Every musician knows the struggle – you want to get better immediately, but you have to practice, which takes time. Practicing your instrument does not have to be a tedious item on your daily to-do list. In today’s article, we’re going to show you a handful of exercises that you can do that don’t take up all your time and effort but will improve your playing. The drills below are by no means a shortcut to becoming an instant master, and you should still set time aside to study your instrument mindfully. However, if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, or you’d like to practice while watching tv, or in transit, then these exercises are perfect.
The Chrome Run
The Chrome Run is referred to by many names but is probably the universal exercise for instruments like guitar and bass. The premise of the exercise is straightforward – you need to get your fingers comfortable with moving around on the bass.
Starting at the first fret of your lowest string, play each note chromatically from frets 1-4. Once you have reached the fourth fret, move down to your next string and repeat the same shape. Once you have reached your highest string, move your hand up by one fret and ascend using the same chromatic shape. Once you have reached the highest point on your neck, do the entire exercise in reverse.
Many musicians begin their warm-up routines using this very basic exercise. You can decide whether or not to do this exercise to a metronome; make sure that your movements are fluid and you’re not generating any dead notes as you play.
Rhythm Roulette is a terrific way to get your internal clock working more intuitively. This exercise is most efficient when played to a metronome or even a backing track with a simple drum beat.
While the exercise might not be the most mindless to practice, you can reach a point where your playing becomes second nature.
Find a simple motif, chord progression, or bassline that you’d like to practice for this exercise. Begin by playing your part as it is composed with no changes. Once you find yourself in a comfortable groove with your bassline, try to remove specific areas of your playing without breaking the momentum of the piece. For example, play the same progression but remove the notes in every 2nd count of every bar. Switching off sections of the bar while you play will develop a stronger ‘start/stop’ mechanism with your playing and, over this time, can turn you into a naturally attentive player.
One of the biggest mechanical differences between bass and guitar is that guitarists generally have a two-octave range within a four-fret space, while bassists generally only have one. Octave jumps are a wonderful method to ensure that your playing isn’t restricted to just one area of the neck at any given time.
You’ll need to choose a specific scale or arpeggio that you’re trying to improve for this exercise. Let’s imagine you’re trying to get better at a minor pentatonic arpeggio. Start by playing the shape at the lowest possible string (you can choose any root note as a reference). Once you reach the highest note on the arpeggio, follow through and try to play up to the next octave. Your brain will hesitate when jumping up an octave as this is not as fluid on bass as it is on guitar. However, overcoming this little mental obstacle will vastly increase the range of expression you can use while writing or improvising.
Attack and Release
Many players are fond of this drill because it is relatively mindless but super effective when practiced over long periods. The focus of this exercise shifts from the right hand to the left and is centered around tightening the fingers of this hand for more precise picking expressions.
Find a scale, shape, or bassline that you’d like to practice or perfect. We recommend using an uplifting, funkier bass line for this exercise if possible, as it will optimize your progress while playing. Run the shape or riff as normal, without changes to get centered and comfortable. Once you’re in a solid groove, try to extend the sustained length of every note so that they bleed into each other. Then, slowly pull away at the amount of sustain in each note with each repetition until every note in your riff or shape is very short and almost completely muted. This exercise is particularly useful for developing a player’s ability to create dynamic and volume control using just their hands.
The final exercise on this list can be stressful on less experienced hands, but it’s all the more reason to practice and get better. The drill is not so much a standalone exercise as much as it is an application to other exercises that you’ve learned.
The idea behind this drill is very simple – improve your ability to access any area of the bass as quickly as possible. Begin by picking out a scale, shape, or exercise that you would like to perfect, and have the circle of 5th’s at hand for reference. Using the circle of 5th’s as a map, move from key to key using the same shape or drill. For example, if you’re doing a pentatonic arpeggio in G Major, move along the wheel to D and do the same, then move one over to A for the same shape. You can choose your method and combinations for moving around on the circle of 5ths for reference. Switching it up will significantly improve your ability to access different neck parts without overthinking.
The exercises listed above range from mind-numbing and easy to slightly more focused and tricky. Each one of the drills listed above will improve a different area of your playing, be it physical or mental. You can split these exercises up throughout your day if your schedule is tight or choose to do them all in one session if you have the time. Consistency is key, take your time with these exercises, and you should see some tangible improvements in your playing over time. Thanks for reading our quick list of 5 Simple But Effective Bass Exercises. Stay grooving.