How one octave arpeggios work on the double bass

These are key for developing facility in the lower register.

With Jason Heath · San Francisco, CA

Download a copy of my fingerings for these here.

Why practice arpeggios?

I think that a lot of students neglect arpeggio practice in favor of scale practice, which is a real shame. After all, music rarely moves up and down in diatonic scale form without interruption. Arpeggios prepare us for the inevitable leaps that we encounter in music.

For bass players, practicing arpeggios is even more important since we spend so much of our time outlining the basic chord structures in our bass parts and lines.

Whether playing Mozart or Mingus, roots, thirds, and fifths are the bread and butter of bassists.

Jason Heath

Arpeggios develop our ability to think laterally.

This means thinking across the strings rather than up and down one individual string.

Since we can only play a whole step without either shifting or changing strings, we bass players need to be able to see patterns across the strings.

When we start out learning double bass arpeggios, we typically want to use as many open strings as possible. These open strings are a great pitch reference and take some of the variables out of the equation.

As we develop our abilities, however, we want to be able to use fingering templates to keep some consistency between different arpeggios. Since they don’t use open strings, these can be a bit more challenging to use at first, but they’ll be what you end up using most of the time in real-world musical situations.

Good fingering guideline: use the same fingering pattern for the same intervalic combinations in a piece.

Jason Heath

For major arpeggios, my favorite fingering template is:

  • Root – 2nd finger
  • Third – 1st finger
  • Fifth – 4th finger
  • Octave – 4th finger

The challenge with this fingering is that there is either a shift or a string crossing between every single note.

Once mastered, however, this template unlocks a whole set of possibilities for the bass player. Since this pattern will work for all major arpeggios, it eliminates a lot of guesswork when encountering new passages

The materials

In addition to the PDF, I’ve I’ve also got videos for each of the separate arpeggios, plus a video about how to approach arpeggio fingerings in general.

For each key, I’ve got the beginner fingering followed by the template fingering.

For keys like Gb or Db major that have no open strings, the beginner fingering is the template fingering.

For keys with a lot of open strings, the two fingerings may differ quite a bit. You’ll see what I mean as you dig into it.

As with everything, practice it slowly, and aim to to a small amount of material each day at a really high level rather than going for volume and changing through a bunch of stuff haphazardly.

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