So I just bought a bass (hohner steinberger knockoff 5 string - it's light and that's key for me).
It's been ages since I played bass - I always liked playing as I felt it made me a better guitar player in terms of hand strength and stuff like that, and also a better musician as I had to think a lot more about the scales, passing tones, etc.
So anyway, I was wondering if anyone had tips on technique to reduce fatigue and improve strength, as well as to reduce grinding up my fingers on my "picking" hand.
I'd also appreciate any tips on finger picking technique - I mean, I can play with a pick, but I think playing with your fingers keeps options open in terms of stuff like popping and the like.
BTW - if you play using a pick, check out the V picks - I just bought a sampler pack to try with guitar, and some of the beefy picks play great on bass.
I'm afraid there is no way to short circuit plain old repetitive practising. Run your scales up and down the neck and if you are a plucker, learn to alternate between your fingers consistently and across strings. It might sound a bit yucky, but when you start to build up your callouses you know you are making progress. Focus on smooth playing with notes of consistent volume and timbre and try not to stray from alternate picking. Practise with a metronome or against some of your fav CD's to build up stamina and timing consistency.
Good luck and have fun... bass is a wonderful instrument to play!
They're coated, so the last 6-months+ (and this was in Florida outdoor gigging weather mind you), being coated, they don't eat into your fingers as much. This particular set is super-light so it's a 0.40 instead of 0.45.
These are not coated, BUT they sound INCREDIBLE (they're also super-light/extra light) and they last me about 3 months in the same weather (note that I like incredibly bright strings so YMMV!).
If you're concerned about them not sounding full or not rocking, take it from me, being lighter guage it is MUCH EASIER to get a "diggin' in" sound (if you like that sound, play close to the neck and favor the neck pickup on blend controls/volume). If you're wanting to do contemporary jazz, play middle or near bridge and use a light touch and you are good to go!
Dan, that is the bass I bought. I didn't bother to get the converter, although I may. I love the elixir strings on my guitars, although they do have some odd side effects on my fly's where they will bind at the nut over time and make the guitar (which is otherwise impossible to make go out of tune) have weird tuning issues as you use the trem. I have used graphite, and now am using nut sauce to address that and so far, so good. (Yeah - only these strings, and I have been to a luthier to make sure it wasn't the guitar.)
What do you think of the rotosound strings for it? I got a set of double balled 045 -130 to try out..
I'm not too worried about the weight right now, and I doubt I'll ever play like you, Dan - I think that's many years of work right there. :D
Mak - yep. If I play with a pick, of course it's easy enough and I've cheated on the few things I've played it on so far and used a pick as my fingering technique isn't there yet, but I've been practicing as you suggest and am trying to maintain the alternation over the scales - my inclination seems to be to want to start with my first finger on each string. I'm slowly getting there.
I don't see myself competing with you guys, lol....but it has started to build up more finger and forearm strength and so that's a win for me as a guitarist.
I don't know if I can provide any more help than what's been said here. I'd just like to add a couple of pointers:
- A lot of guitar players picking the bass develop great speed and fretboard control quickly, but they usually don't "sit" their fretting fingers properly so they sound kind of thin. I'd suggest working on fretting to produce a "round", "bassy" tone by going over scales slowly. Once the tone gets developed, you can start speeding up.
- Go for light strings, i.e. 0.40 gauge on the G string as stated before. From developing stamina to tendinitis is a really short distance.
- Now this may seem too obvious but often it is overlooked. Get a good, wide and padded strap. The bass can easily break your back before you get used to it. And finally find your comfort spot and keep that strap on that position. It's gonna be different from your guitar position. Since a new instrument is learned the old school way of growing habits, practice standing up, not sitting. This is true for guitar as well as I'm sure you know, but distances are bigger on the bass.
Yeah - I hear you on the repetitive stress side of things. I'm a software guy by trade these days, so I spend all day typing. After almost 20 years and no issues, I'm feeling fairly safe there, but I do pay attn and take breaks.
I also get exactly what you are talking about about the speed versus tone, and also have noted that the tone requires more attention. Right now I'm trading back and forth - the speed picking is developing strength for me as a guitar player, and then I work on better finger picking and fretting technique to actually be a better bass player (or as good as I'm going to get).
I'm using a DiMarzio locking strap - the same I use on all my guitars. It's not too wide, but it does seem to stay right in place nicely.
I'm pretty bad about standing and playing. I've got some back strain issues I deal with occasionally, so I tend to sit and play more. This is why I've gravitated towards lighter instruments, and thus the headless hohner and the Parker guitars. But I always sit and play with the instrument strapped and in the proper position. Dunno...I'm probably developing some bad habits there. I'll have to keep an eye out.
Of course, if I lost some weight and exercised some, the back issues might just go away...lol.
Mercurysoto raised a good point regarding RSI or tendinitus... light strings will help here but if you want good tone then, as with guitar, you will find this comes with thicker strings.
Another trait I have seen with guitarists coming over to bass for the first time is that they simply want to play too many notes... You need to focus on the groove. In my humble opinion (although I believe many will share this view), bass is 95% aligned with the rhythym section who's main role is to make toe's tap and butt's wiggle. A bass solo is even less popular than a drum solo (except amongst drummers and bass players) so keep it simple and make it groove. As Bootsy said on many occaisions..."It's all about the 1 Baby!".
Rollingthunder, allow me to insist on the widest-possible padded leather strap, especially if you've developed back issues before. You'll appreciate it in the long run. They can be expensive but worth the investment. Pair it with Dunlop straplocks and you're good to go forever. If you toss the bass away, you'll move it to your guitars I'm sure.
As for fingering, pay more attention to your picking hand than your fretting hand when you exercise your bass skills. Your fretting hand is prone to learn the positions and scales naturally, due to the similarity to the guitar fretboard. The other hand, though, can be a bitch, so watch it closely.
Another thing you gotta consider in you picking hand is where you pick. It's easier to play between the lower pup and the bridge. There's less motion and the sound is more constant. Additionally, it is great position for playing eights in a rock style. As you become more skilled, you might wanna move your attack and play closer to the neck, which gives a rounder tone if done properly. Otherwise, you sound muddy.
One more thing to account for is where you get you strength from. Most guitar players rely on wrist motion for picking. However, you might need to keep your arm anchored to minimize unwanted uncontrolled sound of your picking. The motion comes mainly from your fingers alone, at least that's how I do it. An exercise to grow stamina on your fingers is to practice with your palm parallel to bass body and wrap your index and middle fingers with an elastic band. Try to pick that way. You'll develop a lot of control quickly. I guess this is easier shown than explained, so I hope you get it. Otherwise, I might up a video, if it helps.
Lastly, try the two-finger "walking bass" technique. Alternate your index and middle fingers as you play on the same string or you walk up strings. However, use the same finger to move to lower strings.
I spent years learning how to play fingerstyle bass, it just takes a lot of practise (as has been stated already). If you - like me - don't have very much callouses on your finger tips (left hand), Rotosounds will eat your flesh for a while. They also rip into the frets quite a bit (depending on how much you play of course). However, in my opinion, no other strings sound half as good.
On the subject of fingerstyle vs a pick, to me it doesn't really matter. The advantage playing with a pick is that it is a lot easier to get the attack more clear. I consider this to be a question of taste :)
lol...yeah - I don't think I'll be a too many notes guy when I do play bass. I love bass lines, and fall into the class that agrees with them being a foundation of the groove and rhythm, so I'm not likely to start thinking I'm Jeff Berlin anytime soon (although he's one of my favorite players).
Thanks for all the good pointers - I love this place.
Carlos, you mean having your palm perpendicular to the strings? I think I get it. I have been fortunate to have really good bass players as roomates several times in the past, so I've been exposed to good technique even if I don't have it myself - so I've been trying to maintain the proper playing positions (albeit while sitting, mostly).
I'm still figuring out some things like where to anchor my thumb - I've sort of settled on resting it on the neck pup which puts my fingers more towards the bridge pup, but between them. When I play closer to the bridge, I find it very comfortable resting my thumb on the body between the pups.
Do most players rest their thumb?
So to the walking technique, why would you opt to not continue alternating as you walk down the scale?
Yes, I mean perpendicular, but also I mean that your picking palm should be extended over the strings, not arched. The idea is to try to develop strength and independence from the tip of your fingers inasmuch as possible. If you arch your palm over the strings, the strength is gonna come mainly from your proximal, first phalanges. If you keep your palm extended, you force your middle phalanges to do the job. In light of this, you wrap your fingers at the first phalanges to enhance this motion. This way, your basic picking hand position even without a bass on your hands should be an extended palm with your middle phalanges at 90 degrees, forming a claw, so to say. In real life, when you play, you inevitable arch your hand to reach for strings, but your basic position will keep your hand from doing extra work. As with playing guitar, steady sound and speed comes from economy of motion.
As regards anchoring your thumb on a pup, it is regular practice, I believe. However, if you ever change basses you go back to square one if the other bass has the pups at a different distance. Plus the fact that anchoring your thumb on the bridge pup will hinder your learning to move your hand towards the neck for different tone. BTW, tone in playing bass comes more from attack point than from pedal processors (I'm being mean to guitar players, I'm sorry :P). I found it more rewarding to anchor my elbow to the body of the bass so that my forearm is aligned with the floor as a basic position. (I love the contoured, angled edge of Fender basses for this). This way, my hand is naturally dropped into position to pick the strings. Now, this is true for playing sitting down, but you grow body memory to try to keep the position when playing standing up.
As of why you move to lower strings with the same finger in walking bass, I really don't know. I suppose it has to do with economy of motion to gain speed I guess. That's how I was taught.
I hope I make myself clear. This is a description of how I play. Others will differ for sure.
Ah - great point about the hand position. I've been more inclined to arch - I'll have to watch that.
lol...my guitar tone comes from the amp, the guitar, strings and my pick. I think I have pedals and the like all packed up in anvil cases in the basement - I've gone back old school for that. Not to say I won't add stuff in the mix, but rarely anything more than verb and delay. Even when I use PODFarm, I tend to prefer to mix amp chains w/o fx to get a sound.
My thumb usually rests on a string depending on what I'm doing. Most of this has developed over time playing 5 and 6 string basses. I used to keep it rested on the top-most string when I was playing 4-strings exclusively and would move it slightly off to the body when I had to hit that particular string, and would then move back in place.
On the heavy-light guage string debate, I've used both, and I find I can get just as growly a tone with light strings as with heavy and get good sustain as well.
In general I steer people who are just starting out way from heavier strings and high action. Maybe that's a mistake, but I've watched people struggle horribly when all they needed was lighter strings and a good low-action setup. YMMV
Congratulations, I love those brown notes. It's been awhile since I learned but let me see. I started plucking one finger until it was recommended I use two. After that I developed a three finger plucking style. It's great for long hours at gigs or jamming when you don't want to stop. It takes awhile to get the rythum because it's three beats, not two or four. However, once you get on to it it doesn't matter because you only ever play one note at a time. I love Rotosound strings. I do not intend to ever use anything else. They last an insane amount of time. I tell you a story. After about eight years I decided to change the strings because I thought I should. I bought some hard rockin' steel strings. I hated them. I pulled them off after two weeks. Put my old strings back on. I have new strings now but the point is they last for a long time and even ugly and old they sound better than some.
I have heard the story about them wearing out the frets, but come-on, If you play that much what's the problem. You are getting your moneys worth. I don't like sitting and playing. I find stage instruments just don't sit in your lap but if you can play with your arms rised it could be done. A thumb rest might help. You will develop your own armrest style. It's natural.
James Jamerson only ever used a single finger to pluck so I guess the best advice is go with what your comfortable with. I use three when I'm tired or have a long or highly repetitive pattern of 16's or maybe 8's to follow but on the whole I'm a two finger player. Sometimes its just a thumb beating the cr4p out of it... sometimes I use my whole palm to hit the thing and sometimes I strum it like a normal guitar. Learn the basics - and then do what feels right...