Question On Vocabulary

Do you guys know any good sources for learning bass vocabulary, like a list or something that tells me what sustain and attack are and a bunch of other words I can’t remember?

1 Like

Not that I know of. It’s a good idea.

For your specific example: Attack and sustain are actually general sound and music terms, not bass terms. For bass, attack maps to the initial pluck (or pick) of a note (and how “snappy” it is), while sustain is letting the note ring out.

More generally, attack and sustain are two of the four parts of a more general way to describe the “envelope” of a sound; attack (as described, the initial part of a sound after the note starts), decay (how the sound falls off after the attack, down to the level of sustain; for bass this is very short); sustain (as described, how the note holds out after plucking or picking on bass), and release (how the note falls off when it finishes sustaining; for bass, this is actually what we call sustain; for bass you can think of the sustain as being the same as a very long release phase).

These are abbreviated as a group as ADSR, and are used a lot as the parameters to envelopes in sound design with synthesizers; however they can describe the “shape” of any sound over time.


Attack for a stringed instrument refers to how a string is plucked (with fingertip, pick/plectrum): softly, forcefully, sharply, dully).

Sustain is the length of time a note sounds after a string is plucked.

There are lots of searchable glossaries of music terms online.


It’s unfortunate the graph says “Delay” - might just add to any potential confusion :laughing:
It should be “decay” as @howard also points out clearly in the text :wink:


They should belay that delay.:smirk:


good catch, better image found :slight_smile:

Obviously that image is focused on synthesizers but the terms apply to most instruments really.


A basic home recording book may help, as will a basic music theory book. Doesn’t need to be crazy deep instruction but will teach you common terms.
I did a quick search on Amazon for “music theory and home recording” and there were a bunch of books.


I’ve had a book called “Garage Band Theory” that I checked out from the local library and I just checked out the first in a series of bass books by Essential Elements. I’ve got to get to reading them though. I needed this reminder, I completely forgot about the first one.


I’m kind of a book nut. When I want to get involved with something the first thing I do is buy a book or two. Always nice to have for reference.

2 Likes has a glossary of terms.

Great idea.
There should be this on the forum.
I’m going to start a thread!
Thanks for the inspiration.

Not sure where you are or what you’re able to do, but some time with a good teacher can be great to feel more comfortable and familiar with the terms.

Also, don’t feel like you have to know what any of it means at the beginning.
I was playing for 10 years before any of those words entered my life.
Sometimes the written/video world of the internet can use way too much jargon for someone starting out.