Essential Secrets 29: Figure Out Fingerings First
Figure Out Fingerings First
Making Left-Hand Decisions Affects Everything Else
Before you can add all the elements of a song that make it exciting to listen to, you’ve got to play the correct notes with the correct fingers. Left hand fingering on the bass is particularly challenging. Fret spacing in the lower positions is huge, riffs can be played on different strings, and nearly every note on the bass is available at multiple locations on the fretboard.
Start with some experimentation to figure out your fingerings. With each new song you will find yourself in a discovery phase. You’ll use open strings, then play without open strings, start a riff on one string, and end up starting it somewhere else. Try several positions. Don’t limit yourself to fingerings in just the first few frets. Sometimes you’ll get better tone and balance by playing farther up the fingerboard—even in the mysterious area between the seventh and twelfth frets that many bassists avoid.
During the discovery phase, don’t get too attached to any one fingering. Hopefully, you’ll quickly decide on your best fingering choice. Only with the definitive fingering in place do you want to start the process of slow practicing that imprints the pattern permanently into your brain. Once this muscle memory is in place, the fingering will be automatic.
Make sure you are comfortable with your fingering choices. You never want to find yourself in the position of having to re-learn fingerings because you made bad decisions the first time around. If figuring out fingerings is too challenging, get help with this all-important detail. Some sheet music includes fingering in the notation, and your bass teacher can help you. Asking about fingerings will be one of your primary tasks if you take lessons.
With your fingerings in place you’ll be able to work out rhythms, tones, dynamics, transitions, tempos, and all the other technical elements of your song. Always start with fingerings.
Books by David Motto:
THE TEN MINUTE
FOR ELECTRIC BASS
COMPLETE 3-VOL. SET