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Jazz Bass Lessons: Calluses, Blisters and Muscles

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[MUSIC]
First of all, I would like to go
over the open string names on the bass.
Remember that we have an open E and then
we go up four notes, two, three, four.
It goes up on fourth and we have an A.
So we have an E and an A.
A, B, C sharp, D, D, D, E, F sharp, G, G.
That's what it means to
be tuned in fourths.
Each string is a four notes
away from the other one.
In the theory section you'll learn more
about what fourths are and intervals and
all that sort of stuff.
But [SOUND] we have an open E,
[SOUND] an open A, [SOUND] an open D,
[SOUND] and an open G.
In music, the alphabet doesn't go past G,
except a G sharp.
[LAUGH] We don't go to H or
anything like that.
So we have A, if you wanted to start
from the base alphabet, if you will.
It goes, E natural,
[SOUND] then we do F here [SOUND].
F sharp [SOUND] G [SOUND] G sharp
[SOUND] A [SOUND] B flat [SOUND]
B [SOUND] C [SOUND] C sharp [SOUND]
D [SOUND] D sharp [SOUND] and
then we're back to E [SOUND].
So, you kinda know now your range there.
Like this, we're only going up fourths.
E, A, D, G.
The base is the only stringed instrument
out of the violin family that's
actually tuned in fourths.
The other ones are tuned in fifths.
So we have a little bit
of different tuning and
it changes the way the instrument works.
And in many ways it's a big advantage,
I feel.
Now I'd like to discuss
the physicality of playing the bass.
When you're first starting
to play the bass,
you're gonna find yourself building up
muscles that you didn't know you had.
[LAUGH] So there are muscles in your
forearm from using [SOUND] even though
we're using our arm weight,
just from alternating our fingers,
we're going to be working
the muscles in our forearm,
[SOUND] our wrist and our fingers.
Our fingers actually,
I think my fingers built up muscles over
the years just from
playing the bass [SOUND].
So, what happens sometimes is the surface.
I'll start with the right hand first.
Because [SOUND] this is
the one that does the most
physical weight bearing, you know?
Later on we're gonna talk about the
different picking styles but suffice it
to say that when we play the bass and
the tips of our fingers start to get,
[SOUND] feel the impact of
that weight all the time,
sometimes we get little
blisters when we're starting.
And hopefully you're gonna
develop them into calluses.
I'm gonna give you a couple of Ideas
about how to deal with the blisters.
When you get a blister you don't
want to pop it right away,
because what's underneath
there hasn't had a chance.
The skin hasn't had a chance to grow,
and build up, and
be strong underneath the blister.
So, I would say at first when you see it.
Play [SOUND] you can play on it for
a while, you just have to take it easy.
You're gonna have to build up, what you
wanna do it build through the blister into
the callous part where you get nice tough
skin on the end of your fingers, but
there's the little pads there at the end
of the finger sometimes develop these
little water blisters.
And you wanna make sure that you
don't play really hard on it so
it develops into a blood blister or
anything like that.
But I, believe me, I've had them all in
the many years I've been playing the bass.
So, I'm gonna give you some
advice that will help you.
When you play on a blister, and if it's
a little small one, you can play on it for
a while [SOUND].
And if you're lucky you keep playing on it
and eventually it will drain like it will
a little tear will happen in
the bottom of it or something and
the water will drain out.
You keep playing, don't take the skin off,
I don't feel you should do that
I've tried everything believe me.
I also sometimes use new skin the things
that bowlers and golfers use and
you can spray it on or it's kind of like,
it's kind of like super glue in a way.
But it's gotten me through
recording session when I for
some reason I got some blisters and I
really got from playing a little too hard.
And it helped me because I was able
to apply it, it was sort of like,
it was medicated and
it disinfected the wound, so to speak, and
it also put a little protective barrier
between me and the string [SOUND].
But what I want you to do
from the get go is not try to
pull the sound so
much with just your finger.
Let the arm weight help pull the sound.
I think this will help you not get so
many blisters as you might from
just playing hard all time.
It's real easy to do that if
you're always playing hard.
So if the water blister is a bigger one,
sometimes what I do is I
disinfect a little pin.
You know, if I have to put
a match on it or put a flame on.
Disinfect it, and I'll put a tiny prick
in it and drain all the water out.
But leave the skin so
that the skin doesn't peel off.
The skin peels off, it's very painful and
you sort of have a little crevice
in the tip of your finger.
That's no good.
So I'll even put the new
skin over the blister.
The skin that's there to solidify it and
let it heal underneath.
After awhile the new skin
will come up underneath.
Your actual skin will be growing.
Your body will be growing new
skin underneath the blister.
And eventually the blister itself
will sort of peel off and fall away.
And you'll have some good skin underneath.
That's my recommendation to deal with
the blisters that will come inevitably.
So, but
you can lessen it by [SOUND] making sure
that you use the side of your finger.
Also use the meat [SOUND] you
can learn a lot from just
watching the way the string
is addressed by the finger.
The finger touches the string and
it moves through it [SOUND].
Talk about a rest stroke where you pluck
and your finger rests on the next string.
Try to use as much meat as you can and
not always try to do it all at the tip.
Cuz the sound is not at the tip.
The sound is in your arm sss,
the weight of your arm.
So, that's the right hand.
Now there's an issue with the left hand.
The left hand will take some
time to build up calluses.
You need to get a little
hardened skin here, and
it takes just a little while and
you just have to keep playing.
Play on the tips.
And again, don't press with the thumb.
Let the arm weight hold the notes down.
And don't stress out and press into
the back of the neck, it's really bad.
So [SOUND] again, there's a lot of
weight baring going on, on the bass.
You know, at first it's a little
daunting [SOUND] to hold down the note.
You might feel like this makes me sore,
or I get tired, stop.
I mean,
make sure that you take lots of breaks and
realize that it takes a while to build
up the strength to hold the note down.
It might look sort of simple now but
I've been wrestling with this thing for
many years.
So, I mean [SOUND] it's gonna take
a little while to build up the strength in
each finger.
And mainly we're dealing with one
[SOUND] two [SOUND] and four [SOUND].
Third finger is there for support for
the fourth finger in the low
positions on the bass.
We don't use it by itself traditionally.
So, you've got one, two, and four.
And it's gonna be like
weight lifting in a way.
You kind of have to build up your
strength gradually and gradually.
Just like when we practice our exercises
in a little while with the metronome.
We're gonna practice incrementally and
take things slowly.
And then build up a notch.
A little faster, a little faster,
a little faster,
that also is how we build muscles too.
Because each time we have to deal with
tempos that are a little more advanced,
we're building muscles and coordination.
There's a lot of things that
are happening physically with the bass.
So I just want you to be
a little savvy about that and
realize that you gotta
be kind to your body.
And don't try to push yourself too soon.
It takes time, and
really resist the temptation to press
your thumb into the back of the neck.
That really, that can really tighten up
your forearm and hurt your fingers too,
and you can really get sore.
But if you do feel a little sore, stop.
Take a break.
Chances are you haven't ever had to use
the tips of your fingers like this before,
so let me show you.
You'll get calluses on the tip.
You can see, if we can get a close up,
that my fingers have calluses.
They're not really obvious,
but they're there.
They have been you know sort
of conditioned over the years.
And I've had also some situations in
the summer time when there's a lot of
humidity and I'm playing touring around.
Sometimes I get water blisters anyway even
though I have strong hands at this point
just from playing outdoors and
being tempted to play too hard
because I'm not getting any sound
back from the walls of a theater say.
It's outdoors the sound just goes away and
sometimes you feel like wow
I'm not hearing myself.
And you play too hard.
So the fingers do take
a beating at times but
I would say, don't worry about it.
I've given you some ideas to repair them.
What you don't want ever is
the blisters to get infected so
make sure you use something on them,
like don't just let them drain
without using some sort
of antiseptic on them.
Okay.
So, good luck with your blisters and
your muscles, and your calluses.
But remember [SOUND] you want to build the
muscles in your fingers and in your arm.
And you do that gradually.
[MUSIC]