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Does 1-fingered Bass playing = Bad technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Desi, Aug 27, 2005.

  1. Desi


    Jan 11, 2005
    I play with one finger mostly, but for some faster runs I bring in the middle finger to add a bit more speed, but I don't rely heavily on it. I'm fairly new to Bass as I started in March of this year. I do pretty well with just one finger and have nailed many songs that are played either by Pick or 2 fingers. I see many Bassists using 2 fingers and even 3, and I'm not sure if playing with one finger can be considered a "bad habit". Feedback on this would be most appreciated.
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I would say that in this day and age, yeah, 1 finger is a bad habit. You'll never get the speed or accuracy that a 2 fingered bassist has. Everyone points to James Jamerson playing 1-fingered as a reason that it's not bad technique. Of course, they forget that we aren't James Jamerson and we have a much worse chance of sounding good 1-fingered as he did.
  3. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    Do yourself a favor, learn how to use 2fingers well...

    i would like to see you play some octave riffs with one finger, or some faster song like scarified by racer x... it wouldn't work-
  4. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    There are situations where using one finger(or thumb, or pick stroke) is a big advantage. As an inexperienced bassist you should learn to use two fingers. Bass playing can be hardwork. If two fingers can share the burden of one then they each only have to work half as hard, you dig? Don't work harder than you need to.
    The challenging part of this transition is going to be trying to get both fingers to sound exactly the same. This, as simple as it may sound, is nearly impossible. Slow things down and stive for perfection because this is a often forgotten trait of great bass bassists!!
  5. Desi


    Jan 11, 2005
    Thank you all for the replies, I very much appreciate it. The 1 fingered playing is definately a habit I've helped grow since I purchased my Bass, and now I'm going to get to work in breaking the habit. :hyper:
  6. If it works, great.

    however, it pays to have access to as many techniques as you can pick up. if you want to play one song with one finger, great. I have no problem whatsoever, but if the next song demands two, you need to know two. likewise three-finger (which I'm having trouble with), slap/pop, down/up thumb (thankfully got that) and thumb/first/second/first finger-picking style.

    If you can use them and don't, great, but you're leaving yourself with closed doors if you only know one technique. I guess I'm saying it pays to have more strings in your bow, even if you only use one or two. As a relatively new bass player, you should at least be using two fingers, even if your chops are a bit ropey, but don't close yourself to other tricks by any means - it actually doens't take so long to get your right hand tech sorted.

    And don't neglect the fretboard hand, either - I'm currently doing remedial work on my weak 3rd finger because I've run into some stuff which I can't just spoof around with the little one. If I'd got my technique sorted a couple of years ago instead of cheating, I wouldn't be sitting here wondering why my ring finger is so damn useless in comparison.

    then again I used to play punk and now I play slightly more complex stuff....
  7. Nirvana4ever


    Aug 2, 2005
    My answer: Yes
    Using one finger will limit your playing. It may be comfortable to you, but you should learn how to play with at least two. It should be much easier.
  8. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    If your goal in playing bass is to just play some tunes & sound OK, you can do it with one finger most of the time. If you want to become a player that can play a variety of styles and bring any idea that might pop into your head to life through your instrument, do the work that will take you there. :cool:
  9. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    You could hop down to 7-11 on one foot and, yes, you would get there. Using two feet and walking are easier. But that's just me

    IMHO two fingers is way easier. And listen to LoFat - work on trying to get them as even as possible.
  10. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    After playing bass for almost 20 years, I use different fingers for different applications, that includes 1 finger.

    I wouldn't called it a bad habit. I would say "yet another tool, in the toolbox".

    For me, implying that anything to do with a musical instrument is a bad habit, seems irrational.
  11. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    james jamerson: a one-finger using monster! :eyebrow:
  12. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    James Jamerson was an upright player first and so the 1 finger thing came about at a time when there was no real technique for bass guitar. I would definitely learn to use other fingers because you'll probably need the agility and speed at some point. But playing with one finger defintely serves it's purpose and there are times when nothing sounds better.
  13. Atshen


    Mar 13, 2003
    Grim Cold Québec
    I use one finger whenever possible. That way I get a more even attack.

    I have to use two when it gets faster or when there's lots of string crossing.

    Like others said, I think it's better to know how to use at least two fingers.
  14. IMO. at a basic level, the purpose of good technique is to make musical ideas easier to execute. There are some things you might want to do (e.g., some types of quick scalar passages) that will probably be harder to execute with just one finger than they really need to be. Accordingly, I think it makes sense to cultivate the ability to use more than one finger, just to give yourself more options and avoid placing more of a technical burden on yourself than necessary. The ability to play with two-finger alternation, for instance, is IMO extremely valuable, and it's something I personally would recommend to all bassists. It's good to be able to use your ring finger too.

    All that said, IMO there are also times when a one-finger technique works just fine, or maybe even better, in *specific musical situations*. For example, I sometimes find that I can more easily get a good, consistent sound for "walking" at slow or moderate tempos by using just one finger--that way, the attack tends to be nearly the same on each note. I guess my point here, though, is that it's good to be able to use one-finger technique *deliberately*, when you choose to for your own reasons, rather than simply because it's the only way you know. It's like, if you have a bike and a car in your garage, you can take either the bike or the car to work. If you only have a bike, you have no choice--you gotta take the bike.
  15. Playing with two fingers is one of the first things you should try to learn when taking up the bass. It's a core technique IMO.
  16. using many fingers is all the same for me, 1 to even 5, there is no point if the sound you create sounds bad.. i only use 2, and it doesn't matter 1 or 2 or 3 or more, the point is the sound you produce is number 1 for me! if you can use 4 fingers but you create a floppy but fast sound, i won't listen to it.. that's the same with 1 or 2 finger, but i suggest you to play mostly in 2 fingers dude! that will save you some stamina! and much more faster playing..
  17. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    It depends on the type of songs you play.
    I'm a S.A. ,but, when I play 8ths notes groove, I use 1 finger for the sound of it. Same when I walk,using mostly the 2nd finger for rythms.

  18. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI

    Now - you're talking about one finger, picking back and forth, I assume, right? Not just UP-strokes!

    ..Don't forget, though, that it's not like you're 'starting from scratch' - I mean one-fingered technique is important and valuable to me, but I need to know 1- and 2- fingers, and pic at least -- now I work on 1-, 2- and 3- fingers, heavy pick, hammer-ons and pull-offs, two-handed tapping, thump/pop/slap, plucked and tapped harmonics... uh - well, anyway...

    If I were to only pick one, though, I guess it'd be two-finger; one finger wouldn't even be in the top three or five, I don't think.


    (edit) Now that I think about it, I also more-often lately use two-at-a-time - together, as though they were one finger. I think I do up-strokes-only then - yeah. It's for a real deep, fundamental-like sorta' burp-tone; one with real distinctive note-on/note-off control (*OFF TOPIC*: a kind of sound that is MAJORLY enhaced by the Big Bottom on the Aphex Bass Xciter!!), like for Pink's 'Get the Party Started'. Oh - and also for this same kind of sound I'll use smooth downstrokes with the side of my thumb, while my wrist/palm area lightly mutes way back by the bridge - like mostly for 'dub tone' sort'a notes on the neck pup below A-string A.

    Let's see.. I use one-finger back-and-forth on Hollywood Squares by Boots, Do it Fluid by the Blackbirds, and mixed-in on Dred Zeppilin's arrangement of Sunshine Of Your Love.

    The thing to me is, that it's not mainly the speed of a song that determines how many fingers I use; it's the FEEL of that part or group of notes or whatever. I mean technically, I probably AM using 'three-fingers' more often than I might immediately think, because sometimes I use just ring-middle - in which case I'm maybe using that trailing index to quickly and cleanly mute the note I just plucked with the ring. And of course, you can't beat three-finger for those killer, galloping, machine-gun triplets - like the ones that lead-up to the downbeat, like "(three-four) bum, buttle-um, buttle-UM, buttle-UMMMMM!". Oh yeah -- I can't get that killer gallop any other way!

    See what I mean? That whole right appendage should be one, big-ol' 'bass-string-actuating' machine, Man!

    One finger ONLY?!
  19. Desi


    Jan 11, 2005
    Again, I must thank you all for your helpful insight. I appreciate your advice very much. I'm currently working on my two-finger technique and having a bit of trouble getting my middle finger to operate as fluently as my index, but hey, practice makes perfect. :D
  20. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Easy to pull famous names out to demonstrate that bad technique is good, but Jamerson was one of a kind and we aren't Jamerson.