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Plucking Hand Specifics

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Once again, I’d like to stick with the basics for this installment and take up where we left off last time around. In my last lesson, I went into the specifics of basic solid fretting hand technique; this time around I want to shift to the plucking hand. As you are probably already aware, it is the fine synchronization of the two hands working together that will really help you to get to the next level with your dexterity.

For many of us, the problem is not so much with our individual hand technique… Instead, our symptoms are revealed when we try and get the two hands working together in an efficient and more ‘automatic’ manner. Sometimes our attention is divided between the two hands in the practice shed, and we find that the idea of multitasking the fingers of both hands during technique drills become overwhelming. It is my hope that working through the exercises presented in these lessons will allow you to build enough muscle memory and ‘automation’ into your technique to free you from having to focus so much on the individual hands. My goal is to allow you to execute these challenges successfully, with both hands performing in total harmony!

Something I like to do with my students, regardless of their experience level, is to sit them down and analyze how their hands are working together on the bass. What I have found is that a lot of players have gone about as far as they can go given their current technical approach, because they might be limited by a particular stumbling block. To get a student working at the next level of competency usually only requires some fine-tuning.

Take a moment and think about the way you play right now. Are there some elements of your technique that you wish were better? Do you struggle with increasing your speed or playing cleaner? Does your hand position seem to change drastically, depending on what part of the bass you are playing on? Do you struggle with unnecessary tension when you play?

Over the years I have come to recognize some common problems and solutions with respect to hand technique. When working to improve, sometimes it is a good idea to focus on each hand individually. Each hand plays a different role in playing the bass; therefore, each hand requires a unique technical approach. We have already covered the basics of good fretting hand technique in our last lesson; now, it’s time to focus on the plucking hand as it applies to finger style playing. I will try to focus on some important concepts specific to the right hand that often cause problems for bass players.

Muting and the Movable Anchor

I think we can all agree it is a good idea to utilize some sort of muting method to keep strings quiet that are not being played. This topic causes a lot of problems for players, especially ones who are making the transition from 4 string bass to a 5 or 6 string or more. Keeping the strings that aren’t being played quiet is a challenge for the right hand because it is already preoccupied with the actual plucking of the strings. Many players try to depend on their left hand exclusively for muting tasks, but this approach can be futile during very complex or challenging passages.

In my opinion, the use of a “moveable anchor” is one of the most versatile and least restrictive solutions to this challenge. Most of us who play finger style already utilize some type of anchored approach using the thumb of the right hand. For example, some players place their thumb on a pickup or the body of the bass while they play in order to stabilize their right hand. Others might use a thumb rest or low string to accomplish the same task.

The concept of a movable anchor is similar, but instead of leaving the thumb in one place, this approach allows the thumb to ‘float’ or ‘follow’ the picking fingers back and forth over the width of the strings, acting as a mute in both directions.

An exaggerated example of this approach for 4 string bass is demonstrated in the following example:

Individual hand positions that correspond to the strings played in example 1 are illustrated in figures 2a-2d:

Figure 2a (E string)

Figure 2b (A string)

Figure 2c (D string)

Figure 2d (G string)

Note: 5 string, 6 string, and multi string players will add their extra strings to the range of this example, and carry through the same fingerings to each of their strings.

A summary of the basic approach is this: As your picking fingers move across the strings, the side or ridge of your thumb follows behind them, anchoring on those strings not being played and keeping them quiet. Let me state once again, however, that the previous exercise is an exaggerated example designed to show you the basic concept.

The most practical applications of this concept allow the thumb to “float” across the strings more, just keeping light contact, as opposed to rigidly parking on each string until you move to the next one.

There are several ways to implement this approach by simply changing the angle of the thumb; you’ll want to experiment to discover which method works best for you. Over the years I’ve come to settle on a version in which my thumb usually stays two strings behind my picking fingers, depending on what I’m playing.



Economy of Motion

Another benefit to using a movable anchor is that in addition to taking care of muting tasks, it also maintains a consistent hand position as you move across the strings. To explain another way, the actual ‘openness’ of your right hand remains the same regardless of which string you are playing. You’ll find that the more closed hand position used by this approach usually results in a greater comfort. Why? Try this test:

Completely relax your hands and watch what your fingers do… If you’re built like most people, you’ll find that they naturally curve into a more closed hand position. It actually takes a degree of strength to hold your hands completely open. Now think about how that applies to your right hand technique. With a stationary anchor, your right hand becomes more open the farther away your picking fingers get from your anchor. (See Figure 3)

A moveable anchor promotes a more closed right hand position across all strings, since you don’t have to ‘reach’ for the higher pitched strings.

Alternation

Another approach that will help to refine your right hand technique is the strict use of alternation in 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 picking fingers (1, 2, 1, 2, etc… or 2, 1, 2, 1, etc…). Ultimately you should be able to lead with either finger if you want to be effective with this technique.

Alternation is important because it evenly splits up your right hand workload 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.

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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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