What is wrong with this picture?
Bad bass guitar technique? You got it in one and this unfortunately is subscribed by many as being current, young and/or hip. There are a deluge of music educational programs that – in an attempt to attract more bass guitar students – use these very same pictures in their advertisements; buyer beware!
Technique should define the process towards excellence and maximise success on the instrument in an accelerated way and ultimately, make it easier for you to play the bass guitar. However, some musicians have used the word technique as an adjective and not a noun- incorrectly describing bass players who have good technique with being overly technical. Because your hands are constantly moving while performing, the word technique is better described as the “method of movement” that you are employing.
The way to understand whether somebody is overly technical as opposed to just playing with good technique, we have to look at this formula. The bass player who maximises on good technique (or method of movement) is responding to a musical stimulus with an auditory reaction first before a motor response. A bass player who sounds overly technical is responding with a motor movement first. So, the musical idea should always define the technique from the ear to motor movement, not the other way around. With that in mind, just how many bas players have you heard that incorporate slapping, tapping and sweep picking as their main arsenal of expression sound overly technical. Of course, there are a few exceptions, but I’m sure you will agree that the vast majority of these bass guitar players are responding first with a motor reflex rather than listening first, employing the appropriate motor movement and then evaluate the outcome. It has to be added that tablature promotes a motor movement response first rather than an auditory response as opposed to written music. Tablature has no melody, rhythm or harmony included, which are integral workings of a musical statement.
The components of music are melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint and form. Without good technique or method of movement, you are limiting what you will be able to play musically exponentially. Good technique influences your tone (I’m not talking about EQ here guys, but he tone that is produced by your fingers); touch (dynamics); time (bass players with bad time usually have a weak technique) and taste (this refers to what you are required to know as a professional working bass player- not some elusive subjective opinion).
In the end, good technique will enable you to develop the means to actualising your artistic intentions- whatever they may be. This starts to describe a subject for another article, but a profound interest in music and the strong desire towards achieving your goals are essential fundamentals that are indispensable for you to become a great bass player.
Search inside of yourself and ask yourself this question, “Are you the guy who listens first or are you the guy who relies on motor movement first?” It’s never too late to get yourself back on track!
All the Bass!