How do You play 7 string bass?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by RS, Oct 19, 2000.

  1. RS


    Aug 27, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    I bought a Conklin GT7 str bass about 8 mo ago, and I don't really use it. I can physically play it (except slap- too narrow string spacing), but I don't really know what to play with it. I don't like two hand tapping, so I don't really do that. I tend to stay on the bass side, or just play psuedo-chords and melody on the top three strings. I can't really integrate the two sides. Skipping too many strings just sounds weird. Does anyone really play totally across the board? If you have one, what kind of music do you play on it? Do you play more melody or rhythm parts or both? JT, help!

  2. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    hey RS

    i hear ya about tapping, i don't do that either - actually used to do it much more on my 4's, back in the day, but i haven't tapped anything in probably 10 years.

    one of the techniques that i use fairly often is to comp out chords with the higher strings as i pluck bass lines with the lower ones. this is something that i have been developing all the time, and am still learning - there is a wide range of possibilities. i use my right hand thumb on the lower strings and my index,middle and ring fingers on the higher ones. in general, i play my basses a lot like a classical guitar.

    another thing to notice, which you have already, is the fact that the higher strings have a thinner tonality than the lower ones. often i find that i actually play runs and such as if i were still playing a 4, meaning i will go up the neck as opposed to going to the thinner strings, to keep the tone even when i want to play higher notes. you're right in that the higher strings seem to be trickier to integrate, but i looked at that as a way that i could expand my role in the rhythm section. instead of figuring a way that i could just do what a 4 string player would do, but higher, i looked at the higher strings as tools to change the way i played, and the way i looked at the bass role, not just in frequency but also the concept of added structure to a song. the tonality of the higher strings became a tool to use, as opposed to an obstacle to compensate for or overcome.

    remember, higher frequency ostinato playing can be just as rhythmically structured and provide just as much foundation to a song as low frequency parts, when they are written properly. many classical composers, bach especially, were adept at this - listen to bach's organ toccatas and fugues, the "bass" and the "treble" sides trade roles throughout the pieces, lending feel and power to sections purely through their role reversal - treble side providing structure and bass side providing melody. the traditional role of "bass" is not one of frequency alone, but also one of composition.

    i often use the higher strings as a way to lend my bass parts more power, by playing sections on the higher strings when one of the 2 guitarists in my band are playing lower bass-range rhythm parts. then when i change to playing a bass part on the lower strings - POW - there is a palpable surge of intensity. again, many of the parts that i am playing in the higher register are still providing the bass role, in that they provide structure and framework, but they are not in the bass frequency range.

    the one thing i that i did that worked for me when i went to 7 was to put away the 4s. i found that when i started thinking "7" as opposed to thinking "4 + extra strings" i was able to visualize what i wanted to do more easily, and also conceptualize the instrument on it's own merits, as opposed to approaching it from the point of view of how it differed or was the same as a 4 string.

    another thing to consider is that if you don't like the extra high strings, you can string the instrument F#-B-E-A-D-G-C, although then you would probably need to rethink your rig to get the best performance out of the low F# - most bass rigs don't cut it that low.

    still, though, the best bet for really finding what's going on with the 7 and growing with the instrument, in my experience, is to put the 4's and 5's away, and dive in. it may be frustrating at first, but you will develop yourself as a player more than you ever have before.

    i guess the way i look at it, the 7 (and greater) is really a different instrument than the 4, a superset of the 4, where everything that i could do on the 4 i can do on the 7, but with many techniques and styles of playing that are alien to the 4 string added in.

    good luck, and hope that helps.
  3. RS


    Aug 27, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    Thanks for the help. But let me ask you this- how do you tune your bass? Secondly,what kind of band are you in- rock, jazz, fusion? What is the instrumentation? I tend to be more of melody oriented bass player, so the high strings don't bother me. When I write something I want to play on it, I just can't do both parts at the same time. Do you have any recordings of your playing? How much did that doubleneck cost you? (just curious, you don't have to answer that one if you don't want to).

    Thanks again,
  4. I started playing bass guitar in the 1950's. Back then it was so new that most people just tried to play it like an upright bass. Next year will be the 50th aniversory of this instrument and now we have virtuoso players. This is your chance to be at the begining of something new. Invent ways to play this instrument it is only a few years old.
  5. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    exactly! preach on brother carl! :D
  6. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    you're welcome :D
  7. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    oh, btw, i transpose that rondo in a minor an octave lower for most of it, and 2 octaves lower for parts. it gets the point across. :D

    also, some parts of this are insanely difficult without playing open strings, which i am not doing. this piece alone is something that i will spend years on mastering, but ever since i started learning it, i have been able to notice how i have grown as a player.

    [Edited by john turner on 10-21-2000 at 01:10 AM]
  8. Why there isn't a club for the 7-string bass?

    My bass teacher usually plays a 7-string.
    He is usually playing with fingerstyle chords, arpeggios, two-handed tapping, but also playing with regular finger-picking style too.

    I think you can use this kind of basses in music where the bass plays not only the bass role, but also a filling role and some solo.

    Some videos of my teacher playing his 7-string handmade XU Bass:
  9. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    When I had my 7 string i used it in cover bands.. I would play keyboard parts on it, I would learn guitar solos and play them at times.... and I would use it to play harmony lines with my guitarist...

    We used to play Detroit Rock City by KISS.... and I would play the 1st harmony guitar line of the solo...

    I sold it way back in 2002...
  10. Have you ever tried a MIDI-capable bass?
  11. Guest043

    Guest043 Guest

    Apr 8, 2008
    i play a 6 string as my main bass and i rape the entire fretboard constantly. i would immagine i'd play the same on a 7..or maybe at that point its turning into a piano on a strap rather than a less limited bass..
  12. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Always someone...
  13. pointbass

    pointbass Semi-Retired Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    John has been playing 7's for a long time, and while his information has always been very helpful to me, the quote above is probably the most helpful piece of advice I ever got when I first started playing 7+ strings .....

    Many players look at the bass as a 4 "plus some extra strings" rather than doing what JT always suggests, which is to look at the bass as a whole unit rather than 4 + 3 (or 4) strings. I found that my hand positioning changed, my plucking style changed, my thought process when working through chords changed, basically everything I did on a 4 or 5 was cast off to the side and new approaches were taken.

    I'm not a big soloist or classical player, I don't do a bunch of tapping ..... I have really just continued to be the bassist in the band, only now I can provide a lot more color to the overall tonal pallette of the group. I play in primarily trio settings and with the use of a looper (and a very time-efficient drummer ;)) I'm able to play chords supporting the guitarist or doubling certain licks within the tune. I've been slowly (very slowly :rolleyes:) working a MIDI into the mix which provides even greater options.

    BTW, I tune in standard 4ths ... BEADGCF for 7's, F#BEADGCF for 8's .....

    But JT is right on the money with his experienced advice ... adjust your thinking and use the full potential of the instrument ..... :cool:

    Try here ....
  14. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    thanks :). i stumbled on a few good ideas over the years :).
  15. John's reply is right on the money!!!

    I play a six string now and never touch my four anymore as I feel it is a whole new ball game!

    Great advice Mr. Turner!!
  16. spindizzy


    Apr 12, 2004
    I'm thinking about having my four bronzed so I can hang it from the mirror of my Thunderbird!