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Jazz Bass Lessons: Thumb Position

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I'd like to talk a little bit about
how we can get comfortable in thumb
position using an anchored position.
Just starting at the octave here.
The reason why this is important now is
when we're playing tunes, and
we wanna improvise, a lot of times,
what happens, is, bassists often
just feel really comfortable.
They sorta know where everything is.
And then they wanna play
something a little higher.
And they get up here, and they realize,
they don't know where all the major
sounds, the minor sounds,
where things lie.
And also they haven't tuned their ears and
their fingers
to be able to start from different places
in the sound in this little zone here.
So, what I'd like you to do,
is learn how to play some simple
scales that only go up to C here.
It only goes up to C there.
That's that's our final stop for whatever
scale we happen to be addressing but
we're in this little zone so
that we can when we get up there and
we start improvising, we know where all
the notes are because otherwise what
happens is we get up here and we have
to play over even a simple sound and
we're not really familiar because we
haven't done the work of burning in these
notes in our hand and getting them
in tune and just feeling confident,
that when we go up here I have the shape
in my hand and I can play these notes.
Also when were walking to
we might go up there like
this way you have it blocked out when you
get up there, it's not like no man's land.
So, let's start just with a few,
three or four, simple major keys.
Let's start with C major
starting on that low E.
So a good finger is, you got your thumb.
Make sure again, the elbow's up,
the arm isn't too bent.
It's a thumb one three, thumb, one two,
thumb one two, thumb, one two three.
Now I want you to be careful that this
little finger doesn't stick out,
cuz that adds tension sometimes.
You don't even realize, so
when we're going up and down.
Keep it curled under.
Okay, so there's C major,
see how that sets up?
It sets up quite easily,
I showed you the finger.
Now, that the beautiful thing
about once you have this position,
you can play F major quite easily.
You just add a B flat to
make it a F major scale.
We have a F major scale.
And we're gonna start.
Actually, we start with the E.
And we're only adding a B flat,
so here we go.
E, F, G, A, B flat,
C, D, E, F.
And the G will go up to the C.
A, B flat, C.
So all we did was we added a B
flat to our C scale and
we have an F scale.
So that's thumb, one three,
open, thumb again, one three,
thumb one two, thumb, one.
You can use two three, or
you can go, one one three.
See this helps us hold things in
a position so we're not unsure
where to find these notes.
We get used to playing them.
Let's do B flat now.
B flat, actually, we can't use
the E when we start on B flat.
We have to use the F and
walk up to the B flat.
So F, G, A, B flat, C, D,
E flat, F, G, A, B flat.
So, [SOUND] so that's one.
We're starting with one three, thumb,
one three, thumb,
one three, thumb, one two.
So that's a way to get that in your hand.
We'll just do one more.
Let's do E flat major.
Because now we're gonna do flat or flats.
So here we have to start with two.
Make sure we get that G, and
watch your elbow, watch the pinky.
There's a couple things you
have to keep an eye on.
Two three, one, three, open,
one three, open, one three.
I went a little higher sorry, one three
if you wanna go up there that's fine or
we can stop here
we stop at the C so that's majors in there
and that's what you should
get started working on
in terms of getting free and
having a plan.
Having a fingering that works.
Having a fingering that's anchored.
So if you hear melodies in that position,
say you wanna play a,
even just something simple, a major idea.
Let's try this and
we transition into the thumb position and
we try to play some melodies.
Say we go.
So we have,
now we have
a relaxed position.
We've blocked out the notes so
we can play them more in tune because we
know where they are and we've practiced.
Our ear has taught us how to tune up here.
We've set our hand properly.
Tried to eliminate as many
bad habits as possible.
Don't let the little finger add tension.
Keep the elbow around,
so we can play in tune.
We're gonna actually become
much more confident up there.
Okay now let's talk about the melodic
minor shapes in this rooted
position where we start
with our thumb anchored
on that octave there.
We have [SOUND] Ok, so
we have it on the harmonics, the octave.
[SOUND] Now we're gonna
start with C melodic minor.
So, melodic minor is very
important to know, because it's so
useful to play over all
kinds of chords in jazz.
We use it over dominant chords,
we use it all the time.
So it's important that you know
how to block out the shape.
It's pretty close to a major sound.
It's just a major scale,
with a flat three.
So it shouldn't be too difficult,
but let's just do four of them, and
I want you to do all twelve.
Work out all twelve from this position.
So here's C melodic minor.
And we're gonna start on F, because
the E natural is not in C melodic minor,
it's a minor so that any E's that we
would be playing would be E flats.
They would be flatted.
So, F, G, A, B, C.
Thumb again on D.
There's your E flat.
One, three.
G with the thumb.
One, two, three.
make sure there's a straight line there.
let's start
on that F.
We're already in position for
the F melodic minor.
And now we're gonna start, same position.
F one two three.
See that's a little different.
We're going up the E string now.
F, G, A flat, E flat, C, D.
With the thumb, F,
E natural, F, G natural.
First finger on A flat,
now here you can take the first finger and
extend it for the B flat, and
then play the C with the third finger.
See that.
One, two, three, one three.
Open thumb.
One two.
Or you can do two three if you want.
One, one, three.
Now go up to B flat melodic minor.
We're going to start on the F here.
Again, we always start anchored
in this position to see if we can
learn how to cover all the sounds
with a balanced hand in one place.
So that when we're playing, if we have to
play through all kinds of chord changes.
I learned how to do this where if I didn't
want to, I wouldn't have to move my hand
very much, I could stay in position and
play all the ideas that I wanted.
So, here's
Here's B flat melodic minor starting
from that F because the E natural
doesn't belong in B flat melodic minor.
It's an E flat.
So we start on the F.
A natural.
B flat.
D flat.
E flat.
A flat.
So, we have one, three,
thumb, one, two, three, one,
three, thumb, one, two, three.
Okay, so that's B flat melodic minor.
I'm gonna give you one more.
Just because it's
a little different shape.
And that's an E flat melodic minor,
we'll go up the circle of fourths again.
And now with this E flat melodic minor,
we have to watch out because now we're
introducing that G flat on the bottom.
So we're going to start on F, play the G
flat and the A flat, that's one, two,
And then B flat with one, C with three,
D is open with the thumb,
E flat with the first finger,
two with, on the F, there's that G flat
again with the three, one on A flat.
Three on B flat and then there's one on C,
and if you want to add the D in here,
you can, with the third finger and
then you come down.
So now you have a taste
of the melodic minor sounds.
You would go up, and
you would do A flat, D flat, G flat,
you go all through the key circle.
You know, finding the shapes
of those scales help me so
much to play more in tune up there.
And know, if I have a melody to play,
say somebody writes a melody, and
they write it in E flat minor up there.
And you have to play it.
If you've rehearsed through those sounds
and you have a good fingering for
those, it's not so bad.
Before I had that together,
it used to be very scary.
All of a sudden, I'd go up there and
go well I don't feel confident.
What if I hit the wrong note?
I mean, playing up here,
we have to learn not to fear it.
Actually, the notes are closer together.
Which makes it, in one way, easier.
So if we just have the right
attitude about thumb position,
it can be a lot more fun.
So that's melodic minors.
Now I'd like to cover
major and minor arpeggios.
In this setup, again,
in this position composition,
which is really the anchor point for me.
I have this anchor point that I got
into just to make sure that I was really
confident right her Of course
I worked my way up after that,
but this one is so vital.
I think if you have this,
you can do so much with this and
it can get you through almost
every situation you're in.
I mean, just having the ability to
go into thumb position this far
gives us some nice-sounding high notes.
It gives us a register that can,
if you're soloing, you can
peek over the top of a rhythm section,
have a melodic line that goes up there.
It's very beneficial but
instead of introducing you to the whole
map up here, I really want to make sure
that you have this first part of
thumb position really well in hand.
It's really crucial.
So here are some major and minor arpeggios
using the inversions because we're going
to set up here and start off that E.
So in C major we're already
starting from the third of C major.
So we have thumb, [SOUND] two on G,
[SOUND] two on C,
[SOUND] one on E, [SOUND] one on thumb,
[SOUND] and three on C.
See how we're doing that.
Watch that pinky.
Keep your forearm around so
that we can get in tune.
let's do C minor.
We're gonna start on the G
because the E flat goes below.
I mean there are sometimes way to extend,
but we're not gonna deal with that yet
where you extend the thumb
below thumb position,
just to get a note that you want.
Start on the fifth.
So you can play if you want,
you can use two on the G [SOUND],
tuck three under for the C.
See what I'm doing?
[SOUND] Three, two.
[SOUND] Five, two, three.
[SOUND] Two with G,
[SOUND] three with C, [SOUND] one.
With E flat.
[SOUND] G with the thumb.
[SOUND] Always three with the C.
Get that
C in there.
So you got that now, C minor.
Now let's do F major and F minor.
Again, we setup here with the F.
So here we have F with
[SOUND] one thumb on A.
[SOUND] Two on C, [SOUND] two on F,
[SOUND] one on A.
Make sure that C is good.
So that's one, open, two, two,
one, three, one, two, two, open, one.
Now, F minor.
[SOUND] That's one, three, two, two, one.
Make sure those thirds,
those A flats have to really be in tune.
That's a tricky thing in here.
The string length is getting
real short on this E string.
[SOUND] There we go.
That was a better one.
See, you have to really focus on
getting those minor thirds in tune.
It's pivotal,
that's what defines an F minor triad.
So last one we'll do is B flat minor.
And, again, we'll start from the F.
So now we're [SOUND] in another inversion.
Okay, so.
F [SOUND] with one.
[SOUND] B flat with one.
[SOUND] The D flat with three.
And then two on F [SOUND].
And then two on B Flat.
Keep the elbow up,
keep that pinky tucked in.
And again with these inversions,
when we practice them,
we practice them slowly.
Then we gradually,
incrementally work them up to speed,
so that if we have to play
a quick arpeggio passage like,
So, we have some some ability to block
those notes out and deal with
them in a musical setting because
we spent some time moving
through them very slowly and
sort of burning in the muscle memory
of the where those notes are.
How much we have to allow for
the space between the notes cuz it is so
small up there.
So with all these thumb position workouts
that we've been talking about there
are sheets with all the notes on them and
you can refer to them for all the keys.
I've shown you some of the keys, but
I expect you to go through all of them and
get comfortable knowing
the notes in thumb position.
Now at this point,
you might want to send me a video.
You've been up here in thumb
position working out and
trying to get some confidence and
just some relaxed blocking of the notes
And hopefully you're concentrating
on tone when you're doing it.
Making sure that you get core with each
note that you touch so that it's not like
a thin flaky kind of sound up there but
more of a substantial tone.
Remember to work on your pitch and
all those things.
So you might want to send me a video
of a scale, or something like that, for
me to check out.
But before you do, check out what
I've said to the other students,
and then I'll take a look and
I'll give you some feedback.