How to Hold and Finger Your Bass – Part Two

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 22,920
    Professional bassist Percy White demonstrates how to hold and finger your bass guitar.

    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: So, what you can do is you take your finger and you just rub it across the string. You dont have to pull it or anything like that, or work it like this. Just take it and just easily run it across the string. The string will vibrate and these are called pickups. The pickups will actually pickup the sound of the string. So, you strum it across the string until the string behind it stops your finger like that. So, you hit it; then notice my thumb is sitting on the string is that I am not playing. Okay, I am resting my arm, you will see, I will take to my wrist, I am resting my wrist on the body of the bass and then just let it hang there. No force to it, and I am letting my thumb rest on the strings that I am not going to be hitting. So, whenever you hit one string you will automatically come in contact with another. So, there are two strings that you arent going to be hitting, you wont be contact with. So, thats two strings, I dont have to touch. When I strum one string, it's going to left on the other. The string thats vibrating is the noise I want to hear. Same thing, after you hit one with one finger, you hit it with the other. Okay, when you are hitting these, you run the strings, you go, one two you let the string behind your finger stop you. Same thing with here and as you slide up, I just run across this string and the string behind it stops it and so forth and when you are down here, it doesnt going to matter where you place your thumb. I like to rest my thumb on the pickups, because when I am hitting the mono, as I am going to hit. Now, thats how you mute the strings down here but if you are at top in and you are playing and you are hitting the string, if a string is making a noise you dont wanted to hear, just stop it from up top, all you have to do is just touch the string. If I am playing this string and I want to stop making a sound, all I have to do is just touch it and it will stop vibrating and whenever the string is not vibrating, there is no sound for you to pickup. So to recap, place your left hand behind the back of the neck bring your fingers around. These are whats going to make the notes. Your right hand, you use first two fingers and you just stroke it across the string. Thats all you do. It's just that simple.

    You dont have to do it hard, because you have a amplifier. The amplifier does its job. Its purpose is to amplify the sound. So, if you want to be heard, all you have to do is just turn your amplifier up, there is no need to play hard. If you play hard you wont be able to play fluid and smooth which is what you want as a bass player.