Category Archives: Bass Blog

Sandberg “Superlight” 6-String Bass – California II TT6 SL

Sandberg “Superlight” 6-String Bass – California II TT6 SL – Lightweight Six String Bass

Update 13/01/2021 I have now spoken to Sandberg and the Sandberg distributer in the UK. I’ve learned that there are two more SL 6-string basses planned to be built. However, they are unlikely to be completed before Autumn 2021. Both basses will be sold by Bass Direct.

The answer to the question, “why did they only make one?” is that the body was cut by accident. Apparently, they had intended to cut a 6-string body from alder. The person cutting the body picked up the Paulownia by mistake. I believe that it was either Bass Direct themselves or the UK distributor that requested that the Paulownia body be made up into an SL 6-string bass.

I also found out that the Paulownia wood used by Sandberg is grown in Spain. It comes originally from South East Asia but it has been imported into Spain and it grows well there.

My Original Post

Here is my new Sandberg Superlight 6-String Bass. Currently the only one in existence, but keep checking this page to find out if and when there will be more. I’ve been trying to find a good lightweight 6-string bass for several years and I was very lucky to find this instrument. I came across it on the Bass Direct website. They are one of the UK’s official Sandberg dealers.

Sandberg SL basses

I did some research into Sandberg Superlight or SL basses when I first heard of them a couple of years ago. They are made in Germany. They make the bodies out of a very lightweight and strong wood called Paulownia. I stopped researching the basses because they only offered them as 4-string and 5-string basses. They still do only offer 4 and 5-string “Superlight” basses. But, every now and then I’ve been checking them online to see if there were plans for a 6-string version.

It was during one of these online searches that I came across Bass Direct offering a Sandberg California II TT6 “Superlight”. I Immediately started doing more research to find out when Sandberg had started making 6-string Superlight basses. But when I went on the Sandberg website, it said that the SL basses were only available in 4-string and 5-string. So, I emailed Bass Direct to try and find out what the story was, and apparently this is currently the only one.

I didn’t get a lot of information from Bass Direct, but what they said is that the 6-string Paulownia body was initially made by mistake. Having made the body they finished making the bass and offered it to Bass Direct. Apparently Bass Direct had suggested an SL 6-string previously. I have emailed Sandberg to ask for more info but I’ve received no reply yet. I will email them again with a link to the video and hopefully they will get back to me at some point.

Use Headphones

I’m sure that anyone visiting my website already knows this. There is a recurring problem if you run a YouTube channel for bass players. The problem is that most people watch YouTube videos while listening to the internal speakers in their phone/tablet/computer. And those speakers are very bad at reproducing low frequency sound. So, when I produce a video, I have to decide if I’m going to EQ out most of the low end. If I don’t do that, then the sound will either distort when most people listen to it, or it will just sound very quiet.

The problem is worst when I’m trying to demonstrate a product, like today. There’s no point in me saying “here is what it sounds like when I boost the bass” and then EQing out the bass afterwards so I can push up the levels. So the sound of the bass in this video is almost completely unedited. I haven’t compressed it or EQ’d it for the benefit of phone speakers.

The moral of this story is that if you want to hear the low end, use headphones or a good speaker. This is particularly true of todays video. I always test my videos by listening to them on different devices before I upload them. I know that some of this is inaudible on small speakers. If I push up the levels it will distort badly. The only solution would be to EQ out the bass which would defeat the point of the video. So I have left the audio alone. Use headphones.

Find a video about my Overwater Hollowbody 6-String Bass here.

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios with Approach Notes Exercise – Bass Practice Diary 138

6-String Bass Exercise – Diatonic 7ths with Approach Notes – Bass Practice Diary – 15th December 2020

I’ve spoken recently in my Bass Practice Diary videos about how the addition of chromatic approach notes to diatonic exercises can immediately create a jazz sound in your lines. This “approach notes” exercise is a development of that idea. I’ve featured a few 6-string bass exercises in my videos this year. This one involves playing descending diatonic 7th arpeggios, with a chromatic approach note before the start of each four note arpeggio.

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios

I’ve demonstrated this idea in the key of C major. Because it’s always the easiest key to demonstrate an idea that relates to diatonic harmony. The idea of diatonic 7th chords is simply that you build four note chords by taking the 1st (root), 3rd, 5th & 7th notes of the major scale. You can then repeat this pattern of taking alternate notes, but starting on different degrees of the scale. There are seven different notes in a major scale, hence there are seven different diatonic 7th chords in any major key.

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in the Key of C Major
Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in the Key of C Major

In the example above I’m playing each arpeggio ascending, starting from the root. For the purposes of this exercise I’m playing the arpeggios descending, starting from the 7th and finishing on the root.

Descending Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in the Key of C Major

Chromatic Approach Notes

The term chromatic approach note simply means taking a note that is a semi-tone (half tone) away from your target note, either above or below. Then playing the chromatic approach note immediately before you play the target note.

In the case of this exercise, the target note is the 7th of each arpeggio, which is the first note that I’m playing for each one. I’m adding a chromatic approach note before the 7th each time.

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in C Major with Chromatic Approach Notes
Diatonic 7th Arpeggios in C Major with Chromatic Approach Notes

There are two reasons why I’ve done this. One is because the addition of chromatic approach notes creates the sound of a jazz line, as I already mentioned. And the second reason is that it creates an odd number grouping of notes. The four note arpeggios become a five note sequence with the addition of the approach notes. The odd number grouping creates a rhythmic variation that makes this sound less like an exercise and more like a musical line.

Tapping Jazz Lines on Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary 137

Tapping Jazz Lines – Can You Play Jazz Solos With Two-Hand Tapping? – Bass Practice Diary – 8th December 2020

I’ve witnessed a couple of musicians in the UK playing improvised jazz solos with a two-hand tapping technique. However, I’ve never heard anyone talk about this idea. It seems to me that there is an obvious advantage to using two-hand tapping to play jazz lines. The advantage is that you can easily make big interval jumps in your lines. That is quite hard to do with a conventional playing technique. For a long time, I’ve wanted to explore the idea myself. So, when one of my advanced bass students brought up the subject of tapping in a lesson, I jumped at the opportunity to work through some ideas with him.

How I arranged the lines

We started by coming up with a jazz line on a II-V-I in Bb. This is a very typical exercise for learning to play jazz. The line we came up with was this.

II-V-I Jazz Line
II-V-I Jazz Line

We then tried to rearrange the line by moving some of the notes up one octave to be tapped with the right-hand. The remaining notes would be hammered-on by the left hand. This is the finished line.

Two-Hand Tapping Jazz Line
Two-Hand Tapping Jazz Line 1

We went through the same process again and came up with another line, which goes like this.

Two-Hand Tapping Jazz Line 2
Two-Hand Tapping Jazz Line 2

If you’d like to learn more about my two-hand tapping techniques, then check out my previous videos on the subject. This video looks at the basic two-hand tapping technique of hammering and pulling notes with both hands. This video looks at arranging chords and chord progressions with two-hand tapping.

This idea of using two-hand tapping to make jazz lines is still very new for me. I hope I will revisit this subject in the future when I’ve had more time to work on it. At the moment, I’m still at the very early stage of working out lines and practicing them. I hope that as time goes by, I will develop the ability to improvise lines in this way.

Make Your Pentatonic Licks Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary 135

Make Your Pentatonic Licks Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary – 24th November 2020

How do you make pentatonic licks sound like jazz licks? This week I’m featuring a jazz lick created using a D minor pentatonic scale with the addition of chromatic approach notes. This is a concept that I introduced last week in my video about making the major scale sound like jazz. Chromatic approach notes are a great way to create a jazz sound in your lines, no matter how simple the harmony.

My Pentatonic Jazz Lick

I came up with my pentatonic jazz lick example by first coming up with a simple pentatonic lick. I used only the notes of the D minor pentatonic scale.

Pentatonic Lick form D Minor Scale
Pentatonic Lick form D Minor Scale

I added a chromatic approach note before the first note D. Then I added further chromatic approach notes before the 3rd note, F, the 5th note, C, the 7th note, D and the the final note, A.

D Minor Pentatonic Jazz Lick with Chromatic Approach Notes

You can use licks like this in any improvised scenario when you would use a pentatonic scale. You can use the chromatic approach notes to bring a jazz flavour to your lines. Why not try coming up with your own jazz licks using this method. Once you’ve written down a few licks, you can try improvising with the same method.

How to Make a Major Scale Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary 134

How to Make a Major Scale Sound Like Jazz – Bass Practice Diary – 17th November 2020

If you study harmony, you begin to realise just how important the major scale is. Diatonic harmony in its entirety realties to the intervalic relationships of the major scale (also sometimes called the diatonic scale). So, it’s hardly surprising that a major scale is a popular choice for improvisation as well. But, how do you make a major scale sound like jazz?

Why use major scales in jazz improvisation?

I think that a lot of musicians learn to analyse diatonic chord progressions in jazz standards. They know the right key to play at every point in the progression. Each key is defined by the notes of the parent scale, which in the case of major keys, is a major scale. So, you can break a lot of jazz tunes down to playing different major scales at different points in the chord progression. But the problem is, that major scales on their own don’t sound very much like jazz. So, how do you use the major scale to make jazz lines?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people learning to improvise are looking for a scale or scales that will make them sound like jazz. I don’t think it works like that. I think there are a lot of different approaches to improvising in a jazz style. Today, I’m looking at two key concepts. One is approach notes, the other is outside notes. The concept of outside notes is simple to understand. There are seven notes in any key (the notes of the major scale) and there are twelve notes in the octave (the chromatic scale). Outside notes are the five other notes that are not in the major scale. If you want your lines to sound like jazz lines, you need to come up with some creative ways to use them.

A simple and great way to begin to incorporate some outside notes into a major scale, is with the use of chromatic approach notes. A chromatic approach note can be as simple as picking a target note from the parent scale, and playing a semi-tone (one fret) below or above that note before you play it. Of course, not all of these chromatic approach notes will be outside notes. If your target note is the major 7th, and you play a chromatic approach note above that note, you’re playing the root note. But some (most) of your chromatic approach notes will be outside notes. And that’s enough to bring a jazz flavour to your lines.

Play a major scale with chromatic approach notes

This is an exercise that I featured in the video.

Major Scale Jazz Exercise with Chromatic Approach Notes
Major Scale Jazz Exercise with Chromatic Approach Notes

I’m playing a C major scale in ascending thirds (root, 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 3rd, 5th etc). Each third interval is two notes. I’m then adding a chromatic approach note before and below the first, lower note. So, C, E (Root, 3rd) becomes B, C, E, a three note grouping. D, F (2nd, 4th) becomes C#, D, F.

It sounds good, but it sounds like an exercise. I want to make it sound less like an exercise and more like an improvised jazz line. Try mixing up the exercise by varying the chromatic approach notes either above or below the target notes. You can also vary whether you play your thirds ascending or descending. When you play a descending third you can play the approach note before the higher of the two notes.

Here’s an example that I played in the video.

Major Scale Jazz Line in 3rds with Chromatic Approach Notes
Major Scale Jazz Line in 3rds with Chromatic Approach Notes

Tapping Chords on Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary 133

Tapping Chords on Bass Guitar – Two-Hand Tapping Exercises – Part 2 – Bass Practice Diary – 10th November 2020

Last week was part one in my series of two-hand tapping exercises for bass guitar. I was looking at the basic technique of coordinating hammer ons and pull offs between both right and left hand. This week, I’m looking at tapping chords by hammering on notes simultaneously with both right and left hand.

Tapping Seventh Chords

These ideas should work on pretty much any bass guitar. I’ve used a 4-string bass in the video to demonstrate that you can make full sounding chord voicings on just 4-strings. My bass has 24 frets, but I’ve deliberately not gone above the 20th fret, so you can play everything in the video on a Fender style bass with 20 frets.

I’m playing 7th chords (major 7, minor 7 & dominant 7). These are four note chords, root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. The concept of this exercise is that I’m going to tap the root and 5th with my left hand and the 3rd and 7th with my right hand. The left hand notes are played on the 3rd and 4th strings and the right hand notes on the 1st and 2nd.

An Exercise to Develop Your Tapping Technique

Before you start, I would recommend practicing tapping four finger exercises with both hands. Something like this.

Two Hand Tapping - Four Finger Exercise
Two Hand Tapping – Four Finger Exercise

When I’m practicing exercises like this, my goal is not to play the exercise fast. My goal is to make good sounding notes and to get an even sound across four fingers and four strings. As I mentioned in the video, I never use my little finger on the right hand to tap notes when I’m playing music, but I still practice it. Why? Because maybe I’ll develop a technique that uses my little finger one day. Only practice the 3rd and 4th fingers on your right hand if you want to. For the purposes of this exercise, all you need are two fingers on your right hand.

Playing Chord Progressions

I’ve used a II-V-I progression in the video because it’s the most commonly used chord sequence in jazz. You can use any progression you want and any rhythm or style. But whatever you play, I would start by making a bassline out of the root and 5ths. Like this.

Tapping Chords - II-V-I Bassline
Tapping Chords – II-V-I Bassline – Left Hand Exercise

This exercise should be played entirely with the left hand and all of the notes are hammered on. The left hand notes are your bassline, they are the foundation of the groove. So, it’s worth practicing this until you get the feel where you want it.

When you have the feel, you can add the 3rds and 7ths with your right hand. These right hand notes should be played simultaneously. Not one after the other like the left hand notes. The right hand notes can be played simultaneously with the root note played by your left hand. This involves simultaneously hammering three different notes on three strings. You can see I’ve done this with the F7 chord. The F is hammered by the left hand while the A and Eb are hammered on by the right hand. Alternatively, you can hammer the right hand notes in between the left hand notes. You can see I’ve done this with the Cm7 and Bbmaj7 chords. Here is the II-V-I exercise.

Tapping Chords - II-V-I Exercise
Tapping Chords – II-V-I Exercise

Two Hand Tapping Exercise for Bass Guitar – Tapping Triads – Bass Practice Diary 132

Two Hand Tapping Exercise for Bass Guitar – Tapping Triads – Bass Practice Diary – 3rd November 2020

Last week I featured a two-hand tapping bass groove that I wrote on bass guitar. This week I’m starting a series of lessons in which I break down the fundamentals of my tapping techniques. The most basic tapping technique is the ability to perform hammer-ons and pull-offs with both your left and right hand. If you’d like some left hand hammer on and pull off exercises, then check out this video. Today I’m going to focus on tapping with the right-hand index finger.

Tapping Arpeggios

Tapping techniques work particularly well for playing arpeggios. Using both hands to generate notes means that you can play wider intervals very fast. That’s extremely hard to do if you’re fretting with the left-hand and plucking with the right-hand. It’s relatively easy to play the smaller intervals of scales fast, by using conventional plucking techniques. But tapping creates a huge advantage for playing the wider intervals of arpeggios fast.

The most basic arpeggio type is a triad, a three note chord. There are four main types of triad: major, minor, diminished and augmented. This exercise simply goes through each one in a sequence.

The Exercise

Tapping Triads Exercise for Bass Guitar
Tapping Triads Exercise for Bass Guitar

The reason that the sequence is in this order is because I’m starting with the smallest intervals (two minor 3rds), which is a diminished arpeggio. And I’m moving up to the largest intervals (two major 3rds) which is the augmented triad. In the video I then play the exercise in reverse order going from largest intervals to smallest.

Should You Use Compression When Tapping?

I touched on the subject of compression very briefly in the video. Dynamic Range Compression is an audio effect that effectively squashes the dynamics in your playing. It makes the loud notes quieter and the quiet notes louder to even out the dynamics and make everything the same level. You can play bass through a compression pedal, there are many on the market. Or you can add compression to a recording of your bass in a DAW like Pro Tools or Logic.

There is an obvious advantage and an obvious disadvantage to using compression when tapping. The advantage is, that if your hammer ons are louder than your pull offs, or your right hand notes are quieter than your left hand notes, then the compression will compensate and even out the sound.

The obvious disadvantage of using compression when you’re playing, is that it will amplify any unwanted noise. Any squeak from a string or rumble from an unmuted open string will be made louder. Personally, I never use compression when I’m playing, but I do sometimes add it to a recording when appropriate. It’s entirely up to the individual whether they use compression or not, but it is common to use compression for tapping techniques.

Two-Hand Tapping Groove on Bass Guitar with Bass TAB – Bass Practice Diary 131

Two- Hand Tapping Groove on Bass Guitar with Bass TAB – Bass Practice Diary – 27th October 2020

I haven’t done a video featuring two-hand tapping techniques for a while. I’ve had it in my mind to do a series of short video lessons demonstrating some of the tapping techniques that I use. I’m going to do that, starting next week, but first I thought I’d do a video demonstrating how you can apply two-hand tapping techniques to playing a bass groove. I think there’s a common perception of tapping techniques as being flashy soloing techniques. But the truth is that you can use these same techniques to groove. So this week, I’ve written this two-hand tapping groove by way of demonstration.

The Two-Hand Tapping Bass Groove

Two-Hand Tapping Groove
Two-Hand Tapping Groove

I won’t break down all the techniques that I’m using here, because I’m going to do that over the next few weeks. But essentially this groove is just based around two dominant 7 chords, G7 and C7. I’ve played it and TAB’d it on 5-string bass, but you can play it on 4-string. You can move the F and G notes at the start onto the first and third fret of the E-string. It’s slightly easier to tap those notes on the low B-string, that’s the only reason I’ve played it on a 5-string.

Why Two-Hand Tapping on Bass?

Playing two-hand tapping techniques on bass is not a particularly new idea. Solo bass virtuoso’s like Victor Wooten and Billy Sheehan have been showcasing these techniques for decades. But the popular conception of tapping is still that it’s a guitar technique. The truth is, that tapping works just as well on bass as guitar. But the image of tapping by 1980’s rock guitar heroes like Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai has left an indelible print in popular consciousness.

My own journey with tapping started as a teenager, after hearing one of the above mentioned guitarists and thinking “can I do that on bass?”. It turned out I could and it wasn’t particularly difficult. At that time tapping was just a party trick for me. But my relationship with tapping changed when I started playing with the Chapman Stick player Jim Lampi.

What’s the Best Instrument for Two-Hand Tapping?

The Chapman Stick is designed as a two-hand tapping instrument. It usually has either ten or twelve strings, half the strings are played with the right-hand and the other half the left. Jim plays the Stick with quite a pianistic approach. He doesn’t go in for the flamboyant rock guitar techniques, but instead uses his instruments to play jazz and make soundscapes and back up singing. He most famously played in John Martyn’s band. Tony Levein is a bass player who also played Chapman Stick.

Jim Lampi opened my eyes to two things about two-hand tapping. One is that it can be incredibly versatile and used musically in any number of different contexts. The other is that, if you want to take two-hand tapping seriously, you should think about investing in a proper two-hand tapping instrument like a Chapman Stick. While tapping works just as well on bass as guitar, the truth is that neither guitar or bass is an ideal instrument for tapping.

I did think once upon a time about investing in a Chapman Stick, but the truth is, that I don’t want anything to distract me from playing the bass. So, I’m going to continue to treat two-hand tapping as a fun diversion from my more frequently used bass techniques.

5-String Bass Exercises with – Bass Practice Diary 127

5-String Bass Exercises – Three Exercises with Five String Bass TAB – Bass Practice Diary – 29th September 2020

Here are three exercises that you can use on 5-string bass. These are typical of the kind of exercises that I play when I’m adjusting to playing a 5-string bass, especially if I haven’t played one for a while. If you follow my Bass Practice Diary videos regularly, then you know that I play 4-string and 6-string basses a lot. It’s easy to trip up on a 5-string bass when you’ve grown accustomed to playing four or six. A few exercises like this, when you start, will really help you to get used to the feel and the range of the instrument. Even if you always play 5-string bass, and you’re looking to improve your fluency around the fretboard. These kind of exercises are great for that too.

Exercise 1: Playing Across All Five Strings

In this first exercise, I’m simply thinking about arpeggiating two chords. Dm7 and A7(b9).

5-string bass exercise 1 - Dm7 - A7b9 arpeggios
5-string bass exercise 1 – Dm7 – A7b9 arpeggios

The exercise starts by going up the notes of a D minor 7 arpeggio. Then it comes down on the A7(b9). I’m relying heavily on the notes of a C#dim7 arpeggio for the A7(b9) chord. The notes C#, E, G and A# are the 3rd, 5th, 7th and b9th of the A7 chord. In the second bar I’ve substituted an Fmaj7 arpeggio for the Dm7 chord. The notes of the F major chord are the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th of the Dm7 chord.

Exercise 2: Using the Entire Range of the Bass

In the second exercise, I’m simply playing a C major scale over the entire range of my 5-string bass neck.

5-string bass exercise 2 - Notes in the key of C major
5-string bass exercise 2 – Notes in the key of C major

This is such a fundamental exercise on any instrument. I don’t think of it as playing a C major scale. I think of it as learning the notes in the key of C major. The whole of Western harmony is built around this key. You can think of it as learning all the white notes on a piano, but really it’s just learning where the notes A, B, C, D, E, F & G are. If you know where they are then you can easily work out where the sharps (#) and flats (b) are. And then you know where every note on your bass is.

Exercise 3: Playing a Bass Groove Using the Low B-string

The final exercise is a bass groove.

5-string bass exercise 3 - Using a low Eb in a bass groove in C minor
5-string bass exercise 3 – Using a low Eb in a bass groove in C minor

If anyone says that, “a bass groove isn’t an exercise, it’s music”, then I think that they need to re-think the way that they practice. To me, every piece of music that I play is an exercise, or at least it can be if I think about it in the right way. Exercises exist to help us play music, if there is a disconnect in your mind between the exercises you play and the music you play, then you’ve missed the point. Every exercise that I play is related to something that I have to use in real musical situations. I understand the relationship between the exercise and the practical application of it. In this particular exercise/groove, I’m working on playing a low Eb on the 4th fret of the B-string, whilst playing in the key of C minor. It’s tricky note to hit and it’s hard to make it sound good!

If you’re looking for some more bass practice exercises, why not try my slap bass timing exercises in this video.

Slap Bass Timing Exercises – Bass Practice Diary 124

Slap Bass Timing Exercises – Bass Practice Diary – 8th September 2020

If you’ve been following my recent series of videos about timing exercises, then you’ll know how these work by now. You take an odd number note grouping and play those groupings as continuous 16th notes. What I didn’t mention on any of my previous videos, was that these exercises are a great way to practice slap bass. This video feature three slap bass timing exercises. And you can take this concept and develop your own exercises.

The exercises

The first exercise is 16th notes played in three note groupings. The three note grouping consists of a note, G, thumped with the right hand thumb (T). A tap on the strings with the left hand, marked L.H on the notation. And finally a pull with the index finger of the right hand, which I’ve played as a dead note by muting the strings with my left hand.

Slap Bass Timing Exercises – 16th notes in Groupings of Three

The second of the three note sequence, the left hand tap, can be very soft. You don’t need to hit the strings hard, you just need to do it in time. Hitting the strings with the left hand has the effect of silencing the first note. So, even if you don’t here the tap, you will still feel the rhythm by hearing the note G go silent.

The second exercise is an extension of that idea. This time the three note grouping is made by thumb (right hand), hammer (left hand) and pluck (right hand index). And the notes are taken from a C minor pentatonic scale.

Slap Bass Timing Exercises – 16th notes in Groupings of Three – C minor Pentatonic

The final exercise features a five note grouping. The five notes are as follows. Thump the G and then tap with the left hand, exactly as in exercise 1. Then thump with the right hand thumb again, but this time as a dead note muted by the left hand. That’s three, the final two notes are F and G. Pluck the F on the D string and hammer onto the G on the fifth fret with your left hand.

Slap Bass Timing Exercises – 16th notes in Groupings of Five