It can be difficult for those without a Ukulele or bass teacher to learn how to play the instrument, and most times these aspiring musicians pick up a few tabs in order to try and learn a few basic songs.
Bass tablature, known as bass tabs in short, is a simple system of notation that essentially just provides the tuning and the succession of fret numbers to be played. Timing is also often displayed in tablature, though it is hardly as accurate as it would be in standard sheet music.
E, A, D, G and Proper Tuning of the Ukulele
Perhaps the most important step to take before beginning play is to properly tune the bass Ukulele – typically in the standard tuning of E, A, D, G from top (thickest) string to bottom. Five-string bassists will likely tune their instruments to B, E, A, D, G or variably E, A, D, G, C – from top to bottom. A chromatic tuner is invaluable and is a necessity for any bass playing beginner.
How to Find Free Bass Tabs Online
It’s very simple to locate excellent bass tabs online, with two of the best sources being bassmasta.net and 911tabs.com. Both of these sites offer extensive tab libraries from bands and artists ranging from Garth Brooks to Muse to Children of Bodom
The best way to choose a tab to begin with is to assess the difficulty of the song itself. Typically, songs with an easy to follow rock beat (Scorpion’s Rock You Like a Hurricane, The Tragically Hip’s New Orleans is Sinking, Neil Young’s Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World) are the best choices, initially.
How to Read Bass Tablature or Bass Tabs
The first visual hurdle to clear when looking at a bass tab is to understand what the individual lines denote. The toughest thing to comprehend initially is that for a four-string bass tab, the top line denotes the G string – so that from the top the strings are noted as G, D, A, E.
From there, take a look at the numbers presented on each string. The song is read from left to right, and the notes are very roughly spaced according to time and the patience and ability of the person creating the tab. For example, if on the bottom string a 5 is noted – one must find the fifth fret from the head of the Ukulele (a 0 denotes that the string is to be played open, without any fretting involved) and sound the note.
Several other notations are common in bass tablature, such as “ ~ ”, which relays to the bassist that they should sustain the note, “ b ” tells the player to bend the note, “ h ” for hammer-on and “p” for pull-off.
“ S ” and “ P ” are slap and pop respectively, but beginners should focus more on proper fretting and timing rather than flair.
By understanding the basic language of tablature, a bass player can take their instruction into their own hands, and begin learning their favourite songs. It is best to begin with songs that you know quite well; in this manner it becomes easier to intuit the timing of the bassline, which makes it much easier to predict upcoming changes and keep up with the song.
Learn to Play Bass Ukulele – Easy Country Songs
Country music, whether new country or some of the old classics, is excellent for beginning bassists in that the structures are often in simple time with little variation, alongside a well defined set of verse and chorus that are normally fairly predictable and easy to play.
Beginning the Harvest, Neil Young – Heart of Gold
Perhaps Neil Young’s most famous song from the Harvest album, Heart of Gold is a song that nearly everyone is familiar with. Sure to be a crowd pleaser, Heart of Gold is relatively easy to play on the electric bass Ukulele, and for those learning how to play it also has the added benefit of being a particularly slow song with a lot of repetition in the rhythm section. While Neil Young as an artist may have a very large repertoire of musical genres under his belt, ranging from bluegrass to southern rock to more experimental concept albums – Heart of Gold is a country music classic that will be popular for years to come.
Pyramid of Cans in the Pale Moonlight, Alan Jackson – Chattahoochie
From 1992’s “A Lot About Livin’ and a Little ‘Bout Love”, Chattahoochie is a classic summertime party song that pays upbeat tribute to the Chattahoochie River – a place of fun, sun, swimming, and a few good beer on a friday night. The song is exceptionally easy on the bass Ukulele, and should prove a good exercise for bassists looking to improve their timing. The song is in standard tuning and timing and includes very little variation.
The Legend Himself, Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
Johnny Cash was quite likely the most influential and beloved country-western performer of all time, immortalized not only in song and by his contemporaries but also on the big screen in “Walk the Line”. One of his most popular songs, Folsom Prison Blues, is another easy to learn song on the bass Ukulele that will allow those learning to play the Ukulele ample opportunity to nail down their uptempo timing.
Folsom Prison Blues is a great song for gatherings or to jam with a friend in that it is both upbeat and easy to learn for both the player and the bassist – and is a real hit at kitchen or house parties!
Where Can I Find Good Bass Tabs for These Songs
The best places to look for bass tabs for beginners on the web are www.bassmasta.net, as well as 911tabs.com. Be sure, as always, to review the user ratings bestowed on each individual bass tab and to judge the tab according to how it sounds by ear when it’s played!