Electric Bass: Beginner

Electric Bass Beginner: Week #1

Artist of the week: Carol Kaye

  • While her name might not seem familiar you all definitely know her bass playing. Carol Kaye was one of the most recorded and in demand session bassists in LA in the 1960s. As a result she played bass on a ton of records ranging from Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair,”to Ike and Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High, to Sonny and Cher’s The Beat Goes On, to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out and Absolutely Free to Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ to the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ to a number of Beach Boys and Monkees Records and the theme for the original Mission Impossible soundtrack. According to her, she also played bass on a bunch of the classic Motown records, though that’s disputed... She was one of the core members of “The Wrecking Crew” which was a group of studio musicians who would were the go to people for most of the record labels and studios in LA, (often they would pull 15+ hour work days, playing multiple sessions at multiple studios and running off to play gigs in between.) Amazingly,  she was a largely self taught musician, starting on guitar, playing Jazz gigs at age 14 (She started playing bass when a bass player didn’t show up to a session one day). While her style is generally pretty laid back and simple, she her rhythm and energy really drive the rhythm and push along whatever record she’s playing on. Here’s a really insightful interview with her about her approach to bass as well as a really funny video of her giving a lesson to Gene Simmons (of KISS).

Goals for the week:

  • Warm Up: N/A

  • Scale: N/A

  • Technique: N/A

  • Repertoire: N/A


This week we learned the parts of the bass and amp, using the electronics, proper bass hold and playing technique and fretting G, C and open D. I won’t be testing you on the parts of the bass, but we’ll be referring to the parts by their names, so make sure to be comfortable with what everything is.

Assignment for next week

Get used to holding the bass and getting a good sound with a light touch from the bass. Next week you should be comfortable playing G, C and D as we’ll start right in next week on learning scales and some bass lines for songs.

How to Practice this at home

More repetitions for a short amount of time each will help you learn the most quickly. For practice this week, go through the steps to build the bass hold and see if you can get 5-10 clear reps for each note. Repeat this 7-10 times per night. Plan to practice at least 5 days this week (6 is ideal). Feel free to play around with the different parameters of your pickups, tone knob and amp settings to get used to all the sonic variety you can get out of the electric bass.

Charts + Sheet Music + Diagrams

B1W1_ Parts of the bass (1).gif
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