my world

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How To Transcibe Music
Transcribe! slow down music software is one of my favorite software "aids" in helping me cop my favorite licks off cd's or mp3's. I also use it to figure out those 'hard-to-hear" chords.
My students get the benefit of Transcribe! slow down music software too.
For example. They have a song they want to learn. Mostly they expect me to transcribe it for them and then show them how to play it. Amazing... they expect "me" to do the work they should be doing! But I don't work that way. It's my job to teach them "how" to do that for themselves, not do it for them! But that's where Transcribe! music slow down software comes to the rescue.
I just load their track into Transcribe! slow down music software and loop a bar or two for them to learn. The thing is though, I can slow it right down to half or even a quarter (or less) of its original speed. Having it go so slow, and looping it over and over, gives my students time to "hear" the notes, learn to sing or hum them, and then learn to play them. (I might just give them a tip by saying it's based on the Em pentatonic in the 8th position for example.)
Learning to "hear" what notes are being played is a daunting task for anyone developing their ears. But Transcribe! helps enormously. But don't make too much of a habit of using it. Learn to rely on your ears. Learn to sing everything you play. See Play Guitar by Ear.
Here's an article on "How to Transcribe" by Andy Robinson of Seventh String Software, inventors of Transcribe! slow down music software.
1. What Does it Mean to Transcribe Music?
What I am talking about here is the process of working out how to play and/or write out a piece of music starting with just a recording of the piece - a commercially released CD perhaps. We would usually be talking about non-classical music as most classical music can be obtained as printed music.
You will also hear classical musicians speak of "transcribing" to mean adapting a piece of music written for one instrument to be played on another. Thus when John Williams plays Scarlatti sonatas (originally written for keyboard) on the guitar, these would be called "transcriptions" although he didn't need to work them out from a recording because you can buy the published sheet music (for keyboard) in a shop. Non-classical musicians don't often use the word this way because they customarily rearrange music for their own combination of instruments all the time anyway.
The effort involved in transcribing music from recordings varies enormously depending on the complexity of the music, how good you ear is and how detailed you want your transcription to be. If you merely want to write down the chords to a very simple song then if your ear is good you may be able to scribble them down in real time while the music is playing. At the other extreme if you are attempting a detailed transcription of complex music then it can take hours to transcribe a single minute of music.
By the way, "the dots" is an abbreviation meaning the written-out music, because of the visual appearance of written music as dots on a stave.
2. Why Transcribe Music?
Often, it's because you want to play a tune but you don't have the dots for it, you only have a recording. Of course you might start by looking for the dots (if it's a jazz tune try the Fake Book Index) but if you can't find them what are you going to do? Also, even if you can find the dots they will often be a disappointment when compared to the version you've been listening to and enjoying. Good players will usually make more out of a piece than the standard published dots will show, so you will have to listen to the recording to find out what they're doing. I'm talking about reharmonisation, embellishing chords, added figures and riffs, good bass-line movement, voice leading, etc.
Jazz musicians regard transcribing as an important educational method. Jazz has a strong emphasis on listening and improvising. Transcribing other people's improvised solos is good for improving your ear and also for gaining insight into the musical ideas they use.
There are also quite a number of professional transcribers around. For instance, if you buy the sheet music for a popular song then this music will often have been transcribed from the record by a professional who works for the publisher.
3. Prequisites
As far as your own musicianship is concerned we could say that there is only one prerequisite which is the ability to tell whether your transcription is right or wrong when you play it and compare it to the original. The extent to which you really can't tell is the extent of possible inaccuracy in your transcription. As long as you can tell, you can keep working at it until your transcription sounds right. How long this takes depends on your ear. If you are having difficulty figuring out the chords then it might be they are too complex for you. Don't despair however. Some people seem to develop a good ear very quickly but I think most people can develop a good ear in time as long as they keep working at it. I think that it's very important to play a chordal instrument (piano or guitar) in order to understand chords and recognise their sound. When I was starting out, a 7#9 chord sounded to me like a pleasantly scrunchy sound but I wouldn't have a clue what the chord was. After a few years playing the guitar and using such chords, an association develops in the mind between playing a 7#9 and the particular flavour of the sound that comes out. Now when I hear someone play a 7#9 I recognise it immediately as an old friend. I think that almost anyone can learn this kind of familiarity with chords but for most of us it doesn't happen by magic and it doesn't happen overnight, it's the result of years of playing, practicing, listening and indeed transcribing.
Familiarity with the musical style is one of the biggest factors in making it easy to transcribe. If you have played lots of music in the same style as the piece you're transcribing then you'll find it much easier to understand what they're doing. An anecdote : when I was about 15 and knew almost nothing I tried to transcribe Charles Mingus's "Jelly Roll" from the album "Ah Um". Listening to it now it's perfectly obvious that it's a blues (14 bar as far as I remember) but I didn't know that then. I listened hard to what the piano player does, thinking that would tell me what the chords are. What I didn't know is that in this kind of music, jazz piano players typically play all sorts of notes with the right hand which don't obviously belong to the chord. If the basic harmony at some particular point is, say, C7 then almost any note except B can be used to construct a harmony which might work in this style. If you don't understand this then trying to work out the chords from the pianist's right hand is a recipe for disaster (I should have started with the bass line). My final result had the melody correct but the chord symbols I came up with were totally wrong and unusable. I'm not suggesting that it was wasted effort though. You have to accept that your first efforts will be of doubtful value but we all have to start somewhere and if you persevere you will improve.
As far as equipment is concerned, obviously you need a means of playing the recording to listen to it. Some ways are easier than others for the purpose of transcribing and every transcriber has their own favourite way of working. Here are my views.
· Vinylacility, very difficult to play from a specific point in the piece and a steady hand needed for lifting the needle and putting it back down again without damaging the record. This was transcribing for heroes. On the other hand if you had a player with 16 RPM speed you could slow the music down for the fiddly bits. Some players (the Garrard 401 for instance) allowed fine control over the speed, useful for tuning adjustment.
· CassetteI considered this to be a big step forward, and used a Walkman quite heavily for the purpose. Advantages : portability, the tape counter which although inaccurate does give some idea of where you are, and the easier start/stop/rewind controls. You could listen to the same bit again by briefly pressing the rewind button while in play mode which was very handy. Slow down was no longer possible but if I really needed it I would copy to my two-speed reel-to-reel machine then copy back to cassette at half speed so my cassette tape would then have two versions, one of them full speed and the other half speed.
· CD/MiniDiscFinally the digit was discovered (in the Peruvian jungle at the far end of the Andes) and tamed. These devices give accurate timing indication for the first time so you really can find any given point reliably. The more expensive models will also loop and some even permit tuning adjustment and speed adjustment. If you choose the right model then these are excellent transcription tools.
· Computer Software - Transcriber's AssistantsThese days pretty much all desktop computers are capable of recording and playing audio and there are various computer based player programs intended to help you transcribe music. You may be aware that we (Seventh String Software) sell one called Transcribe!
· The features offered by such programs are limited only by the imagination of the program designer (and of course by what is technically possible). It is usual to be able to set multiple loop points, adjust tuning and slow down the music without pitch change. Transcribe! also offers a feature which is as far as I know unique in such a program, which is to display a spectrum analysis of any chord or note you select, as a wavy line over a piano keyboard graphic. The peaks in the line identify the tones present, so helping to identify chords.
· The most ambitious programs attempt to actually do the transcribing for you, processing an audio file and outputting MIDI or musical notation. I admire their courage in making the attempt, but my impression is that they are not really all that useful. On music where multiple notes are being played at the same time by multiple instruments (i.e. almost all music!) they make so many mistakes that it's difficult to see them as useful for serious purposes.
This document is a discussion of how to transcribe music regardless of what device you use for playing the music on.
4. Transcribing
First try to get hold of the dots! Some people will tell you you shouldn't because transcribing is "good for you". I certainly agree that transcribing is good for you but if you are at all active musically then there will always be things you want to play for which you can't get the dots, so I think you should save your transcribing time and energy for those. Also, as I mentioned above, if you are listening to a recording you like then the chances are that the sheet music will not show the nice things the musicians are doing which make the recording special. So you will still end up doing some transcribing, but the dots may help as a starting point.
Map out the structure of the piece - verse, chorus, middle section and so on. Even if you don't intend to transcribe the whole thing it's often useful to have a complete map because if the chords are unclear to you at some point then if you know that the same thing happens elsewhere in the piece then you could listen to it there - it may be clearer second time. So listen through the whole thing making a note of what happens where. For instance if you're using a CD player then you could list the sections on a piece of paper with the start time of each section taken from the CD player's display so you can find it again. On Transcribe! or other software which has this capability, you would place markers.
If necessary then adjust the tuning of the playback to match your instrument. If the playback device you are using does not permit this then you may instead be able to adjust the tuning of your instrument to match the piece. By the way, some people recommend transcribing without any instrument in your hands, by the use of pure ear-power. That's great if you can do it but this document is aimed at less experienced transcribers. I would recommend having a guitar or keyboard handy and constantly checking your transcription by playing along and asking yourself if it sounds right.
Now it's time to start transcribing. This is rather like doing a jigsaw. When you do a jigsaw you start with the easy bits. Once enough of these are done then you can hope that the hard bits will fall into place. In the same way, start your transcription with the things you can hear easily. That usually means any prominent single-note instrument (including vocal). Hearing the inner voices of a chord is hard so don't start with that. Start with the melody. Loop it a phrase at a time and play along until you find the notes. Write them down and move on. Then tackle the bass part. If it is murky or unclear then try raising its pitch - Transcribe! and other programs will allow you to raise the pitch by an octave without speeding the music up. This can give the bass part much better definition. The bass part is crucial when you come to figure out the chords because bass players frequently play the root of the chord, or else the 3rd or 5th, so knowing the bass part gives huge clues to what the chord is. Also remember that if in doubt you should listen to other points in the piece where the same sequence occurs, to get a second opinion.
Write down any other prominent riffs and backing figures in the same way.
Now start on the harmonies. This is the hardest part so again we pick away at it bit by bit. Pick out whatever single notes you can hear in the chords - often the top note of a chord is easier to distinguish so write down whatever notes you can hear in any of the chords. Often "voice leading" is used in harmony - this is where you hear a prominent note (a "voice", but not necessarily vocal - could be any instrument) in the harmony, which moves to the next note above or below or stays the same when the chord changes. These are usually easy to hear so work them out and write them down. When you've picked out as many specific notes as you can then you try to identify the chords. This is where your experience and your knowledge of the musical style you're dealing with make a big difference. If you are experienced in the style then you will know what kinds of chords and chord progressions are likely. The bass line, melody line and top line of harmony that you have already worked out will narrow the possibilities right down and you can try out the possible chords on your instrument to see what fits. On the other hand if the chord is an altered dominant and you don't know what an altered dominant is then it won't be so easy, though you may still be able to find something that works even if you don't know what to call it. A useful technique to get further clues is to try playing single notes on your instrument, when the chord comes in the track. Try a C, does it fit? C#? D? When you find a note which fits, perhaps it belongs in the chord. Transcribe!'s spectrum analysis feature is also useful here.
The approach just described assumes that your transcription will include chord symbols but of course sometimes you will be aiming for a complete note-for-note transcription of the performance. In this case it's up to you to listen closely for each note! It can still be helpful to think in terms of chords, to help understand what is happening.
Here's a tip (courtesy of Charles Alexander) for determining the correct key that a piece is in. This often causes confusion because although for many pieces the first chord is also the key, there are many pieces where this is not so. You should look instead at the end of the piece. Play up to the end then whistle a "shave and a haircut" ending like this (written here in C major) :
Whistle it in whatever key sounds right for the piece. The last note of the "shave and a haircut" ending is the key of the piece. This works for major keys. For minor keys I think it's usually true that the starting chord of the melody is the key, unless the title contains the word "Autumn" (Autumn Leaves, Autumn in New York). However just because a piece starts on a minor chord doesn't mean it's in a minor key - for instance "It Don't Mean A Thing" starts on G minor but is in Bb major, as the "shave and a haircut" test reveals.
Here's a tip for determining rhythmic values of fast notes. Suppose someone plays two notes quite quickly, "duh-duh" and you're asking yourself are they eighth notes? Sixteenths? Part of a triplet? The answer is to tap your hand in time with the quarter-note pulse of the piece and sing along with the "duh-duh" notes but extend them to an endless sequence at the same speed "duh-duh-duh-duh...". Then all you have to do is count how many fit into a quarter note. Two? then they're eighth notes. Six? then they're triplet sixteenths. For more complicated phrases learn the phrase so you can sing it accurately, then sing it on your own with your hand tapping the beat (switch off playback) then get slower and subdivide the beat by tapping your hand more rapidly. When you subdivide the beat into small enough pieces then you will find every note of the phrase will be on one of the subdivisions so by noting how many subdivisions per quarter note you are tapping and which subdivision each note falls on, you can work out the rhythm.
Finally, here's a heretical suggestion. If the purpose of your transcription is to perform the piece yourself then remember that it isn't necessary for your transcription to be totally accurate. If there's something complicated going on and you just can't figure it out, remember that it's always an option to just make up something else to play at that point! As long as it sounds good, who's going to complain?

About Bass Technique
Technique Is About Adapting
No one was physically born to play bass (or any instrument but voice for that matter). As a bass player you are adapting your hands and body to this musical instrument. A musical instrument is designed the way it is because of 1) the sound it needs to create, coupled with 2) the average human body in mind. The technique to play it lies somewhere in-between the two.
In my opinion, there is no single, correct way of playing the bass — only better and worse ways. Rigidly thinking there is only one way to play the bass can really stunt you as a bassist and crush the development of an original voice. Just because something works for one bassist doesn’t make it so for all of them.
Results of Bass Technique
While there are no "correct" ways of playing the bass guitar, what does exist are correct results of playing the bass guitar. It needs to sound and feel good. How you accomplish those results is up to you. If you find a way to achieve those results by throwing rocks at your bass, more power to you! (Maybe practice that with someone else’s bass first.)
Thinking about the results end of things gives you creative freedom to experiment. Try things your own way. Try things the way other successful bassists before you have.
Why do so many great bass players sound so different from one another? The most revered bassists rarely sound exactly like any other bassist you can point to. If you examine the bass technique of many of the greatest bass players, you will see each has a different approach than the other. Often times he or she has a wildly different approach. And, it is often this different approach that brought about his or her greatness or uniqueness.
If you look more closely at these great bassists you will notice there are a lot of common results from all of their different bass techniques. It is these results we need to pay attention to and figure out various ways to accomplish them — whether we copy the techniques of other bassists, or blaze our own path.
Studying bass technique is about examining the better and worse ways of producing good bass-playing results.
Be Deliberate
You should deliberately choose the bass techniques you use for the results they produce. A big mistake, especially for the self-taught, is to choose what comes easiest. The path of least resistance doesn’t always work so well. Some results are going to be hard to achieve. You’re going to have to work at it. When people listen to you play they don’t care how easy it is for you. They only care about the results of your bass playing. Does it sound good? That is what should determine the bass techniques you use.
The Goals of Bass Technique
In my opinion, these are the 4 main bass technique goals from which good bass technique will flow:
Goal #1: Avoiding Injury and Musician Health Problems
The most important goal of your bass technique is to avoid injuring your hands, back, ears, or anything else that may arrest your ability to play bass. You want to play bass for the rest of your life. Your bass technique must support this goal or you are doomed to a very short career.
Goal #2: Clarity and Good Tone
Each note you play should ring clearly with a full, pleasing tone. That means:
· No unwanted buzzing
· No unintentional muffled, or muted, notes
· No unwelcome open strings ringing in the background
· No unintentional harmonics, and
· No other accidentally produced extraneous noises
It is quite a tall order, but you have to learn to control all of these aspects of the bass guitar. Notice I say unintentional a lot here. These are all valid sounds the bass guitar can make. Make sure you are making them intentionally.
Goal #3: Efficiency/Economy
I tell students all the time I want them to be lazy when they play. You should use the least amount of effort possible to produce the desired results. This will help you play more quickly, more accurately, and more comfortably for longer periods of time.
Early on this is difficult. Your attention is divided and you’re just trying so hard to play something. With time and practice, things will become more and more effortless. But, you must develop a relaxed technique by consciously working on and thinking about it. You need to make a habit of being relaxed. It takes work to not work so much!
Goal #4: Accuracy
You need to develop accuracy with where you place your fingers, your tone, and your rhythm. It’s important to know exactly what is about to come out of your fingers. If you don’t know what to expect from your playing, you will lack confidence as you play. That lack of confidence will translate into some shaky bass playing.
Accuracy comes from a lot of patient, mindful practice. Early in your playing you will have a lot of problems with consistency. Time and experience are your greatest teachers.
About the Bass Technique Lessons
As I said earlier, there are better and worse ways of accomplishing all of these goals and results I’ve outlined. In the forthcoming bass technique lessons, I will show you ways I approach accomplishing these bass-playing goals and results. I’ve taught these techniques to hundreds of bass students with much success. Mainly, it is the logic behind each bass technique I want to convey. I don’t want you to take my word that these are the ways to play bass. They aren’t. They are just some ways that work pretty well for me and might for you.

Breaking Bad Habits
Even if you’ve only been playing bass for a couple of months, you’ve already developed some playing habits. If you’ve developed some bad ones, here’s what I recommend to help fix them:
Stick to the Unfamiliar
Take a break from playing anything you may have already learned to play on your bass. If you play things you are familiar with, you will quickly jump back into your old bass playing techniques. It will be easier to adapt new techniques to new, unfamiliar exercises, basslines and patterns. Once you’ve gotten better with the new bass techniques, it will be easier to go back and apply them to the music you were playing before.
Avoiding songs you often play can be difficult if you currently play in a band. You will have to make an extra effort to work on your band’s songs applying the new techniques you want to develop.
Slow Down
If you’ve been playing for a while, you’ve built up some facility to play things quickly. You need to slow things down and pay attention to what your hands are doing. The faster you go, the more likely you will jump back into your old habits and make mistakes. Pace yourself with a metronome. There's no shame in working at things slowly.
Get Feedback
Watch yourself in a mirror. Point the neck of the bass at the mirror so you can see the reflection of your plucking hand and, at the same time, you can see your fretting hand. If you want more feedback try recording yourself with a video camera. That can be very eye opening!
Overall, just be patient with yourself. Always try to learn things correctly as soon as possible. The more you delay, the harder it will be to change later.
Holding The Bass
How you hold and support your bass guitar is very important and should not be over-looked. Poorly holding your bass will negatively influence all other bass technique.
Strap In
You should use a guitar strap 100% of the time when you play your bass. The strap is an essential part of your bass technique. Your strap should hold your bass for you. Your hands shouldn’t be doing any of the bass holding or balancing. Your hands need to be free to play. I can't emphasize enough that you should always be using a strap!
Purchase a very comfortable strap. You, your back and your shoulders will be glad you did.
Bass Height
The strap should comfortably hold your bass somewhere above your hips and below your collarbone. Most people have it belly button level. Everyone is a bit different. Experiment.
Try to adjust your bass so that it sits at the same height whether you are sitting or standing. If you sit while practicing and stand while playing, this will help you play just like you practice. Being consistent is a big part of learning to play bass well.
The Cool Factor
You will see a lot of people letting the bass hang around their ankles thinking it looks cool. Don't. It doesn’t look that cool and you will cause yourself many back problems, technique problems and hand injuries. Eventually people will think it’s cool how well you play bass.
Your mother was right — sit or stand up straight. You shouldn't be leaning back in a chair or hunching over as you play.
Angle of the Bass Guitar
Hold your bass guitar at about a 30-degree angle. You will notice if you hold the bass perfectly level your plucking hand/arm is forced upwards while your fretting hand/arm is forced to reach down and around more and at a bad angle. This can cause a lot of posture problems and forces you to bend your wrists more. Sharply bent wrists lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. By angling the bass guitar you help straighten out your wrists, straightening your back, and leveling your shoulders.
Don't underestimate the importance of how you hold the bass guitar.
The following is just the text from the above bass technique tutorial in case you don't have Flash 7 installed....
About the Plucking Technique Lesson
This is just one perspective on how to pluck the strings of the bass. As I pointed out in my article about bass technique, there is not one right way. But, there are better and worse ways. As a student of the bass you should seek as many perspectives as you can find. There are as many ways as there are players. Experiment with your own ideas, too. What follows is a combination of what I've learned from others and things I've discovered on my own.
I will explain the reasoning behind all the technique I show here. The reason is almost always that it sounds better. You should judge this for yourself. Another common reason for these techniques is it is more efficient and will be easier in the long run...
Finger Numbering
Unlike on piano and some other instruments, on bass your fingers are numbered:
· T = thumb
· 1 = index finger
· 2 = middle finger
· 3 = ring finger
· 4 = pinky finger FingernailsYou will need to keep your fingernails trimmed short to avoid your nail catching the string. (Unless, of course, you like the sound of it.)Avoiding Hand InjuriesKeep your wrists as straight as possible to keep from getting carpal tunnel syndrome and other nasty hand injuries. Most musicians don't discover they've injured their hands until after 10-20 years of playing. By then it's too late. The damage is done. And, it will be difficult to break those old habits. Just because it doesn't hurt now, doesn't mean it won't later.Relax Your HandLet your plucking hand hang limp. This is the natural shape of your hand. Keep your hand in that loose, relaxed shape as much as you can. There's no need for tension...Alternating FingersTo develop plucking speed and efficiency, it is important that you use at least two fingers to pluck. Most people use their index (1) and middle (2) fingers and alternate them. Using two fingers is half the work for each finger. Always do as little work as possible. Using two fingers is sufficient for most playing styles. Work on consistently alternating your fingers 1-2-1-2 (or 2-1-2-1). It doesn't matter on which finger you start. It might be a good idea to be able to start on either one. Just don't use one finger for a while, then the other, or one finger by itself. It might seem easier in the beginning to use one finger, but you will quickly hit a ceiling and you will have learned a very hard habit to break...Where to PluckYou will discover the bass guitar has a wide range of tones depending on where, along the string, you pluck. Plucking nearer to the neck offers a fatter, warmer tone. Plucking nearer to the bridge of the bass provides a brighter, more percussive tone. As you develop, you will become more comfortable with moving your plucking hand around to access these different tones. In the beginning, I recommend finding one place and staying there while you develop other, more important plucking habits...Positioning Your ThumbPlace your thumb on the face (not on top) of your pickup closest to the neck. Let your thumb linger just above the E-string. You will see why shortly. On most bass guitars this should put your plucking fingers in a central position between the neck and the bridge. You should get a good, all-purpose tone from your bass in this area.Muting the StringsPlaying the bass requires about as much work keeping the strings quiet as it does getting the notes to ring out. Most of the time you only want one string ringing at a time. That means on a 4-string bass you have 3 strings to keep quiet. You can't just let open strings ring freely in the background. This will muddy up your sound and often create some unwanted dissonance. You should strive to have control over every sound that comes out of your bass. This requires you to develop a solid string muting strategy...Muting with the ThumbYour thumb will be sliding down to help mute the E-string whenever it is not being played. To be efficient, you will want your thumb as close to the E-string as possible. That's why you want to keep your thumb on the face of the pickup. It will be much easier to slide your thumb down to mute the string. If you're on top, your thumb has to hop. You only need to lightly touch the E-string to mute it. No need to waste energy pushing on the E-string...Plucking MotionWhen you pluck the string your finger should roll over the top over the string. Most beginners and converting guitar players have the tendency to pull out away from the strings. This results in a very thin, scratchy tone. You will get a meatier, bassier tone by rolling over the string. It is much like the stroke of a paintbrush. Your plucking finger should follow through towards your palm, or to rest on the next string below the one you are plucking. There's no need to pluck very hard. Let your bass amplifier do the work. That's what it's for. Your fingers aren't amplifiers! Developing a light touch is a very important part of developing speed and accuracy...Follow-Through MutingAfter plucking a string, follow-through with your plucking motion letting your plucking finger come to rest on the string below. Letting your finger rest on the string below mutes that string. As you pluck using alternating fingers, one finger is plucking while the other one is muting. This is essential to keeping the strings quiet. Use this same motion for plucking on each string.Yet More Muting...As you ascend the strings (going from the fattest string to the skinniest) or skip strings, you will find you can't mute them all with these techniques alone. There are two solutions I show students: (1) use another finger to help with muting or, (2) use your thumb to mute more strings. Let's look at these two solutions...Ring Finger MutingThe technique I prefer uses your ring finger (3) to mute the A-string whenever you are plucking on the G-string. This is the only time you'll need it on a 4-string bass. Your ring finger (3) just needs to lightly touch the A-string to keep it from ringing. Placing your ring finger on the A-string every time you switch to pluck the G-string may seem awkward at first. With practice the motion will become automatic. When you are plucking the G-string the muting will be as follows:
· E-string is muted with thumb (T)
· A-string is muted with ring finger (3)
· D-string is muted with plucking fingers (1 or 2) landing on the D-string Wandering Thumb MutingAnother popular way of muting the bass strings is what I call the Wandering Thumb Method. Instead of leaving your thumb on the E-string, your thumb moves up the strings muting them. This is very useful to develop especially if you play, or plan to play, 5-string or 6-string bass. Either string muting method is effective. You will have to decide which you prefer and stick with it. If you are just starting or trying to change some old habits, it will be strange and frustrating no matter what. Practice slowly and accurately. It will come. When plucking the G-string with this method the muting will be as follows:
· E-string is muted with thumb (T)
· A-string is muted with thumb (T)
· D-string is muted with plucking fingers (1 or 2) landing on the D-string Bass Plucking VideoNow, watch the video and see it all put together.Bass Plucking ExercisesNow that you have an idea of what to do, you need something to practice! Follow the link below for bass plucking exercises which work on these basic techniques. Remember to play slowly and accurately. Don't rush through this stuff. You use it in everything you play! You are practicing every song you will ever play. bass plucking exercises
View from the Bottom...
The figure below shows a major scale as you would play it on a bass guitar. The bottom line is the low "E" string, and the top line is the "G" string. Think of the neck as being turned on its side, facing you, with the end of the neck being at the left-hand side of the diagram. The numbers in the middle of the neck represent the number of the fret. The first few numbers at the bottom of the figure represent which fingers should be holding the string down, and the exes represent the rest of the scale. The first note played in either a major or minor scale is always the tonic. In this case the tonic is A. The seven notes of any scale are numbered as such, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, with 8 being the tonic, just an octave higher. It is important to notice that in this diagram, the numbers in the diagram DO NOT correspond to the numbers in the scale, they are fret and finger numbers.
Referring to the numbers in a major scale, it's important to notice that the third and fourth notes and the seventh and tonic notes are a half step apart, all the other notes are a whole step apart. To better illustrate what I'm talking about in a theoretical sense applicable to music across the spectrum, there is a site that shows the musical staff of a major scale here.
Below is a diagram of an A minor scale. Notice how it differs from its major counterpart: the second and third notes of the scale are a half step apart this time, along with the fifth and sixth notes of the scale. There is also a musical staff diagram of the A minor scale here.
For full diagrams of every bass scale regardless of the tonic, click here. For full diagrams of guitar scales, click here. Remember, because the four strings of the bass and the first four strings of the guitar are commonly tuned to the same notes, a bass scale and a guitar scale will involve the same fingering for the first eight notes or so. That's a big reason why scales are dealt with in the bass section of this site -- it is more economical in terms of space and it covers most of the same material.