Bass Fingering and Dexterity Exercises

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 44,118
    Professional bassist Percy White demonstrates bass fingering and dexterity exercises.

    Percy White

    Percy White is a professional bassist living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He is originally from Philadelphia, Pa. He started playing bass when he was 10 years old after trying unsuccessfully to play guitar. As he puts it, "It just made sense. The bass has four strings and I have four fingers to play them with." He started playing by ear but after hearing Stanley Clarke he realized that he had to take lessons and so he did. After graduating high school, he joined the U.S. Navy's Nuclear Engineering Program but his musical education also continued with his study of jazz and music theory. After serving in the military, White moved to Chicago to begin an engineering career that was short lived due to his love of music. He began taking bass lessons with Nick Schneider (former bassist for the Tonight Show Band) After playing in numerous jam sessions, he began his career as a full time musician. He played with notable jazz artists like Ramsey Lewis, Oscar Brown, Jr, Roy Ayer s, and Ronnie Laws. He has jammed with Buddy Guy at his famous blues club in Chicago. White has been a founding member of two rock bands, two blues bands, one latin/jazz band, and one contemporary jazz group. He has played for the Chicago City Colleges Jazz Band, and was a winning member of the 1996 Chicago Blues band competition. In 2000, White relocated back to the east coast to broaden his musical experiences. He shares his musical knowledge by teaching privately in the DC area. After one of his outstanding performances in DC, White was asked to audition for the 257th Army Band and he recently joined the ranks of the elite performers of the Nation's Capital Army Band. White feels it's an honor to serve his country through his musical talents and is glad to have the opportunity. Although his full time occupation is being an application engineer for a worldwide water treatment company, White can still be seen playing in the Washington, DC area at least five nights a week doing what he has been doing for the last 30 years.

    Percy White: Hi, I am Percy and this is the bass playing series. In this section, I am going to give you things to practice. When you are practicing your scales, you want to practice them repetitively. I am going to give you some finger exercises to practice and some things for you to increase your dexterity in your timing. Now, musicians will tell you that you should always practice with a metronome. A metronome is a device that allows you to keep time consistently because you dont want to have your time fluctuating throughout. So, what I have is a metronome. This is an electronic metronome, and what it does is it just keeps time. It keeps time consistently and when you practice, you want to practice with the metronome to allow you to keep time consistently and they all work pretty much the same. If you look up here, there is a display here, and it tells you how many beats per minute its going to click and if I click this, you will hear a clicking. Thats just tells you how many beats per minute. So, you can adjust this by adjusting this number. Ill put it down to like 97 and you can hear it change its tempo. So, when you are beginning, maybe you want to start out around 94 and for every beat that you hit, you hit a note; three, four. Just as simple. You want to practice with the metronome, it gives you even timing thats very important. So, you have a major scale, you always want to practice your scales over two octaves. I am going to give you a fingering that you should practice in order to get your fingers dexterity. Now, in a two-octave scale, you have 15 notes. So, what you are going to do is you are going to play the first four notes of the scale. It doesnt matter, if you are going to play two-string scale or three-string scale, but for the purpose of this exercise, we are just going to cover one octave and I am going show you the fingerings, and I am going to show you the exercise and then you can extend it over two octaves and Ill show. So, you are going to do one octave and you are going to play a major scale over three strings using three-string fingering and its going to look like this. The first four notes; one, two, three, four, okay, and then you will play the second four notes of the scale using the same fingering. The two, three, four and five, those are two, three, four and fifth notes of the scale and then so forth. Third, fourth, fifth and the sixth note of the scale and so forth. Four, five, six, seven, five, six, seven, eight, thats just one octave, so, it looks like this. You remember there is a fingering for a three-string major scale and the each note in the scale has its own finger. So, it looks like this. Thats just one octave and you do it forward and backwards. That is a finger exercise; I would like to call the spider because your fingers are doing a whole bunch of moving around, but thats an exercise you should do and you should do this exercise over two octaves. Now, you want to get down to positions, where you have to change fingerings because the fingering for three-string scale and the fingering for a two-string scale are different. I will show you the same exercise over the same octave, but using a two-string method and in reverse. Now, youll notice when I came back up, I used a little bit different fingering. I did that because it made more sense to just use a different finger that was already there. As I explained earlier, none of these fingerings are etched in stone; its just the optimum way to play it. As you get more comfortable with your instrument, you will find ways that are more comfortable for you to accomplish your task. So, I am going to show you the whole exercise up over two octaves and in reverse. Now, when I started this lesson, I said its important to have a metronome. A metronome will help your establish good timing. Very important, you want to be even, you want to be clean, thats how you play a major scale over two strings and thats a good finger exercise. It helps you develop, changing positions of your fingering and to help you realize where you are on your bass. Now, I just did this in the key of G, in doing it doesnt matter what key you do it in, because of relative fingering is the same. I could either start it here or if I start it here, it doesnt really matter. Important thing is that you get the fingerings correctly and you get the relationship of each note to the other note correctly. Thats a major scale exercise over two octaves. Happy playing.