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Playing on the E string

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Ryanpet42, Aug 8, 2012.

  1. Ryanpet42

    Ryanpet42 Guest

    Aug 1, 2012
    So, when walking, I have been finding that I have a much harder time getting clarity on the E string than I can with the others. Could someone help me with this? I will say that I play with somewhat high action on the E and that when I play on it my right hand doesn't like it very much and I have a hard time attacking the note. My action is (from the bottom of the string to top of fingerboard at its edge in mm); G 7, D 9, A 10, and E 12.
  2. Al Lever

    Al Lever

    Aug 2, 2012
    I have thes ame impression, but donĀ“t forget taht the E string is very thick and does not resonate that clearly.So it lacks overtones because of that.
    And to generate a true E you would need a bass three (?) times larger. Your brain does the compensation!
    A good massive bass does resonates better than a cheap plywood...
    the strings are very importatnt, too. My bass does not produce a useable E or A with Presto Nylon LIght, but works very nice with Jazzicatos or Spiro medium.
    For walking I would lower the E and A action to 10 and 9. This will lower the tension of those strings.
  3. I haven't posted in forever, but I've actually been tackling this issue in my own playing recently. I guess there's two main issues here. The first is that mechanically playing the E string is different from the other strings. There isn't another string to pull into with you're finger like on the other strings and because the string is closest to you, your arm is not afford the same extension as when it is on the other strings.

    The second issue in my mind is the significantly higher tension and size of the string. This causes it to react slower and be more difficult to control (for the left and right hands).

    What I have been doing to approach these challenges is to play quarter notes on the open E with the metronome on all four beats. I practice in front of a mirror to experiment with a couple different ways of attacking the string and find what feels and looks the most natural. Next I practice with the metronome on only one of the beats, I personally like four (this requires a metronome that can go down to slower tempos as the tempo will need to be cut in four). What I do is play a couple bars, maybe four or six, on each open string, going from the G string down to the E. This allows me to understand how the differences in tension and size of the string affect my time. I continue moving the number of quarters on each string down until it is four of each. Then, I do patterns like this: GGGD-GGGA-GGGE, or GGDG-GGAG-GGEG etc.

    I guess in a nut shell what this is, is the Zimmerman bowing exercises adapted for jazz bass. I like to really understand the feel of each string without thinking about basslines. It also is a great way to gain better time and awareness of time, because with the metronome only on one beat you are accountable for a lot more.

    I hope this has helped on some level. It's done absolute wonders for my evenness of time and comfort across the bass.
  4. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    what you also can try is to pull your finger against the (side of the) wood when playing on the E. Giving it a click sound. That can compensate for the loss of 'thump' because there is no string to pull against. It also forces you to hit a bit harder. I don't use it much in actual playing but it is a good practice.

    @Eli-: I don't feel the tension on the E string is higher. It is just thicker making it a bit more harder to control. Sometimes I even feel that the E string is looser compared to the other strings (on a Spirocore weich set for example).
  5. Technically the tension is higher, but I get what you are saying. The feel is often less stiff and because of the lower pitch the oscillations of the string are slower. I think in general the difficulty in playing the E string is that it feels different regardless of why.

  6. Ryanpet42

    Ryanpet42 Guest

    Aug 1, 2012
    Thank you Stone for showing me that video. Mr. Fitzgerald certainly is a great bassist, and that tutorial helped my technique a lot.
  7. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Teaching at Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Listen to Mr. Fitzgerald, y'all . . . !
  8. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    If you have an adjustable bridge, why don't you try lowering everything 2-3mm and find out how the E string response is at that height. If you like it, you may want to make bridge adjustments so all strings work optimally at the new height.
  9. +1
  10. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Good points above. A famous bit of Rufus Reid pedagogy- play scales on JUST the E string. Make it part of your daily routine. It strengthens both hands, and if you can pull a pure sound all the way into thumb, your intonation and technique are working for you.

    And as always.... Consult with a teacher!!!!
  11. hairscrambled

    hairscrambled Commercial User

    Feb 1, 2006
    Albuquerque, NM
    Store owner, Grandma's Music & Sound
    Playing the E string closer to the bridge can also produce more overtones and definition.

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