Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tip #1: play the same note in a different position

For this post I decided to hand out a small tip for beginner bass and guitar players. You all probably already know this, but just in case: remember that you can play most notes in more than one place on your fretboard. I'm going to use this Baroness song "March to the Sea" from their new album Yellow and Green to demonstrate what I mean. Click here to get the TAB and standard notation.



This song is very very simple in its form. The entire thing: intro, verses, choruses, and guitar solo has the same chord progression:
|F   | F  C/E| Dmi   | Dmi C|F   | F  Ami| Dmi   | Dmi C|
So it is a perfect song to show you how to play the same lines in different positions of the fretboard. For this you will need a good knowledge of the notes on your fretboard. Here's a chart for a 4-string bass tuned to "drop-D". From low to high the tuning is D-A-D-G
Check out how I play the initial line all on the same string (the "E" string tuned down to "D") (see figure a) and how the second time I played the high octave D and C notes on the A string (figure b). The second way of doing it requires less shifting from the left hand, so it should make it easier to play, but there is a slight difference in the tone of the notes even though their pitches are the same. The reason why the sounds qualities are different is mostly because, since the E string is thicker than the A string it produces a "darker" tone. Also when pressing on the 12th fret instead of the 5th the length of string that is vibrating is shorter, affecting the tension and thus the tone. This difference in tone is most noticeable in the way I played the second halves of each verse at 0:56 (figure c) and 1:46 (figure d). You can really hear the much brighter tone of the D note on the G string at 1:50.


Figure a

Figure b

Figure c

Figure d



All this information can be very useful when you are trying to figure out how to play a bass line:

- Having alternative positions in which to play a line can let you find a position that is most comfortable for you. This comes in very handy for beginners reading TABs, don't forget that you don't necessarily have to play it exactly as written.

- You can manipulate the sound of your notes based on where you play them. Want a brighter sound? Go for higher strings and/or lower frets. Or play it all on one string for a more even tone between all the notes.

Try it yourself, can you find other ways of playing this bass line?

Drop me a line here or on Facebook if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for other tips. And don't forget to check out Baroness' new album, it rocks!

"Yellow and Green" Cover art

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