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Electric Bass

September 5th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Electric Bass

Many bass instruments are played upright, as a direct result of the fact that the bass strings are usually the longest, and therefore the instrument is naturally much longer than standard ones. However, electric bass guitars are played in exactly the same way as a standard guitar, and the length of the instrument is roughly the same. This is of course an advantage achieved through the fact that the actual sound heard is produced electronically, and the overall tone, pitch and frequency of the note can be altered digitally.

The typical method used to play the electric bass guitar differs slightly from that used in the playing of a standard electric guitar, since the main method used is pizzicato, or the plucking of strings. Obviously those players who perform on standard electric guitars may also pluck the strings, but this is only one of a range of techniques that can be used. Electric bass guitarists almost solely use the plucking or pizzicato technique throughout their performance.

Plucking can be achieved quite happily through using the index and middle finger, or in some cases the thumb and ring finger too, but since the strings are steel, some players prefer to use plectrums or picks. Using a pick can help to increase both the speed at which a performer can hit the notes, and also the hardness with which the string is plucked. Usually the sound produced by an electric bass guitarist using a plectrum or pick is much sharper and harder, than the equivalent sound produced by a performer using just his or her fingers.

Of course, it is also true to say that the nature of the pick itself makes a huge difference to the quality and sharpness of the sound, and thicker, firmer picks will produce a harder, heavier sound, whereas the more flexible lightweight picks will produce a softer and more gentle tone. For a pick which sounds very similar in tone to using fingers would be one typically made from felt.

In some types of music it is preferable to create a sound using an electric bass guitar which evokes an impression more similar to a double bass. This double bass sound is achieved not by using a pick or a plectrum, but by actually plucking the strings. This on its own tends to create a note which is distinctly longer than that produced by a double bass, and so the typical technique is to pluck the string, and then use the flat of the hand to mute the note. This produces quite a thumpy sound, and is used quite frequently in various styles of music.

Yet another method used by some electric bass guitarists is to either slap or pop the strings, creating a sound which is reminiscent of funk music. This technique literally involves slapping a string with the index finger or middle fingers, creating a flatter sound, or by popping the strings with the same fingers. This slap technique has been popularised in such other styles of music as rock and fusion.

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