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Jazz Bass Lessons: Electric Bass: Left Hand Position

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In teaching the electric bass now for
at least, I would say, 30 years.
I found with regard to left hand,
it is very important to have a plan.
About your left hand position,
and the fingerings you use, and
different articulations that you
can use with your left hand.
Some of the people, you know,
before I said sometimes don't
understand how important the right
hand is, I'm left handed.
And I found that a lot of
my right handed students
thought their right hand
was the whole deal.
When in fact, there's a lot of
expression rhythmic time playing, and
sonic variance that happens
with your left hand only.
I was very fortunate, because my older
brother studied classical guitar and
he's three years older than me.
So at a fairly young age,
he started studying and
people started setting up
his left hand for him.
Showing him the most ergonomic
way to deal with the left hand.
So I adopted a lot of, the hand position,
some of the scale fingerings that he used
for classical guitar and different things.
So basically,
we're gonna set our fingers up like this,
there's gonna be sort of a rounded C.
Not unlike acoustic bass,
position separate.
we're going to use one finger per fret.
So the thumb can sit behind
the second finger and
sometimes it's between the first and
second fingers, behind the neck.
And this
So each finger gets a fret.
So the balance of the hand,
once you approach the left hand when you
approach the neck with your left hand,
a lot times people come at it with
their thumb over the top or
their elbows like this or like that.
Really it should be very natural where you
just come straight at the neck like this.
See what I'm doing?
Straight at the neck, I'm relaxed, I'm
not pressing to hard with my thumb into
the back of the neck and I have my palm
straight, and not like this too much.
But just kinda straight, and
have the fingers curled.
This helps you get around.
I mean, at first it's gonna be, maybe,
unusual, if you've had your hand and
arm in different places.
And develop bad habits.
When my brother first showed me this,
I was playing like this,
and really wasn't too ergonomic.
So it took me a minute to get
the discipline of setting up my hand well.
But once you do, it's really gonna
help you play so much better.
So the numberings of all these exercises
that I've written out a lot of exercises
for you, for left hand stuff.
It goes one, two, three, four.
First finger, second, third is
the ring finger, and pinky is four.
So, and you'll also notice that underneath
the exercises there are roman numerals for
each string.
The G string,
the highest string is number one.
The D string is two.
The A string is three and
then you'll see the roman numeral sign for
four is the low E string.
Which is like an L and a V together.
So that's the idea for what I'm gonna use.
Now, the spacing in the low positions,
I use some of the acoustic bass
spacing for, say, a whole step.
Because, like I say we have,
say we play an E major scale
starting from the low E.
There's a big space right here between
the F sharp and the G sharp.
And, just look at the shape of it for now,
even if you,
don't worry about the notes yet.
That's a shape for that low fingering of
it, cuz now the frets
are farther apart down here,
and they get closer up here.
So sometimes people try
to do it with their
third finger for
the spacing for a whole step.
It's a little too stretchy down there.
I'd like to see you
very comfortable there.
And so, we use some of the acoustic
bass spacing for a whole step, there.
But we always
use the electric bass,
one finger per fret,
when we're playing chromatically.
Now, the chromatic scale is when we
play all the half steps in a row.
A half step is
when a fret, when you're right next to
each other in a fret,
fret to fret, that's a half step.
When there's a fret, two fret spacing,
that's a whole step.
That's one way to think of it.
Since we're dealing with
a fretted instrument now,
we can make that a sure way to memorize.
Half step is one fret to the next.
A whole step is there's a fret in between.
So we have to learn to choose
between when we use these open fingerings
with open strings or
when we use closed fingerings.
And I'll illustrate.
Say we wanna play a simple
scale starting on the lowest note
that we fret, which is an F note.
It goes up in sequence, like the alphabet.
If this is a low E [SOUND]
the next note is F.
And then G, A, in this case,
B flat, C, D, E, F.
We'll talk about key signatures
also in the theory section,
you'll learn about key signatures.
In the key of F,
there's one flat and that's B flat.
Everything else is a natural note.
So we have, we're starting on F,
F, G, A, B flat, C, D, E, F.
So, Now, this is an open,
what I call an open fingering because
we're using some of the open strings.
We're using a closed F and
a G and then an open A,
closed B flat and a C, open D, E, F.
So here I'm using
those are the the same fingerings as you
would use on an acoustic bass.
This whole step is the first and
the fourth finger, so it is comfortable.
If we try to do it like this
I believe it is too much of a stretch for
the fingers.
There is another way to
play this scale though.
So, now we're talking about the difference
between how fingerings affect the sound.
We can play the scale across in a closed
position where there are no open strings
and then it will be like this.
one, three, four, one, two four, one two.
That's the fingering and
if you don't want to use your third finger
here you can use your second finger.
Go one two four, one two four, one, two.
Different sound then.
Closed sounds different.
It's different tone.
Sometimes it's about the articulation
you're trying to achieve.
And as we go into our scales and
arpeggio fingerings down here, and
I'm gonna talk about those in a minute.
So I'm gonna leave that for now.
And just remember to balance
your thumb behind the neck.
Have it either behind the second finger or
between the first and second fingers.
And I'm gonna show you how to consistently
find fingerings that make sense.
Fingerings that, I'm gonna show you
a bunch of fingerings for the scales, and
the arpeggios that make it possible for
you to get a logic in your mind.
About okay, if I want to play quickly and
I want to use
the close fingering to move around the
bass quickly, I'll finger it like this.
Where I don't have to shift so much,
if I can set up a little box in position,
and say I play a major scale and
I have to play it rapidly.
So that's a good position, it's a box.
That's a box that you can
play anywhere on the bass.
The fingering,
I'll just show you this quickly.
It's two, four, one, two,
four, one, three, four.
Two, four, one, two,
four, one, three, four.
Two, four, one, two, four, one, three,
That's a fingering for a closed major
scale that you can play anywhere.
This is what I'm talking about.
A consistent economical fingering that
will get the notes out and then, depending
on the situation, if you're playing slowly
maybe you don't wanna use that fingering.
Maybe you wanna use a fingering
that's up the string,
up the string, and lyrical, like
So that's another kind of sound.
The fingerings have to serve the music.
The fingerings don't dictate the music.
You don't finger something a certain
way on the electric bass just because
it happens to be convenient.
You have to think about
the sound you want to create.
Because sometimes what's
most convenient doesn't
make the sound that you want to produce.
Think about sound all the time
when you play this instrument.
Sound and rhythm are gonna be huge keys.
So fingering,
absolutely effects those things.