The song/lesson for this month is The Lesson. It’s inspiration is taken from Victor Wooten’s Palmystery album (2008). The key is Bb major; however beginning with G minor, it means we are in Aeolian mode. The technique you are aiming for is to play a percussion accompaniment, taken from flamenco guitar, with your right hand and called rasgueo – while still knocking out a bass line. Your goal is to master the basic pattern and then slowly add in various rhythmic percussive strikes to make it your own. This piece will require a 4 string bass guitar.
Listen to The Lesson – Backing Track
The main riff is a flamenco style bass line in 6/8 which uses two types of percussive strikes in the right hand. The primer (bar 1) should be used to get yourself acquainted with the off beat rhythmic placement of the double stops and then adding in a descending bass line over a static chord/harmonics in bars 4 -5. Learn to count with the main pattern – master that before moving onto the percussion part. Bar 7 deals with the right hand strike that pushes the strings down into the frets (almost like a slap except it’s with your finger tips). Bar 8 onwards deals with the right hand index (and other fingers) playing across the muted strings in a strumming motion called rasgueo. This may take some time to get right so go slow and concentrate on each part separately. The percussion is open to interpretation.
Things to note off the original are Victor’s strong pocket playing and his use of dynamics. An idea to steal off the record is his perceptive use of right hand slides, string noises and subtle off beat patterns to outline the rhythm in between notes.
To begin it’s worth saying that to play percussion and still solo a bass line while staying in time is going to be challenging. So a few hints: play the descending bass and double stops while just tapping the rests of the 6/8 beat on the strings. Some of the stretches and finger positions are unorthodox, esp. the arpeggio section at bar 35, which uses barre technique. Make sure your left hand thumb is directly behind the first finger to execute this properly. This section imitates classical/flamenco guitar where there is a melody with chordal accompaniment. Aim to get the melody separate and clear. The use of rest strokes in the right hand will aid this. Take this slow and let your left hand get used to the chords, distinction between fatigue and pain is fine so be careful and don’t do permanent damage. The runs are made up of two tetra chords (scale fragments) and are phrased using legato techniques (hammer ons and pull offs) practise these separately and aim for clarity. The tab (and hence the fingering) can be altered. Victor also uses left hand thumb over the top to keep the harmony with these runs. This is not for everybody, hence the reason there are two variations of those runs in the music – the choice is yours.
That aside this technique will not sound authentic without the right sound, think Victor Wooten. His sound is unique and a lot of that is down to his attack on the instrument however the use of active pick ups, and Eq (added treble and bass) will help. For further listening check out Vicente Amigo.
This is a bass line that grooves and has the possibilities for many extra nuances. The track is made up of Latin percussion stalwarts: claves (sticks), shaker, cajon and udo with claps outlining the full 6/8 beat (with some typical Flamenco off beats added). The primer starts out simply and then adds in more complex right hand movements, listen to the clave to position the 1st right hand strike in time. The main groove starts one bar after the primer and is led in by the claves. Near the end there is an arpeggio section, technically in 2/4, however Victor’s phrasing lends itself to 4/4. Most importantly have fun with the groove and percussion and check out Victor’s Groove Workshop DVD for inspiration.