Saturday, 9 May 2009

Accenting exercise

In this blog, we're going to look at a chromatic exercise which is great for getting your fingers and brain in gear. The idea of this exercise is to allow you to accent a passage as the music dictates, not as your hands would rather accent it.

To begin with, we're going to use a very simple one finger per fret pattern. I've place it at the 9th fret on the G string which should be pretty comfortable for most players. If you do find it a bit of a stretch, ensure that your thumb is behind the neck, parallel with either your first or second finger. If it's uncomfortable to hold all four fingers down, you can pivot on your thumb so that your hand is almost like a see saw - as the fourth finger comes down, the first lifts slightly.

If this is new to you, it may feel weird for a while but it will become more comfortable with time.Ideally, we're looking to try and hold all four down, but don't hurt yourself.

Play it a couple of times and listen to whether or not your accenting any notes. Chances are the first note may be slightly more accented than the others? This is totally natural, but I want you to aim for every note to be of uniform volume and length. Play through it slowly and really try and focus on getting every note even.

OK, now that we've got all the notes of uniform volume, we can look at adding accents where we want them. In the next exercise we systematically accent each note in turn...

Try making the accents really extreme, as well as barely accenting them. The aim is to make your ear and brain conscious the accents and to be able to add them as you wish.

Try just looping one bar and really focus on where the first beat is - it's really easy for your brain to trick you into hearing the accent as "one" after a few repetitions.

Once you're happy with that pattern, reverse the notes and go through the same process...

So, that's one position and one string. As an extra exercise, try both over two or more strings. This adds more of a challenge as the first note on the new string will often come out a little accented if left to its own devices.

The final challenge for this lesson is to add in some position shifts. We're going to play a chromatic scale up the G string. How you finger this doesn't matter too much, whether you play one finger pre fret or use a more Simandl/upright bass fingering of first, second and fourth fingers. Start on the open string, work up to the 12th fret and back down.

As with the previous exercises, aim to get all the notes even in terms of tone, volume and duration. This is easier said than done as the natural instinct is to accent the first note after each shift, and possibly to cut the note before the shift short as you get ready to move. Again, do it slowly and really pay attention to the notes.

Once you're happy with that, we're going to start accenting. First try accenting in groups of 4. This will mean accents on the open string, 4th fret and 8th fret going up and 12th fret, 8th fret and 4th fret on the way back down. Using either fingering, not all of these will be on the first note after a shoft so pay close attention to the sound of the notes.

The final idea for this lesson is to do the same but this time accent in groups of 3. Now the accents will be on the open string, 3rd fret, 6th fret and 9th fret on the way up and then 12th, 9th, 6th and 3rd on the way back down.

And that's the basic germ of the idea. The possibilities are endless - try it across strings, move the accents or try different groupings (groups of 5 are fun as you'll change direction mid-grouping!). Try it on patterns and scales you already know.

Ultimately, it comes back to the idea of freeing your hands up to play what the music needs, not what they automatically might want to.

Comments welcome as always.

No comments:

Post a Comment