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Let's talk about six


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I've just acquired a lovely Marleaux Consat 6 for chords, higher-register melodies, soloing, and other fun: I'd appreciate any thoughts from the 6-string players here on learning / practice drills.


As it's my first 6, I've been concentrating on learning the fretboard first: major chord tones in the circle of 4ths, starting each on the B string frets 1-12, then starting on the B between 12 and 24, then repeat for each string: calling out each note as I play it. Next I intend to do the same but performing the circle with minor chord tones, dominant 7ths, 7b5's. Then major and minor pentatonics. Does that sound sensible?


I'm not sure how or when to approach chords or if there is any reference or guide available.


Any tips or links would be very welcome: so far I've been following Johnny Cox's excellent guides at https://johnnycoxmusic.com/tag/6-string/

Many thanks!

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Many bass players get a 6 to play chords on. I took a different approach and just thought of it as a regular bass with extended range. You’re really limited to 3 note chords due to the low register, unless you use two handed tapping (and then it’s more like a Chapman Stick than a guitar so the advice might be different), and far fewer options with voicings.


You don’t say whether you’ve had a 5 before so I’ll assume not. Get everything you play today and explore playing it with the new range. Play lines you played on the E string in the B, and stuff higher up on the G, transfer to the C. The quicker you stop thinking about a 4 string plus 1 extra string each side and see the fretboard as a whole the better. I found not swapping back to a 4 for a few months really helped. 

One potential issue is that the vertical range is so big that many players get stuck playing in one position. Break out of that by playing one octave scales and intervals over two strings so you get to move up and down the neck horizontally. 

In terms of literature I would just get some jazz standards, learn the melody then record some chords and try writing down and learning the solos, you can prep for this by playing chord tones all over the instrument to get used to that extra range. Something like Musescore is great because you can just put chord symbols in and it’ll play them back on piano (albeit not with the best voicings). Jamey Aebersold book/CDs are an alternative. I’d imagine there’s a ton of great videos on YT but take a look at players like Anthony Jackson, John Patitucci, Todd Johnson, Steve Bailey, Alain Caron etc.  


Finally, pay attention to your technique. There’s a lot strings more to keep quiet and the wider fretboard can put extra stress on fretting and plucking hand.

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You don't need to go beyond the 12th because it repeats.


I think it's a good idea, to begin with, to go up and down each string singing each note as accurately as you can. Some people name the sharps going up and the flats going down, and others just say "A B" for A#/Bb.

After that I would play the major, natural minor and dominant/Mixolydian scales from the lowest possible note on the B string to the 12th on the C string, singing the scale degree(just say ....3...4...5...6...7....1....2.......3....) as you go. Pay attention to where the various root notes are on the neck so that you can see where all the intervals are related to the root.

This helps to not only enable you to see the 6 string bass as not just a 4 or 5 string with an extra string or 2, but gets you out of the root to root thinking. It really helps for you to see where all the intervals are on the neck so that you can truly know the fretboard.


One thing I also used to do was to put on a drum track find and play a random note such as Ab as quickly as possible going from one Ab to another Ab randomly. Then do the same with another note.


I would do the above every day for a few months, and then after that maybe refresh every so often.


Use the floating thumb technique.

Edited by TheLowDown
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