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Finger style help

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ColbyR2067, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. ColbyR2067


    Dec 19, 2012
    Fort Mill, SC
    Hi everyone, my name is Colby, and I'm new here
    I've been playing for around 4 years, and i consider myself an intermediate to advanced player.
    The thing is, I'm a pick player. I learned with a pick and I've always used a pick. When I first started I was really into metal and punk and stuff. Now, though, I've expanded my horizons and I'm getting very into jazz and solo bass type stuff. It's becoming very apparent that, while using a pick certainly isn't wrong, there are some genres and styles where fingerstyle is a much better option. I'm just scared that it's too late to learn.
    Can anyone give me some advice? Anything and everything is appreciated :)
    Thanks in advance!
  2. I sat in front of the TV and ran scales useing 2 fingers.

    Play through the blisters. Once the callus gets built up you'll be fine.
  3. lakefx

    lakefx Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    It's never too late to learn. All it takes is dedicated purposeful practice.
  4. Yeah. It's not hard.
  5. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Never too late, pal. Also, you don't HAVE to go through blisters. I've never even worked up callouses in 34 years of regular gigging on electric bass (playing pizzicato on upright is a different story). begin with a light touch and try to keep it that way. You may also wanaa do as many do and use a bit of fingernail (say 1-2mm) to give you a "hybrid" sound. That's the way I play because I also use my nails on guitar. Only thing is, you might have a thinner sound that way, but it's easily compensated for with the proper eq. And if you don't want the nail clack, just turn down the highs or high mids a bit to taste.

    You can anchor your thumb or float it. I do both, depending on the sound I'm after. I can also angle my wrist to avoid using my nails at all, when needed. As familiar as I am with using a pick on guitar for some reason I don't use it on bass, but rarely. I feel I can articulate better fingerstyle. Then again, each style has it's advantages. Some things can be done with a pick that are hard to do fingerstyle, and vice versa.

    Begin by just noodling from time to time. No hurry, is there? Don't bend your wrist at an extreme angle. Find a position that feels comfortable with no pain involved. You can do it, no one taught me how and I figured it out easily enough. It may take some time to get used to. But, just don't be impatient or let down if it doesn't go the way you want it at first. Enjoy!

    Hope that helps a bit.

    BTW, I'm from Lancaster, SC, although I now live in Cayce down by Columbia. But, I just inherited my brother's house in Lancaster (where we both grew up), so it's like I now live in both places, owning two houses. We go to Lancaster a lot (will be there starting this Sunday through Christmas). Drop me a PM. maybe we can meet up sometime. I keep an amp in Lancaster. Merry Christmas, neighbor!!
  6. VinKreepo


    Nov 13, 2009
    I am in the exact same boat as you. About 3 or so years ago I asked for a bass for Christmas, and my mom told me I needed to prove I would be dedicated to playing it before she spent that kind of money (money was tight in those days). I had an el cheapo guitar my uncle had gotten me and she said I had to learn to play something on it before she would get me a bass. After 3 months I could play well enough that she saw my ambition, and she gave me a Ibanez bass :D I was so happy! But I kept playing with a pick because that's all I knew. I am great with a pick and play extremely intricate punk lines and even funk or motown using muting techniques with my fretting hand. But now I want to learn how to do it without a pick. I've been practicing, but to hardest part is CONSISTENT timing. Ugh... stupid short fingers.
  7. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Oh, forgot to say that "rest stroke" will work best, most of the time. That means that when you pluck a string your finger then comes to rest upon the next largest string (except, of course, in the case of plucking your lowest [biggest] string since there's nothing behind it). That's opposed to "free stroke" in which your finger just goes into the air after plucking.
  8. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    The first 15 years i played with a pick ,, loved the attack ,, really didnt even think about fingerstyle,, moved to nashville and joined a band,, was promptly told i played very well by many,, only prob i had was " feel",, i apparently played on top of the beat at all times so i was a bit robotic ,, askd another bassist what to do ( this was well before TB or the internet even),, he said " lose the pick" and handed me 3 albums of disco music,, i woodshedded awhile trying to play fingerstyle and " behind the beat" couldnt get it ,,, he said "keep trying youll know when ya get it" i finally felt what he was talking about and instantly fingerpicking was all there was FOR ME ,, i say all that to say this ,,its now 30+ years playing ,, still play fingerstyle and if the music calls for it ,,a pick ,, just stay with it,,if your fingertips hurt ,, rest em ,, but dont practice with a pick anymore by yourself,, if your in a band use the pick but slower songs use yr fingers and just keep at it it does get easier,, i promise.
  9. phillybass101

    phillybass101 Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    Start listening to music you would have never listened to before. For example the song Colibri. Excellent exercise to develop your right hand in terms of technique, punchiness, being able to cut notes etc. And if you really want to develop a nasty right hand check out a song called Here I Am by a group called Dynasty. Two bass players are Randy Hope Taylor, and Leon Sylvers III. Also a disco tune called let the dance begin by Hamilton Bohannon. If you can get this your right hand will be ON POINT!!! The bass player is Fernando Saunders. Also check out Rocco Prestia with tower of power. A great exercise for developing your right hand is a song called What is Hip. Soul Vaccination, Funk the Dumb Stuff. Work on stuff like this and I guarantee you'll have one of the best right hand fingerstyles in your area.
  10. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    Hey Colby, this is an exiting time, as you know the instrument, know what you want, and you have a crossroad of options to make. I was there just 2 years ago, when I picked up a bass for the first time in my life, after playing the guitar (tapping, picking).

    I did some research, always admired Jaco Pastorius', Tony Grey, Alain Caron and Victor Wooten's work, and decided to use as much tools your hand gives you as possible. I took the conscious decision to play using 4 of my right hand fingers (thumb/index/mid/ring) and kept this technique across the difficulties (the ring finger was quite a challenge to me).

    Also, I had all my basses equipped with a ramp. This offered me an excellent foundation to what I was trying to do.

    Both things really accelerated my finger technique. There are some strings (Earnie Ball) that work great for me.

    I have never developed blisters or any kind of instrument induced injury, you have to work slow and your volumes should be as such that you hear yourself without stressing your muscles much.

    I hope this helps and adds to the generous advice you have gotten so far.
  11. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    ^^^^^and what he said is good too,,, funky situation by the commodores is great fir deveoping "feel" learn it,, live it,, do it,, good luck!!!
  12. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Yes, it may take you a little while to get used to what "feel" feels like with your fingers, insofar as things like dynamics and attack go---all that articulation stuff. But, you'll get it in time. And, as stated above, if your fingers get sore, STOP, and wait for them to feel ok before moving on.
  13. bigswifty1


    Dec 8, 2011
    I swapped from pick to finger style about 2 years ago, and without doubt, for me at least, muting was/is the biggest challenge.

    Everyone is different, but if I was doing it again I would certainly have done "movable anchor" or "floating thumb" (slightly different both good) from the outset. Two years in I am now making the switch to movable anchor, and while the eventual benefits are many and apparent, the short term pain is extremely frustrating and at times downright embarrassing.

    Choose a plucking and muting system from the outset, and as you practice, don't accept *any* sympathetic string noise.

  14. mhead

    mhead Guest

    May 25, 2009
    Check out Garry Willis technique, it's a little dificould at first but it's very clean and saves your wrisht from injures once you get confortable with. He uses three thingers and "floating thumb" www.garywillis.com
  15. Piggy8692


    Oct 2, 2010
    Northern Utah
    4 Years is still early to try new things. I've been playin for over twice that and I just started trying to learn pick style. It's definitely something you should learn. If anything, to avoid the stigma of being a picker. (Relax pickers, I'm learning it too, no offense intended) Just start slow and speed up gradually, I think that once you get it you might even prefer it over picking. It feels better to me. But I'm a fingerguy to start with.

    At 4 years, once you try to learn fingerstyle and jazz, and then more and more, you'll realize where you actually sit in the grand scheme of things. I rank myself less on the the Novice-Master than I did years ago. The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.

    It's never too late.
  16. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I played for 22 years with only a pick (my first instructor started me with one and thats the way it stayed). Then I got a fretless and the pick just didnt sound right IMO so I started working on my fingers. Like Got2 said earlier, I sat in front of the tv and ran scales and did stuff like the Bass Fitness book with my fingers and now I use them 95% of the time. I still use the pick on some songs, just sounds better on those, but I would say Im just as proficient with my fingers as I was with the pick. Just takes putting in the work is all.
  17. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Lotsa good tips, above.

    A big ol' +1 to studying Rocco Prestia's staccato fingerfunk style! (What is hip? ToP, def!)

    Jon Liebman's Bass Aerobics book would be a fine addition to your practice routine, too--for both your fingering and your plucking hands.
  18. Nothing wrong with using a pick, and never too late to learn using fingers. I locked myself in a room every spare hour I had for a couple of months and forced myself to use my fingers...never looked at a pick. It paid off. Now I can do both styles and "almost" play everything I know with either style. If a song I play was originally done with a pick, that's what I do. If it's obviously fingers, I never touch the pick.
  19. bherman

    bherman Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Grand Junction, CO
    Colby - never too old to learn new stuff. And welcome to TB!
    One thing to consider is that there are lots of different sounds that you can get out of fingerstyle. You need to experiment with different parts of your fingers. I'll explain.

    I play upright bass also. There are four different techniques to use with upright - side of finger pulling string (one finger), side of finger pulling string (2 fingers together), two fingers alternating, two fingers together perpendicular to strings.

    Each gives a different sound and attack. Not all are transferable to electric bass, but try different approaches and you'll see what I mean.....
  20. Learn the floating thumb muting technique. Start using it from day one.

    The other thing is let your amp do the work. Turn it up if your not loud enough, pluck lightly.