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What Do You Need to Play Bass Guitar?

A list of bass guitar equipment you need to get started

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As you set out to begin playing bass, the first question to answer is what bass guitar equipment you need. It's not enough just to have a bass guitar; you won't get anywhere without the necessary gear. Here is a check list of the bass guitar equipment you need to begin playing.

Bass Guitar

First and foremost on the list is, of course, the instrument itself. This will also likely be the largest monetary investment. You will have this for a long time and become very personal with it, so don't decide on a bass casually. Get one you want to be seen with.

Amplifier

A bass guitar by itself doesn't make any sound. You need to get a bass amp to fill the room (or stage) with some good vibrations. Amp power is measured in Watts. If you are just looking to practice at home and build up your skills for a while, you can make do with a small and inexpensive amp, around 100 Watts. If, however, you plan to play any shows with this equipment, you need something with 200 or more Watts of oomph behind it.

Instrument Cable

Also referred to by musicians as a "patch cord", an instrument cable is a necessary item for your kit. This is the cord that carries the sound from your bass guitar's output jack into the amplifier's input jack. Any music store will have a wall of them with various lengths and types. You want both ends to be 1/4 inch jacks. Make sure the cord is long enough to allow you to walk around a stage freely. Some cords have right-angle jacks on one end to plug into the bass. These are useful to prevent the jack being yanked out or damaged accidentally.

Guitar Strap

The strap is what suspends the guitar from your shoulders. Most bass guitars will come with one, but double check to make sure it's included. Without it, you'll have to play with the instrument awkwardly propped up on one knee. Make sure you adjust the strap length properly.

More Useful Bass Guitar Equipment

There are a number of things that are not absolutely essential to get started, but will certainly come in handy. Each of these items are purchases you won't regret.

  • Bass Case: Rather than letting your bass guitar get covered in dust, put it away in a case. If you go to play shows, a case will not only make it easy to carry your bass and its accessories, but it can prevent scratches or other damage.
  • Tuner: With a little practice you can become good at listening to notes and tuning by ear, but nothing beats an electronic tuner for getting precise tuning quickly and easily, no matter your skill level.
  • Small Screw Driver: There are lots of little adjustments you will eventually want to make to your bass that require a tiny little screw driver. Have one in your bass case. It's also handy for changing the batteries in your tuner.
  • Rag: There are fancy pieces of special material you can buy for cleaning a guitar, but really any old kitchen rag will do. Use it to clean dust, finger smudges, or any other unwanted gunk off your bass.
  • Metronome: Practicing with a metronome is one of the best ways to get solid rhythm in your bass work, and consistent rhythm can really make or break a bass player. Some tuners double as metronomes.
  • Pick: Most bass players don't need a pick, but in certain styles (such as punk or metal) it is a must-have. If you're aspiring to play fast, twangy punk bass lines, you'll need one.
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