Extended range instruments have never been more popular, but sometimes the adjustment can be a little awkward.

One extra string seems simple enough, but it can be weeks or even months before it becomes truly second nature and the string-guessing or muting failures fall by the wayside. Some people don’t adapt as quick as others, and that’s fine!

To make it easier, we’ve put together a few quick tips on speeding up the process!

1) Don’t Touch It

So you’ve upgraded to an extra string? Cool. Now ignore it.

No, really. The simplest baby step into getting your brain straight is to just play the songs you’ve always played without that string.

For some people getting used to having that extra low range is visually difficult at first, especially when trying to gauge where you are on the middle strings. The simplest fix is to isolate that aspect of the process and just get used to the larger string set and making sense of where you are on the fretboard.

At this point, we’re just trying to acclimate to a new playing field. Bending or breaking old habits of muscle memory and visual cues is our main goal here. Don’t worry about becoming Tosin Abasi just yet – let’s let our brain catch up first.

2) Learn Some Scales and Chords

This is where we help gain perspective. By learning scales and chords on this instrument, we’re only adding 1-3 notes to a pattern or shape that you’re already familiar with. This is a very simple way to introduce new information by anchoring yourself in old information.

Not only that, but you can start implementing these scales or chords right away because they’re just extensions of tools you use frequently already!

3) Learn Some Extended Range Songs (Intelligently!)

This one is obvious – pick up some songs you’re familiar with (or even unfamiliar with). However, don’t just learn the tabs, make an effort to actually recognize the shapes in the lower register and connect it to what you already know.

The key here is to connect it to the scales and chords we learned in step two. This way we don’t see the song as just a series of notes, but how it integrates into the framework we’ve known for years.

Learning in this manner helps the information stick much easier and will require less repetition and time before it sinks in. See how that low G fits into the C Major shape you already knew? Easy!

4) Write Some Music

Once you’ve built a basic understand through these tips it’s time to do what musicians are meant to do: create some music!

You’ve got a foundation at this point and are familiar enough to start bringing the extra string into your playing naturally. The best way to make something second-nature is to start using it a lot!

Now’s your time to shine, start writing music that incorporates your lowest string. Write a riff that’s all on the lowest string. Now write a riff that just plays it once. Now write a whole song on that string. Now use the low string as a drone and improvise over it. The world is your oyster!

Make It Yours

Don’t forget that while you may have bought an extended range instrument because of someone else (Tosin Abasi, Meshuggah, Periphery, etc.) that music is about expressing who YOU are.

Use these tips to speed up that process of getting your sea legs, but don’t forget to set sail towards breaking new musical ground!

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