Print Out the Bass Clef Notes on the Fretboard
I made you a nice printable diagram of the bass clef notes and where they appear on the bass guitar fretboard. Print it out and start memorizing those note names!
Please click to download the Bass Clef Notes on the Fretboard pdf (545kb).
Left-handed version can be found here: Bass Clef Notes on the Fretboard left-handed pdf (536kb)
Bass Clef Notes and the Bass Fretboard
When you begin reading music for bass, you will quickly realize there are many different ways to play the exact same thing in different locations, or positions, on the fretboard. This is because the same notes appear all over the fretboard in different places.
For example, you may have learned to tune your bass by using the 5th fret of one string to tune the next open string. Those two notes are the same pitch. Then the 6th fret is the same as the next string's 1st fret and so on. All strings are just staggered 5 notes apart.
With experience and knowledge of the bass fretboard, you will learn to choose where to most easily play a piece of music. Where you play the notes is up to you. Choosing where to play them will come down to whether you know a particular area of the fretboard, which position requires the least amount of shifting, and maybe even the tonal difference of a position on your particular bass guitar. The tone of your bass might sound very different higher up the neck vs. lower even if you are playing the very same notes.
A good rule of thumb (or finger?) is if you are constantly shifting around over more than 5 frets, there is probably a better way to play it without so much shifting. You should reconsider the fingering of bass tabs that have you playing a simple line up and down one string. Just move the notes to the next string instead.
This is one reason learning to read standard music notation instead of just bass tablature will help you on the quest for fretboard mastery. Again, the better your knowledge of the bass fretboard, the easier this will become. Learn to think the note names on the fretboard, not fret numbers.
Find some written music and see if you can play it in different areas on the bass fretboard.