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Deformed middle finger advice

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Orion Kerensky, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. Orion Kerensky

    Orion Kerensky

    Nov 30, 2015
    So I have a middle finger that was chopped off as a kid on my plucking hand. The corrective surgery has created a nail that looks like a snail shell over the top of my finger tip. Naturally, this doesn't work well for plucking, as it tends to chip at the string like a pick and sounds inconsistent. I can't clip it any further due to the way its healed.

    Any pointers on getting around this? I tried to find tip covers but haven't seen anything that really caught my eye. The other option I was looking for was lesson on plucking without the use of the middle finger, and without the use of a pick. I don't, in any way, like the sound of pick plucking.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Can't really help you other than saying that I only recently heard that Geddy Lee had something similar going on, and it helped with his signature sound. You might want to research precisely what his deal with that was.
    packhowitzer likes this.
  3. Turn this into an advantage for yourself: The way you describe your middle finger would make it perfect for the Geddy Lee 'flamenco' style (only with the middle finger instead of the index obviously):

  4. Orion Kerensky

    Orion Kerensky

    Nov 30, 2015
    Hmm I like how creative that style is, and might have to consider that with my index. The problem with my middle, and trying to do this with my middle finger, is the nail is more of a curved ice cream cone then it is a pick.
  5. mbelue


    Dec 11, 2010
    You can try felt picks they sound different than hard plastic ones.
    You can learn the Wooten double thumb technique.
    You can do what amputees do.

    Really man there is no way to play bass wrong. Any technique is gonna take a million hours to master. Try a few.

    BTW i also had my middle fingertip reattached also(fret hand). My fretting technique changed to accommodate. Just takes practice.

    Good luck and have fun!
    monsterthompson and ZonieBass like this.
  6. Orion Kerensky

    Orion Kerensky

    Nov 30, 2015
    That amputee video made my issue seem extremely pathetic and small....
  7. mbelue


    Dec 11, 2010
    There is no end of technique discussion here and elsewhere. It is important.
    Having said that lots of pros do things "wrong" and still sound great. What is important, is what you can do that is comfortable for you and sounds good to you.
    Don't get hung up in exacting someone else's solution.
    Your technique might end up being the YouTube video that makes someone else seem extremely pathetic and small.:thumbsup:
  8. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yeah, do what works. Each time you learn a new part your technique will adapt to accommodate it.

    Thumbing (double or single), Geddy's thing (which I recently started messing with a bit myself),
    Mike Watt's "flipper" (using the index and middle fingers together like a giant flatpick), any of these things can be used, combined or adapted.

    You can also try resting your thumb at the base of the fingerboard and sweeping your fingers back toward the bridge the way upright players do so that you're playing more with the fleshy sides of your fingers and less with the ends of them. You'll see Tony Levin play that way sometimes.

    Just keep trying things and adapting.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  9. 7dollarbologna


    Apr 22, 2014
    Downtown Albuquerque
    Desert Eccentric
    That happened to me as a kid - same finger, same hand. I have been going index, ring fingers for over 20 years now. I remember asking my mom if I could have the nail removed when it started growing like that, but no that didn't happen. I did consider the Tony Iommi route with rubbers, but the finger was too tender at the time. I am pleased to report, last year I've started to use "stubby" as a picking finger and love the flat pick sound - it's a whole new world now!

    -good luck!
  10. Orion Kerensky

    Orion Kerensky

    Nov 30, 2015
    I really appreciate all the replied. I've been messing around with just my index finger only, and find it oddly comfortable, even on fast strums.

    Ill start seeing if first and ring finger work for me.

    EDIT: I'd have to again, say thanks guys. I posted the same thing on a different online community, and it got down voted and I got some pretty toxic answers. I'm staying on here for all my Bass needs exclusively.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015
  11. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    I am missing the middle finger of my plucking hand (left in my case). I use index, pinky and thumb.
    If you have your ring finger you could utilize that too.
    If this is just a matter of using you middle finger but damping the sound of your fingernail you might be able to put together something like Tony Iommi uses to cover his amputated fingertips on his fretting hand. He made his own and you might have to do something similar.
    lz4005 and 7dollarbologna like this.
  12. jjmuckluckjr


    Mar 24, 2015
    The bass is one of the most adaptable instruments for the user. There is no "right" way to play. There have been numerous examples of players here on TB that have taken injuries and birth defects and turned them into a positive. Try a thumb/ forefinger combo, I often use it like flamenco guitar players do and you can work out some interesting patterns. Good luck and keep plugging away.

    PS Tony Iomni uses pieces of a leather jacket that he's been cutting up since the '60's. Imagine, one English leather jacket being responsible for a whole genre of music.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015
    Jah Wobble Fan and Growlmonkee like this.
  13. Growlmonkee


    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    Experiment with different techniques, people like Geddy Lee, and Tony Iommi have unique, and even amazing sound, and both have a style that won't be found in a textbook. Either of those guys could most likely play any style of music, and sound great doing it. I spent a weekend once, in the mountains in Northern N.Y., there was a band playing rock covers at a local bar, they were very good, the bass player had only an index finger on his left fretboard hand, he was not only good, considering the handicap, he was just plain good (a lot of right hand fingerboard tapping), he played quite a few different bar chords, ones I'd never heard. There's nothing in your way, if you want to play bass.
  14. 7dollarbologna


    Apr 22, 2014
    Downtown Albuquerque
    Desert Eccentric
    Don't forget Django! he actually got better after roasting one of his hands.
    atlbassist1987 likes this.
  15. vegas532

    vegas532 Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2006
    Pensacola, FL.
    No matter what the hindrance, keep at it and your voice will find you.

  16. bahia0019


    Jun 19, 2012
    Tony's been mentioned a couple times. I'd read or watch stuff about him and use him as an inspiration if you don't know what happened to him.
    Django was his inspiration.

    Sometimes I feel I struggle cause my fretting pinky is small. That's really nothing compared to people that are missing digits. But like jjmuck mentioned above... the bass is about how YOU play it.

    So just play and have fun. I salute you my soul brotha.
  17. I burned & blistered 6 fingertips (thumb, index, middle fingers each hand) lifting a saucepan earlier this year. I had this stuff handy and it worked amazingly well.

    I couldn't hear my nails dig into the strings. It might even up your tone imbalance. Similar to Elastoplast but much finer, stronger, and does not budge.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015
    red_rhino likes this.
  18. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Two things come to mind:

    *Office supply stores may still stock thumb and rubber finger caps which cashiers use while counting paper currency. Here's an example: OfficeMax Rubber Finger Tips Size 14 Box Of 12 by Office Depot & OfficeMax

    *Sting uses a thumb and forefinger technique which, to my eyes, conserves energy and covers a lot of territory. Watch this video and, yes, I like the tune:

    winterburn69 likes this.
  19. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    His fretting hand, actually. Still unbelievable how fast he could play....
    7dollarbologna likes this.
  20. +1 to whatever works for you is what works. Wes Montgomery used only his thumb and achieved guitar virtuosity.

    Good luck, best wishes and enjoy the journey.

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