THE 4 T'S: A Guitar & Bass Methodology
TONE, TIME, TECHNIQUE, & THEORY: in a nutshell
What’s the most important part to achieving great tone?
Great tone is all in the hands (as Jaco Pastorius so rightly proclaimed). A true bassist or guitarist can pick-up any bass or guitar (no matter how terrible it may be) and make it sound good. Of course, certain guitars react different, are set up differently, and have an inherent tone about them, but it is ultimately up to the player to develop that tone with the manner in which he/she positions his/her hand.
Difference between Tube and Solid State amps:
Generally, a tube amp is going to sound warm and beefier; normally, with the gain turned up high, the break-up distortion is going to sound better than distortion from a solid state. With a solid-state amp, the tone is more "square" and generally may "cut" through easier in the mix. Solid-state amps are easier to maintain as well.
Flat wound vs. Round wound strings:
Flat wound strings give less sustain and have generally an “older”, thud-type of sound whereas round wound strings are brighter and cut through the mix. For guitar, flat-wounds can be miracle workers in achieving a unique sound to a guitar that may be less than "inspirational."
Time is everything. Play only two notes for an entire song but do it with impeccable time and you'll make the song come to life. Play lots of licks with lots of notes but do it with no groove or swing and it just becomes noise.
Shouldn't the drummer be the time keeper?
No. Every musician should be as solid with his time as the drummer and just reinforce what a good drummer should be laying down. Time is like a sphere with three points of contact: 1. play right on top of it; 2. play in front the beat; or 3. play on the back side of its curvature.
Left hand positions (or "neck hand" for left handed players):
The hand is kept as a “C” shape, and moves up and down the guitar and/or bass neck according to the four main positions.
Finger per fret application:
Each finger gets its own fret according to the position on the instrument. This is a soft-rule that helps in minimizing hand fatigue and creates an economic movement to creating licks and chords.
Right hand technique:
For bass, two-finger is the norm, using the index and middle fingers. Three-finger incorporates the ring finger and can help develop speed. For guitar, PIMA is the classical way, but I mostly use a flat, hard pick, using alternate strokes. Pick on bass is a great way to create aggression or incorporate the palm mute with a pick and get funk, pluck going.
Fingers vs. Pick
Normally, fingers produce a warm/dark sound whereas pick is more aggressive and brighter. I often change between the two in the middle of a song even; it depends on what the song requires.
For me, scales are at the core of understanding theory. The best way to memorize scales is to start off learning them on a piano. It's easy to visualize a scale on a piano since no notes show up more than once, as they do on guitar and bass. The fundamentals are the learning all 12 MAJOR SCALES & all 12 MINOR SCALES.
Building on scale knowledge makes learning chords easy. The chords come from the construction of certain scale notes, namely the 1, 3, and 5 scale degrees. Also, each scale degree has a corresponding chord that is essential to hearing progressions, e.g., I, Vi, IV, V.
***This is just a quick introduction to my methodology. I'm developing a more in depth book on this subject. Look out for it... Thanks!