would give us more opportunities to build relationships with others.
The first relationship we may build when getting into the bass guitar is with a teacher. Conversely, when we become skilled enough, we can begin teaching lessons ourselves. This is true of in-person lessons and one-on-one online lessons.
Learning and playing the bass guitar will make it easier for you to make connections with other musicians. It's pretty amazing to think how many close friends I met through music (it's over 50%). Perhaps our friendships wouldn't have become so strong if it weren't for the jams, performances and overall love for music.
Beyond the jam space, once we're good enough, we can begin performing live, which will open doors to meet even more new people, including musicians from other groups, music fans, promoters, and more.
Music excels as a social art, and it makes it much easier to meet new people and develop deeper connections.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Is In High Demand
Perhaps this benefit could have been tied into the previous. However, it's worth its own section to say that bass players are in demand. Not only is the instrument common to so many genres, but there aren't that many people who choose to play it (especially compared to guitar).
So then, learning the bass guitar, especially if we master the bass-centric skills, can put us in high demand, earning us spots in a variety of bands, studio recordings and more.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Has Therapeutic Benefits
Debra Shipman (Ph.D. RN) states, “Learning to play a musical instrument provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release and decreased anxiety and agitation. Musical training promotes cognitive function, mental health, and a connection to others.” (source)
Music, in general, is also being studied thoroughly as a promising tool for therapy for the brain, lungs and heart (source). The American Music Therapy Association lists the following benefits of music therapy:
- Promote Wellness
- Manage Stress
- Alleviate Pain
- Express Feelings
- Enhance Memory
- Improve Communication
- Promote Physical Rehabilitation
I can personally attest that I feel better on days when I listen to and play bass. This is true whether I'm playing along to songs, writing music, learning new material, or performing live.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
Paul Van Der Merwe once stated, “Money makes the world go round” (source). As the first of two bonus tips, let's talk about money.
Once you've become a skilled bassist, there are many different avenues to monetize your skills. Of the numerous options, I've like the following:
- Performing original music live (clubs, dinner parties, churches, coffee shops and even busking)
- Performing covers live
- Record streaming royalties from original music
- Teaching bass lessons
- Recording as a session bassist
- Composing for stock music libraries
There are plenty of other opportunities to monetize bass skills. Marketable skills (whether they're high-paying and/or capitalized on or not) are undoubtedly a benefit of learning and playing the bass guitar.
Learning & Playing Bass Guitar Bonus Tip 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
Learning and playing bass isn't only about the playing technique, music theory and songs. It's also about the instruments themselves. Learning about the bass gives us a great opportunity to learn the physics of sound, string instruments and electricity in the case of electric basses.
Furthermore, learning the general upkeep of bass guitars teaches us about plenty of other topics, including:
- How to change strings
- The effects of humidity on metal (strings) and wood
- Corrosion (strings)
- Tension (truss rod, strings, tuning pegs)
- Electronics (pickups, jacks, volume/tone controls – with electric and electro-acoustic basses)
- How materials and bass shapes can produce differences in tone and volume