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All Aspects of ROCK & JAZZ
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classical musicians: Free note writing software and much more.
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Bass Finger Settings 2
Col Arco (Bow) 5
And Bass. 5
Alternative Tunings. 5
on / PULL-OFF (Appoggiatura) 6
Standard Phrases. 7
Jazz, Standard Phrases. 8
and Afar, Standard Phrases. 9
Music, Standard Phrases. 9
Bass Links 10
WEB Sites. 11
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
NOTE No open strings used. The square shows the
octaves. The Melodic Minor Hand has
a position shift, shown with the large blue square.
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
Major Octave Shift
Minor Octave Shift
Blues Octave Shift
Minor Octave Shift
Mixolydian Octave Shift
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!
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!
Major with Open Strings
Minor with Open Strings
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 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 (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 (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.
the tone in a fraction of a tone up and back. Vibrate either slowly or fast.
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 (/) 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)
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
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
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.
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).
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
of the strings is shown with red notes.
1 Standard tuning (5-string bass)
2 Variation of the sound (softer or
3 Expansion of the tonal range (higher
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
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.
Hardened Foam Rubber
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 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.
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).
is a base note encircled by a higher note and a lower note (a combination of
the mordent and reversed mordent).
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 ()
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.
(See also All Aspects of ROCK & JAZZ /1
Music Theory, Scales, Melodic Outline)
Monk Montgomery Electric Bass Method
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!
Short but well-written bass primer. Almost no exercises, but
various interesting explanations of bass techniques shown as drawings.
Electric Bass Technique 1-2
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
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.
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.
Pick Technique for Guitar
Although it is written for guitar players, this book will be
very useful for bass players using the plectrum.
Bass Lines 1-6
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.
A comprehensive book on rock culture and its social relations. Interesting
reading for any rock musician.
Large, general bass guitar site.
All you want to know about bass tablature.
General bass guitar site.
Interesting educational bass guitar site.
Bulletin board for bass players.