What is this thumb-picking you speak of??

I’ve been a freelance bass player for over 20 years, and in that time I’ve played many different styles of music in varying musical contexts, from weddings to concert halls and everything in between. Whatever the occasion, I’ve always tried to play for the good of the song – locking in with the drummer, keeping it simple and providing a solid foundation for the rest of the band.

My right hand technique has been standard alternating 2 finger plucking with the occasional thumb and palm mute. In the rare occasions that I need to slap and pop, I’m of the Tony Oppenheim’s ‘Slap it’ (http://www.slapit.com/) school of slap.

In the 24 years that I’ve been playing bass, I’ve always practiced as regularily as possible – sight reading, theory, different styles, technique, time, groove and transcriptions of bass parts from my bass heroes. One day in january 2009, I decided to gather up my courage and attack my Victor Wooten transcription book, to try to see if I could cop his double thumbing and 1st and second finger popping technique.

I quickly realized that there was a lot of work to be done and decided to do what I’ve always done when struggling with something new on the instrument – break it down and slow it down… so I decided to concentrate on the double thumbing and work in the 1st and 2nd fingers later when the thumbing would be up to par.

Little did I know at the time that I wouldn’t get around to the 1st and 2nd fingers because I was having too much fun thumb plucking the bass. What at first was a little awkward, became a plucking technique that I was very excited about. Day after day of practice I was discovering new ways (at least for me) of using it – playing bass lines that I usually played fingerstyle and writing lines of my own.

It was so refreshing to change my outlook on the instrument and just play crazy stuff – well, at least crazy from the viewpoint of the traditional role of the bass in popular music- I was writing riffs and having a ball.

After grasping the potentiel of this technique and realizing that I had pages and pages of material written for and inspired by this technique, I told myself that I should put together a method book. Firstly, for myself, to try to push the technique to it’s limits and keep track of all the different ‘avenues’ for it’s application, and secondly, in the back of my mind I was thinking that maybe other bass players might also be interested in exploring my findings.

It’s still a work in progress, but since I’m going to perform exclusively with this technique for the first time in public on February 19th, I decided to start this blog in hopes of getting feedback from fellow bassists and musicians…

Sylvain ‘Sly’ Audet – bassist

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Why bother??

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to make a living of playing bass. To do so, I’ve always said yes to all opportunities that have come my way and have enjoyed the diversity of experiences that this attitude has provided.

So why after all this time do I want to approach the instrument in a new way, instead of keeping my practice time to improve my fingerstyle playing?

In a nutshell I would say that it’s because the challenge of something new and different, and the creative spark that it lights, is just plain fun and let’s me get away from everything I’ve learned throughout my years of playing.

The fact that I’m experimenting with a technique that I have few references for  makes the discoverys seem more personal and original. And that’s been keeping me motivated for the last 2 years…and has spawned a lot of new songs and projects.

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An MP3 is worth a thousand words…

You can talk about music all day long, and everything said will probably lead your imagination to something you’ve heard before… and when you finally hear the object of discussion, you’re surprised by it.

So, even though I’ve started this blog to write about my motivations, and the continuing process I’ve used to develop my thumb picking technique I’ll try to post audio examples…

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