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Jazz Bass Lesson: Playing with Expression

Let your bass sing like Pavarotti, Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin.  Expressiveness in your playing is what adds texture to a performance and separates good double bass playing from great playing.

What do you want to say when you play the bass?  What story are you telling?

Jazz Bass Lesson with John Patitucci

Techniques like sliding, variable vibrato, and hammer-ons make your playing more emotional for the listener.  They make an important connection and bring the song to life.  Just like a great vocal does.

Here are a few techniques from the video above that will make your bass playing more expressive.

Vibrato:  Stay loose.  A good vibrato on the stand up bass requires the entire arm.  If you’re tight, you won’t be able to vary the length of the vibrato.  Try a long vibrato as you get higher up the neck.  You can take advantage of your position to change the feel of the note.
Slide:  Don’t just pluck the note.  A long slide up to a note within a phrase can completely change the feel from straightforward to plaintive, to layed back to urgent.  It’s simple technique, but it has to be perfected through repetition, so the slide resolves exactly on the right pitch.

Smear:  A relative of the slide, the smear is a small slide up or down at the attack of the note.  You often hear this in blues playing.  It adds interest and emotion, taking a simple note at the beginning of a phrase from stout to stunning.


Watch John's Free Bass Lessons

Hammer-ons/pull-offs:  This simple technique of taking your right hand out of the equation and striking the fretboard with your left hand to sound the note makes a phrase flow. The pull-off, where you sound the note with your left hand by forcefully pulling your finger off the string, works with the plucked note and the hammer-on to add fluidity.  

All these techniques can help bring your bass playing to another level, but don’t forget the metronome.  Timing is the key ingredient to making these techniques work.  They help you work with and against the beat, but if you don’t fit perfectly within the rhythm, your playing will sound sloppy and uninspiring.

There are more free jazz bass lessons over at the ArtistWorks Online jazz Bass School with John Patitucci, so head over and check them out.  

More blogs about Jazz Bass Lessons:


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