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The bass guitar – one of the most popular string instruments – is probably the funkiest of all. It looks very similar to the electric guitar, however, this bad boy is a completely different story. The moment you hold the bass and pluck the strings for the first time, you know there is no going back. You fall in love with its sound immediately and start your wonderful journey right away. If you have experienced this feeling, you know that playing the bass is not an easy job. It takes a lot of practice and determination. Plus, there is an array of techniques that can be used with this instrument. Today we are going to discuss the latter and try to make it easier to grasp.
Slap and Pop
Slap and pop technique is also called a thumbstyle. As you have probably guessed from the name, it uses the different movements of the thumb in order to produce the sound, while the index or middle fingers are employed for popping the strings. The left hand is often utilized for muting the strings between the pops and sliding or pulling off after the plucking. This creates a rhythmical, percussive sounds that are very characteristic for bass. Slap and pop technique was popularized by a lot of bassists, such as Flea, Alex Katunich and etc. This style is used in almost every genre and represents the very nature of bass guitar.
Picking technique employs the pick (a uniform plectrum that is used for playing the strings) as the main attribute of playing. This creates a more aggressive, rapid sound, which is typical for heavier genres, such as rock and metal. However, jazz players also utilize this technique (for instance, Steve Swallow). The main movements that are connected with picks are upstrokes and downstrokes, or either just downstrokes. Stroking the strings with picks produces a more violent sound, which makes this technique really stand out.
Have you ever noticed different pulses in music? Those short badass sounds that cut through the mix no matter what? Well, this yummy treat is achieved by palm-muting technique. This basically means that you place the edge of your palm on the bridge while playing and mute the strings. This creates notes that have shorter sustain. The harder you press the palm, the more momentary the sustain will be. Palm-muting technique can be employed with picks or fingers depending on your preferences.
Fretting techniques are by far the most versatile. There are quite a few variations, however, today I am going to list down only a couple of them. A fretting hand is the one you hold on the neck, which means all the techniques involve the movements of the indicated hand. The most common one is “one finger per fret”. This technique requires for each of your fretting fingers to be pressed on different frets, which creates a bigger room for movement. Another way of fretting is “four fingers in three frets”, which is quite self-explanatory. You could also use sliding motion, plucking, muting and bending with your fretting hand, all of them creating various sounds. Just keep in mind that different fretting techniques work with different music. The key here is to find the one that suits your sound the most.
Two-handed Tapping Technique
This one is also quite self-explanatory, but for the sake of clarification, let’s break it down a bit. Two-handed tapping involves placing both hands on the fretboard, and pressing and holding the string to the fret. When the string hits the fret, the sound is created. This technique (since it uses both hands) provides the guitarist with a lot of sonic possibilities and can be altered in many ways. A lot of bass players utilize two-handed tapping in their performance, for instance, John Entwistle, Cliff Burton, Mark King and etc.
To put it simply, chucking is the technique that plucks the strings with an imaginary pick. It employs an index finger that is supported with a thumb in order to create fast rhythmical movements in the sound. Chucking gives the guitarist an option to switch between plucking and finger techniques without fussing and messing with the pick. This makes it easier to play your desired sounds and creates a one-of-a-kind performance.
The list of playing techniques could go on and on, but we had to stop somewhere. The techniques that I have mentioned in the article are the most common for bass and are preferred by the majority of bassists. If you play this instrument, you have a lot of options to choose from. You could even use different combinations. One way or another, bass makes all your musical dreams come true and the techniques are magic wands that make it all happen. Enjoy!
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Music industry has seen quite a few guitar virtuosos. Their performances and creations have mesmerized and inspired a lot of us, motivating us to take our guitars and start playing. This is the truth that we all are aware of. However, there are some people, who were not content with mere performance. They strived for something bigger and did everything to achieve their goal. One of those legendary people is, of course, Lester William Polsfuss (a.k.a. Les Paul). Not only was he an amazing jazz, country and blues guitarist, but he also was an inventor who built his own solid-body electric guitar. This creation basically revolutionized the musical instruments and laid fundament for further development. This article will briefly discuss the history of Les Paul’s first solid-body electric guitar.
During his teenage years, Les created his own electric guitar. He would perform at a local drive-in restaurant and that is where he came up with the idea. He started thinking of ways to amplify his guitar. For this, young Lester took some parts of his father’s phonograph, attached them to his instrument and created his first electric guitar. However, it still was not what he was looking for and he knew that the problem was the hollow body of the guitar. He tried filling his instrument with different stuff but nothing seemed to be working. So Les continued his search for the sound he always desired.
The main leap in the development of Les Paul’s electric guitar took place in 1940s. This is when “the Log” was born. With the ability to work in the Epiphone factory and the access to their tools, Les finally had the chance to design his electric guitar. He constructed the instrument with small piece of pine, strings, handmade pickups, the bridge, Virola tailpiece and the neck of Epiphone Broadway guitar. He could finally get the sound he wanted.
However, not everybody agreed with him. When he first performed with the “Log”, the audience did not really like the sound. Lester took a step further and attached wings to his instrument without changing anything about the sound. This way it would look more like a guitar. The feedback was way better this time, which led Les Paul to think that people pay more attention to the looks of something, rather than the sound.
It took Lester quite some time to find the companies that would be interested in his creation. Around the same time when Leo Fender was developing Telecaster (which is considered the first commercial solid-body electric guitar), Gibson got into Les Paul’s idea and decided to produce the electric guitar. The very first Les Paul hit the market in 1952 and became one of the most famous and ubiquitous electric guitars. The most special and beloved thing about this instrument was its pristine sound and the lack of undesirable noise. Even though Lester was not the one who invented a solid-body electric guitar, he contributed to its development a great deal. Even the fact that he built it from scratch speaks volumes about the craftsmanship he possessed.
Even though the development of solid-body electric guitar is considered as Les Paul’s biggest creation, it was not the only novelty. In early years he created a Harmonica holder with a coat-hanger. Since radio was a big part of his life, he also created his own crystal radio and later even developed a simple radio station. Lester was 14 when he built his first recording apparatus and perfected it through the years. Les Paulverizer was also one of his inventions. This guitar genius experimented with guitar effects (such as overdubbing, tape delay, phasing…) and contributed to their widespread utilization.
For me, Les Paul is one of the greatest musicians. It is not the playing skills he possessed or the compositions he wrote that makes me so affectionate about him. Neither are his inventions (even though I appreciate him for that as well). His constant search of the perfect sound, his interminable desire to create more is what inspires me the most. Whether you are a guitarist or have no connection with music at all, the main thing in life is to always strive for creation. The core meaning the humankind is based on this phenomenon. Creativity, open-mindedness and the unending desire are the driving forces that have brought the humankind to the heights we are at now. Les Paul was truly someone to look up to. Even reading about his life fills you up with hope that anything is possible. Yes, he invented his own solid-body electric guitar but his footprint is way bigger than that. He left the heritage that will always be remembered.
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