1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Disco octaves

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by dBerriff, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. dBerriff


    Oct 2, 2004
    Oakham, UK
    We are playing a long gig this coming friday and the band leader has included YMCA :-( I'm used to playing straight walking bass and suddenly I have to play 'disco' octaves. We also play the number a bit faster than the song as an instrumental (if I was uncharitable I would say we play it fast to get it over and done with).

    I have tried using thumb for the root and 2 fingers for the octave but it sounds all rather loose and undamped. I haven't tried a pick because I don't normally use one, although I suppose I could use a bit of right-hand damping then.

    So, does anyone have any advice on right-hand technique for playing octaves, please? :confused:
  2. Scottie Johnson

    Scottie Johnson

    Sep 8, 2004
    I usually play octaves like this: Index finger hits the low note and the Middle finger hits the high octave.

    A song that is almost all octaves is "Out of the Races and on to the Tracks" by the Rapture. Playing that song a lot would be good practice.
  3. dBerriff


    Oct 2, 2004
    Oakham, UK
    That technique might give a bit more control over string damping - I'll will try it out. Thanks for the advice.
  4. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    +1. This thread may give you further help (and here is my post there).
  5. I do the same thing, works pretty good, doesn't seem to take too long to get used to. I was even able to get reasonably good at doing "Aint Noboy" by Chaka Khan at one point using that technique... That was my "snatch these pebbles from my hand" song to master the disco octave type stuff.

  6. dBerriff


    Oct 2, 2004
    Oakham, UK
    Index and middle seems to be the way - which is what I use for the rest of my playing.

    I have an instructional video somewhere where thumb-index-middle is shown and the instructor is brilliant at it, but it just hasn't been working for me. Perhaps I have spent too many hours messing with finger-picking guitar for it to translate to the bass.

    I have time today to put in some practice so I'll work on it. If it doesn't happen I will just have to forget about the sixteenth notes and play the eighths.

    I appreciate that you get good advice on this board from experienced players - so thanks for your guidance.
  7. dBerriff


    Oct 2, 2004
    Oakham, UK
    Also thanks for this link. I did a search on 'octaves' and failed to find it.
  8. cdef


    Jul 18, 2003
    You can damp with your fretting hand like this: just after hitting a note, release pressure slightly, still keeping the finger in place, so the string lifts off the fret and the note stops sounding. It's a matter of subtle timing, and when it becomes natural it's almost as if it contributes something to the rhythm. I play disco octave 16ths this way, using thumb-index or thumb-index-middle, and find it works well. Much easier than trying to damp with your playing hand.
  9. dBerriff


    Oct 2, 2004
    Oakham, UK
    After a bit of experimentation I find that the only way I can play at the speed the band wants is thumb-index-middle. So I am just going to work on that given the time I have left.

    I agree with the left hand damping so I am trying to improve technique by starting slow and building up speed over the week. It sounds ok to me already at the original song tempo - so I am getting there. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

    Thanks again guys. :bassist:
  10. cdef


    Jul 18, 2003
    I'd go so far as to say this business of knowing just when to ease off finger pressure on any given fretted note is one of the simple secrets of good bass playing, particularly in funk and staccato-dependent material. All good players do it (maybe instinctively), but it's not something you can pick up on visually, and it's not often mentioned in technique guides, because they mainly focus on the right hand.

    Think of your two hands as an enamoured couple, grooving together on a narrow dance floor, just a couple of feet apart.
  11. dBerriff


    Oct 2, 2004
    Oakham, UK

    With experience we do a lot of things instinctively - some people talk about our reptilian brain as being the part that is very slow to learn but then runs on auto pilot. You should not think about the mechanics of driving, touch typing, - or playing a musical instrument. It should just happen so you are thinking about hitting the right notes (although even a lot of that becomes automatic) and expression. So now I have a bit of experience I don't "know" about all the things that I do when I play. The timing, the little percussive extras, and the instinctive damping of strings.

    Disco is a little different to what I normally play so I have been watching what my fingers get up to (!) by slowing down a bit. The dancing partners were not quite together. I need to use more left hand damping to kill the root but find it easier to use my index and middle for the octave now they understand what is needed. Anyway, it is coming together and in the absence of a good teacher I needed your input to get me thinking about it properly.

    Regarding the reptilian brain, perhaps this is what "the force" in Star Wars is all about. You have to let go of conscious thought and let the force take over. I think that is better than the alternative visualisation which is a bunch of alligators on stage playing away (or old croc in my case).

    Dancing partners is a lot more elegant a metaphor, though.
  12. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    You may be "over it" by now but I'll toss in a couple of additional ideas regarding the index/middle finger method which is what I use.
    Try to angle your right hand a bit so your fingers are pointed more toward the neck of the bass(about 45deg or so). This helps to put your fingers in a more prepared position to handle their respective duties.
    As far as muting goes it's all about your fretting hand on this one. I like to stretch my fingers and get them nice and flat so they lay gently over all the strings. I usually end up actually fretting the notes more with the underside of my fingers than the tips. I tend not to worry if some of the notes are "over muted" and very percussive sounding because a short and "staccato" approach tends to work very well in this context.
    Hope this helps.
  13. You should ignore the reptilian part of your brain when it makes you want to eat insects though.
  14. Or lay eggs.
  15. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I use that approach for Disco/octave 1/8th notes...what about this rhythm-

    BOLD = Low note
    "&" and "a" = High notes

    I'm more perpendicular to the strings...Index plays the Low, the two high notes are played with a Middle-Index combination. I cut my teeth playing a lotta those '70s Disco tunes(since Yes & Rush were beyond me)...this seemed to come easy & quick for me, at least.

    I do like the Thumb on the Low note followed by an Index-Middle combo on the octave; this approach works OK for me in the shed, haven't really had the need to use it oin the bandstand, though.

    I have some Finger Funk workout book by Anthony Vitti(?)...he uses Middle to pluck the Low note & Index to play the ocatve. Ouch...and IIRC, he doesn't really recommend that approach for everyone.
  16. Aj*


    Jun 14, 2005
    West Yorkshire, UK
    I use index middle alternatley, I find it lets me go nice and fast with practice. I damp with the fretting hand mostly but I do use the lift off slightly damping technique with the fingering hand sometimes.