In this lesson, we’ll be looking at a bass hammer on and tapping exercise that can help you unlock bionic strength in your fretting hand.
Tapping and Hammer On’s have been popularised by players like Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Victor Wooten and Charles Berthoud. If you’re struggling with fretting hand weakness, Hammer On’s can help you to gain strength and dexterity and after watching this video, you’ll be on the road to developing a bionic left hand!
Fretting Hand Issues
When You’re starting out on bass guitar, the fretting hand takes up a lot of your focus and many bass lines can seem out of your reach because of issues with strength, dexterity and stretch.
When I started playing, I had the same issues as any other beginner, but what really helped me develop my fretting hand was a preoccupation with a particular style of playing, and that style turbo charged my technique in a very short space of time. I quickly developed a super strong, almost bionic left hand!
I was obsessed with the bass playing of guys like Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm and Victor Wooten. These players inspired me to practice a lot of hammer on and tapping techniques.
The Billy Sheehan lines are more linear versus the more pianistic lines of Stu Hamm. In both instance, there’s very rarely any finger picking. In the fretting hand it’s mostly hammered on, especially in the pieces by Stu Hamm. These hammer ons are the key to building up the strength and stamina in your fretting hand.
We will work through a riff that I’ve written specifically for this lesson, you will also get to practice some tapping in the right hand too. The rhythm is a consistent stream of 8th notes in the Key of G Major.
We are going to use the index finger to hammer down the first note, it’s surprising how little need to get a clear note so don’t play too hard! Then simply hammer on the octave with the pinky, while simultaneously releasing pressure on the first note.
Then we tap out a chord using our picking hand. For this, we use our first and second fingers to tap out the notes. Anchor your thumb on the side of the neck for some stability and to help give your tapping hand a little more power.
Try to get all the notes to ring out clearly and get yourself used to the movement involved. This technique can be a little tricky if you’re just beginning with it and it can feel quite alien to your hands at the start, so keep at it and get it ingrained in your muscle memory.
Be sure to start really slow ensuring you get a firm and consistent attack for each note. At first, this piece may be hard to keep up for a long time so if you feel any cramp, fatigue or discomfort then stop for a few minutes, let the hand rest and start again.
It will feel a lot easier if you take breaks and build up the strength gradually, you’ll also be avoiding any injuries or issues down the line.
Once you’ve got this piece comfortably under the fingers, then you can start to build up speed. Try practicing this along with a metronome and build up the speed in small increments.
There’s a cool groove to the piece so you can even try it with a drum track, there are plenty of drummers recording different grooves at varying tempo’s on YouTube for you to jam along to. Have fun with it and have a go at creating your own tapping lines.
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