8 Ways to Learn Playing Bass
8 Ways to Learn Playing Bass
Bass is not as a simple instrument as many think at first. Compared to an ordinary six-string guitar, bass has thicker strings and wider frets. Bass is rather complicated and extremely important instrument in a band.
In any band bass is responsible for harmony and rhythm. It is able to create a pulse in dance and rock music, as well as fill music with harmonic coloring in melodic ballads. Overall composition and overall drive impressions of the playing band largely depends on the nature of bass and rhythm guitar. In a relatively short time of its existence, bass have spawned lots of playing techniques and varieties of the instrument itself. In this article, you will learn how to play bass.
#1 Position of the instrument
Before answering the question about how to play the bass, let’s see how to hold the instrument. There are three main positions: chest level, level of the waist and level of the knees.
- The low (near your knees) position looks very cool and is comfortable for playing slap, but you can forget about tapping.
- In the middle position (in front of your waist) it becomes more difficult to use slap, but much easier to play with a plectrum. This method is widely used by modern rock bands.
- High bass position (between waist and chest) is used mainly by jazz musicians, slap bass players, and owners of six-string basses. This position provides a good lever arm, which eases playing and allows you to enhance the strike when using slap.
#2 Left hand position
So, I hope you have chosen the most convenient position of your bass. Now let’s talk about the left hand position and different techniques of picking strings.
Bass player has a lot of different ways of sound production. You can play with your fingers or a pick, use slapping or tapping. The question of which method is better is not quite correct. All of them are different and have their unique sounds. The choice of a method should determine the style of the song you are playing. Some believe that the speed depends on the method of playing (fingers, pick, slapping, tapping). This is not the case. Any of the above methods can be played at high speed.
Playing with fingers (meaning the sound, produced by fingertips) is characterized by soft warm sound. This method is widely distributed in rock, blues and jazz. Make sure your fingernails are cut short, otherwise you’ll be sure to touch strings with it. This will create click, which can be a serious problem.
Playing with a plectrum (or a pick) allows you to get a fresh and bright sound. Many metal bassists play with a pick.
Slap is mainly used in funk, although lately it can aslo be found in music of other genres. Distinct sharp rhythm is everything for using slap. If you need to emphasize the rhythmic pattern of a song, there is no better way than slapping.
Tapping is a relatively new style. Real masters of this technique are Stu Hamm, Victor Wooten and Jeff Berlin. If you want to master tapping, try finding their video lessons. To use tapping you just needed a good bass with low position of strings and an amplifier of good quality.
#3 Finger picking
There are three basic ways of hand positioning for finger picking. You can play without a stand, it`s when your hand hovers over the strings, just touching them with your fingertips. It is quite difficult, but no other method can give you so much freedom.
You can put the edge of your picking hand on the deck, the strings or on the bridge of your bass. This method makes damping the strings (pizzicato) with your palm edge more difficult.
Also, you can put your thumb on the pickup or on the bridge. Same technique is used for playing with mobile support – when you put your thumb on a thicker string, located above the one, you`re playing on. This leads to a loss of speed, because you have to change the position of your thumb constantly. However, this method has its advantages. It allows you to play more clearly, because the string you put your thumb on becomes muted and can`t make any noise.
You can play with all of your fingers, but I do not recommend you using the thumb. This will lead to a loss of speed, and, in addition, the sound produced when you play with your thumb markedly differs from the sound of the other fingers. The use of a thumb can be justified only while playing slow music.
Most people play with their index and middle finger (denoted by numbers 1 and 2 respectively), some play, using three fingers (ring – 3) or even four (pinky – 4). Three and four finger picking allows to gain high speed, besides you’ll be less tired. Accenting of the plucks (hits on the strings) also increases the speed of your playing. For example, let’s say you are playing with three fingers (1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2…). Try accenting the first pluck, and you will be able to develop more speed than playing flat.
You should strictly follow the alternation of fingers. For example, if you are playing with two fingers, it is obvious (1-2-1-2-1-2….). When you play with three – there are options (1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3 …) or (1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2-1, etc.). In the beginning, this strict alternation may seem awkward and unnecessary. But it’s not. As far as you practice, it will become a habit. You`ll never get the same speed and purity of sound by playing raking (playing multiple sounds in a row, using one finger). Put the finger on the string and pull it up. Finger will fall through the first string, plucking on the second, third… this is the raking.
#4 Using a pick
There are different kinds of bass picks. They differ in size, thickness, hardness and, of course, colors. Find a friendly pick, which does not slip out of your hands. More thick and hard picks make more bright sound with a metallic tint. Soft picks are closer to the sound of fingers.
Playing with a pick gives special coloring to a song. It is easier to play quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes with a pick. In addition, you can simultaneously hit a couple of strings.
Usually player puts his wrist on the deck while playing with a pick.
Slap is a sudden strike on the string with the thumb. The string should hit on the neck, creating an original sound. Slapping is commonly used along with popping. Pop – is when you pull the thinner string with your index or middle finger, after playing a slap. The pull must be hard enough to string hit a fretboard and create another original sound. Remember to hold your thumb parallel to the string you`re playing on as your other fingers stay perpendicular to strings. Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers must be the most popular user of this technique. Try listening to some of their tracks and watch tutorials.
This technique is based on the use of both hands to play notes on the fretboard. To produce sound you need to hit a string with your finger right over the particular fret. Using this technique, you can play piano parts on your bass. While tapping, your left hand plays bass notes, and your right hand plays melody or rhythm. Tapping is also used for playing fast solos.
To produce notes on a fretted instrument you just have to push the string between two fret thresholds. The force of your puching should be sufficient to keep it sounding, but not more. If you press too hard, you`ll get a higher note. Use not fingertips but pads of your fingers. Use fingers to mute strings that should not sound. If you don`t do this, strings can make a noise; as a result, the note will seem fuzzy and dirty. Muting is very important in tapping. If you have large enough palm or a bass with a short scale length, you can use your thumb for muting upper strings.
Playing on a fretless bass, hold strings exactly in places where frets are located on a fretted instrument. If you`re just acquiring this instrument, you`ll need a chromatic tuner. Play notes and check, whether you play a high or low note. Over time, your musical ear will improve and you will be able to accurately identify the notes by yourself. You always should wish for accuracy, and if in grunge and some other musical styles, you can afford a little carelessness, precision in jazz music is of great importance.
#7 Movement of the left hand
There are several principles that can help you feel more relaxed when you change the position of the left hand. It’s a simple idea: make as less movements as possible and stay in position as long as possible. Use slides to change the position. Changing the position while playing open strings is also a good option.
#8 Techniques for the left hand
Here are the main techniques you need to know to play bass:
- Slide (glissando) – quite common technique. It is made by sliding a finger, which is holding the string, up or down along the neck.
- Hammer-on (upward Legato) – technique of the left hand, which is made by a sudden pressuring (pushing) the string with a finger on a fret, located several frets above the note, that is played with the right hand.
- Pull-off (descending Legato) – technique, made by fast removing finger off the string. The technique is made as follows. First, you hold two frets on one string, then with right hand make a sound and after a while follows fast removal of finger placed on the string (finger on the left at this time continues to hold the string). While removing, the finger should move slightly across the fingerboard, pulling the string.
- Bend – a technique of increasing tone pitch by moving the string across the fretboard with the same finger, that`s holding the string.
- Harmonic (flageolet) – is receiving a sound with a distinctive timbre colouring. You can get natural harmonics over 5, 7, 12, 17, 19 fret thresholds. The string is split in half, one third, a quarter, etc in these places. To play a harmonic you should touch a string with a finger of left hand over some of the mentioned fret threshold. The string should not sag, a very light touch is enough. Then hit the string with the right hand and almost simultaneously lift your finger. Artificial harmonics are received over the rest of the frets. For example, to obtain the harmonic over 13th fret, you have to:
- Hold the first fret with the left hand (now the middle of the string is over 13th fret).
- Touch the string above the 13th fret threshold with your index finger of the right hand
- Pull the string with your medium or ring finger
- At the same time lift your index finger.
To make a harmonic, using a pick, you should play with a small tip of it. Hit the string with the tip of the pick over 13 fret and touch the string with the finger holding the pick.
We have several music centres to suggest for you
- Guitar Soul Music in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur
- VITA Music Centre in Bukit Rimau, Shah Alam
- MAX Music Centre in Cheras
- Serene Music Centre in Kepong
- Rockstar Performing Studio in Pandan Indah
- PAZZO Music Studio in Taman Suri Utara, Kuala Lumpur
- Maple Musicology Academy in Taman Taynton View, Cheras
- Children Music Education Studio in Kajang
- House of Suono in Bandar Puchong Jaya
- Carol Music & Learning Centre in Taman Permata, Kuala Lumpur
- Artistic Music Learning Studio in Taman Usahawan, Kepong
- Guidance Musical Learning Centre in Bandar Mahkota Cheras
- Lara’s Place in Seksyen 17, Petaling Jaya
- Ferris Music and Dance in Taman Bunga Raya, Setapak
- iMusic in Taman Pelangi, Johor Bahru