Photo by Nathanael Coyne
Q: I have a student entering his final year of secondary education. He has just purchased a 5-string Fender Jazz Bass. He is focusing on two handed tapping for his music subject. My worry… much of the music we have accessed (“Overjoyed”, “Rock and Roll” Bass Solo, etc.) requires between 21 and 24 frets according to the tab. The 21st fret on most basses is the end of the neck. As I am as new to tapping as he is, I am wondering what to do next! Any advice on adapting to suit his bass would be gratefully received.
A: I have students in a similar position. So much of the music played today is on instruments with a 2-octave range (per string) or higher.
There are only really a few options that I can think to recommend:
- Drop some of the line an octave.
This could be just the part that extends beyond the range of the instrument or an entire fragment of the line, so that the octave shift is more musical and less abrupt.
- Use artificial harmonics to access the higher notes.
I think that this is the “cooler” and potentially more inspiring choice for the player because it really gets them exploring the sonic capacity of the instrument in an interesting way.
You mentioned that this was in a tapping context. You can tap on the string and get the same effect as an artificial harmonic. Example: hold a note with your left hand and tap the string an octave up (quickly, and more like a “doink” where you just peck the string with your right hand). You should hear the fretted note ring out in a higher range than fretted one.
The pitch will also change (just like a harmonic) when you alter where you are pecking the string with the right hand. Same goes for creating artificial harmonics the “normal” way.
Dr. D has a column on artificial harmonics here on No Treble to get you going, if you have any questions about how to make an artificial harmonic on the bass.
And here is a video of Rufus Philpot demonstrating artificial harmonics:
Readers, this is a great place to chime in. How do you tend to deal with playing something that extends the range of your instrument? Please share in the comments.