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All Aspects of ROCK & JAZZ

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Bass

 

Bass Finger Settings 2

Standard Hands. 2

Octave Shift 2

Open Strings. 3

Articulation 3

Glissando. 3

VIBRATO.. 4

Blues Notes. 4

Tremolo. 4

Duration. 5

Col Arco (Bow) 5

Vocal And Bass. 5

Scordatura / Alternative Tunings. 5

Sordin (Damper) 6

Hammer on / PULL-OFF (Appoggiatura) 6

BENDS. 6

ORNAMENTATION. 6

DYNAMICS. 6

Standard Bass Phrases 7

Blues, Standard Phrases. 7

Jazz, Standard Phrases. 8

Rock, Standard Phrases. 8

Hip hop and Afar, Standard Phrases. 9

Folk Music, Standard Phrases. 9

Bass Links 10

General Reading. 10

Special Techniques. 10

Exercises. 10

STYLE. 10

WEB Sites. 11

 

 

Bass Finger Settings

Standard Hands

       Standard Hands or Shapes are a tried and proven ergonomic and fast way to move your fingers in a given scale within an octave or moving from one octave to the next.

       The standard hands can be moved to anywhere on the neck, except for the open string which have their own Hands. The Octave Shifts are shown in a separate diagram.

 

Major Hand

Natural Minor Hand

Blues Hand*)

Harmonic Minor Hand

Mixolydian Hand

Melodic Minor Hand

 

NOTE No open strings used. The  square shows the octaves. The Melodic Minor Hand has a position shift, shown with the large blue square.

 

Octave Shift

       You move from one octave to the next by moving the position of the hand after reaching the first octave. It can be done in several different ways, so the examples only show one solution out of many. Choose the one that fits your hand and the width of your bass guitar neck.

 

Major Octave Shift

Natural Minor Octave Shift

Blues Octave Shift

Harmonic Minor Octave Shift

Mixolydian Octave Shift

Melodic Minor Octave Shift

 

NOTE No open strings used. The  square shows the octaves. The  shows a glide with the finger to the next position. The Melodic Minor has no less than 4 positions!

 

Open Strings

       Scales with open strings are limited to a few keys, E and A plus B, if you have a 5-string bass. Open strings may be used as leading notes in scales but only if you skip the main idea of the “hands”, that is the flexibility on the fretboard. Keep in mind that all genuine musicians try to avoid rules, unless the rules suit the music. In other words - every possible fingering is allowed as long as you make good music!

 

E Major with Open Strings

E Minor with Open Strings

E Blues with Open Strings

 

 

NOTE The  square shows the octaves. The E and A blues with open strings is a very common and fast way of playing blues in the 60-ies style.

 

 

Articulation

 

Articulation is the quality of a sound like timbre, which happens to belong to the family of sound colours. You have seen a few of these tricks of the trade before, timbre, harmonics and slide for example, but in the following section, I will go into details with the most common means of articulation.

 

Glissando

       Glissando (Gliss.) is the most common effect for the rock bassist. You glide from one tone to another. Naturally, this effect works the best on a fretless bass. On fretted basses, glissando seldom glides beyond a Major third.

 

VIBRATO

       Vibrato (vib) All bass players vibrate with their left hand fingers all the time. But then again, it is a very personal question how much and how fast. It is up to you.

 

Standard Vibrato

 

Heavy Vibrato

       Vibrate the tone in a fraction of a tone up and back. Vibrate either slowly or fast.

 

Blues Notes

       Blues Notes (no official symbol, often just a natural sign or a b) are the revolutionary notes of Jazz and Rock that reinvented the microtones which had been away from Western Music for 2,000 years. In the blues scale, you pull the string about 70% of a half note on the blues notes, the blues third, the blues seventh and sometimes on the blues fifth (see Scales in All Aspects of ROCK & JAZZ 1/Music Theory). You need to rehearse these pulls for a long time, especially on the heavy bass strings (the thin guitar strings are easier to pull). You must learn to hear the correct pitch of the blues, which varies among the musicians as with the Arab microtones among Arab musicians. You have to learn by listening to records, the radio or other musicians.

Tremolo

       Tremolo (/) is not the same as vibrato although they are closely related. Like vibrato, tremolo is the signature of the individual player. It consists of row of fast strokes with the right hand, almost like a mandolin but more discreet (Vibrato is carried out with the left hand).

 

        

 

With Plectrum or with 2 fingers on one string (finger 1 and 2)

 

Duration

       Legato (-) The actual duration of a note, i.e. 1/4, is normally about 75% of the rhythmic value, the remaining 25% of the value being a micro pause. This makes the distinction between two notes more clear to the listeners, especially when repeating notes of the same pitch, where the notes tend to sound blurred without the micro pause. In some cases though, you might want to play the note in its full, notated length, i.e. 100%. This is called legato. It makes the music sound slower and dreamier, an interwoven pattern of sounds.

       Staccato (‘) is the opposite of legato, namely shortening the actual duration of the note to about 50% of the notated length. This makes the stream of notes stand out, more accentuated, faster. An even shorter duration is called staccatissimo (.), here the music sounds almost breathless with micro duration about 25% and a long pause.

 

 

Col Arco (Bow)

       On the bass guitar, you always play “pizzicato”, i.e. with you fingers or a plectrum. On the double bass and other members of the violin family, this is an exception to the normal use of a bow and always marked with the symbol “Pizz.”. When the double bass player starts using the bow again, it is marked with “col arco” (with the bow). For experimental playing you can use a double bass bow on the bass, as for example John Cale did in the 1960-ies.

Vocal And Bass

       In jazz, there is a long tradition of singing pianists, guitarist and bassists. They have so much energy in their music that they are forced by their inner power to accompany their instrumental playing with sporadic singing. You can for example add a parallel bass line sounding an octave above the instrument. This would add a special 8-string bass like effect, particularly special if the bass player sings out of tune, which quite a few of the famous singing instrumentalists do! You can also try to whistle like the Dutch guitarist Toots Thielemann (he actually sings in tune, a rare example).

Scordatura / Alternative Tunings

       Guitarists sometimes change the tuning of the guitar, for example lowering the deep E-string to a D. Over the years, bassists and composers have experimented with alternative tunings of the bass. The technique is called scordatura or Alternative Tuning

Changed tuning of the strings is shown with red notes.

 

       1             Standard tuning (5-string bass)

       2             Variation of the sound (softer or harder)

       3             Expansion of the tonal range (higher and deeper)

       4             D tuning for fast runs (tight tuning)

       5             G tuning for fast runs (tight tuning)

       6             Makes playing in Eb, Ab and Db scales smoother (4-string bass)

       7             D tuning (can also be applied on 4-string basses)

 

Sordin (Damper)

       Besides damping the strings with your palm, a mechanical damper – a sordin – can be mounted on the chair. Some basses like the Rickenbacker are even born with a built-in rubber sordin in the chair. The effect is a smooth, soft tone.

 

 

Sordin in Hardened Foam Rubber

 

Hammer on / PULL-OFF (Appoggiatura)

       Hammer-on  (move up) is a guitar technique, sometimes used on the bass. Place one finger on the left hand on the base note and the neighbouring finger ready above the destination note. Pick the string with your right hand and immediately shift from the base note (finger A) to the following scale step (finger B). This and the following technique are also known as appoggiatura.

       Pull-off  (move down) lowers the note by moving down from a base note to the previous scale step, similar to the Hammer-on technique.

 

BENDS

       Bends  are not practical on a heavy bass string, and are normally only applied when playing blues notes (microtones), provided you are not playing on “cables”. You can combine a bend with vibrato, which is only possible (to hear) on the thinnest strings.

 

ORNAMENTATION

       Trill  Fast alternation between two notes, the first note normally shown as a grace note (half size note).

    Mordent  or Reverse Mordent  is a base note jumping up one scale step (mordent) or down one scale step (reversed mordent).

    Turn is a base note encircled by a higher note and a lower note (a combination of the mordent and reversed mordent).

 

DYNAMICS

       Playing loud or soft is another obvious articulation method. In classical music, there is a system of dynamic markers for examples piano () soft and forte () strong.

 

Standard Bass Phrases

 

The following standard phrases are but a few examples of the thousands of phrases in rock and jazz. Nevertheless, they should be sufficient for the beginner, making it easier to start playing in a band. In a couple of years, the bass player will have developed his/her own style - or stopped playing the bass. Phrases, you see, can be a good tool for the novice, but the sooner you start playing yourself the sooner you become a good musician.

   The phrases are not part of specific chord progressions, but can be employed with various chords. If the phrase does not fit certain chords, for example minor or major seven, a note will be made below the phrase. All the phrases are shown in A-major.

 

Blues, Standard Phrases

 

 

 

 

 


Jazz, Standard Phrases

 

 

 

 

 

Rock, Standard Phrases

 

(See also All Aspects of ROCK & JAZZ /1 Music Theory, Scales, Melodic Outline)

 

 

 

 

Hip hop and Afar, Standard Phrases

 

 

 

 

Folk Music, Standard Phrases

 

 

 

Bass Links

General Reading

The Monk Montgomery Electric Bass Method
Mont Montgomery

(Studio 224, Indiana)

Visit the Publishing House

A good introduction to the electric bass with a lot of good exercises, written by the first electric bass player in the world!

 

Electric Bass Guitar
Clauren Canty

(Chappel, London)

Visit the Publishing House

Short but well-written bass primer. Almost no exercises, but various interesting explanations of bass techniques shown as drawings.

 

Special Techniques

Electric Bass Technique 1-2
Valda Hammic

Visit the Publishing House

A provocative book on electric bass technique. Exciting methods and – not the least – a lot of challenging exercises.

 

Tuning the Guitar by Ear

by Gerald Klickstein

Visit the Publishing House

A compelling book on how to tune the guitar / bass according to the actual pitches of the strings and intervals, which are not always “in tune” according to simple mathematics. A very rewarding tuning method.

 

The Contemporary Contrabass
Bertram Turetzky

Visit the Publishing House

Special “modernistic” tricks for the double bass, which are of interest to the electric bass players as well. Including a really good introduction to amplifier technique.

 

Perfect Pick Technique for Guitar
Ivor Mairants

Visit the Publishing House

Although it is written for guitar players, this book will be very useful for bass players using the plectrum.

 

Exercises

Electric Bass Lines 1-6
Carol Kaye

(Gwyn Publishing)

Visit the Publishing House

An excellent collection of exercises. Many good riffs to “steal”. The “solfége” principles of Carol Kay is not my favourite system, but the exercises are classics.

 

STYLE

Rock Sociology

Simon Frith

(Cambridge University Press)

Visit the Publishing House

A comprehensive book on rock culture and its social relations. Interesting reading for any rock musician.

 

WEB Sites

bassguitarist.com

http://www.bassguitarist.com

Large, general bass guitar site.

 

basstabarchive.com

http://www.basstabarchive.com

All you want to know about bass tablature.

 

talkbass.com

http://www.talkbass.com/

General bass guitar site.

 

activebass.com

http://activebass.com/

Interesting educational bass guitar site.

 

bassdogs.com

http://www.bassdogs.com/

Bulletin board for bass players.

 

basstabz.com

http://www.basstabz.com/

General bass guitar site.