Bass Note Articulation

By Bass Levite

There are many ways to make the same note sound different just by varying the way it is played. These variations are the elements that inject emotion into the music. Some elements are:

- volume (how hard you pick the strings)
- vibrato (rarely used since bass strings are too thick to have much vibrator effect)
- left hand techniques (slides, hammer-ons)
- right hand techniques (picking position, slapping, tapping, popping)
- muting techniques (long notes, short notes)

Long and Short Notes
As an example, I have recorded various ways of playing the C note.

Riff 1a - long notes
Riff 1b - short notes
Riff 1c - alternating long and short notes

To get short notes, simply mute the string after you play it. To get long notes, simply let the notes ring out. Alternating long and short notes would require hand coordination though.

Hammer-ons and Slides
Riff 2a - playing Bb before C
Riff 2b - hammer on the C after playing Bb
Riff 2c - slide from Bb to C

Picking Positions and Slapping
Riff 3a - picking near the bridge
Riff 3b - picking further from the bridge
Riff 3c - slapping on the 22nd/24th fret

The slap is done by hitting the string at the last fret with the edge of the thumb (that bony area), and then quickly releasing it to prevent the thumb from muting the sound. The result is a metallic and sharp sound. It's usually too flashy to use in worship songs, and is usually reserved for solos.

I find that picking far from the bridge near the first pickups gives a fuller sound. I usually play there for slow worship songs where the strings need to ring out for a long time and sound full.

I find playing near the bridge gives more control over the strings and the sound quality is somewhat between the slap and the full sound. I usually use this playing position for fast praise songs.

Popping - complements slapping [Not Shown]
Basically use the index finger to pull the string from underneath and then releasing it. The string springs back to its relaxed position and hits the fretboard, creating this "pop". Be careful not to pull too much or the strings might snap!

Vibrato [Not Shown]
Vibrate your finger holding down the note, usually only used on notes high up the fretboard

Tapping [Not Shown]
Similar to slapping, except using fingers instead of thumb (much harder to master than slapping)

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