Getting more advanced with your playing hand might not be every bass player's cup of tea. Some bass players go insane with their string playing finger skills. Others are a bit more subtle but they get some great work going none-the-less. Others get a reasonable sound but look like they're struggling. Of course, each to his own.
The reality is getting more fingers working with your playing hand creates a smoother sound. If you rarely go beyond playing straight eighths then just using two fingers is pretty much all you need in your fingering tool box (please tell me you at least use two fingers).
If your bass lines require more than just a basic groove, such as moving across the strings or string skipping, you get a far smoother sound by getting more fingers working. It takes practice but you'd be surprised how quickly it becomes a natural playing process. Your bass lines actually become easier to play.
In the bass tablature below we've got a bass playing exercise that uses three playing hand fingers. At first glance this may seem like a mess. Take a look and then we'll break it down. The fretting hand is the hand that frets the notes on the fretboard, the playing hand is the hand that plucks the strings.
The easiest part of this is that it's two chords. G Major for two bars then D Major for two bars. Each bar begins with root notes. Then there's some string skipping to get to note clusters. For the G Major chord you skip two strings! The first bar for each chord involves a bass hammer-on. The second bar uses a short bass walk.
Using a third finger to play the strings makes this exercise much easier and less jerky movement wise. The playing hand fingers are shown in the lower set of numbers. It might seem crazy at first. Slow it down, work through it and it will become a logical way to approach this. We really emphasised this technique by the very last notes of the example - two notes played at exactly the same time using the second and third fingers. (on a side note as we were writing this post we noticed that we'd put repeat marks on the very last bar. We could've changed the graphics but thought, why not just leave it in. It's creative. It's practice. But the audio example for this lesson doesn't play it)
The fretting hand fingering is the upper set of numbers. It's pretty straight forward. Using the pinky finger, fourth finger, is shown in the tablature but you can get away with using the third.
Listen to an audio version of this example. It's at a quite slow 88 beats per minute.
That's pretty much everything you need to work through this exercise. If you find it difficult. Be patient with yourself, but don't take short cuts. Work on playing this bass lesson as it is tabbed.
If you want to learn more cool bass stuff check out our YouTube video on Chromatic Bass Walks (opens in a new window). Lastly, you can have the drum beat for this lesson for free. Simply click on I want this beat.
Happy bass playing!