Glossary of 50 bass guitar terms

50 Essential Bass Guitar Terms: Decoding the Language of Low End

Learn the essential bass guitar terms you need to know for bass playing. From frets to pickups, this comprehensive glossary will help you understand the fundamentals of bass guitar and enhance your musical vocabulary.


Broken chord played one note at a time.

Bass Boost:

Refers to the intentional amplification or enhancement of low-frequency sounds, particularly the bass frequencies in audio signals.

Bass Line:

The sequence of notes played by the bass instrument in a piece of music.


Supports strings, and transfers vibrations. Found on the body of the bass.

Chromatic Scale:

Succession of all 12 musical pitches from Western harmony.


3 notes or more played simultaneously.


Accompanying other musicians. This is the primary bass guitar role.


Within/from a particular key or scale.

Double Stops:

Playing two notes simultaneously. Also known as a dyad.


Variations in volume. Here are some examples of dynamics.

EQ (Equalization):

Adjusting frequencies such as treble and bass.


Unwanted sound caused by amplified signals.


Metal strips on the bass neck.

Fretless Bass:

Bass without frets on the fingerboard.


Short, selectively placed musical passages, generally used for for transitions.


Surface of the bass neck.

Gig Bag:

Soft case for transporting the bass.

Ghost Note:

Lightly played, percussive note with no tone/pitch. Also called a dead note.


Repeated bassline pattern, generally representing an upbeat rhythm.


Simultaneous combination of musical tones/intervals.

Headless Bass:

Bass without a traditional headstock.


Top of the neck, holds tuning pegs.


Accuracy of pitch in playing.


Short musical phrase used in improvisation.


Device for keeping a steady beat.

Using modes for improvisation.


Technique or device dampening string vibrations.


The interval between two identical musical tones.

Palm Muting:

Resting the palm of your hand on strings for a muted sound. It usually rests right where the bridge meets the strings.

Pentatonic Scale:

5-note patterns of musical notes organized by pitch. The major pentatonic scale and minor pentatonic scale are the most common pentatonic scales.

Pick Technique:

Using a plectrum for playing.


The device on the bass guitar’s body capturing string vibrations. This allows for amplification.

Pickup Selector:

Allows for switching between different pickups. This is found on the body of the bass.


Commonly known as a “pick”, is a small, flat tool used by bass players for plucking the strings, offering an alternative to fingerstyle playing.

Pop Technique:

Plucking strings with fingers abruptly, leading to a “popping” sound. Often used alongside slap technique.


Rhythmic, repeated musical phrase.

Root Note:

Basis of a chord or scale.


Patterns of musical notes organized by pitch. The major scale is the most common scale in Western harmony.

Slap Technique:

Hitting strings with the thumb abruptly, leading to a “slapping” sound. Often used alongside pop technique.


Prolonging a note’s duration.

Tablature (Tab):

Notation system for fretted instruments.

Related: How to read bass tabs


Fretting notes by tapping strings. This can be done with either hand and was popularized by Eddie Van Halen.

Thumb Rest:

Place for anchoring thumb while playing.

Time Signature:

Numerical representation of beats in a measure.


Notating or playing by ear.


Three-note chord.


Three evenly spaced notes played in the space of two.


Rapid variation in pitch.

Walking Bassline:

Bassline that moves in a stepwise motion.


Specific range of frequencies.

Learning the common parts of a bass guitar is a must for any bass player. Understanding these terms will help you:

  • Communicate with musicians and guitar techs
  • Identify parts of your bass on demand
  • Recognize problems with specific parts of your bass

These bass guitar playing techniques are terms that will improve the efficiency of your technical abilities for both hands. They also help you understand some best practices for playing bass.

Learning modes for bass will improve your understanding of intervals, improvisation, composition, and melody.