Bass Damping Exercises

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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DaveLeeNC
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Bass Damping Exercises

Postby DaveLeeNC » Sun Jan 29, 2017 4:33 pm

I am a kind of early intermediate level guitarist who has never worked on bass damping and it is a skill that I need to play the stuff that I am working on. While I can learn this by simply 'mastering it as I encounter it', I am pretty astonished at my (lack of) skill here. I have a terrible time trying to touch a string with my thumb (not the only way but certainly important) while doing other things with my other RH finger and LH fingers. Say you are playing something in the key of D and you have an open A for a few beats and then need to play something with an open D (for example) and the typical thing to do would be to touch the open A string 'as soon as possible'. While I have never worked on this the act of 'touching the A string' will cause me to do all kinds of stuff with other fingers. Suddenly a series of free strokes becomes rest stroke or two, LH fingers that need to be held down come up off the strings, etc.

I am sure that this will improve just with practice, but it seems to me that a series of exercises is proper here as opposed to making up my own or just 'learning the stuff in the piece I am playing'. Is there anything out there?

Thanks.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby Stephen Kenyon » Sun Jan 29, 2017 6:06 pm

Well the good news is that you are keen and motivated to deal with the question, and that is a big part of the deal.

There is a section on this topic in my book Preliminary Exercises in Technique - not sure how easy to get hold of it over there though,
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DaveLeeNC
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby DaveLeeNC » Sun Jan 29, 2017 8:24 pm

Thanks for the response, Stephen. I'll keep an eye out for that book although I it doesn't seem to be common on this side of the pond.

dave

ps. Observing myself in this context is interesting. Damping a bass note when nothing (much) else is going on is something that I do often and is natural. Combining it with other stuff - VERY different.
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

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Jonathan Lamb
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby Jonathan Lamb » Sun Jan 29, 2017 10:16 pm

<<Bang!!>>

:casque:
Last edited by Jonathan Lamb on Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

robert e
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby robert e » Mon Jan 30, 2017 1:56 am

Hi David,

Sounds like you're where I was a month or two ago. I, too, suddenly realized that I'd never given bass damping much thought and I saw it as a big gap in my technique that I needed to address immediately.

If you're anything like me, you have a body of exercises and pieces behind you that you learned while being unconcerned with bass damping. Go back and look at them again. I found plenty that would benefit from damping. Find them and mark them up. Familiarity was a great help in making the process more comfortable and less awkward. Sor, Carcassi, go way back. The simpler the better. If your fingers have forgotten them, better still.

Giuliani arpeggios are good, too. Replace the C and G chords with Am and Em, or just replace the bass notes w/ open strings. Or if you can stand it just do the patterns on open strings. Other arpeggio exercises will do. For more challenge, alter the value of the bass strings--practice playing (and damping) them as half notes, quarters, dotted notes, etc. Lots of open string exercises in the beginning of Kitharologus, as well.

Jonathan Lamb is right about M. Delcamp, and you'll find a couple of specific damping exercise at the end of certain Delcamp graded volumes. D03 and D05 for sure.

I know how awkward it feels at first, but I assure you the akwardness passes quicker than you think it will. One key for me was concentrating on keeping the right hand as steady and stable as possible. This was associated with a change of perception of my thumb as more like another finger than as a different sort of digit--just as nimble and flexible. Which came first, I couldn't say. I think they were mutually reinforcing, gradual changes.

YMMV, but another thing that helped me was adopting a general policy that, whenever possible, the thumb must be touching a string, whether or not anything needed damping. In other words, cultivating a new habit for the thumb of touching some string immediately after doing anything, and until it is needed again. This was, for me at least, a new habit, and an easier path to bass damping than actually tackling bass damping from scratch. I'm tempted to call it a prerequisite, actually.

Good luck!

[Edited for clarity.]

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BugDog
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby BugDog » Mon Jan 30, 2017 10:35 pm

As Jonathan and Robert said there are some damping exercises in the graded volumes. They're worthwhile and some are part of compositions that you might come across in those volumes.

There's this exercise I've done for a while. It's mostly an arpeggio exercise done with what I've seen call "damping attack" or staccato. The fingers pluck the note and then return to the string to damp it.

The thumb is worked differently and seems like a good thumb damping workout to me. On the first pass the thumb plucks the 6th low E, immediately returns to damp it, then removed and held free of the strings. On the second pass the 6th is plucked, damped, then brought to rest on the A string. On the third pass the 6th is plucked, damped and brought to rest on the D string. Of course right after each thumb stroke, the fingers do their part to finish the arp.

This is a pure mechanical type exercise and doesn't lend much in the way of strategy or musicality to the mix, but it does seem to get the fingers and thumbs used to the idea of damping as well improving overall control.
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DaveLeeNC
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby DaveLeeNC » Tue Jan 31, 2017 2:10 am

Thanks to all for the helpful input. I think I have a reasonable plan at going after this.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

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GJW
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby GJW » Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:29 pm

Do share... :merci:
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DaveLeeNC
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby DaveLeeNC » Tue Jan 31, 2017 1:10 pm

I am going to find things that I cannot do that I will probably need to do and learn to do them. And the problem is 'damping while doing something else'. So I am starting with the following exercise.

1st String plays (triplets) A-A#-B,C-B-A#,A and alternate open A (5th string) and open E (6th string) at the start of each triplet (on the A's and the C's) damping the other open string. Once I can do that comfortably I will change the order of the triplets. Then I will do something similar combining strings 1 and 2. Then 16th notes on strings 1 and 2 and I haven't thought past this point. I am still on step #1.

dave

ps. Changing bass strings and moving around the fretboard is kind of a given here.
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

DaveLeeNC
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby DaveLeeNC » Thu Feb 02, 2017 5:25 pm

Just an observation after several days of working on this. The real problem here (in my case) would seem to be a lack of independence between the 'p' and all other fingers on either hand. A list of the 'wrong stuff' that I will do when adding damping to a short musical phrase

1) Just hit the wrong strings (either hand)
2) Lose track of what I am doing (e.g., alternating bass stops alternating)
3) Just leave out a damping note (fail to damp or even fail to try to damp it)
4) Unwanted "sequential planting" will show up in the other LH fingers
5) LH fingers that are supposed to be held down, rise up on their own as if by command from God
6) If (for example) measure 4 is almost like measure 2, I will repeat measure 2
7) Damping happens 'on count' instead of right after the note following the damped note

And interesting 'simple complexity' to add to the exercise that I listed above is to change the alternating bass from A-E-A-E... to A-E-A-D-A-E.... For me this is much harder.

This is turning out to be tougher than I expected (but I do believe that it will yield to effort). Just an FYI plus whatever comments this might entice.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

robert e
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby robert e » Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:41 pm

I know exactly how you feel, from recent memory. I found that as I just kept at it, my hand gradually stabilized and my thumb got lighter.

But the way you've itemized it, that's a lot of multiple interrelated problems to be dealing with at once. You have to break it down into manageable chunks. And your exercise seems needlessly challenging to me.

Changing bass strings and moving around the fretboard is kind of a given here.


IMO, that's NOT a given! No matter how advanced you are, I think you're making this way too hard for yourself. You're learning a new technique here. And even more challenging--you're trying to unlearn programmed reflexes. Baby steps are what's called for. Really slow baby steps.

Don't even bother with damping at first--for example, just play a simple open string exercise like in Kitarologus, but make a point of giving your thumb a "home" string to touch after every activity. Don't worry about anything but finding the right string every time--not muting, not sound, not tone--just the touch; start as slowly as necessary, then gradually build to moderate quickness.

If that's too challenging (nothing wrong with that, and no one need ever know; but you have to be honest with yourself), just keep your ima fingers planted and only focus on the thumb, simple steady rhythm. Once that's comfortable, activate only one other finger, on a single string, first on a simultaneous beat, then once that's fluid, on alternate beats, then both. Then a different--single--finger in addition to the thumb. And so on. Just an example. Feel free to devise your own exercise. But the point is to isolate these new movements while your thumb and fingers learn them (and unlearn what they need to unlearn). (And this is all way before getting the left hand involved, btw!)

DaveLeeNC
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Re: Bass Damping Exercises

Postby DaveLeeNC » Thu Feb 02, 2017 8:46 pm

Robert/et. al., I will admit that (based on my experience so far), I have viewed this issue as a smaller problem than it really is.

And I do believe that some amount of work with thumb only is appropriate. Now that I have thought about it some more I see 'three different thumb strokes' coming into play.

1) 'Normal' thumb strokes (rest or free stroke) with no damping considerations.

2) 'Sequential planting stroke' where the note to be damped is also the next note to be played.

3) 'Pure damping' where the note to be damped is not the next note to be played

And I can see real value in working on those at first thumb only (or some kind of super-minimal LH).

Thanks for the comments.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric


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