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Breaking the pick habit

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Batz, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. Batz


    Aug 22, 2012
    Orange County, CA
    I've been playing bass in punk bands for about 15 years. I have always played with a pick. I took guitar when I was 14 and was drilled for months on alternate picking and I'm extremely fast and efficient at it. To the point that I can not play all downstrokes (frustrating!)

    I've wanted to learn how to play with fingers but I get so annoyed that I can't play the easiest song. I get bored and stop. Any suggestions that will help me learn to play finger style while keeping my interest?
  2. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Well it sounds like you get frustrated and stop, not bored. Get out a metronome and just take it slowly, run some scales. Work yourself up to pace and focus.
  3. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I used a pick for over 20 years and I felt the same way...I would get frustrated and stop when I tried to play with my fingers. I just decided I wanted to do it and started playing everything I would normally with a pick, with my fingers. Now I play 95% of the time with my fingers, but still practice every now and again with the pick though! I love having fingers, thumb, and pick in my arsenal.
  4. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Just lay the pick down, like quitting smoking. When you get frustrated, just keep moving forward. You didn't learn to play with a pick in a day, nor will you learn with your fingers in a day. If you're getting frustrated, then you are getting in your own way.
  5. downtap


    Aug 19, 2012
    I agree with the others about just laying down the pick. I grew up playing pizz, and when I was younger and some situations called for a pick, I really struggled with even the simplest patterns. I had to force myself to just start playing with a pick all the time to feel comfortable with it.

    Some suggestions, start off slow with some string skipping exercises. Do things to a metronome to ensure you're getting an even plucking of the string. I know it seems simple, but make sure you're using the proper technique plucking the string.

    Try not to get frustrated and just take your time with it, it'll come. There's a sticky in this forum with techniques, my favorite is John Pattitucci's spider. It's not just good for string skipping with your right hand, but a really good dexterity exercise for your left hand.

    Good luck!
  6. topo morto

    topo morto

    Mar 22, 2010
    Why do you want to play with fingers? You need to have motivation > annoyance!
  7. TechDeath


    May 16, 2012
    Dude I've just started using fingers too, it is a really big change. Just set your metronome to 180bpm and go for about a minute, add 20bpm after about a minute. If you mess up just take a quick breather and stretch and try again.

    I promise you will see results!
  8. StrangerDanger

    StrangerDanger Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2010
    Just throw out all the picks and force yourself to use only fingers. In a few months, you wont even believe you ever played with a pick.
  9. Like everyone else has pretty much said... It's just practice. Be patient. :)
  10. Start with really easy songs and you'll see much faster progress.
    eg Credence Clearwater 'Have you ever seen the Rain' (off top of my head).
  11. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The thing to focus on is you are learning another technique, not one to replace your pick playing. Pick playing is great it is a different approach to get the subtleties of the technique to work.

    As is learning with your fingers if you are going to compare what you can and cannot do, then you will get frustrated. Just practice the two as you do, but put more emphasis on the finger side of playing till the technique comes up to speed as they say.

    Remember as see it as just another technique, if need be hold the pick in the crook of the little finger and swap between the two, it is not an choice of one over the other, you can blend in the two.
    If you are coming over from using a pick, the technique in the video means you always have a pick to hand if needed.

    Also if you follow any of the posts or videos I put up about holding a coin in the crook of the little finger to improve the plucking hand, then this is where it all started over 30 years ago. It was my own need to have a pick handy when working in dim lit pit that had me develop this use to not lose it, but as usual in these situations I discovered it had another benefit I could no see, and that was how it helped my finger playing and developed my ring finger. Just practice sliding it back and forward in to the crook and out, once learned it is easy to adapt.

  12. billgwx


    Apr 10, 2009
    Centereach NY
    I started out as a pick player a long time ago and went through similar frustration. Funny though that when the day came to cast aside all pick-ish things, I just started playing with fingers as if I'd always done it, and I never looked back.

    There's a current TB thread about learning in fits and starts that might be relevant: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f21/odd-learning-style-909160/
  13. Batz


    Aug 22, 2012
    Orange County, CA
    Thanks for all the tips. I recently bought some basic bass books to fill in any knowledge gaps. I'll try the easy songs and exercises without the pick.
  14. Ironic . . . .since you seem to be really into The Dead . . . where the bassist, Phil Lesh is primarily a pick player

  15. What about "Sunshine of Your Love"? Try it with fingers. It's easy. Timing isn't too hard. Just get used to the feeling.
  16. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Great idea and very positive way to develop.
    I had a serious accident in which i broke my neck, and lost the use of my hands, my right one which i used for plucking, in particular was paralyed for months. But due to the nerve damage muscle wastage i had to learn again what i knew i could play..but could not. many of the songs o wrote and performed were beyond my abilites.
    So i made up a CD of songs with basic lines that would let me play and learn to use my fingers again. There is so much more involved than just being able to move them....but more on that if you want it.

    But i went back through to the start of what could be seen as Popular music. My first disc had,
    Hearbreak Hotel - Elvis
    16 tons - Tennessee Ernie Ford
    Red River Rock - Johnny and the Hurricanes
    I wanna hold your hand - The Beatles
    Stand by Me - Ben E King
    I heard it through the grapevine - Marvin Gaye
    44. - Howlin' Wolf
    Badge - Cream

    In later Cds i uped the ante, coming back throught the history and development of popular music and genres. I figured as this is how i developed i should use the approach again, and let the music be the catalyst to getting better, let each song need more that the previous one, let the skills develop from a need to play..not a want to play.
    Eventually those Cds had more and more demanding lines on them, such as driving rock bass lines, that was the hardest part...driving those songs along.
    But as my hands developed again i then moved to more complex ideas, but in time sigs, rather than in playing techniques or any speed. Making my hands respond to timing issues was more important than anything over involved, so more Motown songs were used at this point. Then as it started to feel to me i could control my hands better i then approached my own music.

    It was strange not being able to play songs and lines i had written years, if not decades earlier, but that approach of taking a little trip through time and genres really helped me to focus and concentrate on playing not worrying about the hows and whys, if it sounded right it was right. Now over four years later, i am refining my techniques, looking at them now to see if i can improve their mechnics.
    It took me 40 years to develop my skills and one accident to wipe them out, so if i can keep focused and work on what i need to carry on working, then the playing will sort its self out.....my best tip is do not examine what you do, do not look for yourself getting better, just play slightly more demanding songs and music and let it happen....if not you will end up getting frustrated, make comparisons, and question whether it is worth it.
    That for many is the un-known quantity because they will never know the answer till they succeed at it, and you just realise one day you have succeded, and have done for quite a long time, but never realised it.
    It does not come to you in gradual steps, as in getting a little bit better each time, sometimes you go backwards, it happens in plataus...a big leap in skills, but for some reason you do not notice it if you are playing and learning new songs and music.
  17. One of my bands is a Tribute band and to be authentic I play pick for their early stuff and fingerstyle for their later stuff. It's really handy being able to do both.
  18. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Cover and tribute bands get a lot of stick, but it is hard work. The listening public have a discerning ear for what is right rather than what is good sometimes. When they hear there favourite song certain components and aspects have to be right, and if it is a personal song and you mess it up, change it, or just don't give the song the respect of 100% best effort, they will come down on you hard. Then there are those that say cover/tribute bands are lazy because they do not write original material.....but it is a different skill set. Not all music is about being oringinal. It is about playing the music or songs for future generations, or keeping it out there, or simply playing songs from bands that are long gone.....all most dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.

    The one thing I do know is that writing your own music is easy because they are your ideas and you can play then how you feel. But once those ideas are on record so to speak, you then have a duty in some cases, if the song makes it big and becomes known to play that version.
    I have worked with some great artists from the 50/s and 60s and have seen first hand some of the anger they face from fans when they mess up a song, or even send it up.
    To the artist it is the millionth time of doing it, but for some fans it is either their first or second time of hearing it live by the original artist, and it means something to them....maybe more that it means to the artist. Playing covers or tributes is hard,
    I have in the past being told of for not using a pick in songs that used one, and in some cases not using the correct tone.

    Like I said using a pick is a technique not an either or either choice..I say have your cake and eat it.
  19. Really enjoyed reading through these comments.
    I've been suffering the same and trying to break all my bad habits that I've built up, or at least iron some out.
    I've been a pick player since the beginning (13 years?) and listen to lots of fast skate punk music which is the bass lines I was learning too.
    Whenever practising I start trying to develop fingering technique but I know that if I just grabbed my pick then I can play almost anything.
    Its like learning to walk again (insert walking bassline pun here) at this stage but these comments give me some hope so maybe if I hide away and practice for a while (and try not let anyone hear me) then eventually I'll overcome this and get to a good standard.
    One day I will be able to play Descendents bass lines the way they're meant to be played

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