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A Different Perspective on Guitar to Bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by rlgph, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. I'm a guitarist who has agreed to learn bass guitar to provide a clear beat and bottom to an otherwise purely acoustic group that i jam with. I've searched and read quite a few threads about transitioning from playing guitar to playing bass, but haven't found them particularly useful because the discussion has almost always been in the context of electric guitar or lead guitar (or both).

    In my group i've played acoustic rhythm guitar, using "Travis style" fingerpicking, where the thumb alternates plucking the root and (usually) the fifth "bass" string of the chord. The fingers then do something interesting (or at least relevant) with the treble strings. Occasionally i put in "bass" runs with my thumb during a chord transition.

    My thought was that for my initial foray into playing bass that i could continue to form chords in pretty much the same way with my fretting hand as with guitar (leaving off the first two strings, of course), and continue the alternating thumb with my picking hand. I assumed that i could also do bass runs as on guitar. My fingers would mostly be unused, except occasionally plucking an octave higher root or fifth note for variety. I bought a very short scale bass (ibanez Mikro) with this in mind.

    Is this a reasonable way for a beginner to play bass? (If i like the instrument i can see myself moving on to more bass-specific techniques, but that might be a ways off, as i want to continue learning to play solo guitar.) I appreciate any advice you care to provide. Thanks.
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Starting from a place of familiarity sounds like a good idea to me.
  3. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    I strongly suggest you NOT do that.

    I've played rhythm acoustic guitar and some electric for many years along side my bass playing. IME, forming a chord on your bass will get in the way of your bass lines and not helpful for your bass technique.

    As you get better on bass, you'll want your bass technique to improve and not be a problem you'll have to undue later.

    skip to 1:40

    Edit: Play whatever is comfortable for you as long as it works...hey...it works. Have fun!

    Edit: Lots of basses play chords as part of the repertoire but I don't think that the chord shapes your referring to represent actual chords you would be playing but just using hand shapes that you're familiar with so you get to playing bass right away. If it works,keep doing it and make some changes in technique when you feel you're getting limited by your chord shape technique.

    Good luck with your group!
  4. Shakin-Slim


    Jul 23, 2009
    Tokyo, Japan
    Whatever works for you, dude. People will chime in about proper technique and everything, but not many great players use 'proper' technique. Just do what is easiest for you and sounds good. Just be wary of not placing your hand in a position that may cause injury later. Remember, your fingers are facing more tension with a bass string to get a good sound, so an awkward shaped hand can lead to injury over time.

    Edit: Like Stumbo, I would also advise against forming chords. But that's not to say you can't hold your hand in a similar fashion, giving you the use of your fingers for higher strings. Look at the way Pino Palladino does this, alternating his thumb and first finger and palm muting. It's a great technique.
  5. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN
    Play a Bass VI, and this will be quite natural.

    I personally strongly recommend you go with where your head is leading you. Nobody knows how you want to play bass, but you. And especially since you're coming at this with a non-traditional approach, please continue. I would like to hear what you come up with.
  6. Me as well.
  7. Turock


    Apr 30, 2000
    I would suggest learning proper technique from the beginning.
  8. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Why not a 6 strings bass tuned like a guitar ... that would be something that I would like to hear
  9. Wouldn't the first string be trampling on the guitars' territory? And the temptation to overplay on the first few strings, and thus get muddy, would be strong for a guitarist. Now a five string tuned EADGB .... ;)
  10. Thanks for the comments, all. Looks like i'll be trying to do both for a while until i know more about playing bass and how it fits in with other instruments. Maybe then i'll understand the disadvantages of using the chording experience of my guitar playing.
  11. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Euh I don't see a problem with going high and maybe add a 3rd melody ... or even comping chords ... coming up with an harmonization or something ...

    there a bigger world outside of rock "root-fifth support the harmony while locking with the drum" mentality
  12. Reddog01


    Nov 3, 2013
    Georgetown, TX
    I am a brand new player, who played guitar for many years. Although I am in the very beginning stages of learning this new instrument, one BIG difference I noticed almost immediately is the difference in where the notes are played. Guitar players do most of their work (especially in playing chords) at the end of the keyboard. I noticed that the bass players I have observed tend to play in the middle of the keyboard. This makes perfect sense to me because of the reach distances differenced between a standard guitar and a bass. It's obvious that its much easier to get around the bass in the middle than on the end. Have I made a correct observation?
  13. TomCHunley


    Jun 12, 2011
    Bowling Green, KY
    I practice a lot but still suck.
    The keyboard?
  14. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    More than two notes at a time in a lower register can be rough
  15. Sounds like a good idea for the right hand but a lot of unnecessary work for the left. Holding down chords on the bass is pretty hard work - and most of the time you're probably going to be playing one note.

    That kind of style is GREAT for the right hand though. I studied classical guitar for a couple of years and I still use those right hand picking techniques. It's easy to play double stops and transitions very quickly into a slap technique.
  16. Kyle_S


    Sep 11, 2013
    Zach Smith has been a huge source of inspiration to me in this aspect of playing.

    Here a couple of Pinback songs that showcase his rad polyphonic approach:

  17. You may have to pay attention to muting the strings that are not being played. When I tried to play guitar, I had to learn to use my fingertips instead of the pads of my fingers so the open strings would sound like they should in a chord.
  18. Reddog01


    Nov 3, 2013
    Georgetown, TX
    Neck, fretboard, etc.
  19. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    True unless you roll off some of the low frequencies on your EQ. Gasp! That's blasphemy to most of us, but in certain contexts it can work.

    To the OP. Don't let anyone sway you with their ideas of right way or the wrong way to play bass.

    There is only what works and what doesn't sound good.

    I DO hope you keep an open mind in your journey to learning bass. I've met too many guitarists who look down on it as a very limited and "simple" instrument..
  20. It is not my intention to play chords like a guitarist. I only want to utilize my hard earned steady alternating thumb and my fretting hand finger memory to insure that i have fingers on the root notes and fifths that one would normally play in bass (and maybe an occasional 3rd).

    As far as the wide fretboard stretches that were mentioned, i have a very short scale bass -- 28.6" -- so stretches aren't much more than on my guitar. That also means less tension, of course. In fact, individual string tensions are pretty much the same or less than the corresponding light gauge strings on a guitar, according to the d'Addario web site.

    BTW, i have great respect for what good bass players do. I doubt that i'll ever get there, since guitar will continue to be my main instrument. At the present i only see myself providing a steady beat and some interesting bottom for our group (all of whom came late to their instruments -- most of us are retired). But who knows?

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