Let’s talk about bass
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!