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Right Hand Position on Bass

Right hand position is crucial when playing upright bass because the sound will vary with how you pluck the strings.  The Italian word for plucking the string is pizzicato, and there are several ways you can do it.  In this bass lesson from his Jazz Bass School, John Patitucci breaks down 4 basic pizzicato techniques that will give you a lot to work with for a variety of musical settings. 

The first technique is one that the great Ron Carter uses quite frequently, and it involves using 2 fingers together.  Use the fleshy part of your finger and think of the motion as using the entire weight of your arm and letting it drop.  Then pull the sound with the strings, pull all the way through and rest on the string below it.

jazz bass lessons online

This is referred to a "rest stroke" in classical guitar: pull all the way through the string and rest on the string below it.  A good exercise is to practice playing open strings this way with the 2 fingers together.

The next technique involves using just 1 finger.  Famous jazz bassist Ray Brown used this technique quite a bit, so you'll be in good company when practicing this one.  It's a similar motion to the 2 finger technique, so make sure your arm and wrist are relaxed and pull the sound out of the bass.  Use the weight of your arm to assist in the pulling, just make sure to keep that arm relaxed.

The third technique is an alternating picking style using your index finger and middle finger.  It works great for playing two different strings one after the other, especially when going from low to high because your fingers were built for this motion and it will feel natural.  A good exercise for this is to go between the stings practicing an alternating picking motion.

john patitucci bass

The last technique is useful when you need to play quicker and move around the bass fast.  Take your hand and turn it around perpendicular to the strings like in the picture below.

jazz bass lesson

So instead of using the fleshy part of the finger, you want your fingers to be perpendicular to the string and you pluck the strings alternating between your index and middle finger.  The weight of your arm and forearm should still in in the stroke here.  Keep in mind, your fingers alone do not have the weight for this, so you really need that power that comes from the forearm.  Practice alternating on one string for this, it will help get you comfortable with the motion.


Watch John's Free Bass Lessons

These four picking styles will help you get through all kinds of music.  As you go through John's jazz bass lessons, you'll see each of these picking techniques being used at different times.  The idea is to use the technique that best suits the music.  Think of your right hand as the driver of the sound when playing upright bass. The picking technique you choose will lay the foundation for the sound that you need.  Always remember that as the bassist, you are the foundation!

This is just a sample bass lesson from the Jazz Bass School with John Patitucci.  Check out more free bass lessons by filling out the form!

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