I’d like to discuss utilizing 6 string bass techniques as a solo bassist as well as in a band situation. First, I’d like to thank Steve Bernstein of Redding Ca. for loaning me his custom built 6 string bass. Constructed with Mahogany, Purpleheart, Birdseye Maple, Moses graphite neck and Hipshot tuners, Steve loaded this beauty with Seymour Duncan ASB-6 pickups and STC-3A circuitry.Controls feature a push/pull slap contour volume, blend, mid, bass, treble.
For starters, I’d like to focus on using the 6 string in a band setting. The 6 strings ability to reach a low B, makes it extremely useful for not only R&B, Funk, Soul and Jazz, but also adds a sub-sonic low to Metal, Rock and Blues. If a 6 string seems confusing at first, just think of the low B as providing a lower octave to every note on the A string. For instance, play a C on the A string(third fret). Now, fret the first fret of the low B, and you have the lower octave of C. Continue following up the neck until you feel comfortable. At times, a low note may be “too low”. Try switching between pickups and experimenting with the EQ, in order to change the tone of low notes.
Next, we move on to using the high C of a 6 string bass. A high C is extremely useful for creating chords, tapping, soloing and yes, slap bass. Use of chords on a 6 string bass makes for a full sound when guitar and keyboards are soloing, leaving you to hold down not only the low end, but the progression of the song as well. Being able to add chordal phrases can fill that void that occurs when one instrument ventures off during a solo. For tapping, the high C essentially turns the bass into a piano. An arpeggio tapped out rhythmically, can duplicate a piano line for added support. For the purpose of creating solos and melodies, a high C provides an endless way to extend lines and allow your sound to cut through the mix. Slap bass techniques can only get better using the C string for slapping arpeggios and chords. Try popping notes on the G string with your index finger and notes on the C string with your middle finger. This allows you to use various slap&pop techniques while adding chords and arpeggios.
Remember, if your onstage playing every note on the high C string and your bandmates are staring at you, you may want to get back to covering the low end of things. The 6 string and its range of notes, should always be accompanied by a great set of pickups and circuitry. Theres no point in playing a low B if the pickups won’t produce a clear sound.
Read Part 2 here.