A warm welcome to all the readers of Bass Musician Magazine. In this second lesson on ‘Double Thumbing’ we will see some more simple licks to practice with.
In our first appointment we have seen the basics of the technique and the hand positioning, practicing on two simple patterns. The movements involved were three: Down (T?) – Up (T?) – Pluck (P). In pattern no. 2 (see Lesson 1) we introduced the Hammer as a device to play our notes with the only use of our left hand (or the other way around if you are a left handed player).
Using the same three motions I introduce now some new patterns based again on triplets.
1. In the first example (no.3) we will work with triplets on one string, using some combinations of Down, Up, Pluck and Hammer. As soon as you get more confident with the motions involved you can expand the pattern over other strings and playing other notes.
In this sample the note is an E at the seventh fret on the A string.
1) The first group is a Down-Up-Pluck combination.
To get a quite fluid motion is recommended to keep the tip of your plucking finger in line with your thumb, which I naturally place parallel to the strings (see image on lesson 1). Once you hit the string with the Down, your finger is ready to pluck even before you come up with the thumb (Up).
2) In the second group we use the Hammer to play the first quaver of our triplet, followed by a Thumb-Pluck sequence, in order to play the remaining two eight notes.
Here again the key is to keep thumb and finger as close as possible in order to save time and avoid an extra movement placing your finger underneath the string you are about to pluck. An extra care to the Hammer, which has to be clear and strong enough to produce a full note on beat, giving the accent of our triplet. Therefore the triplet effect depends by the strength of the hammered note.
3) In the third group we have a Down and Up stroke with a Hammer in between. The coordination is needed to have a fluent triplet using an open string and then hammering a note which will be subsequently plucked by a coming back thumb motion.
In this last combination, our first quaver is an open A. It can be played both as a full or ghost note according to the dynamic we want to have. Bear in mind that the accent is on the One in order to respect the triplet. (you may also put the accent on the second or third quaver, but do not get confused when playing). The main concept of this combination is the same of the line no.2 (see Lesson 1). We have just replaced the ‘pluck’ with a ‘thumb up’.
2. In this line no.4 we introduce the second finger (m) to pluck, and the Strum as new elements to hit the strings.
1-2 In the first two groups the Hammer plays the first quaver -in this example an E, seventh fret on the A string- and two ghost notes on the open G string. Using the last two quavers as ghosts we can build a scale or arpegio changing the hammered note resulting in a flashy chop lick when played at fast tempo.
To have a tight triplet I advice to keep the fingers next to each other and articulate the two plucks with one movement when pulling. In this case the double-pluck is not produced by the rotation of your wirst but by the articulation of the fingers. To have a more compressed triplet you can treat the double pull as a flam. You can practice with it separately, on one or two string, and put the hammered note afterwards.
3-4 In these last two groups of triplets we use the Hammer to play our notes, and two movements of the right hand: down to Strum, and up when plucking. Stumming is a quite common way of playing for guitarist, for instance. Index and middle fingers are involved in order to hit the string(s), and to have the possibility to pluck once or twice on the way up if needed. I noted the D and G strings only to be strummed, in order to have a high pich sound, almost as a snare drum that stands out in contrast with the low sounds generated by a bass drum, or in our case the bass line. You can strum any note on any string. The Strum is an useful device to enlarge our tonal range.
Once our picking hand has strummed down, it will be easy to come back and pluck (P) with an up motion.
Strumming is not a quite common device for bass players, and it is quite hard to find it in ‘traditional’ bass lines. Stanley Clarke was a pioneer of this technique, introducing strummed double stops in his slappy bass lines (‘School Days’ by Stanley could be a good example). Having the chance to hit one or more notes in this way, full notes or ghost, we can produce a percussive effect which adds groove in our bass line. Keep an eye on muting the strings you do not want to ring, in order to avoid undesired resonances.
For any questions, suggestion or comments you can contact me at [email protected]. I will be happy to answer your questions as soon as possible.
Enjoy and good practice, and I look forward to see you in the next issue.