Tapping Grooves: Vol. 1 Transcription and Lesson for 4-String Bass

For those of you who are interested in learning the tapping technique, I am sharing a transcription and lesson video (see transcription Fig. 1 and video Fig. 2 below) from my new book Tapping Grooves: Vol. 1 and Tapping Grooves Practice Group 10-week course which are both a great way to get started. Both the practice group and the book will help you create polyphonic grooves that emulate the sound of a rhythm section all on your bass in real-time!

If you find it difficult to coordinate the two parts between your hands, you are not alone! I remember being a young bassist in my teens and being unable to tap my foot in time while playing a simple bass line. Trust me, all of this can be learned. Here are some steps to help you break down the groove:

  • Step 1: Focus on just the right hand pattern and see if you can count aloud including the ‘ands’ while tapping (i.e. 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +, “one and two and three and four and”). This allows you to build up your coordination skills while also developing an awareness of where you are in each measure, not just feeling downbeats, but really knowing where you are at all times.
  • Step 2: See if you can continue counting aloud while tapping the right-hand pattern, but this time only saying the downbeats aloud (i.e. 1 2 3 4, “one two three four”) and feeling the upbeats in your head. This means that you tap with each count and between each count.
  • Step 3: Focus only on the first two measures of the left hand part (i.e. C on the 8th fret of the E-string). First see if you can tap the C on beat 1 while counting aloud including the upbeats (i.e. “ands”). Then try and count aloud while also hitting the second C note on the “and” of 2. Practice this until it becomes super easy and relaxed and you have the pattern internalized without needing to look at the music.
  • Step 4: Simply repeat Step 3, but this time counting aloud while only saying the down beats and feeling the upbeats in your head. This means that the first bass note is at the same time as saying “one” and the second bass note is between “two” and “three”.
  • Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4, but for measures 3-4, 5, and then 6 separately. Be sure to internalize each section without needing to stare at the sheet music. This will help you slowly get used to each position.
  • Step 6: Focus on the entire bass line (all eight measures). Practice first without counting aloud and being able to remember the line without referencing the music. Next, practice counting aloud first with the “ands” and then without. Make sure that you’ve memorized the line and don’t need to reference the music.
  • Step 7: Focus on putting the hands together. Your right hand is the foundation in this scenario since it outlines the pulse explicitly in 8ths notes (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +). First practice measures 1-2 until they become easy. Then 3-4, measure 5, and then 6. Practice these all separately. This allows you to get the feeling of each position while focusing mainly on rhythmic independence between the two parts.
  • Step 8: Finally practice all eight measures of the groove with both hands together. Practicing slowly is your best friend, so try not to get frustrated and rush ahead. If you are new to playing two parts at the same time (polyphonic performance) it may take a few days and repeated practice sessions before this groove becomes natural.

Good luck and please feel free to comment and ask questions below!

Fig. 1 – Excerpt from Tapping Grooves: Vol.1

Fig. 1 - Excerpt from Tapping Grooves: Vol.1

Fig. 2 – Lesson video for groove #1 “You’ll Always Be By My Side”:

Josh Cohen is a multi-award winning six-string bassist, composer, session musician, and music educator. His solo six-string electric bass performances, which can be heard on his most recent 2020 album Freedom, use extended techniques to create the sound of an entire band with only one instrument without the aid of loop pedals. Josh has a new solo bass transcription book out and offers online music lessons.

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