Change alternating fingers

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by VicPang, Jan 13, 2015.

  1. VicPang


    Jan 3, 2015
    First post from a relatively new player. Been playing for a few months.

    For context. I pick with 2 fingers - and I rake.

    And here's the question.

    Often when I play a repeating pattern by strictly alternative fingers (and raking), the repeating phrase would start with the index finger the first time, then next time starts with the middle figure, then back to the index finger etc. This would usually at first get my fingers all confused. After practicing for a while it tends to work. But it still require my brain to be somewhat conscious of the constant switching.

    I wonder if in this situation, the better way to do this is to deliberately play one finger twice in succession somewhere within the phrase, so that you could always start each phrase with the same finger.

    For example, to make this a simple illustration, let's say the whole pattern is on the same string (so no raking), and the pattern has 7 fast notes, and keeps repeating. If you strictly alternate, you would do this....

    imimimi, mimimim, imimimi, mimimim, and etc.

    Would you do something like this instead?

    iimimim, iimimim, iimimim, iimimim, and etc,
  2. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013


    Generically speaking, NO! Don't "deliberately play one finger twice in succession,"
    let your "brain to be somewhat conscious of the constant switching,"
    you've been "playing (ONLY) for a few months."

    P.S. Strictly from ONLY my vocabulary.
    A beginner bass player - a bass player who's been playing the bass for ONE YEAR minimum.
  3. I would advise to NOT ignore the difficulty, but to make up lines that specifically cause the switching to happen. I went from strictly alternating to strictly alternating with raking, and it took me about a year before I really got comfortable. However, there are still lines that trip me up after about 1.5 years, and I have been playing for 17 years. It is best to take it slow, and I mean REAL slow. Start at 40 BPM and really concentrate on the plucking fingers. Scott Devine has a really good pattern on a technique video available on youtube. It is the major scale box pattern, but he adds the ninth at the top ascending, and then ends on the 7th an octave down when descending. This adds enough notes that each time you descend, you are leading with a different finger when strictly alternating.
  4. VicPang


    Jan 3, 2015
    Thanks for your reply Winegamd and Whousedtoplay. I naturally start with middle finger whenever I start a pattern, so lately I am forcing myself to start with index finger to 'even out' my tendency. Seems to be helping.
  5. BazzTard

    BazzTard Inactive

    I have been playing for many many years so I don't expect you to be able to do this, but it is worth knowing about for future use.

    I can play it any way I want,I can use all four plucking fingers in any pattern iie IMIMMIIMMRIRIPRPR
    this has taken a lot of practice,and came about for varying reasons, amongst them-broken/dislocated fingers from footy, infected fingernail from biting, general cutting fingers with fishing knives etc.

    Songs with lots of string skipping help develop changing finger patterns too.

    In the end, it's what works for you and feels comfortable, James Jamerson one of the best ever bassists only used his index finger, so there is no wrong or right way.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Yes, you definitely want to be equally comfortable starting with either finger. And it's good that you've discovered this problem and are addressing it now, rather than 10 years down the road when it might be much harder to break a deeply entrenched bad habit.
  7. I use both techniques , some times on the same song and sometimes changing in the middle of a song. I've been playing for years and either way comes pretty naturally to me so there's really not much thinking about it. Just keep working at it and you will feel the same way in a while.:thumbsup:
  8. fendermademygibson


    Jan 28, 2015
    As I mentioned somewhere in another thread I would get killed on my technique but it works for me. I try to do it "right" but I found that the more I thought about my right hand the more notes I would miss. For the most part I couldn't tell you which finger played which note/string and probably won't play it the same way the next time. This also makes "my" playing sound more natural as opposed to flat or robotic. I have managed to turn this into "my style" and focus almost completely on my fret hand. This is far from conventional wisdom but it works, for now at least.

    All that being said it is only fair to point out that I recently, a year ago maybe, started using my fingers after close to 30 yrs of using a pick almost exclusively. Also music is not my paycheck so there is inherently more room for "creative license".

    I continue to work on "proper" technique and would encourage others to as well but don't let it be a road block to "your style". If it works it works.
  9. Bigeyes


    Dec 20, 2011
    Dublin, Ireland
    I worked on strict alternate when I first started to work on my technique i.e imimimi, mimimim, imimimi, mimimim instead of trying to mix it up with iimimim, iimimim, iimimim, iimimim.
    At first I found it incredibly frustrating when my fingers wouldn't do what I wanted them to do but I started practising really slowly and I really paid attention to my fingers. I also found that saying I, M, I, M or M, I, M, I out loud as I plucked the strings helped me to stay on track and it made it easier for me to notice if I plucked the same fingers simultaneously. I used to play through the major and natural minor scales along with major and minor 7th arpeggios starting on each finger slowly.
    Over time alternating has become second nature and it is something I don't have to think about any more. It has definitely improved my playing so I would advise to work through the difficulty. Down the line you'll be glad you did it!

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