This month I’m going to talk about a thumb technique that isn’t quite as pronounced as slapping, but also not as subdued as playing palm-muted thumb grooves. I’m not sure if there’s an official name for it, but I’d describe the technique as a hybrid of those two approaches. Great bassists (like David Dyson, who is a master of this) have their own version of the technique, but I was never really able to cop it their way. Ultimately, I borrowed liberally from slap techniques I was already using, but just moved those techniques back toward the bridge.
To get started, the first thing to be aware of is plucking-hand placement. Often times with muted grooves there’s a tendency to anchor your hand, but in this case, it needs to float a bit more. Figure 1 shows how to position your hand. Notice that the index, middle, and ring fingers have access to the upper strings.
Example 1 is a simple exercise/groove that uses common fretting-hand techniques found in slapping and gives the plucking hand something musical to work with.
Example 2 is a groove that features the plucking-hand thumb, index finger, and middle finger. It’s somewhat similar to a groove from one of my compositions off my first album, Mad Science, called “Thought Police.” Pay attention to the feel; these are grooves, not just exercises.
As always, go slowly with anything your hands might not be used to. Next time we’ll look at more advanced uses of this technique.
Steve Jenkins is an artist-in-residence at the Collective and longtime teacher at Berklee College of Music’s BassLines Summer Program. He’s also a renowned player and performer, recording and performing with Vernon Reid, Thomas Pridgen, Keith Carlock, John Scofield, Screaming Headless Torsos, and many others. stevejenkinsbass.Com
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