3-Finger technique on 4/4?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Velocityx, Jan 2, 2015.

  1. I'm practicing the three-finger technique, but I'm really struggling to play anything divided by four on the three fingers. How do you re-wire your brains to accommodate the three fingers to playing 4/4 stuff? I'm trying to learn to play fast power metal where I need to do tight 16th notes on 140 bpm, and should be able to also record it - meaning the notes should be constant and defined.

    Any good practice sequences and tips to help me cross this obstacle? Guys who have mastered this?

    Thanks, would really appreciate any help cause it's kind of driving me mad, haha :hyper:
  2. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    What 3-finger style do you use? I use and teach the Billy Sheehan method, see below. It works out well for four. Other than that just bust of the metronome and start slow, do not increase the speed until you can really nail it.

    1-2-3-2 (plucking fingers)

    Alex Webster also has a solid method. You can find some good videos on youtube.
  3. Wolfenstein666


    Dec 19, 2014
    I had to teach myself how to play consistently with three fingers because I don't like playing with a pick at all (not trying to offend anyone), and my style of music tends to be played very fast. I'm sure my technique isn't perfect, but I started with a low BPM on a metronome and hit the string once with each finger and focused on getting a consistent tone. The speed and timing won't come naturally, you'll just have to practice it until your comfortable with it.

    I switch from two fingers to three fingers only when I need to, and it took a lot of time to develop that skill to the point where I felt comfortable doing it live.
  4. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    i find that 3-fingered playing is good on triplets ... on normal 16 note runs, its the same as using 2 fingers. i do both though ... the important thing to remember with straight 16 note runs is that the "run" ends with either your middle finger, or your ring finger - depending on which technique you are using.

    i dont think time signature is your problem ... its you not getting used to the technique yet. it will come. just keep at it.

    edit: it is also worth noting that 3 fingers are not faster than 2 fingers. they are the same speed. the only difference is accentuation.

    think of it this way, drummers do everything with 2 feet... whatever it is they do with double kicks is possible with 2 fingers (except for triplet, heel toe stuff... like the kick drum pattern in meshugga's Bleed. if you play that pattern with fingers, you need the 3rd finger to accentuate the triplet feel)
  5. Thanks for the quick replies!

    1. Why would 3 fingers not be faster than 2? I mean, with the 3rd finger you've got an additional finger! So I'd imagine it'd be much less tiring to play 16th notes on 140bpm for extended periods of time with 3 fingers rather than two, am I right?

    2.The time signature is the problem. Clarification: If I'm to play, let's say, on A string a sequence of notes that go like this on tablature: 0000-2222-3333-5555-3333-2222-0000. Each note is played 4 times in a row and then move on to the next. I find it very hard to pluck the notes with complete independence with 3 fingers. Of course triplets and gallops are no-brainers, but it's when the sequence is divided by four that my brain fights against it.

    I'm practicing 3 fingers in the order of Ring-Middle-Index and try to always pick that way. So when I've picked the Ring, Middle and Index once, and should start at the next note with a Ring, I almost always pick Index. Why am I trying to force the Ring? Because I feel it's more fluid since the fingers do a constant "wave" from Ring to Index. If played like Ring-Middle-Index-Ring, the middle finger is constantly bouncing, though you do get a nice 4/4 feel of it with no excess brainwork required.

    What do you think, should I ditch the constant Ring-Middle-Index-thing and switch to Ring-Middle-Index-Ring so I don't have to rewire my brains? Or am I right with my theory of it being more efficient if I can constantly just repeat the wave of Ring-Middle-Index?


    Hopefully I made some sense. Probably not. Haha.
  6. Wolfenstein666


    Dec 19, 2014
    3 finger technique absolutely can make you play faster. I wouldn't have taken the time to learn it if I could accomplish what I needed to with 2 fingers.

    Again, I'm probably not the best person to be giving advice, and I'm sure my technique isn't the greatest, but I do Ring, Middle, Pointer, Ring, Middle, Pointer in a wave motion. It took a while to get the transition from Pointer back to Ring to sound smooth with no gaps or unwanted accents, but I can do it pretty damn well now.

    Whatever approach you take to learning it will take a lot of time. There is no 'easier' way to do it. Practice, practice and practice more until it sounds right.
  7. Wolfenstein666


    Dec 19, 2014
    A side note-

    One of the pitfalls I've had with playing 3 fingers is that I personally start to use that 3rd finger as a crutch. I play primarily with two fingers, using a third only when absolutely necessary. If 3 fingers is going to be primarily the way you play, then great. However, don't let your 2 finger technique get lazy or start to rely to much on the third finger. My MO is this- if its possible to do with two fingers, DO IT WITH TWO. It sounds more coherent IMO.
  8. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH

    Not saying you can't play very quickly with two (it worked for Jaco), but I'd be happy to show you the differential between full speed on two and three, and it's not insignificant.
    antonio_darko likes this.
  9. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    1.) when i started learning 3 fingered technique, that was what i thought too. but the longer i messed with the technique the more i realized it doesn't add speed because of what i call the "reload" phase. when you first pick with your ring, then middle and index, it goes by fluidly, but when you begin the phase again, your muscles have to "reload." it is unlike 2 fingers where it "reloads" automatically as soon as the last finger finishes.

    now, with enough practice, you can have an auto reload phase by doing the ring-middle-index - middle-ring-index ... which if you do that, is actually the same speed as 2 fingers, except the feel and note emphasis are different.

    2.) i see how that can be a problem... what i usually do is hit the note first with all 3 fingers, then i unload the "ring-middle-index" combo (for a total of 4). the first hit ends up like a percussive ghost note, which isn't very important especially when you are playing against a fast song with double kicks or snare blast beat.

    if you wanna play it clean, you would have to do it "ring-middle-index-middle" ... which again, i think is pointless because it has the same effect as playing with 2 fingers.

    here's some test recording i did demonstrating what i all said:

    you'd notice that i do the "thud-ring-middle-index" a lot ... especially on the E string, while i usually just use 2 fingers on the A string.

    you also have to forgive the messiness of my playing because i was experimenting with downbeats and stuff (not to mention, playing at that speed is hard! i can't do it in one take). the original bass line was not played like that. it was played with a pick, by a guitar player (guitar players tend to play straight 16 notes in death metal with no care for the downbeat), and cannot be differentiated from the guitar lines
  10. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    a demo of straight 16 notes would be appreciated.

    thanks in advance.
  11. sg101


    Oct 7, 2014
    think about it like this

    R M I R M I R M I R M I R M I R
    1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

    instead of

    R M I R M I R M I
    1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3

    youre repeating ring middle index, and it can be confusing at first to fit 3 into 4, but just remember that youll always arrive back at R if you repeat that sequence of 4/4. the best way to get used to it is to feel the change in your fingers when picking the string, feel the time signature, and accent the beat at the bolded numbers
    antonio_darko and hintz like this.
  12. Yeah, thanks! That's exactly what I try to do now. IT'S HARD AS HELL, THOUGH! :D

    And IncX, I have to say that you're technique doesn't sound consistent in sound and being honest, your playing is not consistently tight; definitely not recordable on an album. It's nice and speedy, and the percussive 3-finger-hit on the strings can even be good when playing infernal death metal like that in your video, but what I'm looking to achieve is really tight, consistent lines, and how to play them fast without completely tiring. That's why I want to learn a constant, tight 3-finger technique in the most efficient manner possible.

    This is kinda what I want to master:

    And no, that guy in the video is not the tightest player on earth, but you get the idea on what I need to achieve.
    antonio_darko, hintz and IncX like this.
  13. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    first of all, that guy in the video is awesome!

    and yes, i do agree with you, my 3 fingered technique needs a lot of work. i kinda dont work on it anymore. blame it on laziness plus having no metal band.

    as for the guy in the video, he is doing a lot of left hand stuff, its not really "straight 16th notes" ... the right hand stuff at that tempo isn't very hard, his left hand though is something else.
    antonio_darko likes this.
  14. DerekT


    Dec 20, 2014
    I always just play the same way I normally do, going ring middle index ring middle index. Maybe my brain is just wired different, but i've never struggled with the time signatures. I still struggle with the technique itself though.
  15. madmaxreach


    Jan 13, 2015
    The best exercise I've found is based on accents, I think I first saw it from Billy Sheehan. Use whatever pattern you use (r-m-i, i-m-r, if you're doing strict threes), but focus on putting an exaggerated accent on the one in a four pattern. The accent should be (if going r-m-i) Ring . . . Middle . . . Index . . . repeat. Eventually, you'll find that the fingers become indistinguishable, just like practicing with 2 fingers.

    fwiw, I go i-m-r, and can get a nice smooth 4 out of it. I know it's backwards from many recommendations, but that's always been the natural flow of my fingers.

    Getting a smooth flow of 4 out of 3 fingers is the same matter of practice as getting a smooth triplet out of 2 fingers. Find exercises that play on your weakest point of technique.

    Other folks use a i-m-r-m or the reverse, it's never worked for me. Pick a technique you think is comfortable and use a metronome to work it up. If it's not sounding good in a month or so, try something different. I first started with a r-m-i-m, and it was awful; I found a strict i-m-r to work for me when using three.
  16. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I came to the same conclusion as you at some point. Was working on my three finger technique because i thought i needed it to play faster. I then discovered that it really didnt help me play any faster, but what it did do was help with stamina issues. If you have a good relaxed two-finger technique, you shouldn't really have stamina issues any way.

    When you think about it from a physical standpoint, there is really no reason 3 fingers enables faster playing unless you are repeatedly playing quick triplets(good for metal "galluping" but maybe not for playing straight quarters/eights/sixteenths). Once you get to note 4 that momentum is lost.
    IncX likes this.
  17. I play thumb, index,middle . is that classed as a 3 fingered technique ? sorry to butt into your thread but im just curious.
  18. hintz


    Jun 5, 2014
    wahiawa, HI(Oahu)
    Can you do 3 finger "galloping"(one 8th note, two 16ths)?? If so, a very easy way to play straight 16ths is to double hit with your index finger, so : ring, middle, index(down), index(up).... I stole this from a chuck Rainey technique and combined with 3 fingers(he does middle, index down, index up), just aim for as even a sound as possible, preferably a light touch at first, this gets rid of weird accent... I think the problem alot of people have is where the ring finger accents wanna go, giving a 3 feel to 4/4

    another thing that can help is left hand muting ala Rocco from tower of power, just lighter... Also working on a light touch helps me!!

    anyways, I use the my "double hit"/hybrid technique any time I'm above 130ish, below that just 3 2 1 3 2 1, etc.... The Alex Webster book is pretty amazing too, also 4 finger technique (pinky, ring, middle, index) is also good, just painful at first, but can get get crazy fast
  19. hintz


    Jun 5, 2014
    wahiawa, HI(Oahu)
    If your interested here is a exercise I use....

    say your goal is 16ths at 140 but your not there yet, set metronome to say 60.....
    1. play 8th notes with ring finger using open/lowest string(2 notes for each click), sit with this for 5 minutes

    2. Then play 16th notes just ring and index finger(4 notes per click), do this for 5 minutes

    3. Play 32nd notes with ring, middle, index down, index up(8 notes per click)

    I intentionally set metronome that slow so I can focus on getting an even attack and get the feel for it without being buried in clicks that might hide inconsistencies!!
    you will find that your right hand will move in a slight circular motion from the wrist, you also don't need your bass to practice this, you can be driving and do this on steering wheel or on as desk, whatever....i also grow my nails out slightly to get a little of that bite(worked for Steve Harris) and I play pretty light

    you can also use above exercise with 4 fingers, just start on pinky for 1., pinky and middle for 2. ,and then all four(pinky, ring, middle,index)

    I don't play metal nowadays, but I use these techniques for fusion songs, and it really helps, good luck!!
  20. He_Who_Hops


    Feb 26, 2014
    Hardest parts about learning three finger technique (ring middle index patterns for me) were three fold for me,
    1) Controlling the volume differences between high and low speeds, I still find it easier to dig in going slower.
    I don't really like fret clank when I practice, so I set my action low enough that if I dig in much at all, it clanks. Forcing me to play with a lighter slow touch to achieve sounds that I like.

    2) Controlling the emphasis. With three fingers it's only natural to emphasis in groups of three, so I started to practice all sorts of accent patterns.
    Groups of two:
    ONE two ONE two ONE two (RING middle INDEX ring MIDDLE index)

    Groups of three (with a slight twist):
    ONE two three ONE two three (RING middle index, MIDDLE index ring, INDEX ring middle )
    the important part here is to play it in three variations starting from each finger

    Groups of four(the classic struggle)
    ONE two three four ONE two three four (RING middle index ring MIDDLE index ring middle INDEX ring middle index)

    Groups of five
    ONE two three four five ONE two three four five (RING middle index ring middle INDEX ring middle index ring MIDDLE index ring middle index)
    this one is a bitch, because the emphasis moves the opposite way along your fingers then plying groups of 4.

    Last two really useful ones are groups of 6 and 8. These let you focus on longer series of notes without emphasis.

    I commonly do this on a single note, but I find it does help you figure out the patterns if you move to a new note ever emphasis point

    3) Getting my ring finger strong enough to do anything
    Got through this by playing any old thing I could play with 2 fingers, but only using either rind index or ring middle.
    Helps train the bugger up