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Jazz Bass Lessons: Thumb Position - Transition Exercise

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Now we're gonna deal
with thumb position.
And first I wanna work on
the transition to thumb position.
Thumb position is not to be feared.
I mean,
it's just the other part of the bass.
And I think there have been a lot of
inroads in music education, where they've
taken young students, and actually started
them up here, and then brought them down.
So it's not the same fearful unknown,
mysterious thing that sometimes we were
presented with when we were coming up.
If you were learning bass in the 60s and
70s, sometimes it was like no no,
you can't play up there.
Actually, in some ways,
since the notes are closer together
it can be a benefit up there.
There's certain things
that get easier up there.
Yes, it comes with challenges, too.
When the notes are closer together,
if you're a little bit off,
it's more obvious.
But I would like you to view it
as an opportunity and a chance
to explore the lyricism and the sweetness
of the upper register of the instrument.
And I think you'll really enjoy it,
So let's start from the E position.
Make sure we have a nice E natural on
the G string.
And use your A string to measure it
to make sure you have one.
So we have the first finger.
Now notice I'm not letting my
forearm collapse or the wrist bend.
I'm trying to keep that straight line.
Now the F sharp.
We'll just think
of it in the bottom of an E minor scale.
Now once we get up here,
this is the transition.
When we move from the E, D, F sharp,
then we bring the thumb around and
glide and we hit that G.
You can play harmonic to
make sure you have it.
And I want your hand lined up so
your forearm comes around a little
bit to give you every chance to play.
So this is E, F sharp,
see the G comes around.
Now people get their calluses in
different places on their thumb.
For years, I had mine lower down,
and now I have mine right
where the bottom of the fingernail hits
the flesh, so that's kind of important.
That helps you have
a better hand position.
For years I did it on the other part
of the thumb, so I have two calluses.
See how I'm doing this?
The transition is a gliding
and you can exaggerate too.
Let's do a little exercise for
the transition.
We're going
E, F sharp, and
then we bring it around for the A, A, B.
Now a lot of what we do in thumb
position is gonna be thumb one,
either thumb one, two, three.
Or thumb one, three.
Thumb one, two.
And try to keep this finger,
the pinky, from sticking out.
Cuz it sometimes creates tension,
and that's not a good thing up here.
So see this transition?
Now when you're playing pizzicato,
it's a challenge in thumb
position to make the notes ring.
If we had a bow in our hands,
the bow's an easy sustainer.
And we can do this transition and
use sliding exercise with the bow.
We're doing all pizzicato here.
we have to learn how to make the bass sing
up there with pizzicato.
So make sure you don't pick too
close to the, you don't bring your
hands too close together cuz then
you're making your string length so
short at this point that
it really affects the tone.
See what happens when I
bring my hand up here?
Come back down.
The sound broadens quite a bit
the more we drop our right hand.
when you're coming around
we know we're going in.
We lift the thumb around and
then we put it into position to play.
Check the A.
Now when we come back
down this is G, A, B.
Now watch.
See this line here?
We've got a nice line with the forearm.
We don't want this kind
of thing happening.
It will make you play flat.
So we have to bring this around.
G, A, B.
Now when we come back down,
we're gonna glide.
We're not gonna hop and go.
So that was the thing that I used to do.
And I had teachers help me to not do
that by doing a gliding exercise.
We go here, B, A and then.
See what I'm doing?
we wanna end up on the F
sharp with the fourth finger.
So we can even sorta slide with the fourth
finger from thumb position, just to over
exaggerate the connection between thumb
position and the regular positions.
See what
I'm doing?
So here's
three, two.
I mean, three, one, thumb,
then we slide down with the fourth finger.
That time I took the slide out.
Now remember,
the numbering thumb position.
Thumb is T, it has a T for thumb.
One, two, three.
We don't really use our fourth
finger in thumb position, so
it's always T one, two,
three, in some order.
do that slowly.
Really work that.
Check the A.
B with the E string.
Make sure there's a line there.
So that's the first part of the exercise.
It's like an E minor sound.
Okay, that's
with the first finger.
One, four, thumb, one, three.
See, I'm gliding and
I'm not hopping between
the G with the thumb.
So the thumb comes out from behind
the neck, around the F sharp.
There's G, B, A, B, A, thumb,
and I'm coming around the slide.
F sharp, E.
That really makes a big difference
if you take it that slowly and
break down how the transition goes in and
out of it.
This is one of the things
that's tricky for us, okay?
So then,
now we'll start with the second finger on
and do it as if we were playing the top
of a C major scale, but
stopping on the B again so
E, F
G, A, B.
You can use the low
A as a pedal too.
You can
play harmonic
on the G or
press it down.
that's the top
of a C major.
Now we'll do it as if we
were playing the top of an F major.
So we're going to have a B flat up there.
And that'll effect your fingers.
So we have E, F, G.
A, B flat, thumb 1,2.
Then we can do, on your printed sheet
it's a little out of order here,
but we are going to do it,
we are going to start
from E again we are going
to do the top of we're
going to start from E and
we're going to play the top of,
say we're doing an A harmonic minor,
so we're going to go
G sharp, A, B,
So E, F, G sharp, A, B
Make sure we have that
straight line up here
that G sharp.
[SOUND] So that's the top of
an A harmonic minor.
Now let's start on the E flat.
we're going
to do E flat major,
E flat major
Make sure that F
is not sharp.
So it's at 1, 4, thumb.
One, three.
This is G, A flat, B flat.
All right?
Now, let's do.
E flat minor,
That's one, two, four,
one four, one three I'm sorry.
One three, one, four, two
Then we can try the top of
a B flat harmonic minor
to E flat, F, G flat,
A natural, B flat
G flat, F, E flat.
Now, let's do,
starting from the E natural again.
Use the A to tune it.
Let's do E major.
See now we have the thumb on G sharp.
Watch what I did.
E, F sharp, A, B.
Watch the transition now,
to go from playing under thumb all of
a sudden have the thumb on G sharp.
In a minute, we're going to do some
exercises that are just moving the thumb,
starting in G and moving the thumb up and
doing some exercises to get used to that.
But right now,
this is this transition, so.
So when we get
the thumb up there,
See notice I don't hop.
I glide.
Now if I have to play hard...
I'm making sure that I'm
really holding the notes down.
Okay, we did minor.
Let's see, we did E major,
let's do E minor,
Again, to review that.
So we did that already, so we did,
sort of starting from E major below some
position and
going up just the first part of the scale.
We did E minor.
We did F major starting on E.
We did E flat major.
Then we did E flat minor.
And then we did B flat harmonic minor.
And we also did an A harmonic
minor starting on E natural.
So what we are doing is trying to smooth
that transition from going in and
out of thumb position.
This is something that takes time and
I don't want you to get frustrated by it.
It takes time and
you have to make sure your hand is
set up when you come around the bass.
Don't let the pinky stick out.
Move your forearm around.
Give you a chance,
you want that kind of a setup.
Keeping the fingers curled.
Don't let these joints collapse.
Sometimes guys have a hard time with
their joints collapse at the tips
of their fingers don't let them
collapse keep them curled.
The curled fingers help
us create the tone okay?
So, that's the transitional
exercise on the G string.
And it's the same coming down.
I'll show you a little
bit on the D string.
That's the B minor,
that's the mirror image of
the E minor on the G string.
So, one, four, thumb.
So it's B, C sharp, D, E, F sharp.
So now we have one,
four, thumb.
One, three.
the thumb,
So that's the idea.
And do all the permutations that
I've written here for the D and
the A string I'll show
you one on the A string.
It starts on F sharp.
Again, it gets
a little tight up here.
I want you to go through these just for
practice, but
it's very really not optimum.
To play anything sustained when you're
this high up the neck.
And here's the E string.
So I want you to go
through this whole sheet and
do the permutations that I've given you.
The sort of parts of scales to just
get us over the hump and back.
And keeping the forearm straight,
the fingers curled, the thumb right
on that callous as the nail hits.
The flesh on the side of the finger,
and rotating as we get around.
Keeping that pinky curled back.
And having that, that smooth motion
where our hands shift with the arm.
And our hands stay in
contact with the instrument.
Moving back and forth, in and
out of thumb position.