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Playing 4ths - how to make the string jump sound smooth?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by RiseOfTheWooten, Jan 22, 2006.

  1. For example, when I'm playing a C (3rd fret) on the A string and my next note in the bass line is the G (3rd fret) on the E string - I have often had some trouble jumping strings (eg. from A to E strings) with my first finger without it sounding like a staccato or jilted, especially when I'm playing a faster bass line.

    Jumping strings any other way in a bass line is fine because I can use a ifferent finger to make that transition and the bassline can flow without missing a beat. But when I have to jump strings with one finger I can't do it too well. It's particularly difficult on a fretless where the finger has to land on a specific spot right above or below the starting string.

    I hope I'm explaining it clearly.
  2. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    If you're talking about how to do it smoothly with your fretting hand, barring fourths is almost always the easiest way. As in holding down all of the 3rd frets (for example) with one finger.
  3. I didn't think of that! I'll have to try it when I get home, thanks.

    Right now I'm thinking if I bar the strings, I might have a muting problem when moving from upper to lower strings, but I suppose I could just lift the barring finger slightly to mute the string.

    Are there any issues with left hand mobility when barring strings like that? Or is it a matter of practicing it till my hand is able to transition from a flat/bar position back to regular positioning?

    Ack, I feel incoherent today...
  4. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Yup. Think about guitar players....that's what they do all day long, often barring with different fingers on the same hand at the same time.
  5. *slaps my forehead* I knew that! At least I knew it until I forgot it.

    Thanks for the push in the right direction. :)
  6. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    Good advice so far. Barring is good, but I'm not the biggest fan when it comes to my own playing.

    My usual strategy, if it really is so fast that I can't make the jump sound good, is to use adjacent fingers. To use your example, play the C with middle, and the G with your index. This keeps things simple and can be done extremely smoothly. If you practice this sort of thing alot, you can really jump around the neck without the audience ever hearing your shifts and string skipping.
  7. That was what I tried doing last night but I found it awkward especially on the fretless since both fingers have to land on very specific spots on top of each other. As with the barring technique suggested by Bryan, it is very helpful for me to hear what you guys are doing because it also serves to expose myself to what is 'accepted' bass playing technique. I'm trying to avoid the scenario where I finally take up proper lessons with a bass teacher sometime in the future and he has to spend the next 6 months pulling his hair out while correcting unorthodox/crazy things that I've taught myself to do on the bass without prior consultation, you know what I mean.
  8. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    Absolutely; that's a good approach to this issue, and I'm glad to share my experiences.

    I've applied my technique to fretless, and as long as you're carful you can get both notes in tune fairly easily. That said, my fretted background had me develop technique where I was very careful to place my fingers _directly_ behind the frets.

    What I find playing double bass, however, is that I cannot apply this "stacked finger" approach to 4ths across strings, and must jump to get an intonated clear sound, so I practice this skipping on each finger to get it sounding clear. Maybe you can try that as well, just practice doing it a lot so you get good at it.
  9. spdrswb


    May 26, 2005

    My preferred order of solutions is:

    0.) Lower the action. High action makes good for the feeling of string which helps in executing slight pitch changes, dirty tones, vibrato and everything which makes the instrument sing. But on a fretless, I normally do it by acting parallelly to the string, not pulling it within the fret.

    1. Try to do all jumps like that by the good old simple-minded difficult way. Jump between strings. On a playable guitar, it must be like legato. I just practice. I never skip this phase!

    2. If a given move is hopeless, I restructure my position changes in the melody so that this step involves a change. I think it's a clever way to avoid the most difficult fingerings. Additionally, it helps me to know the fingerboard better, and to develop in ad-hoc sight reading or voice leading. 1, 2 or 3 positions, up or down, as required.

    3. If it's again not a solution, I do a barre with 1st finger. String muting is not a problem, I can release any part of my finger for muting, instead of pressing.

    4. The last way is using different fingers for the same fret.

    Since I study Bach and other baroque composers, I meet many situations where 4th, 7th and 10th are to be fingered. It's a nice challange and good fun to solve them and it helps a lot. I recommend it to everyone who have never tried.
  10. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    Questions like this - and their solutions - really depend on WHERE you are going with your NEXT note(s). That's the factor which causes me to finger in a given way.
  11. I also tend to use adjacent fingers when crossing strings (especially my 3rd and fourth fingers). It feels a bit ackward at first, but you can get used to it and learn how to incorporate it into your playing without thinking about it (I even do it on double bass).
  12. I would only half-bar the two strings in that case, "rolling" my index (or middle, or whichever finger is needed) from A string to E string. Hold down A, mute E, roll to E, mute A.

    Like a bar, but only with the tip of my finger. (there has to be a joke in that somewhere)
  13. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I think this is good advice and brings up an important aspect of bass playing.

    Developing above-average flexibility in the joints of the fretting hand fingers is important. It allows you to execute such a half-barre with greater ease.

    Using the original example (playing C on A string, then having to play G on E string using same fretting finger), another trick I use is to "think ahead" and press down the E string with an adjacent finger while I'm fretting the C.

    The E must be muted, of course, but this lowers the E string so that the finger moving from the C doesn't have to rise up to catch the E string and press it down - it's already down.

    I've found that this is a tough technique to learn, but can make for a more seamless sound without changing your intended fingering (if that's your goal).
  14. IT's funny - as an ex-guitarist I instinctively did a roll/half-bar with the end of my finger the first time this came up.

    I didn't even think about it. In some of the books I have seen it called a 'pressure roll'.
  15. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    Thats was what I also naturally did when I switched from guitar to bass (the first time). A few months later I realized that it would probably be smart to take lessons. I ended up getting lessons from Anthony Wellington...before he was a star. One of the first things that he did was have me playing fourths up and down the neck with each finger individually. It is still a difficult thing at times, but its much easier now after hours of practicing that technique.

    I believe in the "work on what you can't already do" school of practice. I get enough practice with the things that I already know when I play. Practice time for me is for the things that I struggle with. Of course, now that I have kids...most techniques are becoming a struggle.