Something that many people don’t realize when they pick up an instrument is that in order to be a proficient musician you have to have a working knowledge of a variety of different things. You need to know a base level of theory, have an understanding of basic technique, and develop a solid sense of timing. These three elements together are what separate good musicians from mediocre ones, and if you plan on playing in a band you’re going to need to be a good musician if you want to get anywhere.
There’s this commonly cited mistruth that some of the best musicians in the world never received any lessons, and/or that they didn’t have any knowledge of music theory. The truth is more that they learned their instrument the hard way. Music theory is basically the science behind manipulating your instrument to get the sound you want. So anyone who can routinely play good sounding music has at least some knowledge of music theory, even if they don’t know the terminology behind what it is they’re doing.
Rather than learning through trial and error, take advantage of the opportunities musicians in the internet age have available to them. Online bass lessons are a great way to get a foundational knowledge of your instrument, and they’re easily accessible by almost everyone in the world.
- Online Bass Lessons versus Private Instruction
- Bass Lessons versus Guitar Lessons
- Types of Online Bass Lessons
- Top 3 Online Bass Guitar Lessons
Online Bass Lessons versus Private Instruction
If you want to be a professional quality musician, learning from a quality instructor is the easiest path. Find a knowledgeable instructor first who you can respect and learn from. The good news is the internet has made it possible to find them in your area and learn directly from some of the best musicians in the world. Use these resources to your advantage, no matter which route you ultimately decide to take.
After you find an instructor you admire, you have to decide if online lessons or in-person lessons work better for your goals.
A face to face teacher can help correct things that you may not be aware you’re doing, which can make your learning process go a lot faster. Many online offerings have this through instructor video feedback or community, but it is not always in realtime.
While you do lose immediate feedback while taking online lessons, you do gain a large degree of flexibility. With online video libraries, you can take your lessons on your lunchbreak, your commute, or any other time you feel you can squeeze in some bass learnings. This appeals to a large number of people, who due to scheduling or geography don't have access to regular in-person lesson availability. Another benefit of online lessons is that you can target what you want to learn. So if you want to learn how to play jazz bass and nothing else you can find lessons dedicated just to jazz bass if that’s what you’re interested in.
Finally, if cost is a consideration (when is it not?), online lessons can be an economical way to learn the bass while you are just starting out. For the cost of a couple cups of coffee, you now have the option to gain access to video libraries of world class players, which can help people that are just starting out gauge their interest in the instrument or learn the basics before committing to in-person lessons.
No matter which route better suits your needs, it is important to consider all these factors when you are making the decision on the best way for you to learn the bass.
Bass Lessons versus Guitar Lessons
The thing about lessons for any instrument is that they need to target elements of theory that you’re going to be using a lot with your instrument in addition to technique. So ideally a bass lesson should cover different material than a guitar lesson but still have the same basic structure.
A good way to gauge whether or not a site’s online lessons will help you advance is to make sure that they have a combination of technique lessons and lessons that help explain what’s happening musically when you use certain scales. Try to find and maintain a solid balance between the two extremes in your practice.
Types of Online Bass Lessons
There are two main types of music lessons: those that are focused on techniques and those that have a focus on musicianship relating to your particular instrument. The former is a great choice for musicians who are looking to advance on the bass guitar, and the latter works well for those of you who have never played an instrument before. Of course there are also lessons which combine the two, which depending on your level of experience may also offer a viable way to learn an instrument.
Top 3 Online Bass Guitar Lessons
JamPlay Online Bass Guitar Lessons
Founded in 2006, JamPlay has been one of the preeminent providers of quality online music lessons for more than a decade. The site features over 4,000 lessons from 70 different instructors, and in the right situation it can prove to be a valuable tool for any musician.
The cool thing about JamPlay is that they have a staggering amount of content available, including content for bass players. A substantial amount of this content is also really in-depth and well done, so it definitely has a lot of worth to beginning musicians in particular.
However, as with any other product there are musicians who aren’t really going to get a lot out of JamPlay due to their circumstances.
JamPlay’s site isn’t as user friendly as others, but it does do a reasonably proficient job of communicating the information necessary to navigate it. It’s not very sleek or stylish, in fact could definitely use an update to bring it more in-line with more modern styles, but it still is really functional. So while the design may feel a bit cheap when compared to more recently established sites, don’t count out JamPlay purely for aesthetic reasons.
The site divides bass lessons into four distinct phases, “Beginners, Styles, Songs, and Artists.” The Beginners section is aimed at getting musicians who have never picked up a bass guitar to the point where they can competently play along with other musicians. The styles sections helps musicians to get a handle on their preferred style of music, breaking down the theory that makes these genres sound the way they do. The artist section is where the teachers on the site show you notable techniques that they used playing professionally. Some of these artists include: Billy Sheehan (played for legend Steve Vai, among others), David Ellefson of Megadeth, and Bryan Beller of Dethklok.
JamPlay is unique in that on their site you can actually learn full songs from an instructor in addition to having access to lessons. This alone makes it worth serious consideration for a lot of you reading this, because by giving you the ability to get a solid repertoire you can start playing with other musicians a lot sooner than you would be able to otherwise.
JamPlay provides a good platform for musicians who are just getting started as well as those who are already experienced on a different instrument. With that being said, the site doesn’t promote all around musicianship all well as some of its contemporaries because it focuses more on building technique than the theory behind music.
This will get people who use the site up and playing quickly, but without learning theory you’re going to end up plateauing a lot sooner than you would otherwise. So if you have professional aspirations you’re either going to want to look at a site that’s geared more towards overall musicianship or supplementing your subscription with books on theory or by taking classes (either high school level classes, or if you’re older theory classes at your local community college).
Something to note about JamPlay is that while their subscription fee is higher than others, you do have the option to pay monthly. So while other sites may end up costing a little less per month, the fact that you can purchase a month by month subscription should you choose to do so definitely adds a lot of utility for musicians who can’t afford a large upfront cost.
JamPlay is one of the leaders of online bass lessons, for good reason. The company has been around a while and established a great reputation with guitarists and bassists. It should be no surprise then that the site appears on this list. With a deep video library and no long term commitment required, there is no reason not to give it a try to see what you think.
Bass Guitar Lessons From Nathan East
ArtistWorks, the site that hosts this series of lessons, separates itself from the competition by being one of the few sites that allows musicians to receive lessons from notable professionals. The site hosts lessons by Paul Gilbert in addition to others, and while he may not be quite as well-known, Nathan East is a prolific touring musician. He’s toured with acts such as: Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Toto, as well as Paul McCartney.
ArtistWorks focuses on being a comprehensive service. They intend for any musician to be able to go from beginner to advanced solely through the site, and the content they host is reflective of this goal. The website is very theory and technique heavy, so if you happen to work through the content on the site you’ll end up with a pretty good knowledge of the instrument.
As previously stated, a major focus of the site is understanding theory. Bass players in particular need to have a good working knowledge of scales, scale tones, and how you can use notes relative to a chord to create certain musical flavors. East has a lot of lessons focused on theory that can be directly applied to the bass, and as an added bonus anyone who enrolls in an ArtistWorks course also has access to the site’s basic music theory lessons. So basically if you enroll in a course from the site you’re getting a pretty good deal if you’re a beginning musician. The theory portion of the site may also be pretty helpful to advanced musicians as well, because it can help fill in any gaps you may happen to have in your knowledge.
A flaw in ArtistWorks, depending on what you’re looking for, is that they don’t really teach you many songs relative to JamPlay. A lot of websites don’t do this because of licensing issues, which is really unfortunate. With that being said, East does target a few different genres in his lessons. In particular, he has lessons dedicated exclusively to Blues, Reggae, R&B, and Funk. All of these genres have lessons at both an intermediate and advanced level, so they can give musicians looking to increase their flexibility on their instrument a helping hand.
Lastly, ArtistWorks gives musicians the ability to interact directly with their teacher. Using the site you can post videos of your playing. These can either be exercises supplied in the lessons or things you’re working on that are independent of the site. East will then provide you with personal feedback.
ArtistWorks costs $35 a month at least. You can either pay month to month or purchase packages of three, six, and twelve months worth of access which have to be paid in full. The site is definitely more expensive than many of its competitors, but having access to East directly helps to add a lot of value to the site it wouldn’t otherwise have.
Another thing to consider is that this site may not be the best choice for musicians who already have a good knowledge of music theory, because a lot of the lessons focus heavily on this aspect. If you already understand how scales, modes, scale degrees, and rhythm works you’re going to get a lot less out of this site than a beginner would. On the flip side, if you’re a beginner having this information will give you the majority of the tools that you’ll need to start performing with a band.
Like other ArtistWorks lesson series, Nathan East has created a resource which will serve any beginning musician incredibly well. If you're looking for personalized feedback from an amazing musician and teacher, ArtistWorks is definitely worth a look. And since some example lessons are provided for free, there is no reason not to give it a shot.
Scott’s Bass Lessons
The first thing you see when you enter Scott’s site is a collection of targeted lessons as well as the claim that he can take your playing to the next level for free. Right off the bat it’s hard not to be skeptical of these claims, because usually when a website bills itself as being free it’s a way to sucker you into buying something.
With that being said, while Scott does have a section of the site that you need to pay for (which is also where most of the more in-depth lessons are located) there are a few free ebooks and he does have a collection of solid YouTube videos located on the channel that shares the name of his site.
Scott’s Bass Lessons are unique in that they he has a solid amount of content available for beginner’s including Ebooks and basic YouTube videos to get musicians started. So even if you’re not in a situation where you can pay for bass lessons his site and YouTube channel are definitely worth a look.
The first thing you need to know about the site is that you don’t pay month to month, rather you pay $168 up front for a year’s worth of access. This equates to $14 per month, but the upfront cost may make it unfeasible for some of you. The site looks like it has a lot of quality information, but having to pay that much upfront is really inconvenient considering that there are similar lessons available that allow you to pay on a monthly basis.
The SBL Academy (the paid portion of the site) is community driven in addition to having lessons. Users post videos of themselves playing things they learned from the lesson and then receive feedback from their fellow users, which does a lot to help motivate players. Members of the site also have the ability to participate in a bi-monthly Q&A with Scott himself, so if you happen to have question that you need answered by an experienced musician you have the ability to talk with Scott directly if you so choose.
The main selling point of Scott’s site in our opinion is that it gives you access to a community of people who are also trying to learn, the benefits of which should not be understated. Seeing other people struggle with things that you’re having a hard time with and getting quality feedback are both things that self-taught musicians don’t really have a lot of access to, which can make learning to play an instrument pretty difficult. You see all of these great musicians around you, so when you have a hard time doing something it can make you feel like you’re just wasting your time. Being able to participate in a community and see other people struggling can do a lot to help a person build confidence in themselves.
It should also be noted that there is a two-week free trial available, so should you happen to not like the content available on the site you won’t be stuck with having to pay a $168 bill.
Scott’s Bass Lessons do require a pretty hefty upfront payment, but when considering the fact that it’s comparable to other services in terms of what you spend per month as well as the resources available the cost is justified. The site also has a pretty huge amount of content available that will most likely keep a beginning musician occupied for the majority of the year.