How To Play “So What”On Electric Bass Guitar: Easy-to-Follow Steps

Are you ready to take your bass guitar skills to the next level? Dive into the world of jazz with Miles Davis’ timeless classic, “So What.” Mastering this piece on electric bass guitar will improve your technique and understanding of rhythm, groove, and improvisation.

The Basics Of Playing Electric Bass Guitar

To begin playing electric bass guitar, it’s important to understand the instrument and learn the rhythm section, while using a metronome for proper timing.

Understanding The Instrument

To fully grasp the art of playing “So What” on an electric bass guitar, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of the instrument itself. The electric bass is typically comprised of four strings, each tuned to a standard E-A-D-G configuration.

Start by familiarizing yourself with different parts of the bass guitar: neck, fretboard, tuners, pickups, bridge and body. As you progress in your learning journey, knowing these components will aid you in using different techniques like fingerstyle plucking or slap-and-pop that can impact how you channel your inner Miles Davis while grooving along to “So What.” Additionally, ensure that your posture and grip are correct when holding the instrument as doing so reduces stress on your hands and wrists while optimizing tone quality.

Learning The Rhythm Section

One of the most important aspects of playing electric bass guitar is understanding the rhythm section. As the backbone of any band, it’s crucial that a bassist has a solid grasp on timing, groove, and feel.

This starts with using a metronome to keep time and practicing different strumming patterns to get comfortable with various rhythms. It’s also important for bassists to listen closely to the drummer and learn how to lock in with them, creating a tight rhythmic foundation for the rest of the band.

Using A Metronome

One crucial aspect of mastering any instrument is having a solid sense of timing. That’s where the metronome comes in handy as an essential tool for practicing rhythm and tempo.

The metronome helps to keep the beat steady, improving your timing and accuracy when learning new pieces like “So What” by Miles Davis. As you work through the bassline, try adjusting the metronome’s speed faster or slower to challenge yourself and enhance your playing skills.

Understanding “So What” By Miles Davis

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In order to play “So What” on electric bass guitar, it’s important to understand the key and chord progression, rhythm and timing, as well as groove and feel in this classic Miles Davis jazz standard.

Key And Chord Progression

Understanding the key and chord progression is crucial when playing “So What” on electric bass guitar. The song is in Dorian mode, which means it’s based on the second degree of a major scale.

In this case, it’s the D Dorian mode, derived from the C major scale. The chord progression follows a modal structure with two main chords: Dm7 and Ebm7.

The modal structure of “So What” allows for experimentation without deviating too much from its core sound. As you practice playing the bassline along with other musicians, listen carefully to how each note interacts with each chord change and how they fit within their respective keys.

Rhythm And Timing

When it comes to playing “So What” on electric bass guitar, rhythm and timing are crucial components. It’s important to understand how rhythm works and the various types of timing utilized in music.

In “So What,” Miles Davis uses a slow, laid-back feel with a 6/8 time signature that creates a relaxed groove. To develop strong rhythm skills, it’s beneficial to practice regularly using a metronome or drum machine to sharpen your sense of timing.

Additionally, practicing different rhythms such as syncopation and swing will help you become more familiar with different styles of music and enhance your overall playing ability.

Groove And Feel

To truly capture the essence of “So What” on electric bass guitar, it’s crucial to understand the concept of groove and feel. Groove is all about locking in with the drummer and establishing a solid rhythm section foundation.

It’s what makes people dance and move to the music. Feel, on the other hand, refers to how you play each note within that groove.

To develop a strong sense of groove and feel, try practicing with a metronome or drum machine. This will help you hone your timing skills and learn how to lock in with others.

Remember that while technique is important in playing “So What,” it’s equally essential to inject feeling into each note played on electric bass guitar – this is what separates good players from great ones!

Techniques For Playing “So What” On Electric Bass Guitar

To master playing “So What” on electric bass guitar, it’s essential to break down the bassline, utilize walking bass lines, incorporate modal playing, and syncopated rhythms.

Breaking Down The Bassline

To effectively play “So What” on electric bass guitar, it’s important to break down the bassline into its individual components. This means analyzing each note and understanding how it fits within the chord progression and overall groove of the song.

Start by listening closely to the recording and identifying when the bass notes change.

One effective technique for breaking down the bassline is to focus on playing walking bass lines. These lines typically use a combination of quarter notes, eighth notes, and occasional syncopated rhythms to create movement within the song’s structure.

Another approach is to incorporate modal playing, using scales that correspond with each chord in order to create more intricate melodies that still stay true to the underlying harmony.

Utilizing Walking Bass Lines

One technique for playing “So What” on electric bass guitar is utilizing walking bass lines. A walking bass line is a type of bassline that moves steadily from one note to the next, usually in a quarter-note rhythm.

To begin incorporating walking bass lines into your playing, start with simple chord progressions and practice moving smoothly between each note. Once you have mastered this, try experimenting with different rhythms and syncopations to add more depth and complexity to your playing.

Incorporating Modal Playing

Modal playing is an essential aspect of improvisation on electric bass guitar. To incorporate modal playing, you need to understand the modes and how they relate to each chord in a song.

For example, in “So What,” the key is D dorian, meaning that all chords used are related to D dorian.

To begin incorporating modal playing into your basslines for “So What” or any other piece of music, start by learning the basic fingerings for each mode and practice them over different root notes.

Additionally, experiment with using arpeggios as a framework when creating melodic lines based on different modes. Once you feel comfortable with these techniques, try experimenting with different rhythms and note choices to create your own unique style.

Syncopated Rhythms

One of the key elements that makes “So What” such a cool and groovy tune is its use of syncopated rhythms. Syncopation refers to the placement of accents or emphasis on off-beats, instead of on the downbeat.

To incorporate syncopated rhythms into your bassline for “So What”, try experimenting with ghost notes, which are quick, muted notes played in between the main beats. You can also play around with displacement, where you start a phrase or riff one beat earlier or later than expected.

Another way to add syncopation is through what’s called hemiola – essentially grouping notes in groups of three within a four-beat measure (or vice versa).

Overall, incorporating syncopated rhythms into your playing can really take your basslines to the next level by adding depth and interest.

Tips For Improving Your Bass Guitar Skills

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To improve your bass guitar skills, focus on learning scales and arpeggios, developing fretboard knowledge, and practicing finger techniques.

Learning Scales And Arpeggios

It’s no secret that practicing scales and arpeggios is crucial for any aspiring bass guitarist. Not only do they help develop finger strength and dexterity, but mastering these basic building blocks of music theory can elevate your playing to the next level.

Scales are a sequence of notes played in ascending or descending order, while an arpeggio is simply the individual notes of a chord played separately. For “So What,” understanding the Dorian mode (a minor scale with a raised sixth) and its corresponding arpeggios will be helpful in navigating the song’s chord progression.

Developing Fretboard Knowledge

One of the essential skills for any bass guitarist is fretboard knowledge. Essentially, this refers to your ability to know where notes are on the neck of your bass guitar without looking.

This helps you play with more fluidity and speed, as well as enabling you to improvise more confidently. Developing this skill involves a combination of muscle memory and music theory knowledge.

To get started, it’s recommended that you learn the names of the notes on each string and practice playing simple scales up and down the neck until it becomes second nature.

Another useful exercise is practising arpeggios in different keys which will help you navigate chord changes smoothly while improvising or composing grooves.

Practicing Finger Techniques

To become a skilled bass guitar player, mastering finger techniques is crucial. First and foremost, it’s important to have proper form – using the tips of your fingers to pluck the strings instead of relying on your nails or other parts of your fingers.

One helpful exercise for improving finger technique is playing chromatic runs up and down the fretboard. This involves playing each note on each string one at a time, moving up or down the fretboard with each successive note.

Another useful technique is practicing hammer-ons and pull-offs – when you hammer-on, you use a finger to “hammer” onto the string without picking it; when pulling-off, you release pressure from that same finger to create a new sound without picking another string.

Practicing “So What” On Electric Bass Guitar

To become proficient in playing “So What” on electric bass guitar, take it slow and steady, memorize the chord progression and practice with a metronome. Record yourself and listen back to improve your timing and play along with the original track to get a feel for the groove.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

When practicing “So What” on electric bass guitar, it’s important to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Take your time and break down each section into smaller parts before playing at full speed.

Additionally, recording yourself and listening back can help identify areas that need improvement. Playing along with the original track or finding a backing track can also help improve timing and groove.

Memorizing The Progression

To master “So What” on electric bass guitar, memorizing the chord progression is essential. The song’s chords are made up of just two scales – Dorian and Mixolydian – which makes it easier to memorize if you’re familiar with those scales.

Practice playing through the progression until it becomes second nature. You can use mnemonic devices to help remember each chord change, such as creating a phrase that uses the first letter of each chord in order (for example: Dmin7-G7-Dmin7-Fmaj7-Eb7).

Another helpful technique is to break down the song into smaller sections and practice each section separately before putting them together.

Recording Yourself And Listening Back

One of the most effective ways to improve your electric bass guitar skills is by recording yourself and listening back. This technique can help you identify areas that need improvement, such as timing or consistency in playing certain sections.

When recording yourself, try to use a metronome and play along with a backing track or the original “So What” recording.

After recording, take some time to listen back and analyze your performance. Pay attention to where you may have made mistakes or struggled with certain sections.

Playing Along With The Original Track

One effective way to improve your bass guitar skills and perfect your rendition of “So What” is by playing along with the original track. This allows you to hear how the bass line fits into the larger musical context, particularly the interplay between other instruments in the rhythm section.

As you play along with the original track, pay attention to details like timing, phrasing, dynamics, and tone. Aim to capture not just what notes are played but how they are played – whether using fingerstyle or slap technique or varying your plucking location for different tonal effects.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with improvisation as well; try adding some fills or variations on Miles Davis’s melody while keeping a steady pulse underneath.


Playing “So What” on electric bass guitar requires understanding the instrument, learning the rhythm section and utilizing techniques. By breaking down the bassline and incorporating walking bass lines, modal playing, and syncopated rhythms, you can master this classic jazz standard.

To improve your skills, practice scales and arpeggios, develop fretboard knowledge, and utilize finger techniques. Remember to take it slow and steady when practicing “So What,” memorize the progression and listen back to recordings of yourself playing for improvement.


1. What is the best technique for playing “So What” on electric bass guitar?

The best technique for playing “So What” on electric bass guitar involves utilizing a strong fingerstyle or picking method along with precise fretting and muting when necessary to create a clean, smooth sound that mimics the original recording.

2. Are there any specific scales or chords I need to know in order to play this song?

Yes, it is important to understand basic music theory and have knowledge of modal jazz as the song uses the Dorian mode over minor seventh chords. Familiarity with other chord progressions such as ii-V-I can also be helpful.

3. Can I substitute certain notes or rhythms when playing this song?

While some improvisation and personal expression is welcome in playing “So What”, it’s important to stay within the framework of the original composition in order to maintain its unique sound and character.

4. How do I develop my own style while still honoring the traditional elements of this piece?

Balancing individual creativity with respect for tradition takes practice and patience but can be achieved through experimentation, exploration of different genres beyond jazz, listening to other musicians who have tackled similar material, taking lessons from experienced teachers or using online resources like tablature sheets or video tutorials.

Ultimately finding your own voice means developing an understanding of both history & innovation so you can take risks without compromising authenticity while remaining true yourself as an artist as you continue building upon foundational techniques learned earlier on during training phases so tap into your passions & explore ways make them work together harmoniously!

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