Articulations and Expression: A Bass Video Lesson

Q: I’m at a point where I’m trying to finally get into soloing, and playing bass as a vocal, expressive instrument. But I’m running into a wall. Any chance you’d be down to do a quick video on articulations? As in, the slick slides you use, the fantastic trills, expressions and so on. And blue notes! (I think they’re blue notes). For some reason, I don’t see any other guys on Youtube covering the subject. All the urban gospel guys I know just do it as second nature. In one of your videos, you describe how the line would sound without emoting… aaaand I’m that guy. What do you recommend to help me get unstuck?

A: Thanks for the kind words, and for the question.

You’re right: a video was the only was to talk about this stuff, so here is one on expression:

There’s another column I wrote in the past on rhythm and using it expressively, which you will probably find useful.

I hope the video serves you well. Remember to just explore your instrument and your music with thoughtful intention and have fun with it.

As I state in the video, one of the most important things you can do is to transcribe lines, solos, licks and melodies, and then analyze them in some way.

Explore the articulation and expression in the line you’re hearing and try to emulate it. Learn an entire vocal melody and work on playing it as exactly as you can with regard to the expression and tone of the vocalist.

Readers, how about you? What’s your approach? Please share in the comments.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Rob

    Where can I purchase an upright like the one in the back of the room on this video?

      • Bob DeRosa

        Any chance you could do a little piece about the Eminence as a double bass substitute? In recordings it sounds pretty good, but obviously you lose something when you shrink the sound box by what, about 90 percent? At 63, I’m looking to lighten my load and wondering if the Eminence can please both bandmates and audiences who are used to the tone of a double bass like my Juzek. I also like the idea of being able to drive a smaller vehicle than a minivan. I play mostly jazz but also rock/roots/Americana. Thanks.

  2. bvdon

    I think the ‘blue note’ you refer to often makes harmonic sense because it is the tri-tone of the root – sharing the same 3rd and dominant 7th.

    For instance, a C7 has the major 3rd which is E, and the dominant 7 is a Bflat. Now, take the tri-tone of C which is an Fsharp. The dominant 7 of an Fsharp is E, and the major 3rd of an Fsharp is a Bflat (Asharp… same note).

    The tri-tone is also half an octave up. In addition to being called a tri-tone or blue note, it is also known as the ‘devil’s note’. There ya go :)

  3. Ryan Brown

    Love it! Great stuff, as well as impressive beard grooming.

  4. Greg

    thanks for giving us something to think about