Dexterity Exercises on the Bass

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 32,201
    Professional bassist Percy White demonstrates some dexterity exercises on the bass.

    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, my name is Percy and this is the bass playing series and in this section, I just want to give you some finger exercise that you can use in order to increase your dexterity. You want to be comfortable playing your instrument and here are some exercises that you can use to get more familiar with your instrument. First one is the Chromatic exercise, and the chromatic scale is just playing every note available to you and for the bass what you would do is you start for people who are playing four strings you want to play, you will start with the lowest note, I will use the E and you will start with your first finger at the first fret okay and what you do is each space gets its own finger and you will do this across the bass and thats what you would do. Now, here how all this exercise is most efficient is if you try to keep your finger as close to the position that there are in when you hitting the note and then you will do it backwards and that gives you nice a stretch on your fingers, it will give you a nice stretch and you feel it here and you notice I keep my thumb behind it even when I am over here in this position, when you keep your thumb so you cant see it. You keep it behind the neck and you get the stretch. This is a chromatic exercise and then you will slide down one fret and then do it again, going backwards and then so forth and if you notice how I use my thumb to mute the strings, I am not playing and I am alternating my first and second finger of my right hand. Okay so thats one exercise. You can also do this chromatic exercise in reverse and slide down or you can alternate going up one string and then backwards, the other string and so forth. Another way to alter this exercise is to hit the string, hit each note more than one time. Ideally you want to hit each note in odd number of times that causes your fingers, that causes each pattern to be started with a different finger. And no matter what exercise you are doing whether you are doing a scale exercise or Epigeios (ph) or anything, whatever exercise you do, you want to alter the number of times you hit each string or hit each note because it gives you dexterity and that gives you use to playing different patterns. Now, another exercise which is very important for playing bass is what I call the String Crossing Exercise and thats where each note is on a different string. You have to cross your strings to do it and what I like to do is like I call the X. Lets say you will start with your pinky on the lowest string, and you will go up and then you keep going up one fret, and one string each time and it causes your fingers each on your right hand, each fingers hits the different string at each time and you are crossing the strings. It is very important to get use to doing that, so this exercise might sound like this for going from low to high. Alright and you will practice that, okay and as always with any exercise use your trusted metronome, set it at a nice comfortable pace or if you want to do doubles and as I said before try to keep your fingers in whatever position you are holding them in, it will help you stretch and get used to placing your fingers throughout the neck.

    Okay, so those are some basic exercises that you can use to get your fingers use to playing.