Finding Your Own Voice by Jimi Durso – Extended Techniques… “Extended techniques” is a term generally applied to any unconventional approach the instrument. Of course, a definition like that means what is considered an extended technique can be a matter of opinion, and change over time (Larry Graham’s slapping style would probably have been put in this category in the late 60s, but now is thought of as a fairly essential ability), but for the purposes of expanding your creativity and discovering your own musical personality, we’ll consider an extended technique to be any technique that is unconventional for you.
Some examples of things that could be considered extended techniques for bass: the aforementioned slapping, harmonics, right hand (or pinch) harmonics, right hand tapping, double stops, string bending, and even signal processors such as octave dividers and wah-wahs (in jazz settings I’ve turned some heads playing arco solos through the wah-wah. I really dig the vocal quality it creates, though it makes purists cringe). Use both imagination and observation and you can certainly find more (recalling the concept of cross-pollination, you can sometimes find techniques from other instruments that can be applied to the bass).
For an example, let’s take right hand harmonics. In classical and metal guitar, these are fairly commonplace. You are still fretting a note, but are using the right hand to produce the harmonic overtone, usually by touching the harmonic with a finger (or thumb in the case of pinch harmonics) while plucking. Jaco Pastorius took this technique and applied it to the bass by touching the harmonic with his thumb while plucking behind it with the index finger. This not only extends the range of the bass but also its timbre qualities. Though usually used for solos, combing these harmonics on the high strings with low notes played conventionally on the low strings can enable you to create bass parts that fill more range (useful in a trio setting) and define the chord more, perhaps even putting in extensions.
To become comfortable with any extended technique, I suggest you immerse yourself in it. To use the above as an example, practice scales with right-hand harmonics, play some solos only using only this technique, write a few basslines that incorporate them, arrange a song for bass using them, or use the technique in any other way you can come up with. The goal is to take something irregular and make it ordinary (for you) so that it becomes not so much a forced concept but just another part of your sound, one that occurs naturally during your playing. Something to be cautious of: if you’re trying out a new technique and you decide you don’t like it, it may not be anything wrong with the technique, but just that you haven’t learned how to make that specific technique work for you. I’ve also had the experience of developing a technique that I couldn’t seem to find a use for, and then one day I come across a situation where it’s the perfect sound. So reserve judgment (difficult as that can be for homo sapiens).