Bass technique: Dave Marks

Welcome one and all to the month of April. For those of you who made it to the London Bass Guitar Show, well done – you should be suitably inspired. Now let’s get down to smashing some chord voicings. Chords represent a wondrous land that guitarists and keyboardists live in, shrouded in mystery and generally not for our eyes. I’m not having any of that, though – if our instrument can play more than one note at any one time, then chords are ours for the taking.

Before we start getting stuck into any theory and explanations of why things work, here’s a bit of a finger-melter based on a rather tasty chordal idea.

Fig01

Figure one is based around the changes of the Wayne Shorter tune ‘Footprints’, using a slightly easier version of the turnaround, and it’s useful for working up two ideas: playing arpeggios across the neck of minor (add9) chords, and using 10ths to play through inversions of chords. The main shape we’re using for bars one to six is a barred minor 9 shape, a shape that Victor Wooten fans should be familiar with, as he loves using it for tapping arpeggios.

Fig02

You can play this part fingerstyle or with thumb and fingers. I prefer the latter. The key is to get a nice rolling arpeggio part where the notes are not ringing, but the pattern is smooth and consistent. When we get to the last two chords of the cycle, I’ve gone for root position to first inversion for the D7 and first inversion to root position for the Db7. You should begin adapting this part as soon as you can play it comfortably. It has a nice Afro-groove feel, but could also be played as a waltz. Keep the fingering pattern the same, but modify the rhythms to really mix it up.

Figures three and four show some ideas for variations that you could use to start generating some fresh ideas.

Fig03

The key here is to access ideas that fit around the theme nicely, so you can create variations that create a bit of interest with losing the flow of the part. We’ll continue next month with some new shapes and ideas to crack your knuckles to.

Fig04

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