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2 Finger Alternate Technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by BassMick, Apr 13, 2010.

  1. BassMick


    Apr 13, 2010
    Hello everyone, I'm a newbie at bass and I understand the two finger (index & middle) technique. I understand having it very strict when alternating the fingers to play a fill or fast run.

    Is it so necessary that I must alternate the fingers when playing a slow or mid-tempo groove that has notes tie together?

    Also, I saw a video of someone saying resting your thumb on the pick up is bad because the acid from your sweat will ruin the pick up? is that bull 5h!t?

    Thank you for your time!
  2. You rest your thumb on the plastic part, and the part that actually makes a signal is the metal part, I call BS on that.

    And no, it isn't necessary to do anything, do what you want/feels comfortable/works for you.
  3. David1234


    Jun 1, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: SWR Amplifiers
    For me, the idea of trying to be disciplined with finger alternation in slow passages is that I'll then be in a strong habit, so that when I play a fast passage I won't have to think about it and the right motion will 'just come out right'. It's not worth worrying about so massively that it gives you a complex or anything, but it is worth doing.

    As for resting a thumb on a pickup; I've been doing it for 24 years and my basses are fine, so I think you can safely ignore that video. Check out 'moveable anchor technique' though when you're ready - your thumb will move from resting on the pickup to muting various strings depending what note you're playing. Again, over time this should become automatic.
  4. BassMick


    Apr 13, 2010
    Thank you very much for the informative replies. Also, When playing slap/poping bass, should the action be high or low? or dosen't really matter?
  5. kb9wyz


    Sep 8, 2008
    I've always been told low. That way it takes the least amount of energy to get the sound you want, without killing your accuracy. And +1 on the alternating advice. I know I alternate, but not always. In fact, if you showed me video of my plucking, I would probably think that I was a maniac.
  6. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    alternating/walking your fingers is best served during 16th note runs. anything else, i do what feels right. i had a how-to book that preached walking your fingers (like a person walks) for every note. WRONG!!!
    (oops,... i mean wrong for me, personally)
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    i was going to say...yeah, maybe wrong for you but definitely not wrong. i strictly alternate at all times. i figure why not get in the habit of it? i used to preach doing it at all times, but these annoying whiners on here get all mad and cry and yell. so whatever.
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Here is another video where you dont rest the thumb on anything, but let it float (Floating Thumb Technique). It has two advantages, it is a good way to mute unplayed strings. The second is physical, as the wrist is straight, you avoid the possible risk of injury at a later time. Here it is demonstrated :

  9. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    +1 to most of what has been said, and here is another take on it.
    Most players that play alternating let the dominant finger( in my case the forefinger) handle the 1st note of any playing and alternate from that. My forefinger always takes the lead, even if a have a short rest in a line that finished on the forefinger i will come back in on the forefinger. Sometimes for slurs and drags i will us the same finger especially come down the strings(usually my ring finger).
    so for me in say a line of note grouped in four with one beat or half a beat to each;


    i will always start on the 1 with my forefinger and alternate, so in effect my forefinger take care of the odd numbers and my middle the even numbers

    But if the were like this


    I would still put the forefinger on the 1 and alternate from there, in effect on this example i re-start the alternation each time i stop regardless of the gap....but not always..LOL
    That's the thing i like to feel... a strong beat on my forefinger so its depending on the time signature if my approach changes, but it is sub-concious i do not think "what finger will i start on" i just play because it is a function of application...my application.:)

    If you play with it and then develop it a bit then play then develop it your technique will become better, more natural for you over time. If you worry over it then your focus is not on playing but on what you are doing.

    I think that most players when they first encounter such a question as yours, have to look to their own technique a bit in depth to see what they actually do before they give an answer. I play 3 finger occasional and that was realised by me after about 10 years of playing when i was asked to teach it?:bassist:
  10. BassMick


    Apr 13, 2010
    Thanks again!,

    Fergie, glad you brought up which finger starting first. I forgot to ask, should the index finger always start first? I always use the Index first.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    whatever's most comfortable. i know lots of great players who lead with the middle finger. i personally like to lead with the index, but it really doesn't matter a slong as you alternate.
  12. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    As Jimmy says it make no real difference, it a personal thing that's why i noted my own playing style and that will vary with no concious thought from me.
    Sometimes in Jazz/swing based songs i use the two fingers together as one, based on some of the styles that up-right players use to limit the attack and get a better feel for that style. So there is no hard and fast rule if it works for you then consider it right.:)
  13. gerison


    Jun 5, 2008
    I think the speaking,
    "That you have to learn the rules in the first hand befor you break them" fit's here as well.

    My tip is: practice that alternating technic unitl you completely have internalized the technic. try to get a consistent groove from the beginning, focus on sound and loudness of every single pluck.
    That's it.

    Afterwards do, what supportes the music best.
    Maybe you suddenly recognice that a line grooves best, when you play it with jast one finger.

    Whatever works! But first stick to the basic movement.

    good luck
  14. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    Agree 100%. I like to lead with my index, maybe because I double on upright, not sure. I have practiced both ways at times, including alternating two note left hand index/middle finger patterns. After a little of that practice activity, my usual comfortable leading right/left hand position(s) can be even more in sync than usual. It's a good warmup if I haven't picked up the bass for a few days.:)
  15. Another thing to consider, although not eveyone does it, is to angle your bass so that your fingertips are at a slight angle, pointing back at the bridge a bit. Since your middle finger is longer, this will help even out the length of the two a bit, which some people like the feel of. If you watch an upright player, they hold their hand a bit more this way. I'd post a picture or video explaining this better but I'm typing this on a phone right now... Anybody know what I'm talking about here?
  16. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    When you adopt the most efficient use of the fingers and use the correct joints to initiate the movement the finger tips are level.

    Hold you fingers straight up and yes they are different lengths, but bend them in towards the palm and they become level.
    This is because the joints of the fingers and the knuckles are doing their job to ensure that when the fingers touch the hand they are level, close together and in a safe position, better protected from injury.

    In playing if we look to the plucking hand and number the joints on the back from the wrist we have the large knuckle joints then two more on each of the fingers. It is those first joints after the large knuckles that movement is best from.

    So bend from those joints and the knuckles will line up the tips level. Use these joints form the movement and the sweep is shorter and deeper so it gets in between strings easier with minimal fuss. Any stress is now going through the joints not over them or past them, the joints are in line so to speak.

    Swing the finger with straighter fingers from the large knuckles and the arc is longer and shallower making it harder to access the strings. The stresses are going past the joints rather than through them so the finger are under more strain.:)

    The picture shows them level and ready to use, the coin is just a device to show the bend.

  17. BassMick


    Apr 13, 2010
    So it's okay to use one of the fingers twice? I seem to be getting different camps who are very strict about never using the same finger twice or more and must have a continuous walking finger motion from the start and to the end of a song.

    Other camp saying its okay to use the index or middle more than once.

    Thanks again!
  18. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Yes it's OK to use the same finger twice or three times or as many times as you want. The ideal situation is to alternate, but it is technique that is all, the notes are still played.

    I deal with so many players that strive to play a strict alternate technique and the way forward is to play them once a month, sit down and play or attempt to play strictly alternate in you practice. This will include some counting exercises to measure how well it is being done.
    Here is one
    If you start on the forefinger all the odd numbers you count are played on this finger, and all the even are on the middle, and vice versa for starting on the middle finger.

    Now in application because you know the finger you start on has to correspond to odd or even you can play short runs to scales chord tones, songs etc, slow, work out what finger it should finish on and play at normal speed..if you finish on the correct finger you can assume that you alternated to that point. Because you can feel the counts rather than say them out loud you will know when you are right or wrong. The problem with counting out loud is you have to form and say the number and that can be a problem, so feel the numbers in your head. If you don't end up on the correct finger then find out where you "skipped" and try again focusing to that point. Take it to that point and stop, did you stop on the correct finger? Then move one past that point then two and so on till the end of what you were practising.

    I believe your time is better spent when practising/playing on other things than whether a finger technique is strictly alternating. Some players need that because that is part of their make up in life, they like order and neatness so for them it is an essential thing. Yes there will be lots of players how will cite other players that do this technique or that technique, but did they always do it?
    What we see now in that player is the evolution of the technique today, not the journey to it.
    So many players actually start at the destination and try to move forward in many things today. The see Jaco on youtube for example, a player of outstanding ability and decide then and there "i will play like that" and start learning Jaco songs and Jaco traits from the beginning.....Jaco could not play like that when he started...he developed.
    I myself at 21 after playing for 6 years could not play what i do now at 50.

    So i say don't sweat it, use the fingers however you use them and once a month look at them and develop your technique...those once a month looks will become less and less on this issue as it develops.:)

    Have a look at this link to 3 finger technique, the counting aspects of the fingers are similar. I never done a two finger one because i believe it is not an issue so maybe i should do one just to clear up any mis-understandings about it?

  19. The good thing about leading with the middle finger is you can apply that technique to band arguments as well.... :D

    Whatever is natural to you is fine. I alternate exclusively... (alternate between alternating and raking.. :D)

    At some point you don't think about it, your fingers just go to the right place. I figure whichever finger is closest/available is fair game...


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