How To Play Faster On Bass (Progress In A Couple Of Weeks!)

May 11, 2024
Play Faster On Bass - Image of fast moving lights by Agung Raharja

You’ve seen bass players like Bill “The Buddha” Dickens, Robert “Bubby” Lewis, Billy Sheehan, and Mohini Dey shred on the bass guitar with total ease, and now you want to do the same.

In my guide, I’ll show you tried and true ways that worked for me to improve my speed on the bass guitar in a couple of weeks. With just a few changes with your playing technique, you can start to play faster on bass and enjoy the feeling of letting your fingers glide along your fretboard.

If you’re a beginner looking to build speed from scratch or an experienced player aiming to break through speed plateaus, this bass lesson is for you.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Key takeaways for playing anything faster
  • The best rhythms you can practice in order to develop speed in the shortest amount of time
  • Ways to practice with a metronome
  • Bass players to check out

Let’s get started.

TL;DR

If you’re short on time, watch my video on “My Go To Bass Guitar Warm Up Exercises.” These exercises can help to improve your speed and dexterity on the bass guitar in a short period of time.

YouTube video
My Go To Bass Guitar Warm Up Exercises

Play Faster On Bass In Less Time

The bass is a physically demanding instrument. In order to play faster, a bassist is faced with at least three challenges: coordination, tone, and touch.

There are four takeaways for developing your speed with any instrument. And, these especially apply for improving your speed on the bass guitar.

Key Takeaways

  1. Practice any line or phrase super-slow
  2. Feel the bigger rhythm
  3. Hone in on trouble spots and transitions
  4. Stay relaxed

These takeaways will make the biggest difference with developing your speed in a short period of time.

Let’s break this down these 4 tips.

Tip #1: Slow Practice Is Essential

If you want to develop accurate muscle memory for playing fast, practicing slow is the best way to do it.

When you practice slowly, you’ll be able to pay attention to any areas of tension in your body, the way you’re articulating the notes, and how your tone sounds.

Speed will follow when you’re able to play something on the bass at a very slow pace, like 30 bpm on a metronome, and sound really good. It’s only natural.

So, practice all of your lines and bass grooves very slowly. Be patient and trust the process.

Tip #2: Feel The Larger Rhythm

I listen to lots of drummers. And one thing that’s common with all of the drummers who can play fast is that the larger beats are always felt.

Example 1 - Feel the larger rhythm
Example 1 – Feel the larger rhythm

So, instead of feeling “1-e-&-a, 2-e-&-a, 3-e-&-a, 4-e-&-a,” feel the larger rhythm “1, 2, 3, 4.”

Example 2 - Feel the larger rhythm
Example 2 – Feel the larger rhythm

If the tempo is very fast, feel an even bigger rhythm, like “1, 3”.

Example 3 - Feel the larger rhythm
Example 3 – Feel the larger rhythm

The faster the tempo, the larger the rhythm you should feel.

This same principle applies to being able to play the bass guitar fast.

Focus on the larger rhythm with your lines, phrases, and even bass fills. This will keep your body relaxed, and your phrases will have strong rhythmic anchors.

Tip #3: Hone In On Troublesome Areas

When skipping strings or shifting to another part of the neck, troublesome areas can occur on the bass guitar.

These are areas you’ll want to spend a little more time on.

You’re well on your way to playing faster on the bass when you develop your muscle memory to cross strings or shift a large distance.

If your line has an area that’s causing you to trip up, you should stop and go over that section until you can play it cleanly.

It takes a lot of work to be able to play quicker on the bass. However, it won’t take a long time to gain speed with the right discipline.

Tips #4: Stay Relaxed With An Economy of Motion

Most bassists that can play very fast are able to stay relaxed when they play. They also display an economy of motion. In other words, they tend to not pluck or fret the strings harder than they have to. Their fingers also stay very close to the strings.

You need to eliminate wasted energy and actions if you want to play fast.

Here’s how you do this.

How much pressure should you use to press down on the frets?

There is a specific amount of pressure needed to press down on a note in order to make it sound. And, it’s different for every instrument. You need to know this “sweet spot” on your bass guitar.

Here’s how:

  1. Start resting your finger on a fret. Don’t press down on it just yet. Just rest it flat on the string just above the fret.
  2. Next, start plucking the string.
  3. At first the string will sound like a muted ghost note.
  4. Slowly, start to increase the amount of fretting pressure while still plucking.
  5. Once a note is sounded, that is the exact amount of pressure needed. No more. No less.

Best Rhythms To Practice In Order To Gain Speed On The Bass

If you want to be able to play faster on the bass guitar, use these rhythms for any phrase that you practice.

Rhythm #1: The Reverse Shuffle

I call this rhythm the ‘Reverse Shuffle’.

The rhythm is basically a sixteenth-note followed by a dotted eighth-note.

Reverse Shuffle Rhythm - One of the best rhythms for playing faster on bass
Reverse Shuffle Rhythm – One of the best rhythms for playing faster on bass

This broken rhythm forces you to play fast during awkward parts of your phrase. Doing so, helps to bring attention to troublesome areas that you should focus on.

When I practiced my scales, I used to practice this rhythm a lot. Try the Reverse Shuffle instead of practicing your scales to steady the eighth notes.

Rhythm #2: The Shaker Pattern

You’ve heard this rhythm millions of times played on a shaker.

It’s an eighth-note followed by two sixteenth-notes. This is a fantastic rhythm to play over your lines and scales.

Shaker Rhythm - Excellent rhythm for developing your speed
Shaker Rhythm – Excellent rhythm for developing your speed

The constant change from a single note followed by a pair of notes exposes areas that are problematic with your lines.

I learned of this rhythm from the first VHS instructional bass video I ever owned, “Beginning Funk Bass” by Abraham Laboriel.

In the video he introduces this rhythm quickly for developing his technique. I adopted this rhythm to use over any lines that I am working on. It really opens up your technique, ears, and touch on the bass guitar.

How To Use A Metronome To Develop Your Speed

A methodical approach is a tried and true way for developing your speed on the bass guitar.

Many bassists that can play fast will attest to using the metronome when they practice and slowly increasing the tempo.

This is very similar to how an athlete develops strength and speed.

Here’s a takeaway that really works for me.

Start Very Slow

Spend more time practicing at the slowest speed your metronome can get.

For me, my metronome goes down to 30 bpm.

Stay in that zone for a long time. Play quarter-notes, eighth-notes, sixteenth-notes, and triplets. Play different rhythms. Play different techniques, like fingerstyle, slapping, chords, and even tapping.

Just feel the large space between each beat. Then gradually increase your metronome click to build up speed.

A lot of what holds bass players back from playing fast is that their plucking hand is not in sync with their fretting hand.

Practicing at extremely slow tempos brings your two hands to work more closely in sync. I can’t say it enough. If you can play a musical phrase very well in a slow tempo, speed will flow suit. So, focus on your precision.

Bass Players That Can Play Really Fast!

If you want to play fast on the bass, it helps to check out bass players that are already doing that and observe their technique.

Here’s a list of bass players that play bass with jaw-dropping speed, accuracy, and clarity:

Now It’s Your Turn

Discipline, patience, and the right approaches for getting your hands to work together are what it takes to play faster on the bass.

It’s counterintuitive to practice slowly, but you have to trust the process. You will eventually start playing quicker than you think.

I’ve seen students cut corners and be impatient. Bad habits are hard to break and that is what ended up happening to them.

If you enjoyed this lesson and would like to learn more about the bass, you can go here.

PosidoVega

Hi! I’m Posido Vega, a multi-passionate creative. I’m an artist, bass player, jazz theory enthusiast, children’s book author and illustrator, and SEO 😅.

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