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Looking at:

bass fretboard1

I have an exercise which requires me to play fret 3 G followed by fret 3 C at a tempo of 130. My natural inclination is to use finger 1 on G and then, without moving finger 1 (leave the tip on G), simply lower the back part onto C and then raise it again when I'm done.

Is this the correct way to accomplish that? I could certainly practice moving the tip of the finger back and forth but that movement seems unnecessary. Are there better alternatives?

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  • Can you post a pic of the exercise? The approach would depend on the entire passage. You certainly can roll the finger from G to C, like a bar, and there are certainly many other approaches. Why would you be on the 1? does it start there? Or could you finger G with 2? – ggcg Dec 27 '20 at 15:19
  • That pic does not help. Is this the "exercise"? – ggcg Dec 27 '20 at 15:20
  • @ggcg not sure to which pic you're referring. The fretboard? That should be the only pick currently in there. Here's a link to the exercise though! studybass.com/lessons/common-bass-patterns/roots-to-chords/… – Grant Curell Dec 27 '20 at 15:21
  • Sounds like a backwards bass pattern! Usually it's C followed by G. – Tim Dec 27 '20 at 18:29
  • You ask about fretted strings, but the studybass.com exercise shows open strings. Where is the exercise with C and G? – Michael Curtis Dec 28 '20 at 17:13
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One way to do this is called a "pressure roll", which is demonstrated by Adam Neely in this video (starting at 1:14):

He slides his finger from one note to the next without lifting it.

If you have only one ascending perfect fourth to play, you can flatten your finger and fret the second note with the lower part of the finger, while the tip mutes the first note, as you described. Note that this will not work with descending perfect fourths or more than one ascending perfect fourth in a row.

You can also use two different fingers to fret the two notes. I have small hands so this is usually the easiest option for me. Adam Neely also does this at 2:02 in the above video with his pinky and ring fingers, and then again with his middle and index fingers.

Fretted notes 1 Fretted notes 2

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  • Thanks man! That was exactly what I was looking for! I'll have to start working on my pressure roll 😂. – Grant Curell Dec 28 '20 at 22:00
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Quite probably, especially with bass, is that what you don't play is as important as what you do play.

Let me explain. It's very easy to make extraneous noises playing bass - other strings vibrating in sympathy, taking a finger off a just played fret, catching a string with the other hand/fingers.

With this in mind, most good players will mute everything they can except the note being played. They'll do this with whatever they can - it could be the plucking hand/fingers, or the fretting fingers. By sliding your finger across, which seems like a tidy move, you're letting one string go to favour the other. That can cause noise, as the string you moved from is now open. You could make sure the string just left is still muted by however much finger you can leave there.

The better way is to control each string with a separate finger. That way, the played string gets pressed onto the fingerboard, while the unplayed one gets muted, by keeping the same finger used for fretting touching that string. On the same fret isn't a problem.

That way, you will 'rock' your two fingers back and forth, alternately pressing and muting. Using two fingers from your plucking hand will mean you'll work up a good pace, and it'll all sound nice and clean. All you are left with is trying to keep a steady pace at whatever tempo is needed.

When the above is sorted, you might like to consider what happens with the open D and G strings. While you play your G note on the bottom string, that top G might start to vibrate - it may well do the same when you play the C note too. So the objective here is to mute those opens as well. Maybe with a couple of spare fingers from right hand, maybe a couple of spare fingers from left. Yours to experiment. Good luck, and clean playing!

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The link you posted in your comment just shows open E and A. But if I extrapolate I guess you are just moving back and forth on the root of a I --> IV progression.

There is nothing wrong with rolling the index finger. But it wouldn't hurt to try and practice (slowly) lifting the index and crossing the string.

You have competing interests. On the one had you want a smooth transition from one note to the other. But you also want to be able to move and shift positions when needed.

Rolling a finger gets you where you need to be quickly but possible at the cost of (1) being locked in place, and (2) hearing the other note ring (which you need to control).

Lifting a finger can have the disadvantage of causing the open string to ring, especially at fast tempos. But I prefer this as it leads to clearer articulation of the note, at least for me.

You can manage extemporaneous sounds by a combination of releasing the pressure on the G without completely lifting the finger or laying part of the right hand on that string. Either way it acts as a mute for the G, or the open E should you choose to change string.

This issue occurs in guitar as well, especially classical where the scraping noise of the string and sympathetic resonance can reek havoc on clean sound.

Unless there is some direction in the exercise that indicates proper technique I'd practice both ways, slowly at first, working your way up to the fast temp.

Another option could be use two fingers, though that might be more work than needed for this simple exercise. It is a common exercise in classical guitar and upright bass to cross strings at the same fret with different fingers. Though in my recollection this is more of a control and dexterity building exercise and not the "preferred" way to play notes at the same fret.

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  • It's the third exercise in the link. – Grant Curell Dec 28 '20 at 21:57
  • I see. I don't like that "TAB", I'm used to fret numbers and they gave letter names? Is that standard? It does not change my answer. – ggcg Dec 28 '20 at 21:59
  • It's called an alpha tab. I'm new to this, but as I understand it this seems to be a bit of a religious war in the bass community 😂. This instructor's course focuses heavily on learning the bass while also working on music theory so there's an added priority on being able to identify a note and its corresponding letter. Subsequently, there's much less emphasis on tabs and a lot more on standard sheet music. With the tabs provided the idea is that new students focus more on the correlation between the fret and the note rather than the fret number – Grant Curell Dec 28 '20 at 22:03
  • Well I was trained to sight read and my teachers would have gone to war against any and all tab – ggcg Dec 28 '20 at 22:16
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If you are playing simple repetition of those two notes & do not need to be prepared to go anywhere else afterwards, then I'd use the two strongest fingers with best reach to that side of the neck, 2 & 3 (middle & ring). You will probably find that an easier reach than 1st finger, and considerably easier than unnecessarily dancing from string to string with any single finger if you don't have to. Don't make extra work for yourself - that will come later when you have more complex figures… & when your hands are more used to it.

That way you have the firmest fretting, with the best left hand damping of the other note.

If you need to go off elsewhere after a period of such repetition, then you do that in the last cycle by swapping to fingers best placed to set you up for the next line. No need to swap before you need to.

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When you're reading it is effective to roll that finger over, as it maintains your position. When you're playing at a fast tempo it usually saves you time. As you go back and refine a passage you might decide to substitute an adjacent finger (in this case possibly the second finger) to facilitate movement to whatever note comes next. In any case, the technique of rolling the fretting finger over onto the next string is one you will use again and again, trust me.

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