Tapping Technique and Composition: “Perhaps Everything, Perhaps Nothing” – Part 1

Please help us welcome our newest contributor, John Ferrara! John is kicking off a new bass lesson series today on Tapping Technique and Composition.

John Ferrara

Photo: Stephan Pruitt Photography

Over the years, I’ve found myself perpetually excited over the possibilities of tapping, not only because of how efficient and just plain awesome sounding it is but because of its potential to show us how different parts can work together and help us bridge the gap between bassist and composer. In fact, I started two-handed tapping as a means to compose. Through my early attempts at trying to hear how a bassline would sound with a particular melody, I gradually found that tapping could conveniently lead to writing full compositions in much the same way a piano can. I would coordinate the parts, and if I liked how it sounded, I would then divide the parts among band members and flesh out a bass line for myself, all while maintaining the larger context in which it would belong. Sometimes my bass part would remain a tapping part, sometimes not.

The series will consist of 8 lessons on tapping and tapping-related techniques that I use on my latest album, A Lesson in Impermanence. They are shot and edited by a very talented musician and videographer, George Manchester, with Kettlebottom Creative. We wanted to be really thorough with these videos with the hope that bass players could really learn from them. We wanted them to be able to play the different techniques and, more importantly, how to apply them to their own compositions. The videos cover different sections that I feel summarize the benefits of each technique used in a creative and practical way. We’ve included tabs in the video so viewers can learn the parts if desired.

Since I’m a teacher, I can’t help but branch into other topics during the videos as well. I expand on my creative process and give pointers on playing in odd time signatures, dissecting polyrhythms, and more. I’ve been teaching private lessons for almost two decades now and have had a lot of success in teaching these techniques to students and watching them flourish in their own creative process. I truly hope you can take these ideas and run with them as well!

Bass Tapping Lesson 1: “Perhaps Everything Perhaps Nothing” Part 1

When we first start learning the bass, the fact that we have several different versions of the same note on different strings is a giant pain! But if we fully embrace and explore those notes, it becomes a huge advantage! In this lesson, I discuss what I call “Drone Tapping” to describe the “droning” sound produced by coordinating a fast rhythm between left and right hands while playing the same notes on different strings. By exploring these unison notes, not only can we enhance our fretboard knowledge, but we can make some insane-sounding patterns with relative ease!

In this lesson, I also discuss the concept of “Following the thread,” the general concept of learning something, and then before moving on to a new technique, staying on the current one longer with the goal of mixing and matching it with other things you already know to explore the different ways you can integrate it into your current musical lexicon!

John Ferrara’s new album, A Lesson in Impermanence is streaming on Spotify and all major platforms. John is also available for private online lessons, via his website. Be sure to check out his Youtube channel.

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