Another option is an acoustic bass as these can just be grabbed and played and though significantly louder than an unplugged bass guitar they are never loud.

Why? This may seem obvious but needs to be considered by anyone wanting to learn an instrument. Learning to play requires physical and mental development. Physically your hands in particular need to get stronger, more flexible and develop tougher skin on and around the finger tips. Mentally there are concepts to understand like what notes go together and why; then there is information to memorise like where are the notes on the fret-board.
Learning to play an instrument is not an easy task but it can be an immensely rewarding one, however like most rewarding things what you get out is directly proportional to what you put in. That being said there is a limit to how beneficial any given session can be and the rule is always little and often. How long each session is will increase with time but the golden rule is if you feel tired or frustrated … STOP!
Where? You need to find somewhere comfortable where you can relax and focus and you will not be disturbed and will not deserve others. You will probably want some sort of comfortable seat though but enough space to stand as well. You will also need to have something to rest paper practice materials and access to a computer to display documents and play backing tracks would be very useful. Access to a computer with audio editing software would be great for recording what you do though nowadays a smartphone or tablet should be able to provide everything you need.
When? The rule as stated above is wherever possible little and often. As you get more experienced you will be able to practice for longer at a time but you should always be enjoying it if it becomes a chore you have been doing it for too long. When you start to need to play shows you will need to do some longer sessions to build up your stamina for playing whole sets.
In the beginning ten minute sessions are fine and you can gradually work up to being able to play for an hour or more. It is important to play every day if you can. This will lead to gradual improvement. If you leave a gap of more than a few days you are likely to loose some of the benefit gained.
What? What to practise will depend on what you are learning and your own learning style but usually the best thing is to spend a portion of time on one thing and then move on to something else You need to practise the things you learn as you progress so that might be initially getting a nice clean tone when you pluck a string and remembering the names of the strings, you might spend some time on this and then spend time playing along to some simple songs. later on you might be practising triads and scales then working out some bass lines, maybe playing through a set along with a recording or focusing on some technique like slapping or tapping. It is often good to try and have a thread running through the different things you practice, maybe all in the same key or using the same scale or the same part of the fingerboard but ultimately it needs to be a combination of things that keeps you focused and excited about learning.
How? It is a great idea to keep records of what you are practising. This is particularly helpful when you are working on several things. You can set a goal for each and record your progress towards that goal.
How you physically go about practising will depend on circumstances. In most cases noise levels will be an issue and convenience is important. A small practice amp is useful as it is eay to set up and will be easily kept at a low volume. Practice amps will often have inputs for playing backing music and outputs for headphones. If you have an iPhone or iPad there are apps available to achieve this but a special adaptor such as “I Rig” or “Amp-Kit” will be required.

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