A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

HLBM 47: The octave

I ran both ex. 45 and ex. 46 (Crossin’ Three) for about 25 mins tonight, playing each for 5 mins at the following speeds: 60bpm, 66bpm, 76bpm, 84bpm and 92bpm. I made mistakes in some playthroughs, but overall, I’m able to play both. I’ll drill these for the foreseeable future, but tonight, just to push ahead to a full 60 mins of practice, I moved on to ex. 47. It introduces us to octaves.

Most of us know what an octave is. In a regular scale, like the major or minor scale, its a repeat of whatever note was played, but 8 notes higher or lower. It has the same pitch as the one that was played, but either higher or lower, depending on if you’ve moved up or down the neck (or strings).

So, in a C major scale, if C is our first note and we count up 8 notes, the next C is our octave. They’re 8 notes apart (we actually count the first note as 1).

C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C

So, 47 explains that the fingering for a higher octave is a constant shape that can be moved around, like any other moveable shape or moveable pattern on bass. In this case, when you play a note on the E or A string, its octave is two strings higher and two frets higher. So, if we play a F on the first fret of the E string, its octave is on the 3rd fret of the D string. For open notes, like an open E, the same pattern applies, but the octave is on the 2nd fret of the D string. It looks like this:


The exercise isn’t hard to play, it basically moves from E – F – F# – F – E, so its like a pyramid. We move up and then back down again. However, we do this playing both higher and lower octaves. So, low-E, high-E, high-E, low-E, low-F, high-F, high-F, low-F, etc.

Reading it is interesting. I remember when seeing a high E and F was really confusing to me, when I first did the “Notes on the D string” exercises. This was because I was used to playing E and F only on the E string. Its a little better now. I can see that on the staff, if we have a note that starts on a line, the octave is 4 spaces higher, and if the note starts on a space, its 4 lines higher. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to instantly recognize this though – or what will happen when we move on from octaves and eventually have a root note and then a sharpened octave, like say an E and an E# one octave higher – but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

Playing roots and octaves that aren’t in an open position is simple. Play the root with your index finger and play the octave with your pinky finger. Ed had to complicate it slightly though by having us start by including the open E. We play this by not fretting the E string (of course) and then using the middle finger to press the 2nd fret on the D string. Because my mind is looking for a pattern, this slows me down as I process it right now. Going from open-middle for E to index-pinky for F isn’t as smooth as going from low-F to high-F and then low-F# to high-F# by just moving my index and pinky fingers. Thanks for making me have to think in the middle of the night, Friedland…

So, anyway, this first exercise gets us to play roots and octaves on the first 4 frets of the first 3 strings. It looks like the next one will give us a groove to play with them – so we’ll have either roots or octaves repeated in a bar, and mix it up with other notes. Then, its on to the G string lesson. Maybe I’ll be there by the end of the week.


2 responses

  1. Pingback: Hal Leonard Bass Method (Ed Friedland) index | Ugly Bass Face

  2. Pingback: Personal Jesus | Ugly Bass Face

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