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Getting Started on Six String Bass

It was over ten years ago now that I moved to six string bass as my main instrument. I wanted an extended range bass and couldn’t decide between extending down to a low B or up to a high C, thus jumping straight to six was the ideal solution. Earlier this week, one of my friends on the Worship Released forum was asking for tips on getting started with the six string bass he has been lent; I thought I would copy my reply here as it is a long time since I added anything bass-specific to the site:

I would begin with some warm ups (eg. one finger per fret – 1 2 3 4, next string, 1 2 3 4, next string, etc) to get a feel for playing across all six strings. Once you can do that accurately slow right down and think about naming the notes as you play them. Do that with a range of different patterns and positions and it will build your extended fretboard knowledge.

It should not be too hard to adapt because you only have one string on either side of the standard four and they both fit perfectly into the pattern. Once you get somewhere with that add in scales (starting with the keys you are most likely to get called onto use, exploring how you can play across more than two octaves in one position) and then you should certainly be ready to get out and use it.

Do not worry if you find you spend most of your time on the inner four strings – I still do that a lot of the time. However, do look at what you are playing and think about whether you get benefits, either reach or tone-wise, by going across rather than up or down the neck.

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