The distance between the notes, C, and, G, is an interval and the distance between the notes, C, and, C#, is also an interval. Play each of these sets of notes in at least three different places on your fret board. The first interval is more useful than the second for bass playing. This lesson covers the most useful intervals for bass playing.
Definition: fret board: the top of the neck of the bass over which the strings lie.
Memorize this definition: a half-step is the distance between successive notes (in our western scales), for example, between the notes C and C# is one half-step. Between the notes E and F is one half-step. Play each of these sets of notes in at least three different locations on your fret board. There is no E# or Fb.
Of course, a whole-step is twice that distance: two half-steps. For example, C to D and E to F#. Play each of these sets of notes in at least three different locations on the fret board.
Definition: key: a musical structure comprising notes which are said to be related in some ways. The key of a song can usually (but not always) be labeled by its basic root note, the keynote, the 1st note or 1st position in the scale. It is called the tonic.
Definition: tonic: the keynote of any scale, the first degree of any key.
A scale that we use very often is called 'the major scale.' The second most often used scale is 'the minor scale.'
Starting from the note, C, the major scale in the key of C is: C, D, E, F, G, - wraparound - A, B, and C ('octave') simply because it was stated so fifteen hundred years ago during the dark ages when western musical minds were tossing around ideas about how music should evolve. I guess that these decisions were made based on ideas or theories of how to divide up the range of musical sounds available to them and what sounded good to their ears at the time. From these ideas and decisions came the basis for western music which has been in effect up until this time. Everybody uses it from Beethoven to the Beatles to Beck to _________________ (fill in your favorite musician).
Note: I will name the fingers on your fretting hand from one to four, one being your index finger, two the middle finger, three the ring finger and four the pinky.
Play this scale, the C major scale, on your bass using this fingering: C-middle finger on C note, A string, 3rd fret; D- pinky on D note, A string, 5th fret; E- first finger on E note, D string, 2nd fret; F- middle finger on F note, D string, 3rd fret; G- pinky on G note, D string, 5th fret; A- first finger on A note, G string, 2nd fret; B- ring finger on B note, G string, 4th fret; C- pinky on C note, G string, 5th fret. Then play it backwards starting with your pinky on the last note you played, the (octave) C note. Do this fifty times.., just kidding! Do it a few times and come back to it later.
The following chart is a faster format in which to present notes, strings, frets and fingers than the preceding paragraph.
Another way to present this information is by using 'tablature' or 'Tab.' It's a simple system of depicting the strings and frets. Tab has found a HUGE following among musicians of all kinds. There are Tab web sites galore! Places where you can find all sorts of music, especially Rock, presented in Tab. Tab is simply a picture of the strings and the frets (behind which) the notes are fingered and by graphic implication what notes are to be played. The frets are written sequentially from left to right, as they would be played. All sorts of fingering techniques can also be indicated. Tab is pretty well defined, uses mostly standardized symbols and yet also has some variability, some leeway in the symbols that can be used. Unusual symbols or characters are usually stated and defined just prior to any Tab presentation. In the Appendix, there's a listing of several web sites which offer excellent, detailed explanations of what Tab is.
Tab diagrams do not specify what fretting fingers to use so I've used the fretting finger numbering from the above C major scale chart in this Tab diagram by writing them above each corresponding fret written on the string lines. Since I've mentioned that any nonstandard symbols or characters can be used as long as they are stated and defined beforehand, I'm putting them into this Tab diagram in order to keep the connection between the below Tab chart and the fingering chart above more clear in your mind.
Here's a simple example of the C major scale in Tab:
You could also write in the actual notes in the Tab specification, although they aren't needed because the positioning of the fret number on one of the strings specifies what note is to be played:
It might be fun to write a few Tab diagrams yourself by translating the charts that I present on the following pages using the above example. It's easy to become proficient with Tab and it can be handy to know if you want to quickly learn bass parts from other musicians' works without learning how to read and write standard music notation.
Starting from the note, E, the major scale in the key of E is E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, Eb, E ('octave').
Play this scale using the same fingering as with the C major scale, above, but start on the note, E, four half-steps higher on the A string, 7th fret. Play it backwards.
Just for kicks and to expose you to the use of open strings ( which you really ought not get into the habit of using simply because you can't control an open string), play the E major scale from the lowest note, E, on the open E string going upwards using the following fingerings: E- no finger on E note, open E string, zero fret (the nut, which the strings rest on); F#- first finger on F# note, E string, 2nd fret; G#- third finger on G# note, E string, 4th fret; A- no finger on A note, open A string, zero fret; B- first finger on B note, A string, 2nd fret; C#- third finger on C# note, A string, 4th fret; Eb- first finger on Eb note, D string, 1st fret; E- 2nd finger on E (octave) note, D string, 2nd fret. Play it backwards.
In fact as one of this manual's general rules always play every exercise both forwards and backwards all the time.
Try the same E major scale but now instead of using your first and third fingers to fret the fretted notes in the scale, use your second and fourth (pinky) fingers. What's most comfortable? Probably using the second and fourth fingers because, as you've seen, when you got to the Eb and E (octave) notes you were able to very naturally use your first and second fingers on those notes without having to move your entire hand and wrist down a half step to fret them. This points towards a general rule of bass playing ( all rules have exceptions) that you use the fingers on the frets in ways that enable you to reach all the notes that you will want to play with the least amount of vertical movement of the fretting hand on the fret board. Lateral movement of all sorts is okay, good ! That's why you have multiple strings. Re-read the general rule, three sentences ago.
End of day 3.