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).

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