Bass techniques: Dave Marks

The nights are getting brighter, but it’s still freezing, so let’s generate a bit of heat in the practice room! This is the last set of advanced legato lessons for now, but you’ll see these techniques beginning to crop up in later lessons as we incorporate them into our licks.

I want to look at possibilities for using similar shapes or runs but applying them over different chord types. This should begin to give you some ideas as to how you can create variations on the licks you learn – it’s the first step towards developing your own personal vocabulary.

Exercise 1

Exercise one is a long, flowing B minor lick that incorporates some different rhythmic ideas. This can get tricky, because the shape of the lick is a sequence that stays the same almost to the end, but you have to be able to switch speeds, from 16ths to 16th-note triplets and back again. You also have to be careful with fingerings: at the 5th fret, your hammer-ons should go 1-2-4, but up at the  12th fret the same lick is 1-2-3. One finger per fret is great up high, but adds an unnecessary strain when you apply it too strictly in lower registers. Also, there’s a jump from the 7th fret to the 12th fret right between bars one and two. Don’t be afraid to look at your bass neck and look when you make leaps. It’s better to look and be right than to fluff the notes.

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Exercise 2

Exercise two is a variation on the last lick. This time, we keep the rhythm more uniform. In essence, we have a small melodic cell that you move around. Once you get the shape in the first beat down, it’s just about moving smoothly through the positions. Watch out for the end of this lick – there’s a little stretch, which then slides down. Keep it all very smooth and try to keep your articulation clear: we want to hear all the notes.

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Exercise 3

Exercise three applies a very similar idea. Our melodic cell is essentially the same, but this time we’re using it over an A7 chord. By using the chromatic hammer-on to get to the 3rd of our chord, we get a nice bluesy/country twang. Repeat that idea from 5 to #5 and 6, and the lick finishes up on the G string with a line that mixes legato with a little slide. One pluck equals six notes, so keep your playing clear and feel free to add a bit of compression or drive to keep the notes sounding out.

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Exercise 4

Exercise four is a simple D major scale sequence that should give you some ideas for building your own exercises.

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Exercise 5

Exercise five is a cool lick that adds a tap from finger one of the fretting hand. It’s a rolling finger pattern that leaps from the A string to the G string and back again. You can use the tapped note as a gap of sorts to move your fretting hand. The key to this is integrating the tap so that it works as an accent, but doesn’t sound too different from the other notes. For extra prog-points, I would recommend sampling or looping it and trying it through a filter to create evolving textures. Also, play it dressed as a wizard. That would be very prog.

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