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soloing in the lower register

Discussion in 'Ask Lynn Seaton' started by joel kelsey, Dec 11, 2006.


  1. joel kelsey

    joel kelsey

    Aug 1, 2006
    Chicago, IL
    Mr. Seaton,

    Welcome to talkbass. Thanks for taking time for our questions. My question is a pretty general one. I have been working on playing solos in the lower register (half position) of the bass lately. I was wondering if you could offer advice about getting a big clear sound and good intonation down there? I tend to lose clarity and pitch when I am playing down there. I have been playing exercises with my keyboard, playing standard melodies as well as scales and arrpegios to help with my pitch, but what can I do with my right and left hand to make the sound clearer and less muddy? Thanks for taking my call. I will take my answer off of the air.
     
  2. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Hi,
    Right hand placement and how we pluck the strings have a lot to do with projection and sound. I will do my best to describe it in words, but it is a challnge without a visual demonstration. Pluck near the end of the fingerboard. If using one finger, have it more parallel to the string and use as much "meat" as possible- UP TO, BUT NOT INCLUDING THE FIRST KNUCKLE JOINT. If you use the knuckle joint to pluck with ,it can cause injury and pain. The motion is almost like waving with your fingers at someone. Some people do the plucking with the other fingers curled up and some with all extended. If using two fingers, have your fingers perpendicular to the strings like you would when playing electric bass. For both ways, have the last joint of the thumb on the side of the fingerboard. That way you can add a little pinch between the fingers and thumb if you want a little more power or to accent a note. Here are a couple of "action pictures". they are artistically blurry, but may help to show the motion. The color one shows me about to play a note on the D Striing. Note where my hand is. I open up my palm between my thumb and first finger to get the first finger over and more parallel to the string I am plucking. Notice the knuckle by my palm is on the string just below the one I am plucking. I hope this helps.
    Lynn
     

    Attached Files:

  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'd also posit that left hand has a lot to do with getting a pitch that projects out into the room. Expectation of pitch, really hearing what that note is going to be will really do a lot to help you project the sound. Not just "that spot there" on the fingerboard, but a specific note.

    There's a psychological aspect to this as well, if you don't have confidence in WHAT you're going to play (because you aren't really hearing it) it can affect HOW you play it. Imprecision in left hand placement (because of a lack of expectation as to what's going to come out) translates into an imprecision in right hand attack. You don't play it loud cause you don't know what it's actually going to sound like.
     
  4. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Thanks Ed,
    I agree with you 100 %.
    Lynn
     
  5. I think Joel is referring specifically to soloing in the lower register, which might lead to a different technique, depending on stylistic choices.

    All the above advice about hand placement and using the meat of one's finger is great for a big broad sound. If you're looking for more clarity though, you might have to sacrifice some "bigness."

    When soloing, you might try bringing your right hand more perpendicular to the fingerboard, and emphasizing playing with more of the tip of your finger. If you dig in this way, it will brighten up the sound. Moving your right hand up and down the fingerboard will also change the tone, as Mr. Seaton mentioned. Dave Holland (see pic) and Bruce Gertz are two people I've seen do this well. It often leads to a thinner sound, but I think it can make things clearer. I rarely do this, but some guys do it all the time. You're an EB player as well, so this right hand style should be familiar to you.

    For the left hand, clarity can come from making sure you're up on your finger tips, with a nice arch in your fingers. Playing flat fingered can diffuse intonation and tone just like it can with your right hand. Think of the difference between pushing someone in the chest with your palm vs your fingertip -- pointiness leads to clarity and more precise intonation.
     

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  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    hmmm. Depends, dunnit? Peter Washington is a player who DOESN'T sacrifice a big sound for "increased clarity" following an approach that's pretty close to what Lynn suggests. If you are playing steel strings, use a pick up and an amp all the time, sure. But if, like some of us, you generally don't use an amp, play gut (or gut like) strings and have a kind of high action, a "BG like" approach ain't gonna cut it.
     
  7. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    As I mentioned in a previous post, for two fingers I do recommend the fingers be perpendicular to the strings. It definately will increase speed. Let's all remember there are many ways to play the bass. If we learn different ways, we then have the knowledge to choose a technique based on musical reasons.
     
  8. joel kelsey

    joel kelsey

    Aug 1, 2006
    Chicago, IL
    Hi,
    Thanks for the replies. My question was reffering to playing acoustically, not amplified. I have been using the meaty part of my index finger to get my sound ever since I was lucky enough to get a lesson from Rufus Reid. However, I have found that using my fingertips works better for me when I am soloing and I do not lose that much volume. My problem is playing on the E and A string. As Ed says, the bass guitar like technique does not cut it in that case. When I use the meaty part of my finger down low to play eighth notes I lose some of the smoothness and speed I have when playing with my fingertips. But when I try to play down low with my fingertips, I lose a lot of volume and sustain. My quest is for my eight notes to sound even all up and down the bass. Right now, the low register is causing me the most trouble. I hope my post makes sense. Any other thoughts or advice would be most helpful.
    Thanks again,
    Joel
     
  9. I had an uncle who told me that even playing against a Big Band unamplified, If his intonation was dead on, the notes would just ring out and he could be heard. If he was the slightest bit off, no one heard anything he played, whether he was playing with an authoritative right hand or not. I always wondered how true this really was. Has anyone else ever experienced this, or was he just talking?
     
  10. I definitely agree that there are lots of ways to play the bass. It totally depends on you, your fingers, your bass. I actually just had the chance to meet Joel last night, and he sounds great. His fingers and the way he plays, though, are very different from mine. We both played the same bass but got very different sounds. I was jeaolous of the nice fleshy 'snap' Joel was getting out of the strings. My hands just don't seem to do that.

    One last approach, that's kind of in-between, is what Dan Greenspan described to me as "the Miroslav walk" (or "rock" -- i can't remember what he said exactly). I've never seen Miroslav's technique in person, so all I ahve to go on is Dan's description of my own technique.

    It's kind of a hybrid between the two discussed above, where the hand is at an angle between parallel and perpendicular to the fingerboard. I pluck the string with the side pad of my finger, only with the part between the last knuckle and the tip. When moving between plucking with my index and middle fingers, my hand kind of "rocks" back and forth, pivoting on the thumb. Guess that's why Dan called it the "walk". This IMHO of what I sound like, gives adequate power and bigness, while still freeing up the hand for speed and a little more clarity.

    Actually, I guess all this is just a long-winded way of saying "somewhere in between works for me." Keep experimenting!
     
  11. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    You are lucky to have had a lesson with Rufus Reid. He has been a huge influence on me as well. Different basses speak diferently. Different registers on any bass speak differently. When you practice and play with others, listen very carefully and record yourself to find out what you really sound like. Learn to compensate the natural differences in sound with how hard you pick etc.
     
  12. Haveing recently started working on the road regularly with a big band I have become less dogmatic about the way I teach playing with as much meat as possible. In the band i play a lot of those excrusiatingly fast walking tempos. The thing to do in that case is play lighter and use the amp more if needed. I often find myself playing with the whole hand purpendicular to the fingerboard in an almost Bluegrass bass player type position but still using just the first two fingers. Sure, you give up tone quality but it's better than dragging down the band. :hyper:
     
  13. bmanbill

    bmanbill

    Jun 29, 2003
    Chicago, IL
    Dave Holland is an example of a player who has tremendous facility even in the lowest range of the bass without giving up hardly an ounce of sound. He plays perpendicular (EB style) when soloing. So it IS possible. Christian McBride has incredible RH chops without playing EB style at all. So there you go!
     
  14. To me it sounds kind of like a right hand issue, when you play in half position on the A and E strings you really need to press the notes into the fingerboard so they can ring. It takes alittle strength and some practice, youll get it soon enough, make sure to keep good arched fingers and everything that I'm sure youve heard a thousand times.
     

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