The ability to play fast is almost every bass player’s wish and the requirement to play fast is often part of the job.
Here is an exercise to get you going:
Find a good fingering pattern for a two-octave major scale and set your drum machine metronome to 300 bpm (beats per minute). (Standard metronomes don’t click that fast, so if you don’t have a drum machine, sequencer or software program, then do something about it. My suggestions: Buy or borrow a drum machine, download or use one off the internet or get someone to record a few minutes of clicks on a cassette tape or CD.)
Play each note of the two-octave major scale four times. Make sure you go up and down the scale non-stop without repeating the highest note. As soon as you get back to the lowest note immediately go up and down the scale again playing each note only three times. Then play each note twice and finally only once.
Do the entire exercise without stopping between four, three, two and one hits per note. The plucking hand therefore plays every metronome beat while the fretting hand moves faster for each segment of the exercise.
At 300 bpm this particular exercise takes exactly 56 seconds. Within 56 seconds you will have played each scale four times faster than at the beginning. I find this an excellent time/result ratio. Any seven-note scale through two octaves in all twelve keys will take less than twelve minutes to complete.
Once you have completed this 12-minute exercise cycle satisfactorily you will already be a more confident player.
Now you should move on to other scales. When completed move on to arpeggios. Got the picture? If a shift or rhythm is not working satisfactorily, work out why. If necessary get someone more knowledgeable to check your technique.
Whatever the case, persevere. Bass of Luck!
Below is a notated example of this exercise using the G major scale.
Click to hear a "live" recording of this exercise
George Urbaszek © 2007