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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.

Bass Videos

Gear News: Ibanez & Graph Tech Launch Multi-Scale Bass with Cutting-Edge Tuning

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Gear News: Ibanez & Graph Tech Launch Multi-Scale Bass with Cutting-Edge Tuning

Ibanez & Graph Tech Launch Revolutionary Multi-Scale Bass with Cutting-Edge Tuning Technology.

Ibanez Bass, renowned for pushing the boundaries of innovation in the music industry, is proud to announce an exciting collaboration with Graph Tech Guitar Labs, pioneers in instrument technology. Together, they introduce the revolutionary SRMS725 5-string Multi-scale Electric Bass and SRMS720 4-string Multi-scale Electric Bass featuring Graph Tech’s cutting-edge Ratio® Machine Heads.

The SRMS725 & SRMS720, part of the esteemed Bass Workshop series, represent a fusion of unparalleled craftsmanship and state-of-the-art engineering. Boasting a mesmerizing Blue Chameleon finish, this instrument embodies elegance and performance.

At the heart of this collaboration lies Graph Tech’s Ratio Machine Heads – a game-changer in the world of bass tuning. Unlike traditional machine heads, (which use a single gear ratio for all strings, such as 20:1) Ratio® Machine Heads employ a calibrated gear ratio for each string position. Why? Every string reacts differently to tuning adjustments, making the Low E or B on a bass hard to dial in the tuning because they are so sensitive to any adjustment. Fine-tuning where you need it. With every string having the same feel and response, players experience unparalleled control over their instrument’s tuning, resulting in a predictable, precise tuning experience with the musician in total control. 1 turn = 1 tone on every string. This same feel and response carries over to ratio-equipped electric and acoustic guitars.

We found RATIO® machine heads to be extraordinarily accurate, and we were particularly impressed with how easy drop tuning is with them, especially when dropping to D on the fourth string and to A on the fifth.,” says Ibanez. “This characteristic makes RATIO® tuners incredibly well suited for hard rock and other heavier sounds, so we thought they’d be a perfect match for our SRMS720 and SRMS725 basses. We’re also aware that Graph Tech is entirely committed to continuous product innovation, which fully aligns with our philosophy at Ibanez. .”

Innovation has always been at the core of Graph Tech’s philosophy,” says Dave Dunwoodie, President at Graph Tech Guitar Labs. “With Ratio® Machine Heads, we’ve reimagined the tuning experience, providing musicians with a tool that enhances their creativity and expression. Teaming up with Ibanez to bring this technology to the SRMS725 & SRMS720 represents a milestone in our journey to redefine industry standards.

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Features

Bergantino Welcomes Michael Byrnes to Their Family of Artists

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Bergantino Welcomes Michael Byrnes to Their Family of Artists

Interview and photo courtesy of Holly Bergantino of Bergantino Audio Systems

With an expansive live show and touring, Mt. Joy bassist Michael Byrnes shares his experiences with the joyful, high-energy band!

Michael Byrnes has kept quite a busy touring schedule for the past few years with his band, Mt. Joy. With a philosophy of trial and error, he’s developed quite the routines for touring, learning musical instruments, and finding the right sound. While on the road, we were fortunate to have him share his thoughts on his music, history, and path as a musician/composer. 

Let’s start from the very beginning, like all good stories. What first drew
you to music as well as the bass? 

My parents required my sister and I to play an instrument.  I started on piano and really didn’t like it so when I wanted to quit my parents made me switch to another instrument and I chose drums.  Then as I got older and started forming bands there were never any bass players.  When I turned 17 I bought a bass and started getting lessons.  I think with drums I loved music and I loved the idea of playing music but when I started playing bass I really got lost in it.  I was completely hooked.

Can you tell us where you learned about music, singing, and composing?

A bit from teachers and school but honestly I learned the most from just going out and trying it.  I still feel like most of the time I don’t know what I am doing but I do know that if I try things I will learn.  

What other instruments do you play?

A bit of drums but that’s it.  For composing I play a lot of things but I fake it till I make and what I can’t fake I will ask a friend! 

I know you are also a composer for film and video. Can you share more
about this with us?

Pretty new to it at the moment.  It is weirdly similar to the role of a bass player in the band.  You are using music to emphasize and lift up the storyline.  Which I feel I do with the bass in a band setting.  Kind of putting my efforts into lifting the song and the other musicians on it.

Everybody loves talking about gear. How do you achieve your “fat” sound?

I just tinker till it’s fat lol.  Right now solid-state amps have been helping me get there a little quicker than tube amps.  That’s why I have been using the Bergantino Forté HP2 –  Otherwise I have to say the cliche because it is true…. It’s in the hands.  

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that you’d like
to explore on the bass.

I like to think of myself as a pretty catchy bass player.  I need to ask my bandmates to confirm!  But I think when improvising and writing bass parts I always am trying to sneak little earworms into the music.   I want to explore 5-string more!

Who are your influences?

I can’t not mention James Jamerson.  Where would any of us be if it wasn’t for him?  A lesser-known bassist who had a huge effect on me is Ben Kenney.  He is the second bassist in the band Incubus and his playing on the Crow Left the Murder album completely opened me up to the type of bass playing I aspire towards.  When I first started playing I was really just listening to a lot of virtuosic bassists.  I was loving that but I couldn’t see myself realistically playing like that.  It wasn’t from a place of self-doubt I just deep down knew that wasn’t me.  Ben has no problem shredding but I was struck by how much he would influence the song through smaller movements and reharmonizing underneath the band.  His playing isn’t really in your face but from within the music, he could move mountains.   That’s how I want to play.    

What was the first bass you had? Do you still have it?

A MIM Fender Jazz and I do still have it.  It’s in my studio as we speak.  I rarely use it these days but I would never get rid of it.  


(Every bass player’s favorite part of an interview and a read!) Tell us about
your favorite bass or basses. 🙂

I guess I would need to say that MIM Jazz bass even though I don’t play it much.  I feel connected to that one.  Otherwise, I have been playing lots of great amazing basses through the years.  I have a Serek that I always have with me on the road (shout out Jake).   Also have a 70’s Mustang that 8 times out of 10 times is what I use on recordings.  Otherwise, I am always switching it up.  I find that after a while the road I just cycle basses in and out.  Even if I cycle out a P bass for another P bass.  

What led you to Bergantino Audio Systems?

My friend and former roommate Edison is a monster bassist and he would gig with a cab of yours all the time years ago.  Then when I was shopping for a solid state amp the Bergantino Forté HP2 kept popping up.  Then I saw Justin Meldal Johnsen using it on tour with St. Vincent and I thought alright I’ll give it a try!

Can you share a little bit with us about your experience with the Bergantino
forte HP amplifier? I know you had this out on tour in 2023 and I am pretty
certain the forte HP has been to more countries than I have.

It has been great!   I had been touring with a 70’s SVT which was great but from room to room, it was a little inconsistent.  I really was picky with the type of power that we had on stage.  After a while, I thought maybe it is time to just retire this to the studio.  So I got that Forte because I had heard that it isn’t too far of a leap from a tube amp tone-wise.  Plus I knew our crew would be much happier loading a small solid state amp over against the 60 lbs of SVT.  It has sounded great and has really remained pretty much the same from night to night.  Sometimes I catch myself hitting the bright switch depending on the room and occasionally I will use the drive on it.

You have recently added the new Berg NXT410-C speaker cabinet to your
arsenal. Thoughts so far?

It has sounded great in the studio.  I haven’t gotten a chance to take it on the road with us but I am excited to put it through the paces!

You have been touring like a madman all over the world for the past few
years. Any touring advice for other musicians/bass players? And can I go to Dublin, Ireland with you all??

Exercise!  That’s probably the number one thing I can say.  Exercise is what keeps me sane on the road and helps me regulate the ups and downs of it.  Please come to Dublin! I can put you on the guest list! 

It’s a cool story on how the Mt. Joy band has grown so quickly! Tell us
more about Mt. Joy, how it started, where the name comes from, who the
members are and a little bit about this great group?

Our singer and guitarist knew each other in high school and have made music together off and on since.  Once they both found themselves living in LA they decided to record a couple songs and put out a Craigslist ad looking for a bassist.  At the time I had just moved to LA and was looking for anyone to play with.  We linked up and we recorded what would become the first Mt. Joy songs in my house with my friend Caleb producing.  Caleb has since produced our third album and is working on our fourth with us now. Once those songs came out we needed to form a full band to be able to do live shows.  I knew our drummer from gigging around LA and a mutual friend of all of us recommended Jackie.  From then on we’ve been on the road and in the studio.  Even through Covid.

Describe the music style of Mt. Joy for me.

Folk Rock with Jam influences

What are your favorite songs to perform?

Always changing but right now it is ‘Let Loose’

What else do you love to do besides bass?

Exercise!

I always throw in a question about food. What is your favorite food?

I love a good chocolate croissant.

Follow Michael Byrnes:
Instagram: @mikeyblaster

Follow Mt. Joy Band:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mtjoyband
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mtjoyband

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Bass CDs

Album: John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two

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Album- John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed - Volume Two

Album: John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two is the second of the series of posthumous releases coming from John Entwistle.

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two is a compilation that was curated by drummer Steve Luongo, who served as John Entwistle’s producer, bandmate, business partner and good friend for many years. As Luongo states, “When I agreed to do two volumes of John Entwistle rarities, I knew volume two had to be even better than volume one. It is!” The collection of songs on Volume Two are from his years with the John Entwistle Band and include re-mastered versions of studio tracks including “Endless Vacation”, alternate mixes of tracks like “Sometimes”, and live tracks including The Who cuts “Real Me”, “Long Live Rock” and an epic version of “Young Man Blues”. The latest preview track to be released is the Who cut “Had Enough.”

Listen to “Had Enough” here: push.fm/ps/hadenough

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume One was quickly embraced by longtime fans as it featured gems like “Bogey Man” featuring Keith Moon, “Where You Going Now” (demo for the Who), and a raw live version of “Trick of the Light” recorded during the John Entwistle Band’s final tour in 2001. Deko Entertainment is thrilled to have been able to bring both volumes of this unearthed music of John Entwistle to the fans and forever solidify him as one of the greatest rock musicians ever.

For more information, visit online at dekoentertainment.com/john-entwistle

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Bass Videos

Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:

markegan.com
markegan.bandcamp.com
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Bass Videos

Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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