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Am I severely limiting myself by pick playing?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Pablo Fanque, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. Pablo Fanque

    Pablo Fanque

    Apr 1, 2009
    My musical background is: two years of violin in the early 80s and self-taught guitar from mid 80s to mid 90s. I still have my guitar but rarely play it (1 or 2 x year) and have just about forgotten everything I knew.

    Even though I'm tremendously rusty on guitar, playing bass feels comfortable ONLY with a pick or my thumb. Finger playing seems nearly impossible for me coordination-wise and I don't like the feel of it.

    Besides, I'm really really trying to focus on my fretwork; finger coordination, learning chords and scales, etc.

    So am I doomed to suck because I cannot and have no desire to finger pick?
    reny Bryant likes this.
  2. ReBass

    ReBass Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2007
    Orange County, CA
    Tons of great players were pick players. Play how you feel comfortable. If you find it limits you at some point, teach yourself fingerstyle.

    Do a search on here - their have been many threads about this very topic.
    Daryl Selix likes this.
  3. ransombass


    Dec 16, 2008
    Tulsa, Ok
    Check out Steve Swallow. He's a great jazz bassist who is primarily (if not exclusively) a pick player. Also Joe Osbourne, the bassist for The Wrecking Crew.
    reny Bryant likes this.
  4. low-endz


    Dec 18, 2007
    Miami, FL.
    Man I am your opposite, I can play fine with thumb and three right fingers but feel uncomfortable with a pick.

    Yeah there is allot of bada$$ pick techniques to implement & I cant do none arrg!

    Master playing diff techniques with the pick and thumb and later start using your index and finger but dont wait too long or you'll be like me way to uncomfortable to switch.
  5. Pablo Fanque

    Pablo Fanque

    Apr 1, 2009
    McCartney is/was also primarily a pick player and he's one of my favorites.

    I'm concerned there will be a lot of things I won't be able to play without using my fingers.
  6. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    No...would you be limiting yourself by only using your fingers? Its just a different means to and end. I played with a pick exclusively for 20+ years, and only in the last 2+ years started using my fingers more and more to add another dimension to my playing. I used my fingers way back when I started, and I got a much cleaner precise attack using the pick, so I stuck with that.

    I am not a frustrated guitarist (not saying anyone else is, just seems like that is a term people throw around alot when you say you use a pick on bass), and I can play well with my fingers.

    I dont mean to sound like I am picking on anyone but, people have a totally skewed perception about using a pick on a bass guitar!
    Stumbo likes this.
  7. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    you're not doomed to suck any more than people who exclusively use their fingers... there some pick players out there who are better musicians than anyone who'll reply to this thread

    if you've got some good music inside you, then how you play doesn't matter... look at James Jamerson... his right hand technique was ONE finger... no-one thinks his playing was crap
    Stumbo likes this.
  8. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    naw man you aren't limiting yourself., however if/when you do decide to start using your fingers just remember to do it slow to start and don't let your knuckles collapse. also try and make it as even sounding as possible.

    But do what feels right and what's fun... that's the most important part of bass in the first place
  9. kingbee


    Apr 18, 2006
    Well, what if you're rocking out on stage and you drop your pick? It's good to have a backup plan. I had the same thing happen in reverse recently, where I burned the tip of my index finger while cooking, so I just grabbed a pick to play on stage the next day. Beyond that, picks and fingers (not to mention slaps and pops) are different voices that work right in the right context.

    I'm not one of these purists who say that bass can only be played one way or another but I think you are limiting yourself if you only ever play with a pick. I'm not saying ditch the pick; it's a perfectly valid way to play and if it feels right to you, it's what you should be doing. Don't pay any attention if other players get snobby about it, but don't shut yourself out from other equally effective, different ways of playing.
    Smjay likes this.
  10. Any time you say "I will only play bass this way," you are, by definition, limiting yourself. I think everyone does this to some degree. The real question is whether you're okay with the limitation you're imposing or not.

    I can't think of anything you wouldn't be able to play with a pick. There are some things that may be more difficult to play, but I doubt there's anything that's flat out impossible if you work at it. I think you'll be limiting yourself tonally, but that might be alright with you.

    I think it also matters what music you play to a certain extent. There are sometimes stigmas attached to how you play in different styles. Jazz players often use their fingers, but punk players usually use picks. I'm not saying that these stereotypes are "right"; simply that they exist. If you're not worried about them then it's not a problem.

    And of course there is the possibility of dropping a pick, not having one available, etc., but I'm not sure that that's really a deciding factor.
  11. Mr. Mig

    Mr. Mig

    Sep 7, 2008
    No, play however you feel most comfortable. You can tech yourself finger plucking if you really stick to it. When I started I would practice with my fingers and then I would practice with a pick. You can do both. But, again, there is nothing wrong with playing with a pick.
  12. thebakersman


    Dec 6, 2008
    It all depends on what sound you want if you like the sound the pick gives you then stay with it. But, if you prefer the sound of fingerstyle then you should devote time to gain some finger cordination.
  13. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    You're only as limited as you feel.
  14. Mike Shevlin

    Mike Shevlin

    Feb 16, 2005
    Las Vegas
    Get your self a slap video DVD. If you get hooked on slapping you will pretty much have to put the pick down when you switch back to regular playing. Then you will have two more skills, slapping & fingers, to add to your picking.
  15. Pick playing is totally valid, and I hate finger-purists who insist it isn't.
    That being said, OF COURSE you're limiting yourself by not playing with your fingers.
    Just like I'm limited by not having great slapping chops.
    Harry_Hippo likes this.
  16. play what feels right to you personally i cant hack the pick, but if it feels right just work at it, you will improve,
  17. imo short answer: yes! its so much harder to put expression in your notes when its a hard thing hitting it. i have picking as just a small part of my playing styles, but with fingers its so much easier to access a wide range of sounds and feelings, its crucial... so much for short answer but there ya go
    Smjay likes this.
  18. dj150888


    Feb 25, 2008
    Belfast, Ireland
    While I don't agree with the reasoning above, I still reckon you're limiting yourself. You're not limiting yourself because one sounds "better" than the other. (pinkzepphish, you're obviously not an adept pick-player, there is just as wide of a sound range available with a pick) but stick at the finger stuff as well as the pick stuff, both styles have their places. A flawed but useful analogy is to think of playing only one style like refusing to play a guitar with distortion/overdrive. Yeah, theres a huge palette of sounds available to you playing clean, but none of them sound like an overdriven tone and sometimes one works better than the other.
    Smjay likes this.
  19. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I would only SUGGEST that you try some simple finger stuff and try to add it to your "style tricks". However, if you don't dig it, can't stand it, don't do it! Pick on brother! Pick on!
    Smjay likes this.
  20. duff2

    duff2 Guest

    Dec 16, 2007
    Visit www.bassplayer.tv and go through the menu on the left in this order:

    ->BP Events
    ->BP Live 2008!
    ->Bobby Vega (parts 1 -5)

    Watch all five parts and then ask yourself that question again. Answer should be very clear. :)


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