First exercises

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Mors, Jan 2, 2015.

  1. Mors


    Dec 13, 2014

    I've only just begun learning the bass (started exercising about 3 weeks ago), I've been mostly absorbing YouTube lessons and in the process devised my own simple exercises. It's my first musical instrument. Recently I've started training with a metronome, starting from 70 BPM and doing this:

    - Starting with the lowest string (G) I'm playing from the 3rd fret to the 12th and then go backwards to the 3rd fret again. I repeat this 3 times and then switch to a higher tempo (90 BPM) and once again to the 160 BPM.

    - After that I simply go up a string and repeat the same process.

    I have a couple of questions:

    1) Is that a good exercise at all? I've been noticing improvement over the weeks, I had problems playing with metronome but now I can match the tempi (70, 90, 160 BPM) nearly effortlessly so there's some progress,

    2) However, trouble begins with the E string - my plucking hand tires quickly (I have my thumb rested on the pickguard above) and my fretting hand movement is...clumsy, to say the least. Is that normal?

    Would appreciate pointers :)

    I'm playing on an American Standard Precision Bass.
  2. AdamRoberts


    Dec 1, 2014
    Good work on starting with a metronome.

    Playing from the 3rd fret to the 12th fret on one string would require a lot of shifting. I have my students work on something like that when doing ear training, specifically humming half steps, not beginning fingerstyle exercises.

    A good beginner exercise will allow you to focus on a particular hand. I teach my students to focus on their fingerstyle plucking hand first. It is normal to be clumsy when you start.

    I would suggest getting a teacher to help you. I just spent waaay too much time going to youtube and trying to find a decent beginner technique video. Most of them are players showing you how they play, which is fine, but I think a teacher will be able to help you a lot more.

    Go through all these free lessons:
  3. I assume you're playing a 4 string bass tuned E,A,D,G.

    For a beginner I would not use what you are doing as a foundation for practise.

    Scale runs or intervals up a single string aren't technically necessary for a beginner to learn.

    You will find that you can achieve the same thing in smaller more efficient blocks of notes using multiple strings, rather than having to leap-frog up a single string.

    It's true that running up a single string will produce certain tones and effects that may be desirable at times.

    But personally I think you'd be better off learning the major and minor scale finger placements and also chordal notes using the E string as a starting point.

    That is:- pick any note on the Estring..and then know how to run up the major/minor scales from that note using the A and D strings as well, instead of going straight up the Estring.

    In my opinion the E,A and D strings are going to see most of the action most of the time.

    Can be difficult at first because neither your fingers or your brain are used to it........

    Over time they will.

    Don't worry about playing fast....start out slow and then once you get a line down you can start to speed it up.

    First thing you've got to do is know your way around the corral.
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Hi, and welcome to the "low end". :)

    First off, dont get too preoccupied with speed. This will come of itself with regular practice. While your scale exercise is good, you may find that this one
    is more beneficial. Scales are very important, but dont neglect CHORD TONES. These are what the bassist plays most of the time.

    I agree with AdamRoberts that a few lessons would get you off to a great start. In the mean time, try starting at the beginning of this site and work your way slowly through the lessons.

    It is natural that your hands will tire at first. Dont play for too long at one time. Your hands need a chance to get used to this new task being asked of them.

    Here is a link to a Talkbass thread which contains a lot of great information on getting started.

    Best of luck with it !!! :bassist:
  5. I'm of the school that says you might as well be getting your scale and chord tone "patterns" into muscle memory -- learning how to move your fingers to specific notes and training your ear for the sound of the good and bad notes. You can find them on the link fearceol gave --

    Good luck, baby steps usually work best. Don't bite off such a big chunk that it makes you sick. Small bites....
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
  6. Mors


    Dec 13, 2014

    first of all thanks for a very warm welcome and a slew of useful advice! I'm definitely considering talking to a teacher - there's a jazz bassist with 40 years of playing experience in my area and I'm going to try and get some lessons from him.

    So far I've been learning from this video course:

    Not sure how good is it, but they are very well presented and everything is explained clearly.

    As for the exercise, you mean something like this?

  7. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I had a quick glance at both video clips. The top one is very good for anyone starting off from scratch.

    The bottom one is a good exercise for getting coordination in the fingers. It deals with the chromatic scale. In the link I posted earlier, the scale being used is the Major scale, which is your next step.

    While the two clips you posted are very useful, the main drawback with You Tube tutorials (especially for people starting from scratch) IMO is that they are usually "one offs" taken in isolation. What I mean here is that there is nothing preceding or following up on the lessons. What's needed are lessons where one builds on the information gleaned from the previous lesson. This way, there are no gaps in the learning process. So you dont find yourself having to back track later on because you dont understand something that should have been learned earlier. In fairness though, those videos are starting form a basic level. Hopefully they will keep on building chronologically from there.
  8. Mors


    Dec 13, 2014
    Thanks again fearceol! The lessons in the course seem to follow a logical pattern, building upon each step (at least from what I can tell). I've also checked the link you've posted -

    Won't lie, finding it difficult to properly follow that pattern with a metronome, especially playing it backwards as I tend to overthink it. Sometimes I fumble and not pick the correct string too.

    Which of the scales should I practice first, the one from the video or from the topic?

    Oh and by the way, here's the next exercise from the course:

    Oh and by the way, I think I've found out why I have problems with the E string - my thumb is going way up, so that it's rising above the neck (not sure I'm explaining that correctly?). I guess it's something I have to combat?
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2015
  9. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    That video course you are following seems to be a good one in that, like the Studybass site, each lesson builds on what went before. That next exercise..the major scale..would indeed be the next step from the chromatic one you learned earlier. It is very important that you know this scale (Maj) inside out. Spend a fair bit of time getting to know it.

    You have only being playing for a few weeks and IMO seem to be on the right path with that video course. It is natural that you are going to come across obstacles (both physical and theory wise). We have all been there. So take your time. Take things in small incremental steps. In the absence of an actual teacher I'd say stick with that course and if you come across something that you dont understand, there are good and willing people on this forum who would be happy to help you out. You just have to ask. ;)
  10. Mors


    Dec 13, 2014
    Thank you! I will continue with the course then - I think it's best to focus on one source for now, as you've suggested. I'll keep you posted if I run into any obstacles!

    About the thumb placement on the neck - it shouldn't go up I presume? ;) From what I've been told, the thumb should stay at about half the length of the neck, maybe going slightly up on the E string.
  11. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Yeah, if you feel you are happy with that video course, then stick with it. Sometimes a barrage of different tutorials and information can be counter productive. In the course, try not to skip to the next lesson until you feel you have digested all the information in the current one. Try not to cram in too much information at a time, or the brain will shut down telling you...."too much information !!!" :smug: Start with about half an hour to forty five minutes per practice session at first. Then take a break and come back to it. Regularity is better than say, three or four hours at week ends.

    Also, as well as the theory and technique side of things, try to develop a good ear by trying to play along (it will take some trial and error at first) to some simple songs and work out the bass lines yourself. It's better not to become too dependent on tabs.

    As for the thumb...hopefully this clip will help to clarify things.

    Mors likes this.
  12. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    This could be normal fatigue, but it could also be a sign of a serious problem that needs to be nipped in the bud. It is possible than when you are plucking the E string, with your thumb anchored on the pickup, your right wrist is bent at a severe angle. You wouldn't notice this as much when you're playing the other strings, because your hand has to open up to reach those lower strings which reduces the degree of bend in your wrist. If you tend to rest your forearm on the top of the body and bend your wrist downward to reach the strings this is almost certainly what is happening. If this is in fact what is happening, you need to adjust the position of the bass and/or your right arm so that your wrist is as straight/unbent as possible.

    A bent wrist is bad, bad, bad, both in terms of potentially damaging ligaments and such and in terms of restricting your plucking technique. If this is the problem, you definitely want to address it now before it becomes a long-term bad habit.
    Mors and fearceol like this.
  13. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I agree. OP, the "Floating Thumb Technique" is worth checking out to address this issue :

  14. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Whether you decide to adopt the floating-thumb technique or not, the position of Todd's right arm and how it maintains a straight line from his elbow to his fingers. That's key whatever particular plucking technique you use.
    INTP likes this.
  15. Mors


    Dec 13, 2014
    Thanks - and yes, while my thumb is resting on the pickup and when I'm plucking the wrist is bent - when playing the E string it's even 90 degrees. It'll take some time to get used to, but I'll try to correct it. Luckily I haven't been playing long.

    Resting the thumb on the E string (further from the pickup) nearly removes the need to bend the wrist (well, not completely). But that makes it harder to play the E string - the thumb is floating in this case.

    By the way, do you have to pluck right on top of the pickup or can you actually move further from it, closer to the fretboard? I find it much more comfortable.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
  16. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    It is entirely up to you. Plucking close to the fret board will give a warmer more mellow tone. Nearer the bridge will give a thinner sound. It all depends on what you are comfortable with and what kind of tone you want.
  17. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    Agreed. And Todd's wrist is not straight in this video. It is bent back when you consider the bones in his hands (vs. the thumb). This caused me problems, personally.

    I really think for basic posture, you are MUCH better with a private teacher. You can get other ideas from the internet, but static sources won't give you proper feedback, which could lead to pain and other problems later.
  18. frsbdg


    Jan 4, 2015
    Anchorage, AK
    I'm also new to the bass, and on a similar path as you. Have seen exercise series that start with the chromatic scale, then the major scale, then other scales such as e pentatonic. All of these exercises move across the fretboard (i.e. From string to string) rather than along the fretboard (i.e. All on one string).

    Plucking is new to me, and one thing I do sometimes while watching TV is to just work on my right hand with open strings. Trying to get the hang of different plucking patterns while alternating fingers, moving across strings, etc. Not sure if that's a good idea or not, but it seems to have helped my dexterity.
  19. Mors


    Dec 13, 2014
    And I'm back with an update!

    I had two lessons with a teacher, which helped me quite a bit. What I'm doing right now are the two C major scales:




    I'm trying to master both of these - currently approaching 120 BPM - I know it's not a lot, but the progress has been slow :)

    What I'm also doing, to spice things up, is practising The Cure's Lovesong bass line:

    I'm slowly getting the hang of it - I can play the full bassline now, albeit sometimes the sound is off a bit. And I bet the rhythm is not as accurate as I think it is ;)

    What I've found is that (unsurprisingly) I much prefer practising on basslines - technical exercises get me bored quickly, unfortunately.

    Frsbdg - I suggest you try the same methods, it works pretty well :)
  20. I'm working with the Music College TV videos as well. Started from nothing about five weeks ago, and I've worked my way up to the chromatic scale drill. I'll still work on just the four fret exercise on the E and A strings to get my hand used to the stretch. Trying to get a half hour in every day. Extra half hour chunks on my nights off.

    Private instruction may need to wait until spring. Emergency expenses like car repairs and hospital bills have taken what would have been disposable income. I was lucky just to have funds to acquire the bass and amp. On the bright side, there may be morning instruction available. Since I work overnights, that's the only time I have.