When I was first getting into the guitar, I played it incessantly. I lived it, breathed it, ate it and slept it. I was also extremely self-critical, so from early on, I made sure to develop good playing habits—I constantly strove to sound in tune and have a great tone, and to play cleanly and in time. But I was also very hard on myself. If I played something incorrectly, I whipped myself mercilessly. Whenever I made a mistake, I made sure that I would never allow myself to repeat it.
In this column, I’d like to share with you a useful lesson that I teach my students, and that is the importance of rests, or silence, in music, and how to achieve it in a meaningful, controlled manner. I do this by teaching them some basic, stock jazz “riffs” that are both fun to play and beneficial for their general technique development.
I often use this exercise as a quick left-hand warmup. It's great for loosening up your left hand, especially for more complicated chordal work. It's also an excellent study for left-hand coordination and control. The concept is to play chromatic octaves starting on the low open E string entirely in first position. We will move up chromatically starting on the low E up to the G# on the first fret of the third string.
As I was walking around, I heard a violinist playing these wild exercises-he was wailing! I thought it would be really cool to adapt those licks to the guitar. Since the violinist didn't speak any English, I had to gesture for him to show me what he was doing. He gladly did, and then he showed me a bunch of variations, too. It was great; though we didn't speak, we nonetheless communicated very easily.
Bass is more than just a guitar with two fewer strings. It has a different tone, scale length, feel and musical role, and in many cases it requires a different conceptual and technical approach. Guitarists who are new to playing bass will often double the guitar part one octave lower. There is certainly a place octave doubling — just listen to Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean" and Pantera's "I'm Broken." But there is so much more that can be done with the bass guitar.