Bass Lick of the Week #30

This week’s exercise is a semiquaver-based groove that’s played with the plectrum.

When playing lines with the plectrum - particularly if they are based on a semiquaver pulse - it’s crucial that you maintain a consistent down-up-down-up picking motion. This was covered in detail back in the notes for Bass Lick #1, so refer to that week’s exercise for a recap on the technique if needed.

The first three bars open with a phrase that can be tricky to play: after picking an open A-string, play a ghost note on the same string, then follow that with a second ghost note on the D-string, then the octave A at the seventh fret. It’s important that the second ghost note is played on the D-string, or you’ll find yourself playing a downstroke on the A-string, then needing to play an upstroke on the D-string. This is possible of course, but the line is much easier if you move to the D-string a semiquaver earlier.

Be sure to play the hammer-ons as written and remember that when these are used, the picking hand will not play on that part of the beat. For the phrase on the third beat of the first, second and third bars, that means that you will be playing down-up-up strokes with the pick. This can be difficult to do, but can be made easier by consciously playing a ‘silent downstroke’ on the note that is hammered. You will very likely do this naturally, after all, you need to play a downstroke motion in order to play a second upstroke.

There is a great deal that you can do with this exercise beyond the way that it was recorded. You could experiment with varying degrees of palm muting (I used some light muting when recording it), and you could also use it as a vehicle for working on the self-generated backbeat feel that has been made popular by pick players such as Cody Wright and Bobby Vega. To do this, simply add a heavy accent to beats two and four in each bar - this is the backbeat, where the snare drum falls. This line was recorded on a 1972 Fender Jazz bass with all controls turned up full.

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