As a frenetic, young musician I was constantly tapping my feet while playing, along with tapping on every surface that sounded remotely interesting everywhere I went. Besides getting yelled at during stage rehearsals in guitar ensemble in college for excessive foot tapping with loud shoes by the director, foot tapping has served me well over the years and it can do the same for you!
Tapping your foot while playing can help you keep better time and will engage you with the music more. As a beginner, it's shockingly difficult to keep good time. (most tend to race) I recommend getting lots of practice tapping along with a metronome or drum beat while practicing/playing.
Begin by tapping whichever foot feels more comfortable. Tap in quarter notes or if the tempo is fast, tap in half notes so you don't exhaust your foot. Once you're proficient at that, switch to the other foot and once you're comfortable with that try alternating your feet.
You can also do these exercises while standing.
A final observation you want to be cognizant of is the idea that when your foot is down, that's playing on the beat and when your foot is up, that's playing on the off beat or syncopation. You count this by saying one, two, three, four when your foot hits the ground and when your foot is at the top you are playing on the “ands” (the and of one, the and of two, the and of three and the and of four).
Tuning is about as fundamental as it gets, in fact it's so important that I would go so far as to say – if you're not in tune – don't play!
The more you play, the longer you play and the closer you attend to sound, the more you will be able to hear finer increments of pitch and because of this, as a beginner, it's common to think you're in tune when you really aren't. If you always play in tune, you'll have a frame of reference so that you can begin to tell when you're out of tune.
I'm going to give you a few tuning exercises, I recommend you do at least one per day. After doing the exercises, check how close you've gotten with a tuner (a high quality, clip on tuner)
Exercise #1: tuning off of open strings...four of the six open strings can be matched to the adjacent string below at fret number five (the exception is the B string, the matching note on the adjacent string below is at fret number 4) The other exception is the low E, since there is no lower string you can match that string to either the seventh fret of the A string or the second fret of the D string (those E notes are one octave higher than the low E)
Exercise #2: comparing fifths fret to open, adjacent strings above... Again, this works for four out of six strings. The B on the G string is the exception, this is at fret number four. Finally the A on the high E string can be matched to the tenth fret of the B string.
Exercise #3: tuning open strings to a note two strings higher...The low E will match the D string second fret, the A string will match the G string second fret, the D will match the B string third fret, the G string will match the E string third fret and the B string will match the seventh fret of the high E string.
There are several advantages for a beginner to playing the guitar/bass with a strap.
First off, you'll need to get the right strap for you and your instrument. Depending on the weight of your instrument, I recommend a light, medium or heavy leather strap which will usually run between $15 - 60 depending on quality, thickness and width. If you have a really heavy bass, I strongly recommend not only a thicker strap but more importantly, a wider strap. I suggest getting a leather strap because they tend to be more comfortable on your skin.
The length of the strap is another consideration. Many "cool" musicians like Slash or virtually every punk musician wear their instruments very low, which is fine, once you are good! But as a beginner or intermediate player, or if you play a lot of technically challenging music especially with difficult stretches, you'll want to have your instrument higher, around the bottom of your chest.
A strap can be helpful even if you're sitting because if it's properly adjusted you'll be freed up in that you won't have to hold/brace your instrument, the strap has that covered.
To become a proficient player, you'll have to learn to play by feel more so than by sight (over time) and playing with a strap will keep your instrument upright which in turn will force you to play more by feel.
Lastly, I always advise that you practice much of the time standing up. Standing is good for multiple reasons: It really helps you to play by feel, it allows you to move around more freely and standing tends to make you more alert and engaged.
There are many aspects of playing the guitar or bass that are very fundamental and yet are not commonly understood by many, if not most beginners (and some intermediate players).
One such concept is the idea of bisecting the neck of the guitar into two equal halves: the three bass strings (E, A and D) and the three melody string (G, B and E).
It's useful to think of the three bass strings as a representation of the left hand of a piano player and the three melody strings as the right hand of a piano player. The guitar has a capacity that is similar to the piano in that complex arrangements of songs are possible on both instruments that have bass, middle and melody motion and sound like there are two (or even three) players, playing at once.
General orientation in terms of pitch, what constitutes high or low, can be surprisingly confusing on instruments with necks. For example, going "lower" has multiple manifestations: going from string one to two to three etc. is going lower while going from fret eight to fret two on the same string is also going lower. The reverse is also true in terms of going higher: going from string six to five to four etc. is moving higher and going from fret two to fret eight is going higher.
As your playing progresses, this concept - of bass and melody strings with become increasingly salient.
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When you're a beginner, well through intermediate player, one of the most frustrating aspects of learning is the sense that the fretboard and the logic and patterns of music seem so mysterious and you just can't see how all the pieces fit together.
I've found that one of the most helpful ways to deal with that confusion and overwhelm is to do what I call “thinking intervallically”. Intervals are the space between pitches – I suggest you work at analyzing scales, chords, melodies, arpeggios, really everything with an intervallic analysis.
This approach is commonly employed by many of the best musicians. After some time of doing this, the fog will begin to lift and suddenly, the dots will start connecting.
Here are some examples of what I'm talking about: A Cm9 chord is built of a root, min3rd, 5th, flat 7th and 9th ( C - E flat – G – B flat – D ) = that is an intervallic analysis. A minor blues scale is a root, flat 3rd, 4ths, flat 5th, 5th and flat 7th. A Dorian scale is: root, 2nd, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and flat 7th.
Another way of using the approach of thinking intervallically is in relation to chords, for example, take one of the most rudimentary chords, an open C major chord. (third finger on the fifth string, 3rd fret, second finger on the fourth string, 2nd fret, third string open, first finger on the second string, 1st fret and first string open) the intervals from low to high are: root, 3rd, 5th, root, 3rd. You should analyze every chord you play this way, it will do wonders for your understanding.
It requires a good bit of discipline but I recommend you build up to eventually ALWAYS know all the intervals in EVERY scale, chord, etc – it's absolutely worth the effort!