Developing Bass String Crossing Skills
One technical skill you will always need on bass is to be able to cleanly jump from one string to any other string. Going from one string to a neighboring string is not too challenging. But, when you have to skip one or more strings, you may find muting and accuracy challenging.
Your aim is to develop control over your bass plucking technique. By control I am talking about:
- rhythmic accuracy
- tonal consistency
- dynamic balance (volume) between different plucking fingers
- dynamic balance between strings
- string muting technique between both hands
To work on this practice the string crossing exercises. They can be played as fast or slow as you want. Aim for accuracy before speed. If it sounds sloppy slowly, it will sound sloppy at faster tempos, too.
Some Tips on String Crossing Technique...
Students have a tendency to rush the rhythm of the note prior to the string skip. Probably so they have more time to get to the other string. Try to pay attention to that. Use a metronome!
Try to get an even tone between your different plucking fingers. You don't want one finger sounding much different than the others (or at least you want control over it if you do).
Try to keep the volume even on each string and between strings. Sometimes your bass strings and setup can create an uneven response between the strings. If you are struggling with this, try another bass to see if it's you or your bass.
Remember, to get a clear sound you need to allow just one string to ring at a time. Both hands help mute the strings. When you pluck follow through and land on the string below. Use your plucking hand thumb to mute the E-string. If you're using my ring-finger technique, mute the A-string with it whenever you play the G-string. Or, mute with the wandering thumb technique. Finally, use your fretting hand to mute the strings by letting it lightly touch/rest on the strings above the string you are playing. (Remember, above in pitch.)
Getting all of this down doesn't happen overnight. Take your time with these exercises.
Expanding the String Crossing Exercises
If you have a 5- or 6-string bass, expand the exercises to include all your strings.
You can alter these exercises by applying any rhythm you want. You can also try groups of 3 notes, or 4, or 5. How about 1 note per string? Or, 1 note on the main string and 3 on the others. Challenge yourself. There are limitless possibilities and permutations.
I know these exercises are boring, but they help a lot. To play them cleany is not as easy as it sounds. Do them for a few minutes a day and you'll see a difference.