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2-finger right hand technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by endorka, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    I use an alternating 2 finger right hand picking technique, and playing the verse of "Come On, Come Over" recently illustrated an "interesting" aspect of my technique. I've always started a passage with my index finger, and then the middle, then index, and so on. However, I was struggling a bit with this bassline and for a laugh tried playing it starting with the middle, and then the index. Amazing! Immediately it was easier to play and the groove was stronger. A quick Internet search revealed that this is indeed the right thing - I can't believe I've been doing the wrong thing for 16 years!

    So I'm practicing to change my technique to this method, and think that it would be worth investigating further. Some advocates of the alternating 2 finger technique state that the fingers should *always* alternate; this can have the effect of inverting certain repeated passages, however, so that one time you start it with the index and the other with the middle. Not really a problem per se, if one has proper independence, and I can see the benefit for speedy passages, but presumably there is a point where it gets a bit silly, e.g. after a long rest, and it is best to "reset" the finger to start again on the middle. Or is it?

    Something else I've always liked is how you get a pluck for free if the next note is on the string below (i.e. deeper) the one you are currently plucking. No need to alternate the plucking finger in this case then. But what about two strings below? The benefit of the free pluck seems to be reduced somewhat, so should one alternate the plucking finger in this case?

    My apologies if these questions have been asked before, but I am now determined to refine my technique, and I really don't want to be doing the wrong thing for another 16 years! :)
  2. Ozzyman


    Jul 21, 2004
    You don't HAVE to start on your middle finger. It's all preference. It's like being right handed or left handed. There's no right way or wrong way, but there are more convenient. Really, you should be able to start a passage on your index or your middle finger and be able to play it just as good both times.
    The same thing applies for three finger technique. I practiced every riff starting on the index, then the middle, and then the ring finger. My playing improved so much faster.

    BTW, I started riffs with my index finger because it felt more comforatble. Now, I can start a riff on any finger. In fact, I don't even have to think about my right hand anymore.

    I'd recommend getting the Bass Fitness book. Not just for left hand but for your right hand. It'll help build your hands into little machines that can pretty much play anything without thinking because of your built up muscle memory.
  3. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Thanks Ozzyman, I'll check out the reference you gave. I too had reached the point where I wasn't thinking about the right hand at all, but now I'm having to think about it again :) I realise it is not a case of right or wrong, but it seems easier for me to get the groove and an even tone when starting with the index. I'm going to work towards the complete independence as you say though. The Rufus Reid "Evolving Bassist" book has some good exercises for working on this too.

    I find it interesting how things like this can reveal flaws in your technique. Occassionaly I would find myself tripping over my fingers when doing solos etc, and I think this is one of the causes.
  4. Ozzyman


    Jul 21, 2004
    Yea, I realized this pretty early when I began playing harder Metallica stuff. I'd get tripped up and I didn't know why, but I realized it was because the riffs would have me switch the fingers I started them with. And so I realized that I wouldn't get tripped up if I practiced starting the riffs with each finger.
  5. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Have ordered the Bass Fitness book. Should be interesting!
  6. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I use a 2-finger plucking technique and, although I generally agree with your statement, I don't think that it can always be the case.

    I've spent quite a bit of time working on my plucking order on several difficult passages (at least they're difficult for me).

    On these passages, I've made plucking-order decisions based on the fact that I usually lead with the m, any string skipping required, having to move down one string (easier for me to reach down with m), raking, etc...

    When I finally figure out the best way for me to execute the passage, I can't imagine going back to work on making it natural when starting with the other finger. And the way I've figured it out allows for the best mechanics so why would I work on starting with the other finger?

    I don't mean to sound negative, but I don't see the quote above as always being the case.
  7. Ozzyman


    Jul 21, 2004
    well what if a riff has an odd number of notes and when you go back to play it again you have to start on another finger. Or you do a fill into that riff that accidentally makes you start on your index finger. Do you have a one note break in the riff to switch fingers?
  8. ampeglb100


    Oct 1, 2002
    Portland, OR
    I think it all depends on the music, how you want it to sound, and what you can play cleanly and evenly. With some passages that repeat where you start on the index for one and then the ring for the next due to an odd number of notes, look at what the song is doing. Is it in an odd time? Sometimes switching up your plucking can give it a cool feel (different feel, but the same bassline...). Does it need to be steady and prefectly consistent? Then I would just start on the same finger everytime so it sounds the same, and therefore not alternate on the last one, thereby plucking with the same finger twice (oh my god... what will the world come to... haha). String crossing is especially tricky, I just do what sounds the best and what feels good and what is the most efficient. Look at John Patitucci, Geddy Lee, and countless other bass players, they double pluck all the time. On some slow songs or at long breaks with a few notes sometimes I use the same finger each time just for consistency. My index and ring sounds slightly different, which I think is cool. But, along with all this, you should practice exercises and what have you starting with both fingers and forcing yourself to do different and difficult things, just for techniques sake. Then when the music comes, you will be well prepared to analyze it, try a few options, see how they sound, and make a decision. The cart does not pull the horse...

  9. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    The cart does not pull the horse.

    When it comes to playing bass for rock music especially, I think folks make way too big of a deal about eveness of tone from note to note. A song is like a talking, living thing! It's like talking. We could just play keyboards or trigger a sampler or something if we wanted exact eveness. The bass is supposed to be more expressive and alive than a keyboard.

    Talk about uneven tone - how about just unfurling a finger once in a while, and knocking the string with the back of your fingernail? Now compared to the pad of your finger, flicking your nail into it is a noticeably different tone, but it can sound great to do that.

    ..And alternation: We should all do excercises and polish our mastery of technique and all, but not only can one use just ONE finger for many, many passages, and even whole songs - that should give you even tone for sure, if you want to be LESS expressive that way - but I've found advantage with using two fingers at once to pluck; the tone is a little rounder and duller, and it stops notes a little cleaner.

    There's all sorts of other ways to find expression in uneven tone from note to note, like hammers and slides and pulloffs, and stuff like that too.

    No doubt a well-rounded, versitle bassist should be able to play more technically or clinically or whatever with their tone, but it certainly isn't neccesary or even profitable in much rock music, right?

    Don't get me wrong, now. I want to get teacher and all, and learn to be very disiplined and versitle and controlled, and exhibit extremely even tone on-command. I'm just afraid that some might think that they're 'doing something wrong' or whatever if they don't have some kind of perfect form.

  10. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Some good points Joe. I sometimes use only one finger close to the neck (or even above the neck), for example, when playing jazz ballads, to try and get that even thump on the 1 & 3.

    The way I am thinking at the moment though, if I can perfect my right hand technique it should make things easier in the long run. I've just spent two weeks on holiday with no rehearsals, gigs, etc, but took the bass with me and practiced hard to improve my right hand technique. Upon getting back to playing in anger I am finding it non-trivial to fully integrate the lessons I have learned, but things do seem more effortless and smooth than before.

    Sure, you don't need great technique for most songs, but my theory is that by applying proper technique even when you don't really need it, it will become second nature when you do.

  11. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    I've just received the "Bass Fitness" book and have been looking at it at work - it looks pretty comprehensive and good for you. It does seem to be based on the "one finger per fret" using all four fingers of your left hand though, which should be interesting; I only usually use three fingers on my left hand. I'm sure the exercises can be adapted though, it just means I'll have to think more.
  12. no4mk1


    Feb 21, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    When I first started playing my instructor would hammer into me that technique was all about economy of motion. If starting a passage with your middle finger rather than the index finger takes less "energy" and it's easier to play that way then that is the answer.

    Sometimes if I am playing a line that changes strings a lot I won't even alternate fingers between note in certain places since it takes less energy to rake a single finger accross both strings...

    There is no right answer except if it hurts stop it, and if it works keep doing it.
  13. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Yeah, the rake is a good thing, I am trying to incorporate that consistently into my playing e.g. by including it in the exercises in the "Bass Fitness" book. It took some thought initially, especially since using it inverts the alternating fingers in the patterns in the book, but I am getting used to it.

    Getting on well with "Bass Fitness" by the way Ozzyman, nice recommendation.