Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bass - Right hand technique

My right hand technique is finally solidifying.

1. My thumb sticks out, (in a relaxed manner), to the left of the hand, and either
  a. Rests on the E string, when playing on the A string.
  b. Is wedged between the E and A string to dampen them, while playing on the D or G string.
  c. Rests in the air, when playing on the E string.

2. I have two plucking configurations:
  a. Pluck with index, middle, and anular fingers, unless on the G string.
  b. When on the G string, pluck with the index and middle finger, while resting the anular finger on the D string for dampening purposes.

3. I rest my hand just a little to the front, (between the bridge and neck pickups), of the bridge pick-up, so that all my fingers, (including the anular), hit the string ahead of the pickup body. I feel I get a fuller sound from that area of the string.

What other ideas do you have?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Artificial Harmonics

I'm adding artificial harmonics to my technical repertoire, and am using a modified version of Jaco's technique, mentioned on Modern Electric Bass.

1. I use my right-hand thumb touch the harmonic node.
2. I use my right-hand third and fourth finger to pluck the string.

Bass is much more forgiving of artificial harmonics than guitar, so I find that the thumb just has to be in the vicinity of the node, to achieve the harmonic. The obvious issues are that the right hand can get out of sync with the fretting hand, and, instead of a harmonic, you get a muted note. For some reason, I think of a first trumpet player in a big band, who tries for the high note, but has the second playing an octave lower, just in case...

Tonight, I just worked on playing the harmonic an octave above the fretted note, playing through some arpeggios, and major/minor scales. I was striving for a simple melodic phrasing, (using Michael W. Smith's Agnus Dei), clear harmonic, and synchronicity between hands.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Most of what I have learned about effective rehearsing came from my time at the University of North Texas. Some of these points are:

1. Be on time.
2. Know your music.
3. Tune your instrument.

And, probably most important of all:

4. Have a good attitude, and desire to learn.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Harmonics on a Jazz Bass

Just a note that it is easier to get harmonics on a bass when using the bridge pickup. On a Jazz Bass, you turn your front knob all the way down, and turn the middle knob all the way up, (à la Jaco).

Latin Bass reveals weak intonation on fretless: part 2

Tonight, I am continuing with my intonation work, by:

1. by playing perfect fifths as well as octaves.
- If I am in the key of Eb, then I play Eb and Bb (a perfect fifth above), as well as Eb and Eb (one octave lower).
2. working in the circle of fifths, instead of playing scales up and down one string.
- Since we are working perfect fifths, I feel free to jump from note to note using the circle of fifths. So from Eb, I jump to Bb, then F, then C, and so on.
3. adding a half-barre using the third and fourth fingers.
- Since Latin bass playing uses many roots, fifths, and octaves, I want to minimize my intonation issues by barring the upper-fifth and octave with either my third or fourth fingers. I simply take my study of octaves and fifths, and barre them with one finger. I notice that I get a better note on the high G string, if I place my first joint right over the string, instead of the fleshy part of the finger. I also notice a greater amount of tension in my hand, and must consciously slow down, and relax.

Here is the link to part 1 of this series:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Latin Bass reveals weak intonation on fretless

I am now a bass player. I started off as a guitar player, but built too many mental walls, which hampered my playing to the point that I couldn't improve. I have always played bass as well, (starting in high school band), but am not bound by the mental barriers that I have erected on the guitar. It has been freeing to decide that I am a bass player, and I am enjoying improvement in many musical areas, due to this freedom.

Two nights ago, I was working through 'The Latin Bass Book: a practical guide', by Oscar Stagnaro and Chuck Sher, and realized that my hand was sliding all over the neck of my fretless bass while reading the charts. As a result, I was playing the fifths and octaves horribly out-of-tune. I identified the following issues:

1. my hand does not know the neck well enough for me to look away.
2. I need to work on intonation.

To work on these issues, I took some ideas from Steve Bailey and Mick Goodrick, and played major and minor scales up and down the neck.

To break my tendency to start on the low E string, I started as high as I could on the G string of my Jazz Bass, (an Eb), and started walking down the Eb major scale.

a. I played the Eb on the G string, and then the Eb on the A string, (an octave lower), and worked until they were in tune. Then I moved to D on the G string, and repeated the process. Then to the C, and so on. The emphasis was on getting the notes in tune, and not playing them in time. Super slow!!

b. I kept all of my starting pitches on one string, since as Mick Goodrick says in 'The Advancing Guitarist: Applying Guitar Concepts & Techniques', "you have no real understanding of the fingerboard until you've spent a lot of time playing up and down the strings individually".

I definitely heard the benefits of doing this, and will continue tonight. Perhaps adding leaps to help my hand become accustomed to leaping and landing, (without squeaks or sliding into the note).

Music and the internet

Music and the internet. These have been the driving forces in my life. I have been playing music for twenty-one years, and working with the internet for thirteen. The internet has provided us with a house, food, and medical benefits; music has provided hours of frustration, and some joy. But, recently, something has changed. Music has started to call to me again, and only now, twenty-one years after starting to play music, I feel like I actually qualify as a beginner. This blog will be my way of 'putting music to paper', and discussing the nuggets of musical knowledge that come to through diligent practice, and plenty of sweat.

Welcome fellow travelers!