A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown


Lock Up riff and left-hand exercise

Happy Father’s Day, to all the low-ender fathers out there!

I stayed up late last night, because I accidentally played that Lock Up video from Obscene Extreme fest and ended up zoning in on this part that I love about 2 mins into the video. Its probably a guitar part, but I ended up figuring out the riff on bass – if I did it right, it just uses some of the first 6 notes from E minor and should look like this:

  • Scale degree pattern: [1-3-2-1] [6-3-2-1]  [1-3-2-1-2]
  • Notes in E minor: [E-G-F#-E] [B#-G-F#-E]  [E-G-F#-E-F#]

Its one of the two times this month that I managed to pick up my bass. I’m almost done editing wifey’s thesis though, so I should be able to dedicate more time to bass in the coming weeks – I hope!

I also found a video last night, after watching Lock Up, with a bass exercise that I really like. I ended up watching a bunch of other bands from various Obscene Extreme shows and somewhere along the way, wanted to compare playing styles to Steve DiGiorgio, from when he played in Death. It led me to bass covers of some death songs – most of which I’ve already watched with awe over the years – but I found a new one. Behold:

Bass Guitar Left Hand Exercise Ring and Pinky Finger Strength 60-180 BPM

The bassist’s name is Nazim Kemal Ure. After watching that video, I looked at some other vids in his channel and came across this fun exercise, which I tried last night and can actually manage. I didn’t use a metronome though, so I don’t know how fast I’m going. I’m probably somewhere around his 60 BPM mark though.

Warm-up for this week: String skipping/vertical stretch

I haven’t posted up a warm-up exercise in a long time. Here’s one I did yesterday, today and will probably use more during the week. Its meant to add a little vertical stretch capability to my fingers – something I’ve not been working on for a while. The pattern is below. Basically, just do it starting in 9th position (with fingers on frets 9, 10, 11 & 12) on the E string and move backwards until its completed. So the next one starts in 8th position (index finger on the 8th fret) then when that’s done, in 7th position, and so on, until we reach the 1st fret.

Once we make it to 1st position, we move up a string so we’re on the A string and do the same thing going up the neck until we’re in 12th position (unless you want to go further).

So, start on the E string, 9th fret, do the pattern, then shift and do it from the 8th fret, 7th fret, 6th, etc. After you’ve done it on the 1st fret, move up a string to the A string and do it in 1st position, then from the 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 4th, etc.

In tab, it would start like this, going down on the E string from the 9th fret to the 1st:

2015.11.30 stretch down tab.jpg

Here’s how it starts on the A string, moving up the neck:

2015.11.30 stretch up tab.jpg

If you’re so inclined, you can even come up with a way to do it across all 4 strings. I do that from time-to-time, but its not my focus right now. There are probably permutations that would change the role of the index and ring fingers from “anchor” positions on the lower strings to the top ones, so the middle and pinkie can anchor instead. Go forth and figure that stuff out.

Here’s what the exercise should sound like, both going down the E string and up the A string:


Left-Hand Technique from Russ Rodgers


But he’s not even English, and that’s not his left hand!

So, yesterday I read a thread on Talkbass from a guitarist who has recently started testing the waters with bass. His concern is that he wants to avoid “flying fingers” when he plays, which is basically the condition in which fingers on the fretting hand straighten or stand away from the fingerboard after releasing a note or when other fingers are holding down a fret. Its a technique issue and is usually prominent in pinky fingers, making the bassist (or guitarist) look like he or she is a tea-drinking Englishman.

One of the responses that the new bassist got was a link to a video from Russ Rodgers of FreeBassGuitarVideos.com that demonstrated an exercise similar to the one I spoke about a week ago that I read in a comment from Stephen Houghton on Youtube. The video description says the following:

Left Hand Technique is a free video lesson by Russ Rodgers for beginning bass guitar. This lesson will teach you proper left hand form which will help you become a more efficient player. We will first cover the proper positioning of the hand and fingers and then move on to some exercises that will eliminate excess motion from your fingers.

Beginner Bass Guitar Lesson: Left Hand Technique


Everyday Practice Techniques for the Intermediate Player

I don’t think I’m completely ready for this, but it was interesting to try. I was watching a video with Nathan East and Paul Gilbert (guitarist for Mr. Big and Racer X) where they played a song in which everything had to be in the key of A. It was interesting to watch. Gilbert’s faces are… well, lets just say he should be playing a bass. 😉

But, anyway, I saw a video from guitarist Steve Stine about intermediate practice techniques in the sidebar and got curious because of the title – especially since some of that stuff applies to bass. What I found was some exercises that I used to do on bass when I was first just learning technique (that I do have to reincorporate into my routine). You can see the video here:

Everyday Practice Techniques for the Intermediate Player

That video isn’t what caught my attention though. In the comment section, a guy named Stephen Houghton left the following recommendation, with regard to the 3rd exercise (which is actually the 1st exercise I ever saw for bass for 2-hand coordination in the old Bass Basics book from Dale Titus & Albert Nigro):


Jayen Varma – Indian slap bassist

I have a bunch of draft posts that I started a long time ago which need to be finished. This one is from 09/29/2011.

I first saw Jayen Varma on Youtube in the summer of 2009. His speed and his unique style really impressed me. He’s a classically-trained tabla (drum) player in India who took up bass and applied tabla techniques. I’ve mostly seen people describe what he does as slap-bass, but I think its actually tapping, or its more-often tapping.

Here’s a video of him playing with a guitarist that he collaborates regularly with:

Slap Bass ( Free Raga Funk ) Jayen Varma – Bassist, Sumesh – Guitarist ( RagaZZ Guitar Player )

[edit 02.02.2015] Since 2011, more information is available about what Jayen does. He describes his style as Indian slap bass. From what I’ve seen on one of the two brief tutorial videos (below) its similar to what Larry Graham does, as opposed to Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers does in hand position. In his video, Evan Brewer (9:30) said that there are two main hand positions for slapping, an “overhand” and an “underhand” position. Larry makes use of an underhand position, and Flea uses overhand. Unless I’m misinterpreting what I see, Jayen seems to utilize a variation of underhand.


Evan Brewer at Bass Player LIVE! 2013

Here’s a fantastic video from Evan Brewer, who plays bass for The Faceless and has released two solo jazz albums of his own. The video focuses on technique, because he wanted to discuss functions that all bassists must perform during his Bass Player Live (2013) clinic, instead of venturing too far into theory, which wouldn’t necessarily be understood by the entire crowd.

He shows different applications of the same technique in different musical settings and I like his analogy about the fretting and attacking hands as a language, with fretting representing the words being said and attacking representing inflection, like whispering or yelling.

Evan Brewer (The Faceless) at Bass Player LIVE! 2013

I didn’t know that Evan studied under Reggie Wooten (Victor’s older brother). It was a revelation to me, and it shows in his technique and in the places where he does speak to theory a little. What he says about warming up his “musical mind” in place of doing physical warm-ups was also really interesting to me, as well as his bit on practicing with a looper or other source of rhythm/melody to unlock creative potential.

Kilian Duarte – Percussive Bass Techniques (#4)

Here’s the 4th video I found from Kilian Duarte. This one shows two percussive picking techniques, essentially a raking and a flicking technique. I don’t see myself really practicing these for years. There’s a lot of more basic stuff I need to learn, but those of you who are interested in new ways to strike the strings for interesting sound applications might enjoy it.

Kilian Duarte – Percussive Bass Techniques