Mad Bass Chops - Bass Guitar Lesson from Chris McCarvill

Mad Bass Chops
By Chris McCarvill

This is part 1 of a 2 part lesson from Rock House Instructor and Artist Chris McCarvill. Look for Part 2 tomorrow. Please be ready with the metronome and/or drum machine for this one. If you don't have one, go to http://www.rockhousemethod.com/ and download the Metronome for free. Thanks.

Chops - Used in the best way, they give you unlimited building blocks to create the music of your wildest dreams. Misused, they turn you into an annoying mosquito. Chops are essentially the physical ability to play your instrument. It may fall under the category of how you play instead of what you play. In that respect, you don’t have to do a ton of soul searching to have great bass chops. Pretty much anyone with enough patience can develop chops. On a bass you need to be careful because it can be difficult on your hands and overdoing it can lead to permanent injury. So, tread wisely. I try to keep it in mind that chops are there so that if you wake up from a dream of hanging onto the roof of a mad subway off the tracks (sorry, that’s one of mine) you’ll be able to better articulate the sound of that racket without distraction or limits since you’ve taken the time to develop killer chops.

Let’s start at ground zero. I like to mentally clear the slate at times like this. Stop stressing out about your girlfriend or boyfriend, shut the door. Relax your brain. Take your bass out and visualize that you are no longer limited by physical boundaries. Imagine playing just as good as one of your favorite players. Imagine what it would be like if your favorite bass player were sitting here, playing your bass. Chances are they won’t be limited by not having an amp, not having the best bass ever. They will make music out of what’s there. You do the same thing.

Start by picking out a slower tempo on the metronome and play this pattern slowly.

Audio sample (BACH 1ST POS.MP3)

This is the first step of Bach’s Prelude No. 3.

It’s difficult to reach the notes cleanly, without buzzing. It’s difficult to alternate plucking fingers on your right hand. Work on it. PLAY IT ONLY AS FAST AS YOU CAN PLAY IT PERFECTLY. Keep this sentence with you always. If you constantly practice things slowly and perfectly, over time as your speed increases, your total playing will get way better than playing sloppy as fast as you can.

Here is step #2.

Audio sample (BACH 2ND POS.MP3)

Notice on part 2 that there’s an awfully big stretch. Good. Try your best to reach it. Move your left thumb down to the middle of the bass neck and back towards the headstock. This opens up all the tendons in your hand, and will keep you from cramping too quickly.

Another tip is to try to keep all left hand fingers from flying off the neck. Hold your fingers approximately over the notes you’re going to play so that you only need to press down with minimal movement to fret a note. Same goes for after you play it. Keep your finger hovering over the note for the next time you need it. This will speed up the process of teaching the muscles in your left hand what to do.

You’ll also need to get familiar with synchronizing your right and left hands. Get your left hand in position, fret the note, right hand ready and alternating, pluck the note. There should be no buzzing. Play it only AS FAST AS YOU CAN PERFECTLY. This will probably be very very slow at first. It’s ok. It takes time for your hands to develop these muscles. In this 2nd position you may have to shift your left hand a little to reach all the notes. This is OK.

Step #3.

Audio sample (BACH 3RD POS.MP3)

Really stretch. Keep your fingers down. Relax your hand when it cramps. (It will have cramped by now).

Step #4, 5, 6, 7.

Audio sample (BACH 4TH POS.MP3)

Audio sample (BACH 5TH POS.MP3)

Audio sample (BACH 6TH POS.MP3)

Audio sample (BACH 7TH POS.MP3)

Audio sample (BACH 1st POS.MP3)

The goal here is to be able to play each pattern precisely and cleanly at a tempo. Don’t worry about shifting between the patterns yet. Concentrate on each pattern individually for some time, until you are confident that you can play each one PERFECTLY.

1 comment:

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