Hey, James here!
Today, I want to talk about this expression that I've heard around the bass world a ton over the years, which is "Don't play above the middle of the bass guitar fretboard." You might have also heard this expression where they describe the lower end as the "business end" and the upper end as the "dusty end" because it doesn't get that much use.
So today I want to give you my take on this subject. The thing I've discovered after teaching hundreds of students over the years is many students get "musical vertigo" when they have to go up the dusty end. But there are some incredible musical applications that you can use it for, and I encourage you to have a complete command of the bass guitar fretboard.
The reality is if you know the upper end of the fretboard, it will only make playing the lower end of the bass guitar even better. So what I'm going to do is show you how to use three different registers of the fretboard. Because what I've discovered over the years, is each register needs a slightly different approach. Once you start understanding the approaches you need for the different areas of the fretboard, it will make using the whole of the neck that much simpler.
Before we get started today, I want you to know that there's a completely free PDF that comes with this lesson, so you can see everything I'm discussing today written out in standard notation and tab. Click the link above the video to get your free copy!
I'm going to show you how to approach three different areas of the neck. But if I was to give you some ballpark advice, I would say spend 50% of your time down on the business end, 40% in the middle of the fretboard, then 10% up in the upper register. Most players want to hear you in the lower register of the instrument, which is where this fundamental piece of advice comes from. But never ignore the top end! The most important thing is to always serve the song. Make sure you play the thing that is most musically appropriate. Just listen to players like John Deacon on "No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young)" by Queen, and you'll hear some masterful playing up the top end of the fretboard. Let's talk about how to use the different areas of the fretboard in the video above this post.
Using the different registers of the fretboard or the different octaves is all about how you approach them and how you pick the best musical device for the situation. So that brings us back to the question, "Should you play above the middle of the bass guitar fretboard?" Yes, absolutely! Enjoy every single fret on the instrument because there's wonderful music to be made using all of them.
I'll see you next week!