Talking Technique: The Permutation Exercise

Editor’s note: Help us welcome our newest contributor, bassist Ariane Cap! Ariane’s video lessons will be focusing on technical exercises to help with agility, consistency, coordination, timing, evenness, and getting a round tone.

To start things off in this new series, we’re going to be working on our left hand dexterity with the “Permutation Exercise”. Each finger is assigned a number:

  • 1 for index
  • 2 for middle
  • 3 for ring
  • and 4 for our pinky

By practicing each variation or permutation of the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4, we can build finger dexterity and coordination.

We will also go over ways to apply the exercise to make it musical with a delay pedal and integrating it into a groove.

Austrian-gone-Californian Ariane Cap is a bassist, educator, blogger and author. In her book Music Theory for the Bass Player and corresponding 20-week online course, she teaches music theory, bass technique, bass line creation and fretboard fitness in a systematic, practical and experiential way. She just released a brand new course on ear training for the bass player: Ear Confidence - 6 Paths to Fearless Ears. Contact her via her blog or website.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Oscar

    You’re awesome! Welcome to No Treble!

  2. Jimmy Villarreal

    Welcome to No Treble… Very useful exercises!!

  3. Vlad Josephson

    Excellent for all levels

  4. Thanks. I’ll be using this myself and with my students. Looking forward to seeing more of your videos and checking out your book.

  5. Samaila


  6. Mark S B.

    Thanks’ Adrian your pleasant to listen to and learn from.
    I wont say who but someone I learn from on u-tube has light reflecting off his maple bass neck and of course I cant see anything, just hear.
    O geez , me the chronic complainer.

      • Mark S B.

        Ariane my replies always end up on the bottom when I reply to someone up top, like this reply will most likely be. I don’t know how to edit or delete replies here, maybe thru Word Press. I sure wish someone would explain how to edit.
        As for your presentation everything was fine. I’m only 10 months in to bass and I love it. Maple necks reflect more light than rosewood your video was well done.
        The first 6 months my dexterity was weak , I thought it was my bass but it was me. I’m getting there slowly and surely . Thank you ,,,

  7. Mark S B.

    Ariane , sorry I spelled your name wrong.

  8. mojobass

    Hey Ariane…. Commenting as a bottom dweller,and former teacher and school administrator,I absolutely love your approach to teaching.Very natural!
    Good exercises and easy to follow for any level of player. You are a great addition to the NO TREBLE crew! BASS ON ?

  9. Mike Matthews

    Good lesson Ms Cap. A lesson on harmonics and eq’ing bass would be appreciated. Welcome to NT !!!

      • Mike Matthews

        Copy that Ms. Cap. Looking forward to more lessons from ya ? Thanks again!

  10. Yay! Thanks Ariane! I’m also working through your book at the moment. Thanks for the lessons!

  11. Rodney Spiers

    Excellent lesson, thank you Ariane. Welcome to No Treble,. Lessons on learning scales in a more musical way (ie not just playing up and down through the scale) would be good

  12. These are always great exercises! I try to make myself even more honest my putting that metronome on triplet subdivisions to make sure my notes are even. And maybe drop the tempo of the metronome so I can also do groups of five and six.

    A great melody which features a lot of these finger permutations is “Cascades” by Oliver Nelson. It’s basically a ton of enclosures around the notes of a minor chord and gets your hands moving in ways that are non-traditional for bassists.

    One question I have for feature technique exercises has to do with large leaps across the bass: What are some suggestions or exercises for those big shifts which occur when we are maybe playing in unison with horns or the piano player? Thanks so much for the help!

    • Steve

      Hi Brandon,

      There are two exercises that I feel have helped make me less tentative with bigger jumps up and down the fretboard.

      One would be to simply practice playing, for instance, each F# (then G, G# etc) on my fretboard to a metronome set to whatever speed I am comfortable with (speeding up the tempo as I get more settled with a given note). I will do this by string as well as by the octave up and down. Doing this daily took away a lot of the foggy mystery in my head about the layout of my fretboard. I also love doing this exercise because if I screw up on time it will still sound kind of cool and has given me groove ideas.

      The other exercise that helps me a lot is simply playing two octave scales in as many different string combinations as I can think of for a given scale.

      A few minutes everyday with these exercises does wonders.

      I hope you find this helpful.


        • Steve

          Thanks for responding Ariane!

          That’s a nice way to explain the exercise on your video. I do, however, practice this technique the complete length of the fretboard. It wasn’t until I started doing this that I started to understand that diagonal shape of the different octaves as they go down the fretboard. And on my bass – what the notes actually are at the 20th fret!

          Also, I do think your permutation lesson on this page is nicely presented! I like the delay thing, I may have to sell my bicycle and get one of those boxes! ;)


  13. You’re a great teacher! Very clear and thoughtful ideas. I look forward to passing these along to my own students and checking out your book.

  14. David

    Love this, very nicely done! It would be great if there was a pdf of the left hand permutations chart included. I grabbed one here

  15. Dragan

    Hey, after having purchased your programs on TrueFire, and with these lessons, I am really becoming a fan! Great job!

  16. Withheld

    Ms. Capp.
    In my own opinion, this is absolutely totally a retelling of an Anthony Wellington lesson. This is a lesson he has taught at Victor Wootens camp for years, including camps you attended as a student. This is undoubtedly where you learned it.
    The approach, the nomenclature, the collection of information is definitely derived from Anthony. Anyone who has studied with him knows this, and to see the comments below giving you credit for what I feel is a plagerized lesson really sting because I know where this come from.
    I’m sorry, but the truth is the truth. This is not your lesson.

    • Mark S B.


      This is just a exercise not a bass solo , just a caring instructor trying to help others build dexterity. Passing down what best helped any instructor is not plagiarizing not plagerized.
      No harm , no foul , no ill intent was meant.
      Instead of writing about your feelings of grievance and displeasure please have some respect for the sake of others, especially Ms. Cap.

    • Dear Withheld,

      I’ve known Ariane Cap for years and years and she long ago told me about these exercises she learned from her teachers in her native Austria. All music educators know that our teaching rests on a foundation of pedagogy and teachers past and present, and for you to accuse her of learning this concept at Victor Wooten’s camp and that it is the proprietary teaching property exclusive to Anthony Wellington is simply absurd! Ariane is s gifted musician with the desire to share what she has learned over decades of study and performance. Thank you, Ariane!!! I hope this negative and untruthful comment will not discourage you from your path of musical education. You are a gem!!!

      Rhonda Lucile Hicks

  17. Robert Troost

    Hello Ariana,
    I like the lesson enormously. Would I be asking for the impossible when I would like to see your right hand. On my screen at least I cannot see it properly.

  18. Jesse Perez

    Great Lesson. The way you present the lesson is both informative and leaves me with a way to be creative with it. Every time I watch one of your videos it makes me excited to pick up my Bass and start shedding. Thank you Ariane,and thank you NoTreble, she really brings so much to help us find our musical voice.

  19. JJ

    Love your lessons. As a 60/40 pick/finger player, I end up doing the one exercise twice because I want to get used to it both ways. I am finding the pick a bit more difficult to master so I was wondering if you had any suggestions.

    Thanks for a great series so far.


  20. Hey Ariane :) GREAT EXERCISE !
    I’de love to know where can I find the tabs table that you showed on the video, thanks, you rock :)

  21. Hi Ariane! Welcome to NoTreble! I just found out this first lesson here, and I really connect with your way of teaching. Can’t wait for your book to come into my inbox on Thursday!

  22. Bill Flynn

    Also new to bass, in my mid-60s , left hand dexterity is a slight issue. My hands are not small but fingers seem a little restricted , , lots of little sports hand injuries.