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The Most Common Mistake Guitarists Do When Switching to Bass

There is something that I’ve noticed, which I think is very common among guitar players switching to bass - the lack of ghost (dead) notes! When thinking about it, those percussive, groovy ghost notes are really an integral part of bass playing, but rarely used on guitar as a technique or composing element (unless you are Ross Bolton). This is probably the main reason why guitarists just skip playing those when switching to bass. Of course, I could write an essay on troubles guitarists face when moving on to the bass, as there are really lots of stumble points involved - mostly related to the mindset needed for the bass.

What I wanted to convey though is that if you are a guitarist moving on to bass, the best way to go if you are looking to sound like a “real bass player” is to practice incorporating ghost/muted/dead notes in your playing. These notes are there just for the sake of rhythm and groove. Drums cannot be played without all the cool ghost notes and fills, and same goes for the bass. Very often those dead notes are not audible on the recordings, but they are there - trust me.

How to practice and play dead notes on bass

Take a simple bass lick or a scale. Now, try adding ghost notes in between some of the notes you play. For example if you are playing a scale in straight 8th notes, try alternating between a plucked note and a ghost note. Pattern would be: note-ghost note-note-ghost note and so on. To play a ghost note, you need to mute the string you are playing on. Do it by resting your fretting hand finger (or multiple fingers) over the string. You should be careful not to press down on the string with too much force, as you just want to mute the string without fretting any notes. Once the string is muted, pluck it. It should sound percussive and punchy, without any audible pitch being heard.

Next time you’re practicing bass, concentrate on the ghost notes. Having good control over ghost notes and incorporating them in the right places can greatly change the way you sound. All pros go crazy with the ghost notes and incorporate them instinctively. This makes the bass sound so groovy and helps you lay down a strong rhythm foundation.

Check out my free lesson on how to play ghost notes on the bass.

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0 #4 Bass Rebel 2016-04-11 19:40
Quoting Robert L.:
The biggest mistake I made when I switched to bass was playing too many notes! I was in my old lead guitar mindset, and I had to learn a whole new mindset.


Agreed - this is something a lot of guitarists struggle with when moving on to bass. It's just a completely different mindset and approach to playing in comparison to the guitar. Also, it's very easy to get sucked into the idea that it is cool to play mini solos as a bass line.
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0 #3 Robert L. 2016-04-11 15:01
The biggest mistake I made when I switched to bass was playing too many notes! I was in my old lead guitar mindset, and I had to learn a whole new mindset.
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0 #2 Bass Rebel 2016-04-02 15:29
Quoting Robert Grier:
I chuckle a bit when I see guitar players list bass as their 2nd instrument...


Hehe yes, Robert - me too. I also like guitar player's expression when a bassist takes guitar in his hands and plays something meaningful on it. It's like - "Oh you know how to play the guitar".
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0 #1 Robert Grier 2016-04-02 15:04
I chuckle a bit when I see guitar players list bass as their 2nd instrument...
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