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Alternating fingers: Does it need to be perfect?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Hardbassjunkie, Oct 9, 2019.

  1. Yes

    52 vote(s)
  2. No

    192 vote(s)
  1. I am a self taught bass player that has been taking lessons and it has helped me immensely. Things like flying fingers have improve quite a bit. My main teacher is a professional rock musician who has not taught before. I decided to try out a person that was classically trained and 3 times the price. He pointed out something to me. Although I DO alternate my fingers, its isnt perfect. Sometimes I will use my index twice in a row. He says that needs to be fixed. My rock teacher has not mentioned anything.

    What does everyone think? Does it affect the sound at all?
    Ellery likes this.
  2. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    It really depends on what you’re playing. Sometimes it makes sense and other times it can hinder you from playing cleanly, especially when you jump strings.
    I don’t do it religiously but I do most of the time as it feels comfortable to play that way.
    zontar, eJake, Ggaa and 2 others like this.
  3. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    The plucking hand, right?

    Well, I don't agree with your teacher.

    If the bass line allows it, I use one finger as much as possible, so that the sound is more even. When doing faster lines I alternate with two fingers, but sometimes repeat one or other, it depends.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2019
  4. Yes, the plucking hand. I have always just done things the way it makes me feel comfortable. Playing in a punk rock band it didn't matter too much haha. Now my new band plays a little more technical (not by much). The rock teacher is looking fine tune what I already have. The classical teacher thinks I'm doing everything wrong and wants to start from square one.
  5. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Maybe I'm the one that is doing it wrong, I don't know.

    I just know that sometimes using only one finger makes the sound more even.

    Classical electric bass? Or is he a double bass teacher and is teaching you on the electric? Just curious.
    Atshen, mikeluch and aekisz like this.
  6. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I won't say which is best, but I will just leave you with this thought...

    IME, classical techniques are taught as a series of coherent 'building blocks' that eventually equip the player with the faculty to accomodate just about any musical demands without adaptation. A flaw introduced early on and left unchecked (or not fixed in good time) will hinder the player later as the demands of the music grow. Such flaws might not become apparent until they prevent the learning of more advanced techniques that depend on the earlier learning. This might be several years hence, so will require significant 'unlearning'. The alternative is the workaround, but then what happens when you encounter the next advanced technique? Now you have the original flaw and the workaround getting in the way.

    So I guess it depends on where you want to go. The problem with the bass guitar is that it is relatively easy to get reasonable results quickly with the most scrappy of techniques provided the music is not too demanding.

    So my $0.02 is to just beware that the 'if it feels/sounds right it is right' or 'do what's right for you' approaches might let you down in the long run...

  7. Just a simple thing to add. As someone with tendonitis and nerve issues this sounds like some like great wisdom. Not just technique down the road but nerve and other health issues as well that may not be obvious as first.
    NigelD, downunder, 12BitSlab and 3 others like this.
  8. He started off as classical guitar and branched off to many things like double bass and electric bass
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    There's no such thing as a "classically trained electric bass method." Classical acoustic guitar technique does not apply to electric bass! (In fact there is a risk of damaging your hands.) This teacher is BS'ing you to justify their 3x higher price.

    My advice is to study with the professional rock musician, learn songs, join a band, get gigs (if that is your goal), and be happy. :)
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2019
  10. That's how I've always done it haha. Don't get me wrong I've tweaked my technique in other areas and it has helped but I'm not sure if it worth going back to the drawing board to have "perfect" technique. Especially, because my favorite bassist is Kim Deal.
  11. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Best thing to do is not think about your plucking fingers. Just play. The rest will come natural. Jerry Scheff. J. Jamerson, Sir Paul (also uses pick) and others use only the index finger. Brian Wilson used thumb.

    Develop the plucking style that's best for yourself.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Kim Deal is great, one of my favorites too! If my teacher told me "The Pixies suck; don't waste your time studying their music" that would be my final lesson with them.
  13. Interesting that you say that because my "rock" teacher and I are working on many things on my left hand but he has not once mentioned anything about my plucking hand. Keep in mind I am still alternating just not "perfectly."
  14. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Watch a bunch of the superstar bass players, then tell us what is the "right way" to play.
    Atshen and MonetBass like this.
  15. I 100% get what you are saying. I'm just hesitant to go back to the drawing board rather then just having fun with my friends. I have no problem staying in timing with the drummer or playing the bass lines our lead man writes me. I work more with the business end of the band and just picked up bass because we needed it.
    bhendrix and SteveCS like this.
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Don't confuse "perfect" with "strict." These are two related, but separate concepts. I would argue being needlessly "strict" is the opposite of "perfection" (at least, in the real world outside the pressures of a conservatory environment).

    It is normal and permissible to use the same plucking finger twice in a row. For example "raking" the same finger across multiple strings is a common technique. Or a lot of players play slow passages with one finger, and only use alternate plucking as necessary on faster sections. Or sometimes it is ergonomic to use the same finger twice, if it sets up the fingering for a difficult section that is coming up.

    Bruce Lee said "be like water" and I think that is a great philosophy for rock bassists. There is no "one size fits all" strict path to perfection in rock music.
    dramatwist, djaxup, Whippet and 8 others like this.
  17. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Sounds like the "classical teacher" is a way more serious than your goals. If your "rock teacher" is getting you where you want to be, it's a better fit. Why not just roll with that.
    dr doofie, Wasnex, Charlzm and 4 others like this.
  18. DrMole

    DrMole Supporting Member

    For the moment, you play a certain way and achieve a certain sound and timing.
    If th ose are always effective and satisfactory within the music you play- why change? If you feel limited, unsteady or seriously uncomfortable despite much practice...perhaps consider where other techniques provide value.

    I eschewed picks on acoustic guitars for years- even when it was appropriate to use picks- Learned quickly on Mandolin that "my way" was no longer viable- my guitar picking has far improved with an actual...pick.;)
    HolmeBass and SteveCS like this.
  19. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I guess it was the same 1000 years ago when people were just starting to work out how to bow a string correctly. It's certainly fair to say they have a jump on us luddites...
  20. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    It is not necessary or likely even advisable to *always* strictly alternate your fingers, but it absolutely is helpful to improve your ability to do so. If you ever find yourself trying to play fast or complex passages, some training in your ability to maintain alternation (particularly when jumping from one string to another) will likely pay off. Nonetheless, you may find that some parts feel or sound a little better without alternating. Either way having multiple options is useful.
    Les Fret, mikewalker, Wasnex and 5 others like this.

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