Improve Your Fluidity on the Bass Guitar (Bass Playing Tips)

June 25, 2024
Improve Your Fluidity On The Bass Guitar - Image of a liquid cloud by Max Kleinen

As a bassist smooth transitions between notes and techniques are key to your overall playing.

Whether your a beginner looking to build a foundation or an intermediate player looking to refine your skills this lesson will give you the tips to help you play more fluidly on the bass.

Practice these tips regularly and you’ll gain a new level of control and agility and your basslines will flow.

These are my personal tips that can help unlock unlock your fluidity on the bass guitar.

Let’s dive in.

Importance of Playing Fluidly on The Bass

Every bass groove, bassline, bass run or fill that you want to learn will have its own unique set of technical challenges.

Depending on the phrase, there could be string crossing involved or double-stops and chords.

When you have strategies for approaching certain technical challenges, like playing arpeggios, you’ll be able to improve the fluidity of your playing.

And, when you’re less clumsy with your fingers, you’ll:

  • have more control of your time-feel
  • be less prone to injury
  • play faster
  • ultimately improve your bass playing

TL;DR​

If you’re short on time and want to cut straight to the chase, watch an old (but still relevant) video I made on this topic.

I’ll go over:

  • which plucking finger to lead with (it matters depending on the melodic phrase you’re playing)
  • an easier way to play arpeggios
  • an easier way to play fourth intervals
  • how to hold the bass guitar in a way that gets rid of bad angles with your fretting hand
YouTube video
Bass Guitar Technique Lesson – 5 Crucial Tips For Improving Your Fluidity On The Bass

Key Takeaways

Here are the takeaways from this bass lesson:

  • When you’re ascending and crossing strings, it helps to lead with your pointer finger (index finger). That way your middle finger can reach the next string with ease.
  • When you’re descending and crossing strings, it helps to lead with your middle finger. That way your pointer finger can play the lower string with ease. You can also rake the string, by dragging the same finger.
  • When playing any melody involving arpeggios, it helps to try the Odd-Even/Even-Odd approach. By alternating the number of odd/even notes for each string, your fingers can rake the strings more easily. Raking on the bass is similar to the guitar sweep picking technique.
  • When playing fourth intervals, using a different finger to fret each note can make it much easier to play. Many bass players do fine barring the note. But, if you can’t seem to get a smooth sound fretting with the same finger, try this approach instead.
  • When holding your bass guitar, it helps to hold it like a shotgun. I call this The Shotgun Method. This will keep your wrists neutral and relaxed.
  • In my personal experience, it’s worthwhile to explore how high you wear your bass when you’re standing. The higher you wear your bass, the more relaxed your fretting hand will be. The lower you wear your bass, the more relaxed your plucking hand will be. When you’re relaxed, you’ll play faster and more smooth.

Tip #1: The Shotgun Method (For Bass Players That Sit)

If you sit when you play the bass, I encourage you to try the Shotgun Method.

By resting your bass guitar on your leg and pointing it outward, like a shotgun, you eliminate nearly all bad wrist angles with your fretting hand.

Note: If you play right-handed, your headstock will be above your left knee.​

When you wrists are able to remain neutral, you can play basslines more fluidly, chords without painful wrist angles, and navigate your fretboard with ease.

So, don’t sleep on this first tip!

It can help you improve your overall technique on the bass guitar.

Tip #2: Explore How High You Wear Your Bass (For Bass Players That Play Standing)

If you stand when you play the bass guitar, try different heights.

While it might look cool to wear your bass guitar very low on your body, your fretting hand will suffer bad wrist angles. This can cause a lot of pain later on in your career.

So, try various heights. A basic rule of thumb:

  • The higher you wear your bass, your fretting hand will be more relaxed, but your plucking hand will suffer.
  • The lower you ear your bass, your plucking hand will be more relaxed, but your plucking hand will suffer.

Tip #3: Try Using A Different Finger Per String (For Playing Fourth Intervals)

A common approach for playing fourth intervals is to simply barre the strings.

While many bassists can do this, many still struggle with this approach.

If you can’t seem to play fourth intervals smoothly and in time, try using a different finger per string. There’s a certain finger strength that you get when doing this.

Not only does playing with a different finger provide you with more strength for each note, you’ll have greater control.

You’ll be able to articulate your notes more clearly and navigate this elusive interval with ease.

Tip #4: Lead With Your Index Finger, When Crossing Strings (Ascending)

Crossing strings on the bass guitar can be quite tricky for many bass players.

One melodic shape that almost always results in string crossing, is the use of arpeggios.

For most people, their middle finger is longer than your index finger (pointer finger).

If this is you, you can use this to your advantage.

When you’re playing an ascending arpeggio, lead with your index finger. Your longer middle finger can reach the next string with ease.

Tip #5: Lead With Your Middle Finger, When Crossing Strings (Descending)

Now, when you’re playing a descending arpeggio, or crossing strings in a descending fashion, lead with your middle finger.

You’ll notice that your shorter index finger will already be in position to play the lower bass string.

Leading with your middle finger when crossing strings and descending will be less clumsy.

Tip #6: Use The Odd-Even/Even-Odd Approach For Playing Arpeggios

There’s a certain symmetry to arpeggio shapes. One way to play these shapes with fluidity is to use, what I call the Odd-Even/Even-Odd Approach.

You can play 1 note on a string, 2 notes on the next string, then 1 note on the last string.

Another way, is to play 2 notes on a string, then 1 note on the next string, then 2 notes on the last string.

However you do it, if you keep your note groupings odd on one string and even on the next, you can play arpeggios blazing fast.

Here’s why:

  • You’ll be able to rake more easily
  • You can incorporate hammer-ons more easily. Hammer-ons is a technique that’s often used in slap bass, but can also be applied here.
  • You’ll be able to rake your strings more easily

With this approach, you’ll also be able to increase your speed with playing any arpeggio.

Now, It’s Your Turn

This bass guitar lesson provided you with crucial tips to improving your fluidity on and instrument that can be physically demanding.

By focusing on developing certain strategies for approaching specific technical challenges on the bass guitar, you can create smooth and seamless bass lines, hone your rhythmic accuracy and timing, and elevate your playing to new heights.

Remember, consistency and dedicated practice are key to internalizing these techniques and incorporating them into your playing naturally. So, keep practicing, stay inspired, and enjoy the exhilarating journey of becoming a more fluid and expressive bassist. Rock on!

Catch me for more bass lessons like this.

PosidoVega

Hi! I’m Posido Vega, a multi-passionate creative. I’m an artist, bass player, jazz theory enthusiast, children’s book author and illustrator, and SEO 😅.

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