How to Make Notes on the Bass

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 16,215
    Professional bassist Percy White demonstrates how to make notes 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, welcome back. I am Percy. In this segment I am going to get down to the meat of playing bass. Weve gone over -- I have shown you to set your bass up. I told you what needs to be done about tuning it, and how to place your hands comfortably on your bass. So, now we are going to get into actually making the notes. How do you make notes on your bass? Its going to sound really simple, but the way you make notes on your bass, is you take the string, whatever string you want to hit and you push down one string at a particular spot on your neck. Each of one these spaces is called fret, actually the bar, the fret line and you have spaces in between. Okay, so each one of these spaces makes a different sound. Each sound has a name and there is note. So, each one of these spaces is a different note on your bass. Basically, what you are going to do is you put your finger on the note, push down on the string until you touch it with the neck and that same string with your right hand or the strumming hand, you strum the same string that your finger is on. I am going to hit a C, which is a third fret, a third space on your A string and I am going to strum that string with one finger. Okay, now in previous lessons I have told you about muting the notes that you dont want to hear. As my finger comes across to hit that C string, well this part of my finger is going to touch the other note, the other string thats just going to barely touch them and barely touching them is going to stop them from vibrating so that you wont hear them and I am going to hold down this string and I am going to pluck it, and notice, as I said before, I am going to hold my thumb or my strumming hand that is going to sit on the note that I am not going to hit. I am going strum that first note there, its going to rest on the other string, so its not going to vibrate. So, now out all of the strings, the only one thats vibrating is the one that my finger is on and you hear the note and that is how you make the sounds. Now, there are going to be positions where this string will hit this note and this string will hit this note and ideally what you want is to be able to make any note with any finger and thats what you are going to practice. So, you are going to take your finger, you put it on a space or fret and hit notes, all meeting your fingers and as you switch fingers here, you always want to alternate first two. As you get more advanced, you will be able to add your third finger, or even your fourth finger. So, you can hear with all four fingers and you will be able to do multiple strikes and then you would be able to make you sound like you are playing faster and doing more advanced techniques, but for right now, we are going to work on just these two. So, take your finger, put it on a note, and each of these space is a note, you hold it down and ideally what you would do is you hit a note, hold it down, get it clean. This is where the action comes in. So, the lower the action, the easy it is for you to make this note. Just push the string down, I am going to show you like this, push that string down and you take your finger and hit it twice; that way each finger gets a chance. Its like being a little bee, everybody gets a chance. So, one, two, then you will switch fingers, one, two and switch fingers, one, two and keep doing with all of your fingers. Okay, you want to be able to hit any note with any finger. So, thats basically what it is. Thats how you make the notes on your bass, and in coming up lessons, Ill show you some scales and things that you can practice to increase your dexterity on your instrument. Thank you, have a fun playing.