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Guitar technique vs. Bass technique

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(@steve-0)
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I've been wanting to get a bass recently and learn it well enough to be able to play in a band if i ever wanted to. My question is this, is there anything I should know specifically in terms of technique for bass playing compared to guitar? I've played bass a bit and I know good guitar technique like keeping the thumb behind the neck and keep your fingers above the strings, muting techniques, etc (I have about a year of classical playing, so i'm i know how to play good fingerstyle as well). I've heard that you can hear the difference between a guitarist playing bass and an actual bass player playing bass and i'm just wondering if this has to do with technique, or just the way they approach bass lines or just both.

Steve-0


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
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Good bass technique and good classical technique are pretty much the same. Bassists don't usually use the thumb or ring finger, and use mostly rest strokes. You spot the guitarists by what they play, not how they do it.

EDIT: Oh, and bassists play with their fingertips rather than their nails.


   
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(@steve-0)
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Good bass technique and good classical technique are pretty much the same. Bassists don't usually use the thumb or ring finger, and use mostly rest strokes. You spot the guitarists by what they play, not how they do it.

EDIT: Oh, and bassists play with their fingertips rather than their nails.

Thanks alot, i pretty much figured that bassists didn't use their thumb, unless slapping, which i'm also interested in, and the fact that they don't use their nails makes sense too. It intrigues me that they don't use their ring finger though, but at the same time the use of only one finger is almost compensating for a pick when you think about: since you can only have two types of strokes with a pick (downstroke, upstroke) and using the two fingers will give you two strokes.

Steve-0


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
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Some bassists do use their ring finger, and others, like Matthew Garrison, use thumb, index, ring and middle, although he uses a different hand position than a classical guitarist would. James Jamerson played with only his index finger. I think I recall reading that early electric bassists plucked with their thumbs only, which is a good approach; I do that a lot. And there are pick players, of course. As you can see, there's a lot of flexibility in what you can do. Two fingers works for many bassists, and it's a good starting point.


   
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(@danlasley)
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Some bassists do use their ring finger, and others, like Matthew Garrison, use thumb, index, ring and middle, although he uses a different hand position than a classical guitarist would. James Jamerson played with only his index finger. I think I recall reading that early electric bassists plucked with their thumbs only, which is a good approach; I do that a lot. And there are pick players, of course. As you can see, there's a lot of flexibility in what you can do. Two fingers works for many bassists, and it's a good starting point.

Paul, you may recall that early P-basses had the "thumb rest" next to the G-string, because bassists rested their other fingers there and plucked with their thumb.

I once saw a band where the bassist looked like a lead guitarist. He played with a pick, up near the neck, and his fretting hand looked like he was playing lead, fingers all curled up like a D-shaped chord. He played just fine, but when I asked, they confirmed that they had recently lost their bassist, and this person was filling in. No insult intended, but I just had this feeling...

Laz


   
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(@illicit)
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Í mainly use three or four fingers including my pinky to pluck, but it's all just a matter of preference and you adapt to whatever you like with time.

Also, I know guitarists who have trouble with stamina on bass, because they're not used to resting their thumbs properly on either the pickup, the side of the bass or the low E when playing higher strings. This is a matter of preference to, but it's something to think about when you're reviewing your technique.

I switch between these subconciously as they are very effective for me and what I play, so I can play for a long time without pain and at maximum ease:

Resting my thumb on the pickup for when I play the E and A-strings (On the neck pickup for a looser feel, and the bridge for a tighter for faster playing):

Resting the thumb on the E-string for playing D and G-strings:

-

Now, for when you're gonna start slapping, I would strongly recommend the method of slapping that will align your thumb almost parallel to the strings:

.. as opposed to the most less efficient method of having the thumb perpendicular to the strings (Which Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers has made popular):

Also, I would suggest looking at the advanced lessons at http://www.victorwooten.com , if not just to see the full potential of the bass as a solo instrument. I can recommend his insctruction DVD's Bass Extremes and Bass Day '98 (The last is just a concert, but has a really helpful section where the audience gets to ask him questions about his technique)

I hope I've helped. Actually, I'll just take any chance to play with my new camera. So If you want pictures of anything, ask :D

Behold! The great northern viking's pinnacle of evolution! Behold my wavy blonde locks, my icy blue eyes and my muscular physique! Behold my.. screw this, I'm going to McDonald's.


   
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(@demoetc)
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... I've heard that you can hear the difference between a guitarist playing bass and an actual bass player playing bass and i'm just wondering if this has to do with technique, or just the way they approach bass lines or just both.

You can hear it and feel it sometimes; like the guitarist will be more on top or in front of the drum beats and not really settle into the groove. It's a subtle feeling like he's just sorta floating around not really locked in, nothing really big, just a sort of uncomfortable feeling sometimes. Sometimes it's a little more obvious like the guy starts strumming chords, or plays single notes as if he were strumming a chord; long notes where there should be any, short notes that still somehow don't match with what the drummer's doing, and things that start to sound like lead lines or (slower and lower) riffing types of feels rather than having it where a bass player will sink into the harmony and sorta walk around down there and dig it and make it sound fun. The actual bass guy may be able to do a whole bunch of stuff but most times chooses not to in favor of the groove and locking in tight with the drummer.

Guitarists playing bass also have a tendancy, somewhat, toward not using dynamics as much; they're more used to being full and distorted - which creates a sort of natural compression - on top of sometimes using a compressor, so things (for them, and I should say myself because I also play guitar) are all pretty much level - I'm talking about rock guys now. You strum a distorted guitar hard and it's just a little louder than when you strum it gently.

But when they get on a bass it still sounds like they're 'strumming' to a certain extent. That's what I meant before. They're not used to, and sound like, they're not used to an instrument which has quite a bit of dynamics. And it's not physical or electronic dynamics either - it's the dynamic of touch and of emphasis in the right places. A bassist will emphasize with the drums, a guitarist, being more used to playing on top of everything and maybe playing between beats and such, will stick out when he picks up a bass.

Like I said, they're sorta subtle differences but when you hear a guitarist playing bass, you just become aware of it after a few seconds. Like he'll pluck a note hard where the drums are on a backbeat - that kind of thing.

Anyhow, great question!

Best regards


   
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(@steve-0)
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It's kind of funny that you mentioned that whole dynamics issue, because one of the first times I fully picked up a bass and started playing with it I almost jumped out of my seat because i started picking softly and i guess i gave my picking a little more power afterwards and I could definitely feel the huge difference that attack makes.

Thanks for all the advice, I'm going to college this fall and hopefully I can find some people (or even bands) to jam with... and since I know guitar well and drums pretty well, i figured if i knew how to play bass then that'd give me lots of options (also, i love learning new instruments).

Steve-0


   
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(@illicit)
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[...]Sometimes it's a little more obvious like the guy starts strumming chords, or plays single notes as if he were strumming a chord; [...]

Not saying that bassist never or shouldn't use chords. It can add great variety when a bassist uses volume swelled chords or even just double stops(diads).

I usually do a chord with a root, a third and a harmonic fifth. It sounds really fresh and jumps out in a song. Jaco Pastorious and Michael Manring do similar things.

Sorry to nitpick and ramble. I fully agree with the rest of your post. It just jumps out at me when people do the "bass is simpler because you only play one note at a time" with no regard to tapping or bass chords, which are both highly possible. I know you didn't mean it that way, but still..

Cheers :)

Behold! The great northern viking's pinnacle of evolution! Behold my wavy blonde locks, my icy blue eyes and my muscular physique! Behold my.. screw this, I'm going to McDonald's.


   
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(@steve-0)
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It just jumps out at me when people do the "bass is simpler because you only play one note at a time" with no regard to tapping or bass chords, which are both highly possible.

You've reminded me of something else actually, is tapping on bass the same as tapping on guitar? (as in 2-handed tapping like EVH and Randy Rhoades used?)

Also too it seems like playing chords on a bass would create a sort of muddy sound, even double stops... when are bass chords usaully used?

Steve-0


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
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Tapping's the same, although I think it's a little easier on the bass. The chords can get muddy when played low, but if you play them high then they're not muddier than low guitar chords. I find that an open C chord (x320) sounds fine, but going lower can be trouble. Omitting the third in favor of the tenth often works well in all positions. Chords are mostly used when you're Les Claypool. :) Kidding, but they're not usually called for. In most situations you'd stomp all over the rest of the band if you played chords. Here's a movie of Dominique Di Piazza playing a chordal tune http://david.pete.free.fr/gt115_23.mpg .


   
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(@illicit)
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It just jumps out at me when people do the "bass is simpler because you only play one note at a time" with no regard to tapping or bass chords, which are both highly possible.

You've reminded me of something else actually, is tapping on bass the same as tapping on guitar? (as in 2-handed tapping like EVH and Randy Rhoades used?)

Also too it seems like playing chords on a bass would create a sort of muddy sound, even double stops... when are bass chords usaully used?

Roughly the same, but much easier and clearer on the bass, actually.

To see some really neat tapping, try this one: http://jeanbaudin.com/vids/jeanbaudin_mario.mov

For chords, go to http://www.basslobster.com , the video section and watch the Jaco Pastorius one (just ignore the slightly silly intro he does). The sounds he gets are just amazing. His chords mostly involves harmonics, though.

Double stops will get muddy if you do them in lower and they rarely used on the E or A strings, so try experimenting with it further up the neck. That'll sound better.

Like (xx97) or something like that. I just throw minor and major diads into my lines whenever I can.

Behold! The great northern viking's pinnacle of evolution! Behold my wavy blonde locks, my icy blue eyes and my muscular physique! Behold my.. screw this, I'm going to McDonald's.


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
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I like the Jean Baudin movie; I hadn't seen it before. I think his volume could be a little more even, but the extra cool points for playing mario music make up for that. You can't really tell from the movie, but that's a Pac-Man inlay in the middle of his fingerboard. He actually plays that thing with Nuclear Rabbit.


   
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(@illicit)
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I like the Jean Baudin movie; I hadn't seen it before. I think his volume could be a little more even, but the extra cool points for playing mario music make up for that. You can't really tell from the movie, but that's a Pac-Man inlay in the middle of his fingerboard. He actually plays that thing with Nuclear Rabbit.

Yeah, the Bach tapping one is a little more impressive, but it's down at the moment.

The bass is just awesome, though.

Pacman inlay and custom Pacman Ghost knobs.

Behold! The great northern viking's pinnacle of evolution! Behold my wavy blonde locks, my icy blue eyes and my muscular physique! Behold my.. screw this, I'm going to McDonald's.


   
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(@steve-0)
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Here's a movie of Dominique Di Piazza playing a chordal tune.

That sounded like a Classical guitar piece actually, just alot deeper, tonally. Really impressive stuff, I liked his bass too, that's a Baritone right?

I wouldn't mind getting a 5-string bass or a Baritone bass but I've heard they are ridiculously more expensive, and right now i'm only interested in getting a cheap bass (between $300 - $500 canadian) that I can play at home and jam with friends with little problems. Does anyone have any experience with 5-string basses or Baritones?

Sorry if it seems like I have a million questions :lol: i just figure that i might as well take advantage of the opportunity and find out as much as i can before i go out and buy a bass (which probably won't be for a little while).

Steve-0


   
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