Believe it or not, hammer ons and pull offs, and fingering in general, aren’t the only ways to get to the fret you want.
Sliding can add smoothness to your playing, and texture to your legato. So how exactly do you perfect the art of sliding on bass guitar?
First off, you need to consider a few things; are your fingers properly callused? If not, sliding may take a few sheets of skin at first. That isn’t a big deal; as bass players, we all have to pay our dues some time, but that doesn’t mean it is fun.
The worst thing you can do, though, is learn sliding with un-callused fingers that are wet. This means if you are a bassist whose fingers tend to sweat a lot, your best friend for the next few weeks will be a dry towel.
This will prevent you from getting tears or rivets in your fingers due to damp skin. Another important thing to do is, if you have any cuts on your fingertips, clean them out and put on a band aid. This will prevent any strings from peeling open the cut, or worse; getting caught in it. Unfortunately, without band aids, this does happen, and it isn’t fun, so no matter how small the cut seems, it is best to be safe than to be sorry.
The first thing to do when sliding is to consider which direction you are going in. This may sound basic, and that is because it is; just like fretting your finger needs to be closest to the fret it will be sliding to.
This means that if your forefinger is fretted in the fifth string, and you plan on traveling to the seventh fret, your forefinger should be closer to the fret wire of the sixth fret. Likewise, if you are planning to slide from the fifth fret to the third, your forefinger should be closest to the fret wire of the fourth fret.
The less distance you have to travel, the easier it is.
When sliding, keep the pressure on the string. Many bass guitarists believe that sliding can be achieved by loosening your grip on the string; it can’t. Not only is this the equivalent to un-fretting the note, it also produces an awful fret squeak.
Not to mention, it ruins the fluidity of the note transfer.
When you slide, you want to make the motion as quick as possible, almost like pulling off a band aid; the quicker you do it, the less it hurts. The same rule applies to sliding, as sliding slowly not only voices the notes in your sliding path, but it also creates a chromatic run. This means that, if you are playing in the middle of a song, you will throw off the entire piece by adding excess notes.
In the end, the only way to get good at the bass guitar sliding technique is by practicing. Take time to practice sliding from short intervals, such as between frets five and seven, and once you feel comfortable, try adding some slides into your own pieces. They will help further your skill, and familiarize you with how the flow in the context of a piece. Good luck!
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