New to bass, how would I play this?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by BassGoblin, Dec 27, 2013.


  1. BassGoblin

    BassGoblin

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    This isn't a part of a song or anything, and I'm literally making it up just to give an example. How would I play this with my fingers? Also, I tend to rest my thumb on the neck pickup... That is fine for the E and A strings,but the D and G strings are difficult to reach while still resting my thumb there. Should I move it? Or will I just get used to the stretch over time?


    -------3-------------------
    -----3---3-----------------
    ---3-------3---------------
    -1-----------1-------------

    Another question.... With guitar I was always used to fretting with my fingertips... I'm finding that much harder on bass. How do you guys fret on bass?
     
  2. Gaolee

    Gaolee The Fat Violin Supporting Member

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    I'm untrained, so take this for what its worth. My right hand only moves when I want a different sound. That means it moves closer to the neck or closer to the bridge. It only pivots from treble to bass side of the strings unless I'm playing something that uses my thumb or uses a pick. If you are happy with your thumb on the pickup, leave it there and let your hand and fingers pivot over it to reach the D and G strings.

    I used to fret mostly with the pads on the ends of my fingers rather than fingertips, but since playing the upright, the specific location I use is closer to the tip than it used to be. It still isn't right on the end of my fingers like I use on the guitar.
     
  3. BassGoblin

    BassGoblin

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    Ho well do you play on bass? Do you think not playing on the tips of my fingers could limit my potential? I tried using my fingertips, but some of the stretches make that impossible for me to STAY on my fingertips for more than a few notes. The strings feel fat and the tips of my fingers tend to slip off. Especially on the E string.
     
  4. bolophonic

    bolophonic

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    I use the pads of my fingers to fret notes. I also keep my right thumb anchored (on a thumb rest). Keep practicing, you will get used to the stretch.
     
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  6. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

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    You're asking about right hand (picking) technique, correct?
    There are a few ways to approach this, and a lesson or two with a good teacher could set you on the right path.

    1) traditional "thumb anchored on pickup". This is what a lot of great players do, and it gives nice stability and power. But it makes your finger have a different angle for each string, and can make you bend your wrist at an awkward angle. String muting can also be a problem (hard to mute ringing strings). Also, not always good for wide necks or basses with more than 4 strings. And, it limits your ability to play at different locations along the string (very important for getting different tones).

    2) floating thumb. Place your hand on the strings in a natural position. Pluck the strings with the fingers and the thumb sits on the lower pitched strings, muting them. To play different strings, you "slide" your hand forward and backward. This method is great for basses with lots of strings and prevents the lower strings from raining when you play higher strings. But not everyone feels comfortable with it.

    3) movable anchor. Rest your thumb on the string one or two strings below the string you are playing. For the A and E strings, use the pickup.

    I use a combination of all of these depending on what I'm playing. Experiment and find out what works for you. Just remember to listen to your body, try to stay relaxed and use a natural in cramped position, or you can hurt your hand.

    As far as left hand, I tend to use fingertips, especially when I play fast/precise/complicated stuff, but some styles groove better when I let my fingers flatten out a bit more. I strongly recommend trying to play on your fingertips, with your thumb in the middle of the back of the neck. It will help you to be more precise and exacting with finger placement. It's easier to "sloppy up" your precise playing as desired than to clean up bad technique. Once you get comfortable, you will figure out the optimum way(s) for you to play.

    Again, I recommend finding a good teacher, even if only for one lesson, to help you with questions like this. Make sure it's an actual bassist and not a guitarist, as they are obviously different in terms of technique.
     
  7. BassGoblin

    BassGoblin

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    With the example shown, which fingers would be used with each note? using my ring/pinky finger feels very awkward and I'm not sure I should be using it at all.

    I also find that from 18 years of guitar, I tend to try to play the E string with my thumb when things get too fast.

    -------3-------------------
    -----3---3-----------------
    ---3-------3---------------
    -1-----------1-------------
    P M P M
    I would thinik I'd play like that, P being Pointer, and M being middle... however, coming back I don't know how to play... it all feels strange...
     
  8. angryclown5

    angryclown5

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    Let the music that you play dictate where to put your plucking hand/thumb. Different spots support different sounds and dynamics. Play near or over the neck for tubby reggae, back by the bridge for faster passages and tighter sound. Same for fretting, use all necessary techniques. Learn to be articulate but also efficient.
    For the example above, I'd use index on the F, then middle, ring, pinkie on the C, F, and Bb respectively. But one could bar the last 3 with the ring finger.
     
  9. BassGoblin

    BassGoblin

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    Holy **** your beard scared me.

    I have a lesson set up with a teacher on the 2nd. However, a user on here lives near me and might not be as qualified but charges much less so he may be able to get me on the right path.

    I found that when I try resting my thumb on the strings, because of years of guitar, I tend to try to pluck the string my thumb is on just out of habit.
     
  10. BassGoblin

    BassGoblin

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    Thank you for the response. However, I'm trying to figure out how to pluck the strings, not fret them.
     
  11. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

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    Sorry about scaring you with the beard. If it's any consolation, I actually shaved it off earlier this year. :)

    Bass is an easy instrument to play at a low level. If all you want to do is play root-five type stuff, you can use pretty much any technique you like and it won't matter very much.

    But it sounds like you are trying to learn to play at a higher level, and then there are a lot of subtleties that come up, in both hands but mostly the right hand. Here's my take:

    There are so many ways to get a string vibrating, this is where it's really different from guitar. you can pluck using either a rest (finger comes to rest on the next lowest string after plucking) or free (finger passes above the next string) stroke. You can strike downward so the string bounces off the frets. You can push down on the string and let it pop back up. You can play with the tips of your fingers or the pads, or the side of your finger. You can pluck anywhere between the bridge and where you fret the note. You can also choose to either pull or strike the string.

    What you are playing will often dictate what technique you use. I was just drilling a song that has a passage that is similar to what you posted, fast and repeated. I tried a bunch of techniques for it, one of them using the thumb to pluck the low note. It makes it a lot easier to get all the notes in, but it changes the sound. For one thing it usually makes you use a free stroke rather than a rest stroke, which takes out some of the "thump" in the note (important for bassists, not so much for guitarists). You could also "sweep" pick, which is sometimes a cool technique for very fast tempos, sweep up the strings with your thumb, and then down with your index finger.

    The most "even" and strong sound will usually be from string alternation (P M P M ...). But that can be a challenge to coordinate string crossings if it's fast. You could rake some or all of the strings on the way down. Or you could add your ring finger to the mix if that works for you. I ended up using alternation.

    Listen and watch great players and see how they solve some of these issues.

    Here's Jaco Pastorius playing "Swamp People":
     
  12. angryclown5

    angryclown5

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    Ah, ok. Plucking hand. Alternating two finger index and middle, as was mentioned, but be prepared to start with either index or middle finger. And coming back down, you can pluck each one still alternating, or rake across two or more. I have seen people use their thumb for notes on the E string, and two finger alternating or the other 3 strings.
    There's also fingerpicking style like classical guitar, thumb on lower two strings, and index, middle and ring fingers for upper strings.
     
  13. BassGoblin

    BassGoblin

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    Thank you for the in depth post Smeet. Internetville needs more people like you. I'll take a look at those videos when I get home. I'm currently at work pretending to do all kinds of important stuff with my fingers typing away.

    Now, I have a non-bass related question: Is there a site or tomb in which I can mourn the passing of such an impeccable and epic beard?
     
  14. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

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    Ha! No site that I know of, but I will take donations to my paypal, perhaps that will help soothe the pain. :)

    You're welcome for the post, I hope it helps. I'm no virtuoso, but I figure we should all try to help each other. And, every time I explain something to someone else, it makes me think about what I'm doing, so I get a bit more insight into my own playing.

    Oh, and I forgot to mention Gary Willis, the king of ergonomics. Look him up on youtube, he has great advice on how to keep relaxed and play accurately. His right hand technique is pretty unique, and we can all learn something from it.
     
  15. Gaolee

    Gaolee The Fat Violin Supporting Member

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    Right hand technique depends partially on the sound you want to get. My thumb is usually anchored fairly far away from the strings. For example, I use the top edge of the pickguard on a P-Bass as a locator for my thumb on a regular basis. To get a bright, snappy sound, I curve my fingers and pop the strings. To get a softer sound takes a softer technique. If you play so softly that you are almost just brushing the strings, it can make a beautiful sound. Let the amp do the work.

    As far as your question about whether I'm any good, I would say not really. That's a relative thing, though. Compared to Victor Wooten, I absolutely suck. But, I"m adequate enough to play in one band on bass guitar and another band on upright. Audiences don't seem to care whether I'm any good or not. I have played a long time but haven't had formal training. That means my technique works just fine for me, but might not be ideal. The main thing is that no matter how good you get or what your technique is, playing is great and there's always room for improvement. For what its worth, I almost always use the two finger approach and only use other right hand techniques to get specific sounds in specific circumstances or on certain songs.
     
  16. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

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    Had to include these, Gary is just such a monster and an innovator!
    These videos give a good look at his weird but very effective technique.
    Check out how relaxed he is no matter what crazy stuff he plays.
     

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