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.
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.
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.
From Grammy-winning musical icon and legendary bassist Victor L. Wooten comes The Music Lesson, the story of a struggling young musician who wanted music to be his life, and who wanted his life to be great. Then, from nowhere it seemed, a teacher arrived. Part musical genius, part philosopher, part eccentric wise man, the teacher would guide the young musician on a spiritual journey, and teach him that the gifts we get from music mirror those from life, and every movement, phrase, and chord has its own meaning…All you have to do is find the song inside.