String Driven Thread Thing

Use this thread, if you like, to discuss all things wherein music is made by plucking or bowing or just plain whacking the hell out of a string under tension. Anything (even tentatively) in the guitar or violin family (yay bouzoukis and shamisens) and anything that looks like a harp, and hurdy gurdies of course. But not pianos, claviers and whatnot, sorry. Okay, maybe well behaved harpsichords.

I noticed how much fun my son was having playing electric and acoustic guitar, and decided I should have some of that brand of fun too. You can see the electric bass I bought the other day in a posting on the Mail Day thread. This electric bass is the first musical instrument I’ve ever owned that isn’t basically a digital computer. That realisation is sobering.

That post developed into a discussion of learning basic technique with contributions from several people, most notably @themaninthesuitcase , @Farabide and @Dud, so I thought I’d bring it here to a thread about string instruments as a complete novice.

The method I’ve adopted for now is to use my eyes sparingly. I find if I don’t look down my fingers do a pretty good job of hitting the right fret at the right place on the right string. The hope is that they’ll get better with experience. My ears are being trained at the same time. I avoided learning how to touch type for most of my life but about ten years ago I did and my typing ease and efficiency improved very rapidly. This surprising result made me very confident in the “eyes off” approach.

I need to know my way around the fretboard and that will need many hours of practice. I’m still at the stage where I calculate fret distances haltingly in my head. I know there are easier a and better rules, but technique is my main target now.

I like to train my ears and my fingers to do this job on their own, because my eyes will never have a good view of the fretboard and when I crane my neck to use them it’s a bit like the way some people use a typewriter keyboard. Looking slows you down.

Standard bass tuning for four strings is EADG, so the strings are all five semitones apart just like a “normal” guitar on standard tuning only with sexier more growly sounds and none of those awful thin tinny strings that rip your fingers. A perfect fourth, I think it’s called. The gods of harmony have arranged it so that going up the strings on a given fret is like going down a fifth. It sounds like your ears gave you a great big kiss (actually that’s going down a fret feels like.) Which is sort of wonderful, because when I was still in my teens Imogen Holst’s book told me that dominant to tonic is a perfect fifth and will guarantee you a Novello Award. She may have exaggerated that bit, or maybe I imagined it. Then again she was Britten and Pears’ artistic director at Aldeburgh and was probably on strong psychedelics at the time.

Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. But yeah, isn’t string music interesting! It brings you face to face with the pythagorean (I use European referents because I’m European and I know European culture best) origins of music theory.


Ok. Tip of the day. Start playing at or above the fifth fret. Ignore the open strings for now.

Btw I still have and occasionally reference my Imogen Holst theory book

Oh and I used to holiday in alburugh as my folks knew Janet Baker and played hide and seek with “uncle Peter” and sat on Benjamin’s lap showing off that I could play the two note finalé to Peter Grimes I think.


I will continue with the primary importance of rhythm, with this excellent vision of the great Victor Wooten :slight_smile:


I’ve been hoping for a thread like this :slight_smile:

I think i agree with @dud in the other topic. It’s not a bad thing to look at the fingerboard.
Practising scales and shapes will help you develop the muscle memory you need.
Pay attention to fingering patterns and your posture and technique and it will come naturally.

Over time the need to look at the fingerboard will go away, and a new challenge will rise, at least for me: not getting distracted by the things you see :slight_smile:

Then again i’m not a music teacher so i might be wrong. Let us know how your learning journey goes :slight_smile:


I don’t think there’s any right way to learn. I’ll record my experiences here. I don’t currently have a tutor but maybe some one-to-one teaching would help.


Sitting down with a teacher is always a good start.
That or check out Scott’s Bass on YouTube.
Plug in, tune up, play. Enjoy


Of course there is no wrong way to learn, i was just sharing my thoughts :slight_smile:

A tutor is never a bad idea, i was self taught untill i joined our former band. We used to hire a band coach who was very helpful.

I was struggling with sore wrists during gigs or rehearsal. He noticed that i wasn’t placing my hand and thumb right and it was a pain to correct after playing for a few years. I can definitely reccomend hiring a tutor for at least a few lessons on technique. I wish i’d done it a LOT earlier :slight_smile:
If you’re good at teaching yourself, all the theory you need is on the internet.

Have fun :slight_smile:


Ps: will post a picture to show of my basses and guitars later :slight_smile:


I think all paths are possible, but some methods can help avoid learning bad habits, bad positions, bad movements … that we can unconsciously catch when we learn alone, or with a bad teacher (like some pseudo teacher on youtube :roll_eyes:). but somone are very good !
For example, forcing yourself into a bad position physically can go as far as tendinitis (I know it because I’ve been there when I was 20 and I was doing 6 hours guitars a day, and it’s still a weakness today. in my arm), after that I had reworked my positions to rectify the problem, so a piece of advice be careful to listen to your body.


Yes good posture and technique is very important. Only a good teacher in person can help you on that.
My wrists only got sore after a while but i’m thankful i suffered no permanent damage.

Sucks to hear about the tendinitis, is it better than before though? Is it something that you feel all the time?


I started the free 14-day trial on his website. I spent the evening soaking in the bath watching a sight-reading course tailored for bass players. I had to play air guitar for the play-along sections, because my bass doesn’t swim.

There’s also this and many more in a similar vein on his YouTube channel:


it was almost 30 years ago now, everything is fine today but if I work on the technique for a long time, for example, some slight pain can come back, always be well relaxed, take breaks, even some stretching/massage.


Yeah, turns out I should have bought a U-Bass.

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Hey! I also recently started learning bass (started over Christmas), it’s great! I watched some of Scott’s Bass lesson videos as well, they are very well done, but for me it was a bit much how he want’s me to subscribe to his paid lessons (it’s totally okay that he does that, but it could be a bit more subtle for my taste :wink: ). So I wanted to add some resources:
Bassbuzz is also great and Adam Neely has some beginner lessons, also about posture and how to place your hands etc.


To me the annual rate for a website-based course like this works out at a small fraction of the cost of regular face-to-face lessons, and I need to make a commitment otherwise this lovely instrument (far and away the most beautiful non-sentient object in my house (calm down Neve, you’re still the greyhound princess, and besides, you’re sentient) would gather dust. I also need to be more flexible than most in my timetable and the nearest really good bass teacher I know lives in Newcastle which is a pain to get to from here.

Must admit I found Scott’s gloves puzzling, and at first wondered if it was an obsessive cleanliness thing. He explains in one YouTube Q&A that they help him to control a tremor caused by a condition called focal dystonia (Wikipedia link). Without the gloves, his fingers have a frightening amount of involuntary twitching. With the gloves he’s a professional bass player.


I just watched that. The idea that you’re always practically next door to the “right note” is very liberating.


“I meant to do that”.

The platform doesn’t seem to support gif animation, but you can follow the link above if you need to. Some people here don’t remember Pee-Wee Herman. How many winters to go before the younglings don’t remember TellyTubbies? On that day, how sponge will be your pants? How square your Bob?


Oh, I was worried I might have to do some drilling to add a power toggle to my bass (and maybe a full EQ bypass if necessary). Then I discovered push pull pots.

Has anybody tried Thomann’s in-house guitar range, Harley Benton? I’m looking at their HB40FL BK, a four-string fretless bass for less than £150 including tax, which seems to be getting a lot of love.


I gave my new Getaria Bluetooth dongles a thorough charge and, earlier today, plugged the transmitter into my Ibanez bass and the receiver into the second front combi port of the Focusrite Scarlett 8i6, which is configured for instrument level. I’ve moved the laptop and had to do some troubleshooting, so by the time I had the kit ready to play, 20 minutes had passed during which time the dongles just sat there, less than 2 metres apart, and I didn’t play a note.

As soon as I sounded the first note, the thundering sound came. Just ridiculous distortion. I’m still investigating, but I think the culprit may be the dongles.

How do people manage with 3 metre guitar patch cables? A long-scale electric bass alone is nearly 1 metre in length and you need a lot of play in the cable. You’re playing the instrument around 1 metre off the floor and if you turn 180 degrees you’ve just used up nearly 1 metre of play.

I’ve lashed out on an 8-metre cable but I freely admit I’ve no idea whether the tone will be compromised by the higher cable impedance.


No problem to use a long cable