Tabs and fingering (fretting hand)


#1

Hi, I made it to the end of Module 10 and just finished with “Seven Nation Army”, which triggered again a question I had for a while now. I also realize similar questions have been asked after the workouts in the course, but I thought I use the forum, as I assume my “issue” is also of interest to many others (and in many cases, not just for “Seven Nation Army”).

So, you want to play a bassline and maybe you found some tabs for it… but, really, any given tab is just ONE way to play the line (playing around with your bass you often find out there are (several) other ways to play a riff/motive/line, involving different strings and different areas of the fretboard). Also, tabs still don’t tell you which fingers to use, only which frets…

Thus, I am wondering how seasoned bass players go about
a) finding how where on the fretboard to play a certain line, and
b) which fingering to use for that

Is there an “algorithm” to optimize, e.g., string crossing, amount of sliding, sound, avoiding (or emphasizing) open strings, etc, and then, afterwards, which fingers to use?

Thanks!


#2

I am no seasoned player but I try to play whatever is easiest whilst accomplishing the task. I feel like my finger dexterity is still developing so I try to play in ways which don’t require much of that if I can help it. Its an interesting question, I’d like to hear what others think.


#3

This is a great question.

My response is always - whatever sounds the best. That is the only algorithm that works in music consistently.
If I’m trying to copy another player’s line or learn their part verbatim, I’ll change fingering to try and make it sound the way they do: for example, if they are playing everything fretted, I’ll avoid open strings.
It can take some deep listening to try and figure out exactly where a player is playing - but as you listen and play a ton, you can start to hear the difference between the first few frets, the middle of the neck, and the 12th fret landscape.
So.
If it sounds good / sounds like the recording is always the best approach, and then trying to find the most economical, relaxed and clean way to execute the fingering that gives me the sound.

Hope that helps!


#4

@Gio and @gmunatsi - Thanks, guys - that is kind of what I figured, but I thought I’d tap into the collected wisdom of the forum to see whether there might be some hidden secrets to be learned…

What about original music then (i.e., no recordings yet, nobody to copy yet)? In other words, developing own bass lines? I guess the “what sounds best” is a very good starting point… or is it “what is easiest to play”?

I could share a line that I composed many years ago, and now want to play on the bass for the first time myself. I would be interested to see suggested tabs or the like… Of course, part of my “challenge” stems from the fact that I only play bass for a little over two months (though other instruments for over thirty years) :smile:


#5

ha - yes, the ‘what sounds best’ rule should be the only thing allowed into your brain when you’re writing / composing / jamming.

You can refine and adjust and strategize later.

Once you’ve got something you like, sure - play around with different positions and fingers… but make sure the vibe/rhythm/melody/groove is all there first… and nothing kills a groove faster than a bass player’s brain thinking technical / hand-position / how-should-I-play this stuff… at least, it kills MY grooves.


#6

Same. And it’s really hard to listen for until you develop the ear, because you’re listening for very very slight differences in tone that let you know there was a string change, or an open D versus 5th fret of the A string, etc.

But yeah. It’s all about the sound for me, even if that makes something “harder” to play. Which isn’t necessarily the best way for a beginner to put together fingerings, but that’s the direction to move in.

Again depends on your skill level. Personally I would 100% aim for “what sounds best,” but if there’s a conflict between sound and easiness, you might have to calibrate differently. Especially because if something is too hard, you’ll play it poorly, which will sound worse than picking a less adventurous fingering. :slight_smile:

Do it!

+1


#7

OK, so here is the sheet music with the bass line that I’d appreciate getting some input on. A few points for context:

  • it is from a piece composed for and played by a trio (keyboards, e-bass, drums) in 1987 (I played drums back then)
  • the line shown was originally played by the keyboards, with the bass doubling on parts of the riff - I want to re-record the whole piece now with the bass playing this entire line
  • back then, we wouldn’t write out the score, but just play it on the keyboard and then start working on the different parts; so, I transcribed it as good as I can (not good in getting the phrasing completely right, though)
  • I am just learning to use MuseScore - so, the grouping of notes might be a little strange…

Anyway, so far, I try to play this on the first 4 frets and on the A, D, and G strings. I am not too happy with the open D-string for notes 1 and 3 in the second bar, to name one challenge…

I appreciate your input with tabs or suggestions for fingering etc. - thanks a bunch!


#8

I think you’re close, just close up all the open strings. The way I’m inclined to approach this is throw it all in a B minor scale shape, à la:
27%20PM

That’s without hearing the music of course, there are plenty of artistic variations you could make on that theme. Like if you wanted the E natural in bar one to articulate on a different string than the F# preceding, you could move it to the A string.

You also might want to take everything up a string, starting on the 7th fret of the E string. Depends on your bass, the tone you want, etc. I was just listening to the Michel Columbier album with Jaco on it from 1979 so all I can think about is punchy bridge pickup tone and fusion heads. :slight_smile:


#9

Thanks for pointing out the possibility to see it within the scale shape - seems pretty obvious now that I see it, too :grinning:I guess one reason why I had (intuitively) avoided that is because it includes a good deal of action of and between the ring finger and the pinky - a tough combo… but a great exercise on the other hand as well. Moving it up to the seventh fret makes it a tiny bit easier as the spread is not as wide!

Yeah, tone shaping on the bass - that’s another thing I am struggling with as I try to understand what goes into the equation here (bass, pickups, strings, where you pluck, the settings on the bass, the settings on the amp, …) - maybe stuff for another thread!?!


#10

Builds character. :sweat::guitar::zap::sunglasses:

Maybe a way to simplify that is just to find the sound you’re looking for (maybe it’s the Jaco sound I had in my head when messing with this), and then investigate what gear/technique went into that to start to get a sense of what makes different tones happen.