[Q & A: Playing Technique] Right and Left Hand Playing Techniques

Hi!
I got a couple of questions from one of my readers and thought I share my answers with you!
The questions are about right and left hand techniques. Here’s basically my take on that. Feel free to comment (below the post) or send an email about this or other topics to ubasslessons@gmail.com

Right hand technique
What technique I choose to use depends on (at least) a couple of things.

1. Music style/sound
– Do you need a ‘fat’ tone?
Thumb style mute might work for this. See this video (I will probably make more videos about this too!). Depending on where you pluck the string will also make your tone more or less ‘fat/full’. Plucking close to the bridge will get you a thinner sound but it will be easier to play faster since the string is ‘harder’ here and will bounce back easier. The amp you use and the EQ settings (on the amp, preamp of on the UBass if you play a SUB of California Solidbody can of cause also help you ‘fatten’ your sound. But changing the sound only with your hands is a quicker way and can make subtle changes in the blink of an eye!

Sidebar: When I play on a regular fretless bass with more sustain than the UBass I tend to vary my right hand placement to get the sound I want. Sometimes I pluck the strings where the fretboard ends and even around the last frets to get the best and most ‘fat/full’ sound! Why not try this on the Ubass too! Sound vs. speed can be tricky since the string really bounces back more closer to the middle of the string.

– Do you need speed?
Alternating two fingers (or more) can of cause give you more speed. And please also consider what I wrote above regarding placement on the string.

2. The construction of the bass.
– On the acoustic UBass there are no place to anchor your thumb so this makes it necessary to find a technique that works. I showed examples of this in my first playing technique video.
On a regular electric bass there is almost always a pickup where you can put your thumb. BUT the placement of the pickups differ and sometimes you can’t use this approach. There is however another great way of going around this. Sidebar: On old Fenders there was a fixed rest where you put your index and middle fingers so you easily could play with your thumb..! And later on they put a thumb rest instead…) you can use the E-string to anchor your thumb and the move it when you have to play that E-string. I use this technique a lot since I play different basses and can’t rely on pickups being in the right place.

Left hand technique
Deciding if I play a bass part on the same string or more strings depends different things. I’ll try to talk about a few.

1. If the bass figure is easier to play on one string then please do that!

2. I often tell my students that they should avoid open stings to get more of a consistent tone! (I also say that playing walking bass is an exception. Here I want to emulate the feel of an upright bass where it’s ‘crucial’ to use open strings to get the right sound and of cause a reference to in-tune strings).

3 Playing ‘linear’ on one sting vs. using more strings. Please try to play the same thing in more than one way! This might help you find that one or the other is best suited for that particular bass part or a specific couple of bars in the bass line.

Examples

Left Hand

Here comes two examples of different ways of playing the same bass part.
Also check out my lesson on the song ‘Satellit’ (Ted Gardestad) in Lesson 7.
In that song I use the extended fingering technique you will see in the two songs below.

”Another One Bites The Dust’ (Queen) (Why not check out the Weird Al Yankovich cover ‘Another One Rides The Bus’ for a crazy cover).

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Play the riff on two strings

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Play the riff on one string using extended fingering. On the short scale Ubass this is quite easy but not always the best way. It’s of cause up to you to decide what will work best for you in different situations.

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Another example is the quite simple riff in Help Me (Sonny Boy Williamson) and also in Green Onions (Booker T. And the MG’s) It can also be played on two strings or one string using the same techniques as I mentioned above!

More technique stuff will come in the future. As I wrote in the beginning of this post please let me know if you have any questions regarding playing technique of other UBass questions and I will try to answer them!

Good luck!
/Magnus

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