The Electric Bass Guitar

Unlike the double bass, electric bass guitars are played across the body at a horizontal form. The middle and index fingers are mostly used when plucking these musical instruments. The ring, the middle and the index fingers are also used at times for faster plucking of strings. For instance, James Jamerson of Motown plays intricate bass lines by using just his index finger. This technique is what Jamerson calls “The Hook.”

Meanwhile, other variations involve using the right-hand thumb or the left-hand thumb for those who are left-handed. These variations often allow the players to rest their thumbs on the fretboard’s side or on top edge of the pickups. Such variations are commonly employed by bass guitarists who have an upright influence.

Another popular variation in playing these bass instruments is the manner of anchoring the thumb on the guitar’s lowest string and moving it off in playing the low string. This thumb is rested loosely on the guitar strings to silence the unused strings.

The string is also often plucked at any point between the area where the fretting hand is held on the string and the point of the instrument’s bridge. In such plucking variation, different timbres are then produced. Some bass players pluck near the bridge. This is where the string is most taut. One example of this variation is usually displayed by Jaco Pastorius, a jazz fusion bass guitarist. In this technique, Pastorius and other bassists prefer the looser part of their strings nearest to the fingerboard.

Palm-muting is also another popular variation in playing bass guitars. In this technique, guitarists emulate the double bass sound by plucking the strings using their thumb and palm-muting the strings to produce a short, thumping sound. Bruce Palmer, the bassist who played for the Buffalo Springfield and even the late Monk Montgomery, who performed in Lionel Hampton’s band both used downstrokes. Early Fender models were even inspired by such variations that this guitar manufacturer came up with instrument versions equipped with a “Tug Bar” or a thumbrest at the pickguard just below the strings. Years later, guitar makers moved the thumbrest above the strings.

One of the trend-setting methods of playing these bass instruments is the slap and pop method. Often associated with funk, this variation allows bassists to produce rapid percussive sounds by thumping or slapping the strings using the thumb and snapping them using the middle fingers. The technique is employed by hand-muting dead notes between the slapping and popping. “Slap and pop” variation also produces other notes like the pull-offs, hammer-ons and the left-hand glissando. Funk band Graham Central Station and Sly and Family Stone bassist Larry Graham were the early known innovators of such technique. Other accredited bassists that use such technique are of various genres – Les Claypool and J.J. Burnel in rock; Eric Langlois, Fieldy and Ryan Martinie in metal; and Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller in fusion. In the 80s and 90s, pop bass players like Mark King of Level 42; rock bassists like Pino Palladino of John Mayer Trio, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alex Katunich of Incubus lead the popular trend of playing bass guitars using slap and pop. Double Thump was popularized by Wooten and the rare use of the funk fingers was popularized by Tony Levin.

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Product Description
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