Bad Habits - Finger Technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by SeedyBloke, Mar 9, 2002.

  1. Hi all.

    I've been playing bass now for over 4 years and have been self taught. This has proved to be a bit of a problem as I have picked up a really bad habit. Whenever I play fingerstyle i.e. pretty much all of the time, i don't alternate my fingers evenly when plucking and tend to 'rake' with one finger when changing strings (especially when going up from A to E).

    Has anyone got any advise to help me stop doing this like counting 'middle, index, middle, index' etc.. Would be much appreciated. Cheers.
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    What you describe isn't really a problem in a playing situation - it's only a problem in that you don't feel that you have a system down. Do you play with rest strokes or free strokes? With free strokes, alternating over string crossings is not a problem. With rest strokes, it's a little more complicated but can still be done.

    I would make several suggestions:

    1) Get a teacher who can work with you on your technique.

    2) When you practice, use that time to be aware of how you're doing what you're doing. Come up with a technique you want to work on (such as alternating fingers over string crossings, etc.) and work on it relentlessly and unforgivingly. Don't practice things you already do well; opt instead for things you want to improve.

    3) Get a teacher who can work with you on your technique.

    4) Record yourself playing as often as possible, and listen for areas where your technique is holding you back. It's a lot easier to be objective when you aren't in the position of trying to play and judge at the same time. And recordings don't lie unless you make them.

    5) Get a teacher who can work with you on your technique.

    6) Use a metronome or drum machine of some kind when you practice. It's easy to pick up the bad time habits of those you play with, but with the 'nome (like with the recordings), the machine doesn't lie or sugar-coat the truth.

    7) Get a teacher who can work with you on your technique.

    Hope this helps, and best of luck.

  3. Hipnotic


    Feb 26, 2002
    CT/NY U.S.A.
    Hi. I was in the same position as you and developed the same problem when I started playing. I would rake my fingers when I crossed strings. It seems like a fairly common habit people pick up. I learned that strict alternating was the best way to go (for me)and I spent time forcing myself to alternate between my index and middle fingers, just doing scales and everything very slowly at first. Practice going up and down scales starting with your index and then also try starting with your middle finger and pay very close attention to alternating. It was really weird for me at first because I was so used to raking, but it will develop with time. I have been playing for about 10 years and I began to switch to strict alternating in my second year of playing.

    In my opinion the best advantage to alternating would be the smooth, fluid, consistent rhythm that comes with it. The faster you are playing the more consistent the rhythm becomes with alternating(IMO). There is also a noticable difference between the tone of your index finger compared to your middle finger and when when alternating you keep that 1-2-1-2 pattern going instead of having it get mixed up when crossing strings. It just sounds better in my opinion. Raking can be fine for a specific sound on a song if that is what you are going for, but I would say alternating is the way to go. It is only to your advantage to be able to do both techniques depending on the sound you want. I tried to emulate what I thought sounded the best and all of my favorite players would alternate.

    Everything Chris said above is great advice also. If you have any more questions I'd be glad to help. I'm sure some people may disagree with me on this topic but I'm just giving my opinion. Sorry for going on so long about it but I identify so well with what you are talking about. Good luck.
  4. sgtbaker


    Mar 14, 2002
    yeah, raking can form a problem. i've been working out of the evolving upward rufus reid books lately and they seem to be helping. because my problem was my left hand fingerings.
    not because of the electric bass, on the electric bass i wasn't exactly fingering things correctly all the time. but, when i started playing upright, my fingerings posed a heck of a problem for my intonation.
  5. oozon


    Aug 11, 2001
    Sweden, Malmo
    Alain Caron uses raking with his three finger technique in a very controlled manner. The thing is that it's not impossible to control raking but it's usually easier to gain real control using alternation.

  6. chuckyt


    Sep 6, 2001
    lafayette, LA
    why would raking be considered bad.
  7. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    It's not bad, it's a little more difficult or harder to get a really consistent tone.

    I like it a lot though and do it whenever I can. You can play a lot smoother and faster because your fingers don't have to move as much.
  8. Mellem


    Feb 1, 2002
    Greenville, MI
    When I play bass, my right hand just does whatever it wants on the strings. I just use my index and middle fingers, but I don't think about whether I'm raking or not, or which finger is hitting each string. Maybe it's just me, but when I look down at my right hand, it amazes me what my fingers are doing.
  9. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I had the same issues, having gone the self-taught route for the first six or seven years of playing. As has been previously mentioned, there isn't really anything wrong with raking as long as you can get a good consistent tone. I believe that raking is used by many professionals, especially for triplets.

    There is, however, a problem with not evenly alternating your fingers - once you get into very fast songs, it becomes easier to lose the rhythm and just blast away if you don't have an "even" approach... Also, if you get into three- or four-finger playing, an even alternating approach is VITAL, if you want to learn it effectively.
  10. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    What is meant by "rest strokes" and "free strokes?"
  11. fivestringdan

    fivestringdan Supporting Member

    Dec 4, 2001
    Little Rock, AR
    Oteil plays with allot of raking. He sounds great. Adam Nitti says never to do that. He sounds great.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    When you play a "rest stroke", you actually touch two strings: the one you're plucking, and the next lowest string where your finger comes to rest.

    When you play a "free stroke", you touch only the string that you're plucking.

    Both are very useful. Most bassists play primarily rest strokes.
  13. slick519


    Aug 11, 2001
    Salem, Or
    jsut do this little diddy......


    you just follow that pattern down the strings, and then up the strings. start with your index finger and do the pattern, and then startout with your middle finger and do it again. this is the pattern my bass teacher taught me to do, and now i have a perfect fingerstyle (in his opinion)


    ps, all of the notes are 8th notes, and should first be played very slowly, eventually proggressing to where the 1/4 note at 150

    hope that helps!
  14. slick519


    Aug 11, 2001
    Salem, Or
    oops, that tab is a little wrong, here is another version of it.


    and yes, teh same rules apply to it

    hope i helped
  15. I also am self taught and I used to have the exact same problem. Then I realized what I was doing wrong and corrected it. But I found that my using only one finger for awhile actually worked out to my advantage, now I can play faster alternating, because I had so much time and practice with just one, that when I actually got down the "right" way of doing it, I was a lot better. :D
  16. Interesting note... when I used to watch Geddy Lee all the time it appeared as though he plays by sandwiching all four fingers together (right hand) and "picking" the strings with his whole hand by wagging it up and down. I guess that's almost like playing with one finger.

    My favorite raking technique is ripping 8-5-1 arpeggios down the neck in half-steps like so:

  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    interesting.. i play finger style 99% of the time... i use index and middle most of the time, ring when i want to use a real quick triplet to accent or play a chord on the G+D+A strings.

    ...but when playing I dont usually alternate evenly between my index and middle fingers.

    personally i dont think this is a problem at all, because sometimes the rhythm of the line is easier played out of the index-middle-index-middle sequence.

    sometimes i also use the index+middle together like one big fat finger rather than use my thumb for a warmer tone.

    i shouldnt worry about your technique unless you really think it slows your progress or you KNOW it's very wrong.

    I played for 12 yrs before having my 1st lesson a month ago and was told me technique is fairly accurate... which was nice. I've certainly never felt restricted by it... other than my slap technique, but that's a whole differnet kettle of fish.

    i reckon good technique is mainly common sense.
  18. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    That's cool... I like playing about with stuff like that, I try differnet chords and in both directions... rake down with fingers and up with thumb... also pluck-up the strings quickly with the fingers so it sounds like rake but each string is plucked individually...

    In my 1st lesson I learnt the 7x chord patterns in the major scale, so I rake those patterns up and down the neck within a certain key

    Major, 1st, 3rd, 7th, 9th - or using the 5th instead of the 3rd, or even hammer-on the 5th from the 3rd.
    ...minor, minor, major...and so on.
  19. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon Supporting Member

    May 10, 2000
    Lake Forest, CA
    get the book bass fitness.

    or check out Adam Nitti's recent run of columns in Bass Player.

  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    :eek: :D