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Username: grynchin

Post Number: 14
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Saturday, March 04, 2006 - 8:25 pm:   Edit Post

I'm a guitarist turned guitarist/bassist, and have recently picked up bass. It's a fairly easy transition to be decent at bass immediately coming from guitar, but I realized quickly that only practice on bass will develop technique, tightness, etc. to be GREAT at bass. The only real hangup I'm not getting over yet is playing with my fingers and getting a consistant sound. I love to play with my fingers, and do not want to use a pick, but there are certain really fast songs or choppy/tight songs that really sound mushy with my fingers. I know that its because each finger and each time I hit a string it sounds different due to attack and contact with the string, and with a pick you have more consistancy.

Is it because I am not yet experienced enough or will it always be that way?

My biggest question is about a compressor. Would that make my difference, if I started using one. Thanks.
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1060
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Saturday, March 04, 2006 - 9:34 pm:   Edit Post

There are a whole bunch of "right hand" techniques for bass. There is no reason why any one of them should be deemed correct while others named wrong. Versatility is good. Play with a pick, palm mute while you pick, play with your fingers, thump, slap, pop, tap, left-hand mute while finger playing, etc, etc, etc.... Different techniques generate different sounds, so don't be afraid to use the right one for the job.

A compressor might even out the attack, hiding your technical flaws, but is that really what you want? It sounds like you would rather practice and improve. Don't be too proud to take a lesson or check out some beginner books/videos.

One thing I would recommend is that you pluck with your fingertips as much as possible rather than the pads of your fingers. The lighter touch should give you more control over your dynamics and better speed.

Senior Member
Username: palembic

Post Number: 2319
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, March 05, 2006 - 2:45 am:   Edit Post

Some idea's:
- try to find out if you feel comfortable to play with a "floating" hand or with a "resting" hand. Starting with a "resting" hand (most bassplayers rest their thumb on the PU, or th eedge of the fingerboard, on the string above etc ...)is more easy most of the time. It will help you to develop a constant attack on the strings.
- You don't really to "pull" the strings with a complete hand moving pull. More "caress" them where just the top of the finger hits the strings. Out resepcted Moder Dave plays that way and he recently posted in the Alembic Footage thread a link to a John Entwistle solo. Apart of the fact that it is very nice what he does you have to realise that the Ox played with a VERY LIGHT touch. It SEEMS different but I remember Mica telling the story of John coming getting some basses in Santa Rosa and he immediately asked for some tools to set-up the bass more "critical". After he did that people at Alembic could only get rattle out of that bass. John played just ...flawlessly.
So light touch and ...that comes with practicing.
- Try to get to the "floating hand" if you wish and can. Reason: you will be amased by the tonal differences coming out of your Alembic if you "float" back and forward over the strings. I agree: apart from the "touch" difficulty to get stable I add here a "position" difficulty to get stable. It IS rewarding to practice this.
- Slapping and popping techniques are nice but also there don't let you be misled by the spectacular movements some bassplyers make. Again: the art is in the LIGHT, EXATCLY LOCATED and BALANCED hit or pull. The wide fluttering hand is mostlu for show-purposes.
- When playing bass with fingers let your amp do the job! Choose a powerfull and versatile tone shaping set. THis is the truth for plying pick too but more so for playing fingerstyle. You will need a tone shaping device that can subtle handle the higher frequencies. What brand of tone shaper is entirely up to your taste, feel and habit.
JUst some thoughts

Paul TBO
Username: grynchin

Post Number: 15
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Sunday, March 05, 2006 - 4:10 pm:   Edit Post

Amazing! Thank you for the input, and things that both of you have stated are very helpful. I will definetely practice, practice, practice.

Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 103
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Sunday, March 05, 2006 - 5:51 pm:   Edit Post

Pick technique is great, but fingerstyle is far superior overall as a result of the increased versatility resulting from being able to simultaneously sound multiple note, to be able to do chords and counterpoint and such.

Pick works better on guitar because of the lighter strings and the closer string spacing.

There are many great exercises to develop strength/stamina/dexterity/intuitive tactile understanding: here are just a few of my best:

(1) Use the thumb (P) index (I) middle (M) and index (R) fingers (thumb and all but pinky) to play/cover the EADG strings, and play an open string E Major arpeggion (open E, 2cnd fret A, 2cnd fret D, 1st fret G). Thumb/P plays the E string, index/I plays the A, middle/M plays the D and ring/R plays the G.

Play the arpeggio back in forth, plucking pattern PIMRMIPIMRMIP and so forth, over and over again. This is great for building stamina.

Start with this open E arpeggio, then move up, say a fret, hold down the 1st fret of the E (and the 3rd frets of the A&D strings, and the 2cnd fret of the G). This is, of course an F chord. Just go up and down the neck. Try different plucking patterns using the "zone" paradigm (one finger "covers" each string). PMIR over and over is a good one. This simple exercise is without peer for building strength and endurance. You can practice it with many chords.

(2) This next one is priceless. It's a single-string exercise. Pick any four frets in a row on any string, let's just say the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th frets of the low E. Each finger of your fretting hand will "cover" a fret; and you basically play 567876/567876 over and over again. You use 3 fingers on your plucking hand -in constant alternating motion- to pluck the notes being freted. Now there are 4 notes being played, but the pattern is 6 notes long, because you start from the 5th fret, work up to the 8th, and then back down, which is 6 notes total (then you're starting over).

Then, to be really slick, let's say you start the pattern on the 1st fret of the low E, and each time you complete a set of 6 notes, you go up a fret; when you reach, let's say, the 12th fret, you jump to the next string and then go BACKWARDS a fret after each set of 6 notes. this is a GREAT exercise.

This works well because 6 is two sets of 3; so the first 3 notes of the set have your fret hand play the 5th, 6th, and 7th frets, and then the next 3 notes are the 8th fret, then the 7th, and then the 6th (and then you repeat). The right hand uses the (continuous) plucking pattern IMR/IMR/IMR over and over (or the reverse, RMI/RMI/RMI -try both, form your own conclusion, I actually prefer the latter).

Practice this slow, two ways. One is to pause between sets of triplets, the other is to pause between sets of 6. Both are great.

This exercise is utterly mind-boggling, and offers extremely efficient and focused sychronized practice for both hands. The benefits are enormous, and it is a platform for more complex exercises involving more complicated rhythmic patterns (the next being playing the pattern in sets of 4 notes instead of 3 -3 sets of 4 becomes the same as doing the pattern of 6 twice, and completes the pattern).

Hope this means something to you. It's one of my best gems, worth it's weight in gold. It'll really train your hands and synchronize them!

Finally, (3), if you don't already know them, learn your pentatonic scales... they only require two notes per string... practice playing the pentatonics with your I and M fingers... it's EASY, great practice, and is practical and bass-oriented. Eventually you'll want to be able to play the pentatonics and ALL scales with alternating 3-finger technique, which is the most advanced technique -but this is much more ambitious, and you've got to crawl before you walk!

(Message edited by the 8 string king on March 05, 2006)
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 651
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, March 05, 2006 - 6:09 pm:   Edit Post

I started with a pick as my fingers weren't fast enough to begin with. After a while, I'd play slow songs with my fingers (the softer sound worked better with them anyway) and used the pick for the fast stuff (which usually sounded better with more attack). Over time my fingers 'caught up' and then I'd only use a pick for things where the TONE was appropriate.

Still use one for certain things today, so does Anthony Jackson. But at the bottom of it all, whatever's best for you to express yourself is the best choice. Your fingers will catch up over time.

J o e y
Senior Member
Username: kmh364

Post Number: 1761
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Monday, March 06, 2006 - 5:50 am:   Edit Post

If you wanna make yourself sick, get Lee Ritenour's "Overtime" DVD. Some of the most stellar musicians ever, including Anthony Jackson.

He is simply amazing on his Fodera AJ signature 6-str. contrabass.

Melvin Davis was also exceptional on his 5 & 6-string Ken Smiths (as well as on his funky Jazz-style 4-string, OEM unknown).

$13.91 incl S&H from

(Message edited by kmh364 on March 06, 2006)
Senior Member
Username: 811952

Post Number: 676
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, March 06, 2006 - 11:51 am:   Edit Post

Yes. You have to play with a pick. No soup for you!
Intermediate Member
Username: gbarchus

Post Number: 167
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Friday, March 31, 2006 - 1:28 am:   Edit Post

I started playing electric bass using a fingerstyle from playing upright bass and had problems using a pick at first when I landed in a band that was doing Grateful Dead stuff. But when I finally "got it down," it really made a difference getting Phil's sound. Same goes for Sir Paul with his Hofner and Rickenbacker. I think you are in good company using a pick.
Senior Member
Username: flaxattack

Post Number: 1048
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Friday, March 31, 2006 - 11:58 am:   Edit Post

i pick my nose....
Advanced Member
Username: gare

Post Number: 365
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Friday, March 31, 2006 - 3:32 pm:   Edit Post

i pick my nose....<---get a winner ?

I think the simple answer here is: Yes, you must use a pick..seems I read that somewhere once.

But really, whats comfortable for you ? I used a pick for 20+ years, started finger style because..well..I couldn't find a pick ! Just takes some time and practice. Of course you wont get the same attack as a pick etc. But overall you can develope better tone control with fingers.
Senior Member
Username: richbass939

Post Number: 593
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 10:43 am:   Edit Post

I don't really experiment all that much with right hand technique and its affect on tone. However, I do use a few things to get different tones. Bob See mentioned the fingertips/pads difference. The tip of my index finger is "bonier" than the other ones. My middle fingertip is "meatier". The side of my thumb is even more "meaty". For me, bony = brighter and meaty = bassier. As others have mentioned, playing around the end of the neck gives a different tone (bassier) from playing at the neck pickup (brighter) or the bridge pickup (brighter still).
For me there is a balance to be struck between what is comfortable physically and the tone you get with a certain right hand position. There is one recommendation I would make. When developing your technique think long term about what you are doing to your hands and wrists. I have always worn my bass very high on my chest. The most natural position for my hand is with the thumb on the edge of (and perpendicular to)the neck at about the 24th fret. My forearm anchors the body against my chest. It feels very natural for me. I have been doing this for all but one year of the 30+ years I've been playing bass. The problem is that it puts my right wrist at a 90 degree angle. Over time that position is really hard on the old body. When I play for a long time my wrist and hand get really fatigued and even numb. It was an easy habit for me to get into because it was comfortable at first. At 51 years old it is a totally different story.
Experiment with your right hand and see what you like, considering both tone and comfort.

P.S. I pick my nose, too. But I wash my hands afterwards. Nose gunk (like other body gunks)packed into the strings will make them go dead prematurely. Just a tip from another "picker".
Intermediate Member
Username: olieoliver

Post Number: 187
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 12:25 pm:   Edit Post

I always use right hand technique to get differant tones and sounds. Plucking, thumping, slapping, picking... I also vary where I play the string to change sounds too. Towards the bridge gives a brighter crisper sound while up at the neck you get a fatter bassier sound. But when slapping it's a whole nother ball game. You get more of a grind/bite at the neck while the bridge (i don't slap here much but have)gives you more of a muffled slap. I also like the 5 string bajo style of finger picking too.
I am not a fan of using a pick but as with any style of playing it is a matter of choice. Which do you prefer.
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 1172
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 1:10 pm:   Edit Post

I once tried using a pick insted of my fingers, but it kept getting stuck in my nose! (Oy Vey - Saturday in the office)

Bill, tgo
Intermediate Member
Username: olieoliver

Post Number: 188
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 5:43 pm:   Edit Post

Bill, your TOOOO funny man!
Username: bassdr

Post Number: 76
Registered: 10-2004
Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 7:23 am:   Edit Post

I agree with Olie, I also use the filter on Flame Koa and pick either harder or softer to get a harder trebly tone or a softer attack with a botton end tone. I've never felt comfortable with a pick on bass, but I always carry some in my case as some of the guitar players I play with seem to lose/ forget them! Michael
Username: grynchin

Post Number: 24
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 7:04 pm:   Edit Post

I didn't realize there were so many pickers here. Please, please, no pun intended! There are a lot of good suggestions here and they have been quite helpful. I think for now I will continue to slap on the ol' Les Claypool and pick on Queens of the Stone Age. There is a nice sound doing both, and a different sound, of course. I like having so much diversity in that little simplicity. It's like a Zoom pedal in my hand, Ha.

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