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Alternate Fingering And The Plucking Hand

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Welcome back, folks! Last time around I took a momentary departure from purely technical subjects to introduce to you the importance of melody. Moving forward, I hope that you will remember to make even your technique building exercises musical. Once you get past the initial challenge of executing each exercise without repetitive mistakes or mis-fingerings, go out of your way to try and make the exercises sound as musical as possible. A great player can make even the most mundane phrases or exercises come to life by playing in an expressive or emotional manner. Even a simple major scale can be made to sound lyrical by doing such things as altering dynamics, loosening the time feel by allowing the pulse to ‘breathe’, or even altering your technique to vary your tone across the phrase.

In this installment, we will get back to the pursuit of increased dexterity and endurance, and we will focus this time on the plucking hand. One approach that will help to refine your right hand technique is the strict use of alternation with your picking fingers. Just as when you walk down the street you alternate your feet (left, right, left, right), the same approach can be adapted to your plucking fingers (1, 2, 1, 2, etc… or 2, 1, 2, 1, etc…). For those of you that use a pick exclusively, this approach can be adapted just as easily; the only difference is that you will look at your picking upstrokes and downstrokes as corresponding to the movements of the 2 plucking fingers, 1 and 2. Alternation is important because it evenly splits up your right hand workload evenly amongst your picking fingers, thereby making your picking more efficient and promoting economy of motion. Regardless of whether you use two, three, four (or more!) picking fingers, alternation is a key concept that will help you to be more proficient.

For the exercises in this installment, remember that you are to alternate your plucking fingers without any deviation, whatsoever. This will most likely require some very focused attention; I have found in the past that sometimes the best way to monitor your consistency is to practice in front of a mirror or with your eyes focused on your plucking hand. Keep in mind that our momentary concern with alternating perfectly is only a practice routine tactic designed to maximize the effectiveness of these drills. The idea is that the consistency and confidence we develop in the shed will work its way into our performance playing automatically. Let me stress that IT IS NOT IMPORTANT that you alternate perfectly when you perform on a gig or play a set of tunes. The intention is to build more headroom into our performance potential so that we are not at all hindered by technical limitations. Your goal should be complete freedom in spontaneous musical expression.


Example 1

When you practice alternation exercises, try to avoid “raking” as you move from higher pitched strings to lower. Raking is when you “brush” from the last note played on a higher string to the first note played of the next lowest string, resulting in the same finger being used to play 2 or more successive notes. (See example above)

Although it is a useful technique on its own, try not to use it at all when you are working exclusively on your alternation. This way you will develop full independent control over both techniques, and subsequently choose the best method for the job in various performance situations. Keep in mind we’re not trying to eliminate raking from your technical repetoire, just developing an independent skill through alternation.

Practicing Using Permutations

One great way to develop your alternation is to practice exercises that involve moving across the strings using deliberate, challenging movements. A very simple approach that can be developed further into more complex examples involves the use of fretting hand fingering permutations that assign one finger per fret. Using a one finger per fret approach in a closed position, we can come up with 24 different fingering permutations that we can use to practice our alternation:

1-2-3-4
1-2-4-3
1-3-2-4
1-3-4-2
1-4-2-3
1-4-3-2

2-1-3-4
2-1-4-3
2-3-1-4
2-3-4-1
2-4-1-3
2-4-3-1

3-1-2-4
3-1-4-2
3-2-1-4
3-2-4-1
3-4-1-2
3-4-2-1

4-1-2-3
4-1-3-2
4-2-1-3
4-2-3-1
4-3-1-2
4-3-2-1

Note: The numbers in each permutation correspond to the fingers on your plucking hand. Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 represent your index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers, respectively.

Okay… Let’s get started! We will play through every permutation while moving across the strings in both ascending and descending directions. Let’s go over how we would approach practicing through each of these…

To begin with, place your fretting hand at a median location on your neck, for example, in 5th position. (5th position is where your left hand first finger is lined up with your 5th fret.) Now simply lay your fretting hand fingers on the neck so that you are in a one finger per fret position. (see above)

Exercise 1

Our first permutation will be: 1-2-3-4, which we will play using the basic hand position shown in figure 1. Keep in mind that your plucking hand fingering needs to alternate 1-2-1-2-1-2, etc. without deviation until you complete the permutation across all strings and back. This is demonstrated in exercise 1 above.

NOTE: If you are playing a bass that has 5 or 6 strings or more, extend these exercises so that you are playing the permutations across ALL of your strings, both ascending and descending.

The next permutation, 1-2-4-3, is illustrated in exercise 2 on the next page.


Exercise 2

Now that the basic approach has been shown to you, practice playing through each of these permutation exercises with a metronome or drum machine, making use of strict 1-2 alternation with the plucking hand and a smooth legato feel with the fretting hand. For each permutation, first choose a moderate tempo that is slow enough for you to play the exercises perfectly. I would suggest only increasing tempos only after you can play all 24 of the exercises without any errors in execution or fingering. Here are some suggestions for target tempos:

starting tempo: 60 bpm
target tempo: 120 bpm
practice duration: 30 min

These are merely suggestions to get you started, based on an average beginner’s level of technical ability. Feel free to change these to suit your own level. However, if you need to either slow down or speed up the targets, do so in a manner that allows you to play correctly and still be challenged.

Some final points to consider:

-Pay strict attention to what your plucking hand is doing as you work through these. It is easy to deviate from a steady 1-2 alternation with the plucking hand if you do not keep your eyes focused on it.

-If you are having trouble putting both hands together at first, focus on only one hand at a time, paying strict attention to the problem areas. Work them out one component at a time, and then slowly bring your two hands together, playing broken down versions of each permutation and then gradually building. For example, don’t try to play across all four strings until you can successfully and consistently play over one.

-In case you haven’t guessed already, you should ultimately be able to lead with either finger if you want to be effective with this technique. Most of us who have worked on this in the past may already be in the habit of starting with the same finger each time we begin to alternate. However, this will eventually expose some limitations when we start to get into more challenging passages that require changes in our fingering.

Until next time, practice hard and have fun!

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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