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BLuegrass Pizz Technique

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Comrade Lewis, Mar 20, 2006.

  1. Comrade Lewis

    Comrade Lewis Guest

    Jun 20, 2004
    Athens, Ga
    Help me!!!
    I am currently playing in a celtic band which also plays some bluegrass pieces. My problem is that after only an hour or so of rehearsal i start acquiring sore spots and blisters on my first 2 fingers. If i have performances with them, or very long rehearsals i have been wrapping bandaids around my fingers which have not only limited my playing, but also leave messes of wrapping everywhere. I play using permanents because i am really a classical solo/orchestral bassist. Am i plucking too hard? How do i pluck correctly? Do i need knew strings, if so are there any good strings for both plucking and bowing? This has been happening for a while, and let me tell you, popping a blister by accident on a string is not only gross, but disgusting as well. Please help me.
  2. Sounds like you just need more time to build up callouses on the pizz fingers. I am making the assumption that if you are primarily an orchestral player, most of your shed time is spent exploring the joys of arco. If that is the case, try spending some time each day on pizz. I believe you will see a difference in a couple of weeks.

    With regards to your technique, who knows without seeing you play? Personally, I like the technique Ray Brown and others used--keeping the finger pointed more or less downward and getting as much meat as possible on the string. I can't speak for others, but this gives me the fullest possible sound with less effort.

    Also, if you use arm weight rather than finger motion to pull the string, I think you would find it easier on the skin.
  3. Comrade Lewis

    Comrade Lewis Guest

    Jun 20, 2004
    Athens, Ga
    Thanks Steve,
    I have been using the downward finger Technique for a while, and it works great when im not exploring my chord oportunities and sticking to root five, but i love exploring rythms and double timing with lots of walking and arpegiated passages. Also, how am i supposed to do fast walking bass lines with technique like that. I know Ray Brown played some wicked fast bass lines, but i cant seem to be able to get quick notes out without tilting my hand and plucking similar to a bass guitar. Also, where do you normally place your fingers when you play, closer to the bridge or the scroll?
  4. jb6884


    Jan 30, 2006
    St. Louis, MO
    I also play bluegrass and use steel strings. Even after a couple years of regular playing, I still get the occasional blister if I over do it. I had a 3 hour rehearsal last wednesday, a 2 hour show thursday, and played probably 10 hours this weekend on bass... I finally got a blister the last few hours - I use Johnson & Johnson nylon surgical tape as soon as I feel the blister forming, and as long as you pay attention to where the end seam of the tape wrapping ends up (ie. not where it will contact the string) it should last a while before needing replacement, and will hold up a lot longer than band aids. It will change the tone a little, so you'll have to deal with that if it bothers you.

    I consider my pizz style to be pretty loud and hard... I usually plant my thumb on the edge of the fingerboard about 2 inches above the end and play with the side of my finger rather than the tip. I've found I can get a louder fuller sound with less friction on one particular part of my finger... this is easier with the 1st finger than the 2nd, so I normally get a blister on my 2nd finger faster.

    Other tips I've learned is to not wash your hands for a few hours before you play.. you need the natural oils on your skin. Also, don't wipe down your strings after you play. Again, I believe the oil from your hands helps lubricate the strings. Whenever I put new strings on, I get a blister twice as fast for the first few days it seems.
  5. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Building up callouses takes time but you may also want to check into some different strings or your setup. If the string height is too high and the strings really stiff, then you will have problems. Many years ago when I played my Englehardt with really stiff strings and it wasn't set up properly, I used to get huge blisters and my fingers would bleed.

    Just some thoughts.
  6. It takes time but it will come if you work at it. For some good examples of fast "straight" playing, check out some of the video of our own Marco Panascia and Ramon Pooser in the DB Recordings Forum.

    On the other hand, I don't think there is anything wrong with switching from sides to tips for faster passages. There have been numerous discussions about that subject here and the general consensus is do what works best for you. Since we are talking bluegrass, have you ever seen Byron House play? As far as I am concerned, he is the ultimate bluegrass bassist playing it straight and mixing in TASTEFUL walking and runs (he can play some very hot jazz as well!). When he solos he freely switches from side to fingertips.

    Usually I play about 1 inch above the end of the fingerboard. Occasionally, I will play 6-8" inches higher but that has to do with getting a different sound from the bass. I think everyone finds their comfort zone regarding this.
  7. Comrade Lewis

    Comrade Lewis Guest

    Jun 20, 2004
    Athens, Ga
    Wow! You guys have been so helpful to me. I really apppreciate all of this advice and help for me. Unfortunatly, i havent recently been able to put much of this in effect due to the festering blister on my finger. (About 1hour and a half of rehearsal) Once it heals though i am going to seriously take into consideration everyones advice. Thanks guys
  8. oystein


    Sep 15, 2001
    Norway, Leikong
    there is no absolute approach to bluegrass playing. My favourites are the late Roy Huskey jr., Mark Schatz, Todd Phillips, Byron House and many more.. They have totally different styles but it works perfectly because it is done with good taste, tone and timing.
    IMHO, oystein.
  9. DickMcgilicutty


    Mar 9, 2006
    One thing that I've done when I absolutely needed to play for long periods of time unde grueling conditions is put acrylic nail glue on the pads of my fingers. This can sometimes sacrifice a little bit of tone by altering the sound of the attack ever so slightly, but I think im the only one who notices this. Some guys may disagree with doing this, but I have had plenty of times when I will play for 5 or so hours a night at a gig and my fingers will be close to bloody. When I play live I like to really put a lot of force into the strings so that I can get the best tone available, and then pull back to my normal practice intensity if necessary for dynamic effect. This can cause a lot of pain, and the added glue coating keeps friction down and reduces the likelihood of massive blisters. Don't knock it til you try it.
  10. Comrade Lewis

    Comrade Lewis Guest

    Jun 20, 2004
    Athens, Ga
    I think ill probably try the nail glue if you could reccomend me a brand, where to purchase it and how to remove it. Also, can any of you guys reccomend me a celtic band to listen to which has a bassist in it? (not bass guitar)
  11. DickMcgilicutty


    Mar 9, 2006
    Ive used Nailene in the past. Usually it takes a few layers to last for a while and if you play for long enough removal is not a problem because it eventually flakes off. If this doesnt happen then just peel it off yourself. That being said, you might wanna check this out: http://www.dhs.ca.gov/ohb/HESIS/artnails.htm
    I dont think there will be any problems if you only use it every once in a while (I only use it once a month at the most). You can get nail glue at any grocery store or beauty supply store.

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