Finger picks on bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Premoose, Dec 4, 2013.


  1. Premoose

    Premoose

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2013
    Hey guys. I got into a crazy chain of youtube videos. I started on 6 string bass Dream Theater cover videos and somehow ended up watching dueling banjos just by clicking the recommended videos on the right. It got me thinking about the finger picks that banjo players use. The ones that slide onto your fingers like rings. I was wondering if anyone has heard of a bass player using these finger picks. I did a search but came up with your standard "pick vs fingers" online warfare. I think that fast finger picking style would sound really interesting on a bass. I try to avoid those pick vs fingers arguments, but these banjo finger picks seem like a good middle ground. One of the main argument i seem to see from the fingerstyle crowd is it's easier to transission to slap. I was thinking maybe a specially designed thumb pick could give you the ability to get that very distinct slap like Mark King or Wojtek Pilichowski. I don't know the name, but I always see those guys wearing some thumb cover to achieve a specific slap sound. With this special thumb pick and finger picks you could create a bass sound with a lot of attack (I think thats the right term) Anyone happen to have any links or names of musicians that do this? I'm sure someones tried it at least. Maybe it didn't work out, and that's why I've never seen it. It could be a horrible idea. I like a lot of "technical" music and I think you could get to a whole new level if this was implemented how I'm picturing it in my head.
  2. Thrash3r

    Thrash3r

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2013
  3. heynorm

    heynorm

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Location:
    Omaha, NE
    No finger picks, but a bass banjo with these fellow Omahans: "Banjo Loco".

  4. Biggbass

    Biggbass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2011
    Location:
    Planet Earth
    Being a bass player and a 5 string banjo player I might be able to lend some input. Finger picks come in various thicknesses, like guitar picks. You'd want some fairly stiff picks for bass otherwise they will bend into your fingertips when you play. The finger picks I use are called "Showcase 41's". They're not super thick but they don't bend while playing the banjo. However, banjo strings and picking technique are a lot different from bass so look for some thick picks like the Sammy Shelor stainless steel finger picks. Those won't bend...they're the stiffest finger picks I've ever come across. They're pricy though...$25-30 for two, compared to $7 for a couple of Showcase 41's. Either way you go, you can get them from Janet Davis Music Co in Arkansas, via the website or probably get a pair at your local guitar shop. A good set of finger picks will last for years...I still have a pair of old Nationals that I bought back in the early 70's. I'd recommend you get a pair of 41's and see how they work for you...you can always spend more on the Shelor stainless picks if it's something you want to go further with.
    Also: Thumb picks are very usable on bass - between bass and banjo I go through about a half dozen thumb picks a year- the tips wear down and they eventually break at the thumb loop if you use them a lot. Match your thumb pick size to your glove size -if you wear size L gloves, get size L thumb picks. And you can drop them in boiling water for a few seconds and shape them to your thumb for a better fit. Metal finger picks are size adjustable so one size fits all.
    I was in a band for several years as banjo/bass player...we lost our bass player to illness so we started rotating bass among the 3 front line players. When I'd switch from banjo to bass I tried leaving the picks on and it didn't work so well for me. To get a good thump on the string you have to bear down on the picks, which will change your playing style completely. I normally play bass with finger tips but on a couple of tunes we play I need a pick for certain sections, so I keep a thumb pick wedged into a fold of my strap. If you're a pick player, thumb picks work well for bass...they're thick and it's pretty hard to drop them while playing.
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  6. bkbirge

    bkbirge Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2000
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    When I first started trying to use a pick on bass I had a bunch of finger picks sitting around so that's what I used. Seemed to work ok. I think, at least with the picks I had and my lack of skill at the time, that there was less control available that way. Imagine if your fingernail was really long and you tried to use it to play bass, the higher force would push up on your nail a lot, it was kind of like that. I also have used a thumb pick a few times and it works better but still not as much control. If you are applying a Nashville picking style to the bass and want to use picks I think it would work with practice and some modifications but when I use that method I use fingers only. Go for it though, maybe you'll be the next innovator on bass like Victor Wooten with his double thumb technique.
  7. Premoose

    Premoose

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2013
    Wow thanks for the link. Not what I was looking for, but interesting nonetheless. Very awesome band. Really the only bluegrassy stuff i like is Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (mainly for Victor) but this is great. Bluegrass/metal is an interesting combo. This is what I love about asking questions on a music forum. I may not get an answer I want, sometimes i get something even better. I'm going to share this band with all my friends. They deserve more notice.
  8. Tinderwet

    Tinderwet

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2011
    Location:
    Hungary
    I do play with a thumbpick and three fingerpicks:
    Joedog likes this.
  9. Orangeclawhammr

    Orangeclawhammr Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2007
    Location:
    Redford, MI
    Check out Rockette Morton and Eric Drew Feldman. They both used steel banjo picks when they played with Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. I can't think of any songs that demonstrate how this sounds any different than any other technique.
  10. Joedog

    Joedog

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2010
    Location:
    Pensacola FL
    I played banjo for several years. Still have the picks! I tried it on a bass a couple of times, but didn't like the feel OR the tone. Sounded way too thin, tinny and clacky. I though about trying to modify them (maybe dipping the ends in that liquid rubber they sell in a can). Never got around to it, as I greatly prefer finger style for bass. I also had trouble with the picks catching the strings on the "backstroke" (unlike on banjo...not sure why, maybe different hand position?), but to be fair, I didn't give it much of a go. Tinderwet seems to get a fairly nice tone though!
    Tinderwet likes this.
  11. Tinderwet

    Tinderwet

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2011
    Location:
    Hungary
    Thank you Joedog. I find that by far the biggest problem to sort out is string damping, especially on the open strings. Currently it's a combination of left hand fingers and right hand palm and pinky for me. I'm starting to really appreciate pedal steel players. lol
  12. samson3382

    samson3382

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2009
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    Interesting topic.
    When I was first starting out, trying to figure out what worked to me, I remember my dad gave me some plastic thumb picks. I preferred those to a regular pick personally, but I eventually ditched the pick all together.

    Around 08 I made an attempt to learn banjo, but then had to drop it in order to write songs/lyrics for my own original band, if I wanted to keep gigging. I took some of what I learned and blended it into a pretty cool thumb & 3 finger plucking, pseudo slap style.

    -thread watched-
  13. samson3382

    samson3382

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2009
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    Here's a video that sort of shows it.. Try to ignore the spanking...


    Video is old, band dissolved for the time being.
  14. PortlandBass77

    PortlandBass77

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2013
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Tony Levin! He's king of the "FUNK FINGERS"!

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