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Jazz Bass Lessons: Electric Bass: Right Hand Position

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Let's break down the hand
positions for each hand.
The right hand, is so important,
because it's kind of the motor.
It's very important rhythmically,
as is the left hand, but
if you have a great left hand and
your right hand is not precise or
generating and
pulling a nice tone out of the instrument,
you'll never have quite the power that you
want in your playing, or the flexibility.
So let's talk about it.
There's several different
styles of right hand plucking.
I mean nowadays
there's probably even a bunch more that
are very individual to certain players.
But I'm going to give you a bunch of
ones that are really practical and
the ones that I use most often.
So the first one is you want
one finger rest stroke,
where the finger, it moves through the
string and rests on the string below it.
I learned this from my brother
who studied classical guitar.
So if we play the G string
and we play
you notice I got my thumb planted here.
Sometimes I have my third and
fourth finger on the right hand underneath
the A and the E string to keep it
from ringing, as a muting device,
which I didn't realize I was doing
until I began teaching many years ago.
One of my students said, how are you
muting the strings, they're not ringing?
Well, I kind of unconsciously arrived
at this through many years of
playing, it just happened.
Especially with the 6-string bass,
many more strings to mute.
So, the rest stroke is
I got my hand, you can set your thumb if
you like it on the pickup, you can do it.
Sometimes I set it on the pickup or
sometimes, on the E string.
Depends on what I'm playing.
But you notice the finger
goes through the string.
So I got all the meat comes through
the string, and we're pulling a tone.
Now the D string, same thing.
You're coming through the string,
and resting on the string below it.
Now we're gonna do it in the A string,
resting on the E.
And now my thumb is resting on the pickup,
To make room for that.
And then finally,
again resting on the pickup with my thumb.
Pulling my first finger
through the string.
This creates tone.
It's not picking at it like this.
Like you see some people who
are starting on the instrument.
They want to pick lightly at the string.
No, you play through the string.
You hear the fundamental of the note.
You're going to get body, and weight.
And a lot of times,
what makes this string louder is velocity.
You pull through faster,
you get more sound.
So that's the one finger.
Now sometimes,
there's a thing called raking two
where we rake across several strings.
See we're just raking across the strings.
It's like a rest stroke
across three strings.
And that later, we'll find,
is a very interesting and very useful
technique when we play walking bass.
So now notice I'm just using one finger.
If you go back in history,
you'll notice that James Jameson,
the great Motown innovator,
played a lot with one finger.
So the one finger rest stroke is a very
important part of your right hand picking
Okay, now we're gonna move on to the
alternating picking between the index and
the middle finger.
Some people even take it
much further than I do,
and they alternate between the first,
the third, and the fourth.
Which I can't even do.
I always found that this was quick enough
for me.
I don't know.
So, so
here we're gonna use the first finger and
the second finger, we're gonna alternate.
Now when you're alternating,
you're still kind of resting
a little bit on the string below.
So that's a stroke.
That you're going to
practice with a metronome.
And you can practice in
different rhythmic increments.
So here is quarter notes, two, three,
Eighth notes, one, and
two, and three, and four.
Triplets, triplet, triple.
Back to eighth notes.
Now 16th notes.
Now there, a lot of times I'm leading
with my second finger for some reason.
But, I did practice
leading also leading here.
That's leading with the first finger.
So you know you can practice
doing that as well.
And on some of these exercises,
I'll show you how you can incorporate
making sure you're working on your
alternating picking while you're working
on a finger exercise with the left hand.
So, that's the second way.
So that's alternating picking.
For me, I just use the two fingers.
Like I said, some people use all four.
And it's amazing, some people use five.
They alternate between the thumb and
the four fingers.
I sometimes do thumb and three fingers.
say a
it's a
So I'm using really the thumb
on the lower string.
And the G and
the D strings I'll use the other fingers.
Or maybe even
Sometimes, I'll just do one,
thumb and the first finger.
So that's
another technique.
And that's for chordal playing,
if your doing a chord melody thing and
we can get into that a little later too.
There's also another way to use
the thumb is to rake downward with
the thumb, like this
That's a mellow tone.
That's just
kind of like strumming.
It's a warm sound.
One of my favorite ways to
change the sound with muting is,
I lay my palm on the string and
pluck with the thumb and mute.
I sort of have the string
muted dampened like this.
>> [MUSIC]
Sometimes even I'll mute and
use the little finger too,
not the middle finger the first finger.
Sometimes I even put foam back in here
between the pickup and the bridge,
and I did that a lot on
my latest record that's coming out in May,
called Brooklyn.
So more on that later.
But, I put foam, like the old days.
A lot of the bassists would use foam
between the pickup and the bridge saddles.
That really deadens it.
And that way you can get that muted,
thuddy thing without having to
change your right hand technique.
You can just play freely.
So that's another way of getting that.
So these are some of the coloristic ways
to change things with your right hand.
Now sometimes obviously by now,
the thumb slapping thing has become so
part of the mainstream.
But I grew up in a time In the 60s
before it happened and in the 70s when
Larry Graham started doing it, and
that's when you use your thumb to hit.
So there's the idea of slapping.
I mean thumbing first.
Now the flat line strings are not
the best sound for the thumbing.
Just to show you.
So there's the thumb part.
Where you have to be relaxed enough to
the same attack all the time.
You're making sure the thumb hits
the string towards the end of
the finger board.
And then the first finger
is the snap.
so that's
another sound.
Then there's the playing with
a pick like guitar players play.
Which I don't really do much.
I approximate that with my thumbnail.
sometimes I play with my fingernails
on my other hands, my other fingers.
Or play back by
the bridge
Now, the interesting thing about
a pick is there are not that many jazz
bass players in history that play
with a pick on the electric bass.
There's really only one that I can
think of and that's Steve Swallow,
who's amazing.
He actually walks bass lines with a pick.
And he does up strokes, believe it or not.
I don't know how he does it but
it's phenomenal.
And he's able to do it.
Myself, I used it in the studios
when people wanted an English,
kind of rock and roll sound,
I played with a pick.
It was only down strokes,
that's all I could do.
One of the other guys who's great at it,
actually I can't forget
Anthony Jackson too.
He was originally a guitar player,
the great Anthony Jackson.
He plays with a pick incredibly.
So, and also, I don't wanna forget, there
was one bassist who played with a pick who
had a huge influence on me and millions
of others, and that's Paul McCartney.
His playing was so melodic with the pick.
His tone also was beautiful with the pick.
He had different sounds.
Very lyrical, playing with a pick, too.
So, that's a very important example.
There's so many guys that played
great in rock and roll, with a pick?
It would take me along time to list them
all but, there's so many that I loved, so.
That's the pick thing.
So, now, there's the idea of
how do you change your tone,
by moving your hand between the bridge and
the finger board.
How does that work?
Well, basically, to me, it's simple.
It's darker by the bridge.
Just like on any stringed instrument.
By the fingerboard,
it's darker by the fingerboard.
Hope I said that right.
And it's brighter by the bridge.
So Jaco Pastorius, the great bassist,
he definitely played back pick-up.
And he would even switch his
pick-up selector switch to the back
pick-up to give him a lot of mid range and
bite to his playing.
And I'll show you.
I'm gonna show you what that sounds like.
So you saw what happens when I move
my hand up over the finger board.
It's kinda liquidy.
then back here.
It's more nasal.
Kind of barking, jazz bass kind of sound.
Here's the back pickup.
I'm going to switch pickups now,
you can see.
Back pickup is this.
That's kind of what Jaco was famous for,
that back pickup sound.
Then there's in-between.
That's both of them.
That's another sound.
And the sound that I'm preferring for
this is the warmest one.
So that when we start playing jazz, and
doing the exercises that are walking and
it really sounds full and
warm on the way towards an acoustic bass.
So those are some of the ways we can use
our right hand and we'll be talking about
that a lot as we deal with some of
the play alongs and the lessons and stuff.
Pay close attention to what I'm
doing with my right hand and
those things because I like
to change colors a lot.
So, I hope this really
kind of opens your eyes to
many different things that you
can do with your right hand.
It's not just playing the same way
with the same amount of pressure in
the same place all the time.