does using more than 2 fingers on your right hand really enable you to play faster?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by electricdemon3, Apr 25, 2002.

  1. electricdemon3


    Jul 28, 2000
    For about 2 years now I have been practicing off and on with picking with 3 fingers and sometimes with 4. When I play with 3, I go in this order= ring, middle, index, ring, middle, index(3,2,1,3,2,1) and with 4 I go pinky, ring, middle, index, pinky, ring, middle, index(4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1) I must say that in my own experience, playing with multiple fingers makes it much easier to play fast when you are playing stuff only on one string or if you are using 3 fingers for rhythms in 3 or 6 or using 4 fingers in rhythms of 4 or 8. However when you get into complex rhythms like 5 or 7, I find that it involves too much thought.

    Let me try and explain. When you play 16th notes, and you are using 3 fingers, it goes 3213 2132 1321 3213 so as you can see the first note of each succession which falls on the beat alternates like this 3 2 1 3 2 1. Now I do not find this very hard to do when you are just playing 16th notes on one string and are only playing 16th notes, but what if you want to change it up and play runs up and down scales and play in different timings? well lets say you switch to 5, it goes like this 32132 13213 21321 32132. now the beat falls on 1 2 3 1 2 3 so it reverses on you from when you were playing 16th notes with 3 fingers. if you think this is getting crazy, try dividing odd timing with 4 fingers! way too much for me to think about.

    What is so great about playing with 2 fingers in time changes is that the beat is only going to fall on one of two possible combinations. either it is going to fall on the same finger every time when the divisions are even numbers like 2 4 6 8, etc or it is going to alternate every other finger when they are odd 3 5 7 9 etc.

    So in conclusion, I find that yes, multiple fingers purely in the physical sense can enable you to play faster, but because it involves more mental power when playing complex lines, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will enable you to play faster. Now I haven't become proficient enough with multiple fingers to see from experience whether or not this theory is really true, so I would love to hear opinions from all of you multiple finger users!
  2. I use an extension of Gary Willis's 3-finger technique. When crossing strings upward, I alternate the ring and middle fingers R-M-R-M; when crossing strings downward or playing on the same string I alternate index and middle. Since I standardized on this technique last semester, my playing has become much cleaner.

    Certain rhythmic patterns, particularly "galloping" triplets, are a lot easier with 3 fingers than 2.
  3. PICK


    Jan 27, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    If you wanna use three then try using this pattern: 3 2 1 2 3 2 1 2 3 2 1 2 etc.
    It keeps the rythm an even 4.
  4. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Myself, I tried using four fingers and wasn't comfortable at all; however, I've been playing with three for almost six years now, and I do think it enables you to play faster, and with more consistency and smoothness when going fast. It takes a hell of a lot of practice to get comfortable with it though, especially when crossing strings.

    On the whole, I wouldn't say that any technique should require "mental power" to be used. Certainly, when one is practicing a new technique, it requires a lot of effort to unlearn old habits and relearn. However, once you have it down pat, you won't have to think about what your fingers are doing anymore. Keep at it! :cool:
  5. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I couldn't agree with thrash's comments (above) more. Then again, that is only my experience.

    Yes, it was a bitch getting from using a pick to using 4-fingers where it felt natural. I don't consciously use mental imaging techniques but it seems like I saw my fingers hitting the strings in my head and it seemed so natural with patience and time.

    If you really are concerned about this, my rather naive suggestion is to try to create a clear channel between your fingers, your brain and your heart and let your fingers play what you intuitively feel. Perhaps that is what you are trying to express when you say "mental power." As thrash infers, that suggests some kind of superior intelligence. I don't feel "intelligent" at all when I play but I do feel immense, exhausting, concentration. Perhaps that's is more of what you were talking about.

    Maybe it's just me, but all this overly-analytical "numbers" dissection of technique seems like it's cluttering up that channel.
  6. electricdemon3


    Jul 28, 2000
    I have heard of people using this technique but I personally do not see how it is any more efficient than going 1212 because your middle finger is still playing every other time.

    I guess what I mean by mental power is that because I am not used to three or four fingers, I have to think more to be able to find the pulse when playing real fast. When playing with only 2 fingers is more intuitive since there are only two possible combinations that the pulse can fall on. Add more fingers and all of the sudden you have way more possible combinations that the pulse can fall on.

    I agree with you 100 percent about creating a clear channel, however the learning process is different for everyone and for me the way that works in obtaining this clear channel is to overly analyze the numbers that occur in music at first when I'm learning a new technique. For me the intuitiveness comes with experience. After all, all rhythm is is mathematical subdivisions of time.
  7. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    For me three doesn't work well (and four not at all, tiny little pinkies I've got). It's hard enough to play an odd pattern using two alternating fingers.
  8. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Since you didn't fill out your profile, it's hard to say how three-finger pizzicato would benefit your playing.

    Playing with three fingers doesn't necessarily mean you'll play faster. I play with three fingers because it gives me more rhythmic control and allows me to play more interesting percussive patterns.

    I haven't worked on speed so much because I play mostly Jazz and Rock.

    One thing to remember is that playing music is not a race. If you ask most people what their favorite song or musical composition is, you'd find a lot of people would choose songs that aren't particularly fast. Melodicism always decreases when speed is increased; and melody is where it's at.
  9. electricdemon3


    Jul 28, 2000
    Funny I've been a member for 2 years and never noticed we had profiles! How do I fill one out... :D
    Anyway my style of music I guess could be considered metal(thought my name would give you a clue) but I have a lot of different influences. See, I started out on bass and then picked up guitar but it always depressed me because playing guitar really fast came naturally to me but I just can't keep up with the bass. I hope to one day be able to do the Billy Sheehan/Steve Vai thing where Sheehan plays the guitar line on bass note for note with the guitar to get that crazy octave effect going, but I still have a long way to go.

    I totally agree with you about music not being a race but another big part of music is that its a vessel that can be used to express your emotions. Sometimes I have emotions that can be expressed by playing just 1 chord and letting it ring out but other times I have emotions that can only be expressed by playing 100 notes as fast as I possibly can.

    Speaking of Billy Sheehan, does anyone here know what exactly he is doing? A friend of mine said that he plays with 3 fingers but picks up and down with each finger. I have seen him live but the way he curls his hand and how he barely moves his fingers, I couldn't exactly see what he is doing and he has an intense attack that sounds like a pick or fingernails or something. Anyone know his technique?
  10. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    I use three fingers... but usually when doing as peter said when doing fast triplets. 3 doesn't mean you are going to play faster than someone who uses two. I think its a good thing to do if you can do it, but it isn't something you have to be able to do. The bass prof. that used to teach here was one of the fastest bass players I know and he only used two fingers. Personal preference. I use three but primarily use two.

    So through my ramblings i hope you understood my attempt at making a statement. Sorry I've taken 6 exams since thursday and I am really worn out. Only 4 more to go.
  11. MatW


    May 10, 2000
    UK, Swindon
    I've used 3 fingers right from the start. This works great and I can play very smoothly when running up and down scales when I'm fretting 3 notes before you move on to the next string. I do not play amazingly fast, especially when I'm just pounding out 16th notes on one string, but I can certainly play faster with 3 than with 2. (not that speed is the main goal, of course)

    I have worked quite hard to ensure that I stick to 321321321 patterns. However, I often play with 2 when going up and down pentatonic (2 notes a string) scales or when playing a lot of lines with octaves. I've noticed recently that I tend to use index and ring fingers more than index and middle. Does anyone consider this bad technique?

    In general my right hand fingering works itself without me having to think about it.
  12. Mathias_TfG


    Apr 28, 2002
    New York
    No, I have found that my index and ring fingers were naturally stronger and more coordinated than the other two and those were the ones that I used back when I played with two fingers most of the time.
    Now, I generally use four, in the order 32413241... and have increased the coordination in my middle and pinky fingers. I have found that my playing is cleaner picking this way than it is using either three fingers or four in the 1234 order. I also incorporate my thumb in certain situations.
  13. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    my teacher is adamant that using more than two fingers to play is a 'gimmick', something that i totally disagree with him on. i don't see how this is so - it makes physical sense that one would be able to play faster and with a more even distribution of 'effort' by using 3+ fingers to pluck, right?
    at the moment i'm using three in the pattern of 1-2-3-2-1 etc, etc. but i don't understand how you guys can lead off from your ring finger! every time i do that i'll end up 'galloping', and coming out with a whole bunch of mangled triplets and not much else.
  14. electricdemon3


    Jul 28, 2000
    The galloping thing happened to me at first when I use 3-2-1 but that only happened when I tried to play faster than I was really able to. I have found that if that starts to happen when you are practicing it means you should slow down a little and take time to build up. Coordination will eventually enable you to play it more smoothly at faster speeds. I choose 3-2-1 because it was the most natural feeling to me. Practicing 16th notes with 3-2-1 pattern seems to help smooth it out as well.

    When talking about speed only, I still believe that the pattern 1-2-3-2 is not faster than using two fingers because your second finger still has to play every other note.

    I have come up with some more discoveries about my own playing since I have had time to practice more over the last few days. I have been paying attention to why it is exactly that I can play faster with a pick. And this may seem obvious but it is because of economy of motion. When I play fast with a pick, it is hardly moving away from the strings. Up until now, I have been playing finger style with 4 fingers the same way I have always played with 2 fingers. And that was by attacking the string by letting my finger pass through the string and ending up resting on the string above it. My teacher called this way of attacking a string a rest stroke because of this.

    I realized that that is a lot of wasted motion from the time my finger passes the string to the point where it is resting on the other string. However I found that I could play much faster by trying to hug the string with my fingers similar to the way a pick works by only letting my finger pass through the string and stop right at the other side of the string. That way I am not moving all the way down to the string below it. My teacher showed my this way of playing when I was playing classical guitar and he called it a free stroke since your finger does not rest on the string below it. This was very uncomfortable at first. I found to play this way, I had to make my attack much softer than it was before but I am starting to get the hang of it and I can play much faster now.

    Now I am starting to find that economy of motion= playing faster. I am not sure how much faster you can actually play with more than 2 fingers because the motion is the same going from one finger to another but I do know that for sure multiple fingers= less total finger movement. So even if you cannot play faster with multiple fingers, I would not call it a gimmick because the major benefit of doing it is that it will enable you to conserve more energy and play fast for longer periods of time than you may be able to with two.

    Sorry for the long post, I find it hard to describe technique with only words. I would be much easier to talk about if you guys were in the same room so I can show you what I'm talking about! :)
  15. electricdemon3


    Jul 28, 2000
    It's interesting how a questions about a new technique can answer themselves when you practice for a while.

    After practicing more in the style I mentioned in the previous post, I went back to playing rest strokes and I can play even faster. So much for my movement theory.

    I have also began to experience another limitation of 4 fingers. That limitation is the fact that the ring and pinky share the same tendon. I do not belive it is possible to train those fingers to be 100 percent independant from each other. You may be able to make them less dependant by practicing but not as independant as your ring and index fingers.

    So for now I believe that the most efficient way is 3 fingers, 3-2-1, all with rest strokes.
  16. Mathias_TfG


    Apr 28, 2002
    New York
    This is why I play 1324 (all rest strokes). It allows fingers that do not share a tendon to follow eachother, giving the feeling of full independence. It is just something that takes practice, I guess.
  17. Albemuth


    Jan 13, 2002
    Weird, I use 123 123 or 1232 1232 am I the only one??