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.
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).
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 stevejenkinsbass.com.
David Fiuczynski, KIF Express [2009, Fuzelicious Morsels]