Cascading Arpeggios Exercises for Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary – 9th February 2021
You probably have an idea in your head of what cascading arpeggios sound like, even though it isn’t a particularly technical musical term. I think that music journalists and writers often use the term more than musicians do. It gets used as a descriptive term in any number of different musical contexts. From classical music to guitar solos.
What are cascading arpeggios?
Usually they are either fast or repetitive descending arpeggios. It’s a very popular melodic device. And they also get used as a way of playing chords under a melody. In theory you could apply this idea to any arpeggio. In this video I’ve only used diatonic 7th chord arpeggios as an example. So, here are the four different inversions of a descending C major 7th arpeggio.
You can create an exercise by taking each of these inversions down through all of the diatonic arpeggios in the key of C major. I’ve done the first one of these in the video.
An alternative way of playing this is to move each arpeggio down the neck of the bass. Position shifting every time you start a new arpeggio. This is harder for the left hand.
I would strongly recommend practicing these both ways. Exercise 1 is easier to play, and it’s ok to play in one position like that. However, it also helps if you can shift positions smoothly. If you can’t, you’ll get stuck playing everything in just one place on the neck.
The final example that I featured in the video starts on an E7 chord and it uses the diatonic arpeggios in the key of A major. The inversion starts on the 5th, B in the case of the E7 chord.
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.
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.
We went through the same process again and came up with another line, which goes like this.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 – 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
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.
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 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.
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.
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 10 Minute Workout – Bass Practice Diary – 4th August 2020
This is the third 10 minute bass practice workout that I’ve released, but the first to feature slap bass techniques. There are a lot of videos on YouTube of bass players teaching and demonstrating slap techniques. They’re often fast and flashy and they almost always involve using lots of open strings. There’s nothing wrong with that, because those things are fun to play. But, in this video I’ve tried to zero in on what I think are the fundamental techniques that bass players should practice, so that they can use slap bass techniques in “real world” music situations.
What are the fundamentals of slap bass?
If you follow my Bass Practice Diary videos, then you probably know that slap bass is not my “main thing” on bass. The vast majority of what I do is played finger style, but I like to keep my slap bass chops ready for when they’re needed. This line, that I’ve written is typical of the kind of exercise that I’ll set for myself when I’m practicing slap bass.
I’ll start by asking myself the question, what do I need to be able to do in order to execute slap bass lines quickly and accurately when they’re put in front of me on a gig? Then I’ll come up with a line, like this one, that I feel tests me on the fundamental techniques that I need. So, I haven’t included any advanced techniques like double thumbing or machine gun triplets. Those are great techniques for playing slap bass solos, but I’m more interested in the fundamentals that I need to make my slap bass lines sound good.
For me, the fundamental techniques of slap bass are the thump with your thumb, the pull with your index finger, the hammer ons and pull offs with your left hand for playing legato lines and dead notes. When I’m practicing these fundamentals, I’m concentrating on trying to get my timing as well as my tone and dynamics even. So all the notes can be heard and nothing is coming out too loud.
Bass players often use compression on their slap bass lines to even out the dynamics. It’s ok to do that, but I would strongly recommend that you don’t use compression when you practice. You need to learn to control the dynamics with your hands. Using compression will subconsciously teach you that you don’t need to control the dynamics because the compression does it for you.
The 10 Minute Slap Bass Workout
If you’ve done one of my workouts before, you’ll know the format by now. I divide the 10 minutes up into four exercises, each practiced for 2 minutes (roughly). And then the last 2 minutes is for putting all four exercises together into one line. Each exercise is practiced at four different tempos, roughly 30 seconds at each tempo. The first tempo should be very slow to help get used to the notes in each new exercise. And the last tempo for each exercise should be pushing you to the edge of your comfort zone.
The last tempo should be challenging but not impossible. It’s a mistake to try and go too fast. You need to push yourself in the last 30 seconds but I think it’s a much bigger mistake to go too fast than too slow. I’ve set the tempos in this video at tempos that work for me, 40bpm, 55bpm, 70bpm and 85bpm. If those tempos don’t work for you, then do the workout in your own time at your own tempos. You only need a metronome or a drum beat, which you can find for free online.
The line is based around a jazz III-VI-II-V in the key of E major. The line itself uses hardly any open strings. I’ve done this deliberately, because it’s harder to play slap bass without using open strings. Typically, when I’ve been asked to play slap bass on gigs, I’m very rarely required to play in keys like E and A where I can use lots of open strings. It’s more often in keys like F and Bb because those are popular keys for keyboard players and horn players.
My line is in the key of E. However, I’ve chosen the chords G#m7 – G7 – F#m7 – F7. Therefore, there isn’t much opportunity to use the open strings on the root notes. However, once you’ve learned the line, you can resolve it onto an E chord, which is fun because you can then bring in the open E string. Here’s the line.
The first exercise goes like this.
I’m practicing it as a 3-beat repeating cycle. The chords at this point go from G#m7 to G7. I’ve included one dead note, which I’m playing by striking the string with my right-hand thumb while muting with my left hand. I haven’t included many dead notes, because I feel like I probably over use them when I improvise a slap bass part. I also put dead notes in instinctively on rest strokes. You can hear me doing it in the video. So feel free to improvise dead notes on any of the rests. You can play dead notes with your right hand and left hand, I usually use a combination of both.
After the dead note, there’s a hammer on from the 2nd to 4th fret on the A-string. In this exercise, I’m working on getting an even sound between the notes that I’m thumping, which are the notes on the A and E-strings. And the notes that I’m plucking on the G and D-strings.
The second exercise is this.
This is a bass fill played using a combination of hammer ons and pull offs with the left hand. While the right hand is using both index finger and thumb. It starts by plucking the 6th fret on the first string and pulling off to the 4th fret. Then the right-hand thumb plays the open string second string and the left hand hammers on the 5th fret. Then I use my thumb again to play the 2nd fret on the A-string and I hammer on to the 4th fret. Watch out for the rest on beat 1, and the goal is to make it sound like one smooth line.
Exercise 3 goes like this.
Each note in this exercise is articulated using either the thumb or index finger on the right hand, with no written dead notes or legato phrasing. You can improvise dead notes on the rests. It’s a 3-beat cycle, like exercise 1. I could play exercise 3 as a 2-beat cycle, but it flows better with the quarter note rest on the end.
This is the fourth and final exercise.
Another rest on beat 1. More combinations of thumping and plucking, hammer ons and pull offs. Good Luck!
Learn G Major On the Entire Fretboard – 10 Minute Bass Practice Workout – Bass Practice Diary – 16th June 2020
This is the second 10 minute bass practice workout that I’ve posted. This one is specifically designed to help you learn your fretboard up and down by learning the key of G major in every position. These workouts are an example of the kind of practice workout that I often give to my students. The idea is, that if you use your time efficiently, like this, then you can achieve a lot more than you might think in 10 minutes.
The idea is that you practice each line for 2 minutes (roughly) and then the final 2 minutes is for playing the entire example all together. Each line contains all of the notes in the key of G major in a particular area of the fretboard. For example, the first line covers all of the notes between the open strings and the 4th fret. The second line covers the 5th fret to the 9th fret, and so it goes on up the fretboard until, at the end, I’ve played every possible note in the key of G major on my 20 fret fretboard in every possible position .
Each 2 minute section of the workout is divided into four tempos, with approximately 30 seconds spent on each tempo. I like to start at a very comfortable (meaning slow) tempo. And then work up to a tempo that challenges me. In this workout, I haven’t pushed the tempo up as high as I did previously. The reason is because my main goal here is to learn the notes and positions for G major. Speed is not necessary to achieve that. However I have still increased the tempo because there’s no harm in pushing my technique at the same time as learning my fretboard.
Learning Your Bass Fretboard
Learning the notes of every key all over your fretboard is huge. It will make a massive difference to your playing. It probably makes most sense to start with C major, but it doesn’t really matter which order you learn the keys in. You can think of this as learning modes as well as keys. When you’re learning the key go G major, you’re also learning A dorian, B phrygian, C lydian, D mixolydian, E aeolian and F# locrian. It helps if you can practice playing the notes against some kind of harmony, which is why I recorded some diatonic chords in the key of G major to go along with the workout.
Altering the Pentatonic Scale – The Pentatonic Scale in Modern Jazz Part 2 – Bass Practice Diary – 26th May 2020
Recently I’ve been exploring some more advanced applications of the pentatonic scale in modern jazz. This week I’m altering just one note in the pentatonic scale and creating some interesting and versatile jazz sounds. This altered pentatonic scale is still a pentatonic scale, because it has five notes in it. It’s no longer the conventional major or minor pentatonic scale that we all know. But technically a pentatonic scale can be any scale with five different tones in it.
How to alter the pentatonic scale
In the video, I started with the scale C major/A minor pentatonic.
Five notes, E, G, A, C & D. The one alteration was to change A to Ab (or G#). So the altered pentatonic scale contains the notes E, G, Ab, C & D.
I’ve included the chord symbol E7alt because the most obvious application of this scale would be on an E altered dominant chord. The five notes of the scale create a kind of altered dominant arpeggio with Root, 3rd, b7th, #9 and b13.
It encapsulates the sound of an altered dominant chord quite nicely. And the real benefit to using this scale is that the fingerings are very similar to a major or minor pentatonic scale. So if you’re comfortable improvising with the pentatonic scale then this is a small adjustment.
Lydian Augmented Sound
The other way that I would use this altered pentatonic scale, is to create a lydian augmented sound, which is major with #4 and #5. If you take the same five notes E, G, Ab, C & D, and play them over an Ab root note, you get Root, 3rd, #4(#11), #5 & major 7th. It’s a great sound to play on a major 7th chord if you want to play something different to the more obvious major or lydian sounds.
10 Minute Bass Fretboard Workout – Play Along With Me – Bass Practice Diary – 12th May 2020
This week I’m posting a 10 minute bass practice workout that I prepared. You can join me by playing along with the video or you can do it at your own pace. Having done a video a few weeks ago talking about “how you should practice rather than what you should practice”. I wanted to post a practical demonstration of what I think is a really efficient method of practicing.
First I came up with a line which goes like this.
When I was writing the line, I was trying to come up with four bars in which each bar tested something different. But all four bars put together still needed to play like a musical phrase. I wanted the finished line to involve moving both horizontally and vertically on the neck. Meaning position shifting up and down the neck as well as moving across the four strings.
The complete workout involves practicing each bar for two minutes. Then the final two minutes is spent practicing all four bars together. Each two minute section of the workout is divided into four tempos. Roughly 30 seconds each at 60, 90, 120 & 150 beats per minute.
Obviously, if you do this workout on your own, you can customise those tempos to suit you. The principle you should follow is that the first tempo should feel slow, and the last tempo should feel fast. You want to start by practicing really slowly, there’s no such thing as “too easy” at this point. There are many really important reasons why you should start at a slow speed. You want to use this time to really think about your timing, your technique, the tone and quality of each note you play, your fingering. And most importantly, you’re starting to build up some vital muscle memory which you’ll need when the tempo gets quicker.
The last 30 seconds of each two minute section is where you should be really pushing yourself. You want to be making mistakes at this point. If you’re not making mistakes at the fastest tempo, then your practice is too easy. It’s really important to get the tempos right for you. If you make the practice too easy, you won’t be improving as quickly as you could be. If you make the practice too hard you might not improve at all.
Having said that, my advice is to be cautious the first time you do it and make it easy by setting the tempos slower. If it’s too easy the first time you try it, you can always push the tempos up the second time you do it. However, if you start out too fast, you probably won’t achieve anything.
Four Finger Exercise
The first bar represents one of the most fundamental types of technical exercise on bass guitar. Four finger exercises, or what I call “one finger per fret”. These types of exercise are typically done on one string at a time. So I’ve added the additional element of taking the exercise across the strings and back again.
The second bar adds the element of position shifting up the neck. The bar starts in the 3rd position (meaning 1st finger on the 3rd fret) and then it moves up to 5th and then 6th position.
Bar 3 is a triad pair. I’ve done videos about them already this year. Funnily enough, I wasn’t even thinking about triad pairs when I came up with the line in my head. When I wrote it down, I realised that it was a Bb minor triad and a C major triad. It just goes to show that when you practice an idea enough, it will start to become instinctive.
Single String Exercise
The final bar is a single string exercise. I’m using it to practice shifting position up the first string by shifting between my index finger and little finger.
What Should You Do if Your Fingers Hurt?
They probably will. There’s a reason that I’ve called this a workout. Playing the bass is like going to the gym for your fingers. When we’re practicing, we’re developing muscles in our hands, and discomfort will happen. When it does, it’s important to know what to do because over practicing can lead to injuries.
This fretboard workout involves a lot of work for your left hand, particularly your little finger, which might not be used to this much work. If your fingers are feeling very sore 24-48 hours after doing the workout, don’t panic. In the fitness world, there is a thing called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). It happens when you work a muscle that isn’t yet conditioned to the work you’re requiring it to do. It’s usually at it’s worst 24-48 hours after a workout and it isn’t an injury, it will get better after 2-3 days.
If you experience this, it is important to take a break from intense practice, to help the muscles recover. When the soreness feels better, do the workout again. That way you will start to build the strength in your fingers. The DOMS will not be anywhere near as bad after the second time.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking “it hurt so I’m not going to do it again”. If you practice regularly, it will hurt less and less as your hands get stronger. If you take a break from practicing and then start again, the DOMS will probably come back again because you will have lost some of the conditioning you built up.