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What is a Position? (Sorry, noob question I know)

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by codewarrior, Feb 10, 2005.

  1. codewarrior


    Feb 25, 2004
    I have to apologize in advance for asking this question, becuase I know it's terribly noob. But I've been reading through a lot of posts where people talk about 'positions' (2nd position, 5th position, etc). But I can't seem to find an explanation of where they are. So that leads to 2 questions:

    1) What in the world is a 'position'! How many are there?

    2) I'm coming to bass from piano, and I know a ton of theory about scales, modes, chords, improvising. But the hardest part of the bass seems to be to me: With so many ways to play the same notes, how do you decide which way to finger/position things, and when to switch positions? Or even, which position to play something at in the first place?

    I really appreciate the help, I have a feeling that once I get past these two issues, I will be able to play a lot of what I am hearing on the bass, and then I can start transcribing like mad :D
  2. I believe playing with your left hand anchored at the 2nd fret would be playing in second position - ie) playing a line in F# starting on the E string.
  3. Dr. D

    Dr. D Loaded For Bear

    Jan 13, 2005
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    I know where you are coming from. I have been doing keyboard for 40 years, and I almost feel dislexic on a guitar. It almost seems like the notes are in an unnatural position.

    Like the previous post said, the second position is the second fret. A good suggestion would be to invest in a few lesons, at least untill you feel comfortable with the fundamentals. In a few months, You should be able to Jam with the best of them. But no dvd or self teaching can give you the same feel for the basics as a 1 on 1 instructor can.

    Heck, I played for 6 months till I found out I was holding the thing wrong. It looked just like in the dvd, but little things like that make a lot of difference in whether you will stick with it, of give up.

    Good Luck......
  4. codewarrior


    Feb 25, 2004
    Your advice about the lessons is well taken, and makes a lot of sense. I think I am going to take advantage of the large numbers of students and teachers here at music school and steal some extra lessons on the alternate instrument :D

    Am I correct to assume that the positions continue in a 1-per-fret fashion, i.e. fifth position is index finger on the 5th fret?
  5. Yep :D

    Since you have a background in piano maybe this will make sense to you.

    Whatever position that you are in, your fretting hand (left hand for most people) fingers cover four frets, so you have four fretted notes available on each string (plus additional notes on the open strings in 1st position), in this fashion 1st, 5th, and 9th postions cover all of the most commonly used area of the fretboard.

    As for how to decide what note to play where? Most bassists try to play with a minimum of left hand movement as a rule (there are exceptions of course!), and coincidentally, most scales on the bass use three strings and four frets! :) The intervals are always in the same place, relative to position.
    So if you play a root with your middle finger, the 3d is always under your index finger on the next highest string, and the 5th will be under your pinky on the same string as the 3d.

    Hope that this helps :D

  6. Yep.
  7. jadesmar


    Feb 17, 2003
    Ottawa, ON
    Unless of course, you are playing a fretless. :)
  8. RolandMHall

    RolandMHall Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    I agree with your message 110% In my opinion, the best way to study "poistions" is to play a song on a 4 sting bass, then play the song on the 5 string.

    It is true that for bassists, the best technique is to play as many notes in the passage as possible without physically moving your left hand. This creates speed and accuracy.

    Say you play an E major scale on the 4 string. The spacing is really wide, regardless of the instrument. With a 5 string, you can start on the 5th fret of the low B string and play the same scale with a much closer finger "position." It may look cool to play frets all over the neck. But in terms of efficiency and accuracy, this isn't the best practice.

    Also, the tone of the bassline or scale will change when you change positions. Although the notes are the same, depending on what string you start your "root" note, you can create a "thick" tone, or something a little more "tinny," if that's a word.

    Make sense?
  9. codewarrior


    Feb 25, 2004
    Man, you guys are great. I couldn't have asked for better help!
  10. Ima decent bass guitar player, but my passion is upright. So my question is this, If this post was in the Double Bass section, it would be wayy off target. Are there diffrences between positions on the two instruments?
  11. Yes