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Dominique DiPiazza: Right Hand Technique

Meet Editor, Jake Kot

Well, here’s the sequence of events. A student of mine asked me about the “Pocket Picker” (which by the way you can check out right on this site). I knew of it, but had no first hand experience of it. I then remembered that Dominique DiPiazza had something to do with the development of this particular product. This presented a good opportunity for me to talk to Dominique about his infamous right hand technique that has created a legion of followers in the bass world, as well as getting a little more insight on this newest of practice tools.

I’ve included a video (as always) for those of you who might not be familiar with Dominique’s amazing technical prowess. (Look out) This man’s voice stands alone in the Bass Community, and it was great to get a little history on how that developed for him, a why he chose to pursue it. I think you find his historical approach to this side of his playing interesting as well as thought provoking.

Jake: Could you tell me about the beginnings of how your right hand technique developed?

Dominique: I started playing this way because back in 1979 I didn’t really have an approach to right hand technique. I knew a little about guitar-chords and I used to listen to a wide varity of music that had something to do with the art of improvisation, such as bebop and fusion, Django Reinhardt’s style of playing, and flamenco and Indian music, and it seemed working on this kind of technique would make sense. I was particularly interested in improvisation, especially by other instruments such as saxophone, guitar, piano, and synth.

I realized that the main problem for bass concerning improv was crossing the strings, especially for playing arpeggios. I was really influenced by John Coltrane and I tried to emulate some of his fast arpeggio runs in intervals of fourths that he was using. At first I started playing with the thumb and the middle finger, the thumb for a down-stroke, and the middle for the up-stroke. This way I could cross the strings better than the regular two finger technique. I also worked on playing Jaco’s bass part in “River People”, and later on I added the index finger to be able to play all kind of figures.

It was a bit hard for me to play this type of technique. At that time I felt a bit ashamed because people told me that I was cheating playing that way instead of the usual two-finger technique like Jaco was. I understand this sounds a bit strange nowadays to hear this, but I can tell you it was a serious fight for me to impose that style in Europe at that time. If I had been in the states, it might have been a different story…I don’t know.

Today it is very common to see bass players using this technique. Even though it was difficult in the beginning, I was strongly motivated to do my own thing, I mean to sound different. And because of that, along with a lot hard work and being seriously motivated, I made it happen. After having worked on some of the music of great masters such as Charlie Parker; Coltrane, Jaco, Django, Paco de Lucia, Wes Montgomery, Benson, Chick Corea, Allan Holdworth, and Zawinul, I understood that what made them so special was the fact that they didn’t sound like anybody else, although they have their own influences. So I just tried to follow their path.

You know, I have never tried to be a bass player that plays in the pocket like most musicians do, I mean being able to play any style, in the pocket, and I have great respect those who do that. But for me, I just had the dream of approaching playing from a self-taught perspective like the great improvisers I mentioned earlier…expressing deep feelings. I understood that I had to pay a price for that. I knew it might take a lifetime to develop that style, and maybe I would not be the most sought after bassist because of it. In the bass realm, you are labeled quickly if they see that you have an overzealous attraction to harmony and soloing. They kind of see you as a groove player, or a soloist…it seems that they feel you can’t be both.

Jake: I know the term that is used to explain your right hand approach is a “Flamenco” style of playing. Could you tell me your version of why that might fit?

Dominique: There are people that have seen me playing bass-solos and are of the opinion that I’m playing flamenco style. I think that’s due to the fact that I’m using some of the chords they use in that style, as well as the use of the harmonic minor scale at a quick pace. But that’s not really the case, because I don’t play with my nails, and the position of the right hand is totally different. I keep the hand close to the strings, almost like palm-muting.

Jake: What would be some of the first exercises you would suggest to someone wanting to learn this particular right hand technique you employ?

Dominique: I think the best thing to do is take a look at the first exercises which are in my right -hand -technique method on the Pocket Picker website.

Jake: Are there particular patterns/scales, whatever, that you would suggest using to help develop this technique with your right hand, or is that open to the individual?

Dominique: I think it is up to the individual…

Jake: I understand that you were involved in the development of the “Pocket Picker” you just spoke of. Could you explain how this device helps as far as the development of the right hand is concerned?

Dominique: The pocket Picker is an incredible tool that I have adopted, and I now bring it to every gig…I found it to be very useful. I use it while I’m traveling gig to gig by train or car (of course that’s when I’m not driving myself), and I can go directly to the sound check and have a great sensation of fitness when I pick up my bass. It also works well when you can’t have your instrument with you right before going on stage. Honestly, since I have been using it, I have improved my right hand technique and discovered new patterns that I later reproduced on the bass. I recommend it highly, especially to work on techniques that have a lot to do with string crossing.

Jake: What might be some of the advantages, as far as right hand techniques, for those who are not necessarily involved in chord/melody playing?

Dominique: I can say that it works very well for people who have a hard time with tendentious, because the wrist will not be curved. Also, after a while, it is almost effortless using various techniques at a high speed tempo, as well as mastering the string resonance of a 5 or 6 string. You’ll also find that executing arpeggios across the strings becomes more fluid. For those that use a two finger approach, it might be worth looking into working on this technique as a secondary technique, to open some new doors within your playing.

Visit online at www.dominiquedipiazza.com and www.thepocketpicker.com

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