5 Essential Tips to Play Bass Guitar for Metal Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Practice regular and consistent tuning
  2. Study and learn metal bass riffs
  3. Focus on timing and rhythm
  4. Experiment with different pick techniques
  5. Get familiar with metal genre variations

If you've ever wondered how to play bass guitar for metal, you're in the right place. Learning to play the bass guitar for metal is like embarking on an epic journey. You pick up your bass, plug it in, and create that unmistakable sound that drives the rhythm of your favorite metal songs. But where do you start? Well, here are five key steps to help you on your path.

Practice Regular and Consistent Tuning

Playing bass guitar for metal involves a lot of heavy strumming and intense playing. This can often knock your guitar out of tune. Therefore, it's super important to get into the habit of regular and consistent tuning.

Why Tuning Matters

Understanding how to play bass guitar for metal starts with tuning. A well-tuned bass allows you to hit the right notes and create the harmony your band needs. Here's why:

  • Accuracy: Tuning ensures you hit the right notes every time. This is vital for any bass player, especially in metal where precision is key.
  • Harmony: Your bass must blend in with the rest of the band. An out-of-tune bass can disrupt the overall sound and cohesion of the band.

How to Tune Your Bass

Now that you understand why tuning matters, let's look at how to do it. It's a straightforward process:

  1. Use a Tuner: A tuner is a device that helps you adjust each string to the correct pitch. They're easy to use and widely available in music stores.
  2. Start with the E String: The lowest (and thickest) string on your bass is the E string. Start by tuning this string first, and then move on to the A, D, and G strings.

Maintaining Your Bass

Beyond tuning, you should also maintain your bass to ensure it stays in tune longer. Here are a few tips:

  • Change Your Strings Regularly: Old strings can lose their ability to hold a tune. Change them out every few months or after about 100 hours of playing time.
  • Store Your Bass Properly: Keep your bass in a case when not in use. This protects it from dust and damage which can affect its sound.

By practicing regular and consistent tuning and maintaining your bass, you'll provide a solid foundation for your metal playing. This is the first step in learning how to play bass guitar for metal. Next up, we'll dive into understanding metal bass riffs.

Study and Learn Metal Bass Riffs

Understanding how to play bass guitar for metal takes more than just knowing how to strum a string. It's also about understanding the unique rhythm and style that define the genre. Metal bass riffs are a crucial part of this. They're the catchy, repeated melodies that make each song unique and memorable.

What is a Metal Bass Riff?

Before we delve into how to learn metal bass riffs, let's define what a riff is. A riff is a repeated sequence of notes or chords that forms the main theme of a song. In metal, these riffs are often fast, complex, and played with a lot of power.

How to Learn Metal Bass Riffs

Ready to start learning those headbanging riffs? Here's how:

  1. Listen to Metal: Start by immersing yourself in the genre. Listen to bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Megadeth. Pay attention to the bass lines and try to pick out the riffs.
  2. Start Slow: When learning a new riff, start slow. Break it down note by note, and gradually increase your speed as you get more comfortable.

Practice Makes Perfect

As with any skill, the key to mastering metal bass riffs is practice. Here are a few tips to help you along:

  • Set Aside Practice Time: Make sure you have a regular practice schedule. Even 15 minutes a day can make a big difference over time.
  • Use a Metronome: A metronome can help you keep time and ensure you're playing the riff at the correct speed.

Learning to play metal bass riffs can take time and patience, but with consistent practice, you'll soon be playing your favorite songs with ease. Remember, every great bassist started somewhere, so don't get discouraged if you don't get it right away. Keep practicing, and you'll get there. Now, let's move on to timing and rhythm, another crucial aspect of how to play bass guitar for metal.

Focus on Timing and Rhythm

After getting the hang of metal bass riffs, it's time to focus on timing and rhythm. These two elements are the backbone of how to play bass guitar for metal. They provide the structure that holds all the other elements together. Without them, even the most intricate riffs can sound off.

Understanding Timing and Rhythm

Timing is about when you play the notes, while rhythm is about how you play them. Together, they create the beat and groove of a song. In metal, the timing and rhythm can be intricate and challenging, but don't let that scare you. With practice, you'll get the hang of it.

How to Improve Your Timing and Rhythm

Let's look at some strategies to help you improve your timing and rhythm:

  1. Use a Metronome: This device keeps a steady beat, helping you maintain the correct tempo. Start by playing simple bass lines along with the metronome, then gradually increase the complexity as you get comfortable.
  2. Tap Your Foot: Sounds simple, right? But tapping your foot to the beat can help internalize the rhythm, making it easier to keep time.
  3. Play Along with Songs: Once you're comfortable with a metronome, try playing along with your favorite metal songs. This can help you get a feel for how timing and rhythm work in a real-world context.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Improving your timing and rhythm is all about practice. It might feel awkward at first, but stick with it. Soon, you'll be keeping time like a pro. And remember: it's okay to make mistakes. That's how we learn.

Now that we've covered timing and rhythm, you're well on your way to understanding how to play bass guitar for metal. But there's still more to learn, so let's move on to the next topic: pick techniques.

Experiment with Different Pick Techniques

When learning how to play bass guitar for metal, one thing is for sure: you're going to encounter different pick techniques. And that's a good thing! Experimenting with these techniques is a key step in developing your unique sound.

Why Pick Techniques Matter

Pick techniques can significantly influence your sound. They can add a sharp attack, make your notes more pronounced, or even create different tonalities. In the realm of metal, where the bass needs to cut through heavy guitars and pounding drums, a good pick technique can make all the difference.

Types of Pick Techniques

Here are a few techniques you might want to explore:

  • Alternate Picking: This involves alternating between downstrokes and upstrokes. It's great for fast-paced riffs and provides a consistent sound.
  • Down Picking: As the name suggests, this technique involves only downstrokes. It's a bit more challenging but can produce a heavy, aggressive sound—perfect for metal.
  • Palm Muting: This technique involves resting your palm on the strings near the bridge while you play, which creates a muted, chunky sound. It's a common technique in metal and can add a lot of dynamics to your playing.

Choosing the Right Pick

The type of pick you use can also influence your sound. For a brighter tone, try a hard pick. For a softer, more rounded tone, a medium or soft pick might be better. Don't be afraid to try different picks and see what works best for you.

Remember, the best technique is the one that feels good to you and serves the music you're playing. So, experiment, have fun, and find what works for you. Up next, we're going to dive into the rich world of metal genre variations. Stay tuned!

Get Familiar with Metal Genre Variations

Learning how to play bass guitar for metal isn't just about mastering the instrument — it's also about understanding the music. Metal is a genre rich in variations, with each sub-genre presenting its own unique challenges and opportunities for bass players. Let's take a closer look at a few of these variations.

Heavy Metal

Often seen as the "classic" form of metal, heavy metal emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden popularized this genre. The bass in heavy metal often follows the rhythm guitar, providing a steady, driving force behind the music.

Thrash Metal

Thrash metal is characterized by its fast tempo and aggression. Pioneered by bands like Metallica and Slayer, thrash metal bass lines are often complex and fast-paced. This genre presents an excellent opportunity to practice your speed and precision.

Death Metal

Recognized for its heavy distortion, complex song structures, and aggressive vocals, death metal is a challenging genre for bass players. Bands like Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel serve as great examples. It's particularly important in this genre to maintain a tight rhythm and a growling low end.

Black Metal

Black metal is known for its atmospheric, often lo-fi sound, and high-pitched, shrieking vocals. Bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone are iconic in this genre. Bass in black metal often provides a subtle, atmospheric backdrop, requiring a keen sense of timing and a feel for the music's dark aesthetic.

By exploring these sub-genres and more, you'll not only expand your musical horizons but also gain a deeper understanding of the role the bass guitar plays in metal music. And who knows? You might even discover your new favorite band. Now that you're familiar with the landscape of metal music, you're well on your way to mastering how to play bass guitar for metal. Keep those strings humming!

If you're ready to take your metal bass guitar skills to the next level, check out Debbie Knox-Hewson's workshop, 'How to Get Better at What You Do - Go from Good to Great!.' This workshop is not only applicable to bass guitarists but also to any creative who wants to improve their craft. Learn the techniques and strategies that will help you go from good to great in your bass guitar playing journey and beyond!