The FrontLine: Extended-range specialist, Stewart McKinsey

The next few columns are going to be focused on technique and starting to exploit the full range of your bass. Let’s start with the sub-lows.

stewart mckinsey picI like all my exercises to have roots in the practical, so let’s start with something you already know: bass-lines. Take a handful of tunes that you know and love to play, and begin to transpose them to the lowest range of your instrument. This is not as easy as it may initially seem. Because the big strings do not respond the same as those in the standard range, you will need to adjust your attack and how you play the lines. The point of the exercise is not to play the lines verbatim, but to capture the character of the parts and to make the songs happen. Think in terms of groove and pulse; think of interacting with the other parts while making the song move and delivering the same emotional intensity. You want to keep the integrity of the tunes. This will show you how to work with your amp, and where you will need to adjust your technique in order to make the bass speak articulately.

Classic rock and soul will not be quite the challenge the funk, fusion and technical metal will prove to be, but each style offers its unique hurdles. Of your initial pieces, choose at least one that will be fun and not a nightmare to reinterpret, plus at least one that will be a lot of work. You may need to change techniques, say changing a slap part to a staccato finger-style or even a plectrum part. You may need to syncopate a line, removing some of the notes where a part is busy, in order to keep the flavour of a tune.

Playing outside of your normal style is also a good way to focus in on what a part needs. If you’re an avant-garde player, tackle at least one pop tune. If your preferred style is rock, take on a jazz standard. I suggest everyone attempt at least one funk tune, possibly something from the 80s or 90s that had a synth bass part. Good luck and get ready for next month, when we move to the high strings.



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