Steve Jenkins' Extended Technique: Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs & Slides

Greetings BP readers! I’m excited to be writing this column about unorthodox techniques that I use and how I like to apply them.
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Greetings BP readers! I’m excited to be writing this column about unorthodox techniques that I use and how I like to apply them. The idea for this column was born out of hanging with BP’s Jonathan Herrera at last year’s Bass Player LIVE! event in Los Angeles. While checking out his killer Moollon J-Classic V, he noticed some of the weird technical things I tend to do—things that never occurred to me might be different or unique. I hope this column will provide some new concepts to consider and experiment with in your own musical settings.

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There’s a famous quote that’s credited to Jaco Pastorius: “There was never a great bass player who didn’t have a great right hand.” Right-hand-centrism aside, the statement is unquestionably true, but I cannot overstate enough how important the role of the left hand is. It’s responsible for helping complete whatever musical choices are made. But it also has the ability to humanize your ideas as well as make them more lyrical. When I was working with David Fiuczynski, we were blending different grooves with Middle Eastern-and Asian-influenced melodies on top. Fuze, as we call him, used a lot of left-hand inflections, which were everything from gamakas (ornaments that are a large component of Carnatic music), Middle Eastern embellishments, and regular old hammer-ons and pull-offs. I was mesmerized by the possibilities of using these types of things to embellish fills and melodic ideas while soloing. (For a good example of my use of these techniques, check out my solo on “Habibi Bounce” from Fiuczynski’s KIF Express album).

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It took a while for my left hand to get comfortable with these techniques and to be able to execute these kinds of ideas. So here are some exercises to get you started. I should also stress that having lower action might make this a bit easier to execute. Also, make sure you take it slowly, as this might be something your hands are not used to.



Maryland-born Steve Jenkins has grabbed the groove for Vernon Reid, Screaming Headless Torsos, Gene Lake, and numerous other New Yorkarea artists, while also releasing two acclaimed solo albums and teaching at the Berklee College of Music Summer Program. His website is

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David Fiuczynski, KIF Express [2009, Fuzelicious Morsels]


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Technique Tip Fingertip Talk

IT WOULD SEEM THAT WITH JUST FIVE fingers and 4-6 strings (oh, alright, sometimes more), there’d be a relatively short list of potential right-hand techniques. But if there’s one thing my incessant Lockup on MSNBC habit has taught me, necessity breeds invention. Take the Funk Brother himself, James Jamerson. Everyone knows that he played all that phenomenally dexterous stuff with just one finger, “the Hook,” as it came to be known. We’ve all wondered how he pulled it off, but sitting in on the Motown mastertape listening session for this month’s cover story made this question more urgent than ever. With Jamerson’s tracks soloed, the near physical impossibility of some lines was striking. So, capitalizing on the rare opportunity, I asked fellow listener James Jamerson Jr. Sure enough, James confirmed what I long thought: On uptempo tunes, Jamerson Sr. would occasionally pluck with both sides of the Hook—fingerpad and fingernail, like in Figs. 1 and 2. It was a rare occurrence, but ap

Technique Tip: New Tricks

GETTING BETTER AT BASS INVOLVES DIGESTING HUGE AMOUNTS OF new information, but it’s just as important to unlearn the bad stuff. Most of us picked up the bass without much initial guidance, and even though subsequent study can illuminate a better path, our individual approach is often cemented in those early moments of discovery. One extraordinarily common habit is to rest the forearm on the bass’s body, like in Fig. 1. I do it almost all the time if I’m playing with a traditional fingerstyle technique. Unfortunately, this is a perfect recipe for carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition that occurs when the passageway of bone and ligament at the base of the wrist compresses the median nerve. If that weren’t scary enough, the forearm muscles weakened position seems to rob the plucking hand of strength. Try the approach in Fig. 2, lifting the forearm off the bass. For me, it feels a little awkward, but I believe it’s technically a better option.


Technique Tip : Anchors Away

Teaching beginners always forces me to confront my so-called comfort zone. It happens to all of us: Once we feel like we’re beyond beginner status, we tend to take the fundamental stuff for granted. I was teaching the student about fingerstyle pluckinghand technique. I reinforced the alternating-finger concept, pointing out the importance of a solid thumb-anchor. I had the student pluck a few notes with his thumb free-floating, and then with the thumb anchored on the pickup (Fig. 1). The immediate difference in strength and control is obvious.