I’m going to show you a short chordal exercise that should be a great workout for any beginner to intermediate bass player, and it’s also a fantastic warmup exercise for the fretting hand for bass players of any level.
This exercise can be played in any key, but we are going to play this example in the Key of G minor for ease of access to the middle of the neck and fretboard. The reason for this is so that you are not overly stretching or straining your fretting hand when playing these chord shapes.
In bar one we are playing through the G minor triad, and in the second bar we are playing the Ab Major triad. We arpeggiate these chords, which means to play each note of the chord one at a time much like a guitarist might. This is shown on the stave and TAB below.
In your fretting hand, employ the one-finger-per-fret approach to press down all the notes of the triads simultaneously. For the G minor chord; your pinky plays the G on the 10th fret of the A string, the second finger for the Bb at the 8th fret on the D string and your first finger plays the D on the 7th fret of the G string.
For the Ab Major chord, you just move that whole shape bar one note up one semitone; your pinky plays the Ab on the 11th fret of the A string, the second finger for the C at the 10th fret on the D string and the your first finger plays the Eb on the 8th fret of the G string.
For your picking hand, use the claw hammer approach whereby you rest your forearm and side of your hand on your bass while using your thumb and first three fingers to pick out the notes in a flamenco style. Arpeggiate through the chord to get all the notes to ring out.
Moving from one chord to the next can be tricky so take your time with developing this, especially as the middle finger is changing position to change the triad from minor to Major. This is what makes this exercise so good for your fretting hand as you are developing independence and dexterity.
Working On Your Touch
When holding down chord voicings, the tendency is to press down too hard. Be careful not to do this and try to hold down the chords as light as possible. This helps avoid injury down the line and improves your speed, especially when making the quick changes from fret to fret and minor to Major.
To test how hard you should be pressing down on your fretting hand, position your fingers above the notes you intend to play and then gradually press down until you get the desired tone. You will be amazed at how little pressure is actually required to get a good sound!
Also don’t pick too hard on your picking hand, you just need a light to medium touch to play these arpeggiated chords. Think like an acoustic or flamenco guitarist here and play gently and musically.
As an expansion on this exercise, you can move these chord shapes to different keys and areas on the fretboard. When you do this, you’ll notice how you have to stretch and adapt your fretting hand depending on the area of the neck you are in.
For example; if you were to play in D minor and start from the 5th fret on the A string, you will notice an increase in stretch.
Whereas if you move up the neck to C minor, which is the 15th fret on the A string, you will see how your fretting hand compacts in size and it becomes a little tighter. You may also have to adjust the shape depending on where you are on the neck.
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