Bass Lick of the Week #1

This exercise is a funk bass groove that is played with the plectrum. The percussive use of the pick in lines such as this was originally pioneered by legendary session bassist Anthony Jackson, who used the technique on the O’Jays hit ‘For the Love of Money’. This style of playing remains extremely popular today, thanks to bassists such as Bobby Vega and Cody Wright.

This line is based on a continuous semiquaver pulse and mastering it will require you to take the time to study the correct application of the plectrum technique. This essentially requires you to play semiquavers using a continuous down-up motion with your picking hand. If you begin every beat with a downstroke, then adhere to a down-up-down-up picking pattern for the semiquaver subdivisions, you will find this style of playing much simpler to master. Here’s an example: the opening note of this line is a C, falling on the final subdivision of beat four of the count-in. As such, it is played as an upstroke. As the line begins, the D at the beginning of bar 1 would ordinarily be played with a downstroke, although in this instance it is not played by the picking hand as it was approached with a slide from the previous note. The remaining three semiquavers in this follow the correct sequence however: up-down-up, as they fall on the second, third and fourth subdivisions.

Busy lines such as this work because the ‘holes’ in the line are filled with ghost notes, which gives the effect of playing with a percussionist. Feel is crucial to making these lines groove however. You can add an extra degree of funkiness to the line by accenting beats two and four in each bar. These are the ‘backbeats’ are where a drummer would play a snare. Accenting them, as you’ll hear me do in the recording will create an even more powerful groove.

If you’d like to study the plectrum technique in more detail, be sure to check out Plectrum Technique for Bass Guitar, which is available from from this website.

To download the backing track and PDF worksheet for this exercise, please visit the Free Stuff section of the website.