Fingerpicking technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by GSR200B_bassist, Dec 1, 2019.


  1. GSR200B_bassist

    GSR200B_bassist

    Mar 23, 2019
    England
    Hi all,

    I've been playing for about 3/4 years now and recently have noticed a bad habit that's emerged from my playing.

    I've always tried to use the floating thumb technique, but the problem I've noticed is that my right hand seems to tilt towards the headstock, so the back of my hand is facing towards the neck. This places my fingers at different levels which makes it hard to maintain a straight rhythm - often I find I can't help but make a 'swing' kind of rhythm.

    It's been fine up until now but I feel like it's limiting my speed and general playing ability, so any tips for getting rid of this habit and improving my technique?

    Thanks,
    Katie H
     
  2. Matty Koff

    Matty Koff

    Aug 21, 2014
    Tennessee
    Slow down what ever you're trying to play and any limitations caused by technique should make themselves readily apparent. Use a metronome, or a simple drum backing track..but preferably something you can slow down/speed up at will. Slow down to like 60 bpm focusing on playing what you're trying to play as perfectly as you can. If it turns out you need to adjust how you rest your plucking hand, make that your focus, even at slow tempos. Even if it's just 15-20 minutes at a time focus on resting your hand in a more comfortable position.

    Afterawhile it will become muscle memory.

    Slowing down is the best advice I've ever gotten. It lets you examine everything a lot easier..and if I am making some kind of mistake, it's much easier to work on playing it right at a slow tempo. When you can play it 4 times in a row perfectly at a slow tempo, bump up the tempo.. 4 times at that tempo, speed it up again until you're playing at the correct tempo, whether that's predetermined or something you're feeling in a creative process.

    If the way your plucking hand is resting is a problem, it should reveal itself to you at a slower tempo. Look to youtube for right hand technique. It could just be a matter of learning to rake or alternate better.
     
  3. GSR200B_bassist

    GSR200B_bassist

    Mar 23, 2019
    England
    Much appreciated - thank you! I'd tried slowing things down to examine techniques in the past, but it's always just a matter of patience for me. Will give it a try!
     
  4. DeepFriedBass

    DeepFriedBass

    Nov 21, 2019
    Hold the bass more like an upright bass like Fieldy from Korn or Rob DeLeo from STP, and presto.
     
    GSR200B_bassist likes this.
  5. Hachimitsu

    Hachimitsu

    Jun 6, 2019
    New Zealand
    Where in relation to your pickups/end of fingerboard is your plucking hand when this is a problem? I find if I'm plucking over the end if the fingerboard my hand will turn slightly closer to parallel with the strings as you describe. Normally, I'd be over the neck pickup (of a jazz), and the natural position for my fingers is more perpendicular to the strings.

    Maybe try moving your hand closer to the bridge a little? Good suggestions above about slowing down and really observing what your hand is doing.
     
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  6. GSR200B_bassist

    GSR200B_bassist

    Mar 23, 2019
    England
    It seems to quite consistently be near the bridge pickup, however I imagine closer to the bridge may help. Thanks for your advice - I'll give it a go!
     
  7. Hachimitsu

    Hachimitsu

    Jun 6, 2019
    New Zealand
    in that case it might be a different issue... If you are able to post a short clip or even a picture of you playing it might help:thumbsup:
     
    GSR200B_bassist likes this.
  8. I've been a seasonal professional ski instructor for over 30 years and have frequently come across students with faulty mechanics that limited their improvement. The one thing that I know is that one doesn't break habits; One must over-write them with good habits. That takes time and dedication and focus 100% of the time.

    The problem with most physical movement maladies is that you often don't recognize them as you're just doing them. So you must be extremely vigilant to do whatever it takes to over-write the bad. It may hamper your gigging for some time, or the gigging may slow down the change. It all depends.

    First, you must decide how you want to approach your right hand. Then you must slow down and deliberately model it. As others have suggested, go very slowly and deliberately. If serious about making the change avoid the old movements at all costs. In the heat of the moment of playing you probably won't feel when you slip back into the old habit/movement. Old stuff feels so comfortable, so it is so easy to fall back into the habits. I suggest a LOT of playing in the mirror. IMO, "critical step 2" is to buy a mirror and hang it on your music stand (or mic stand, or wherever you can glance down and see it- see photo). You need to be able to quickly see what your right hand is doing, almost at all times, particularly when practicing. Trust me. When my trumpet playing went through focal dystonia I had a mirror mounted to the lead pipe of my trumpet. I don't think I could have recovered without it.

    Lastly, practice repeatedly throughout the day, every day. The more repetition with the correct mechanics the sooner that the new stuff will begin to feel like the natural way. You will know when you've "arrived" when the old way feels unnatural.

    Good luck.
    mirror.jpg
     
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  9. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    It would be helpful to see what you mean in a photo.
     
  10. GSR200B_bassist

    GSR200B_bassist

    Mar 23, 2019
    England
    That's great advice, thank you! I think I'll slow down on gigging for a bit while I work this thing out.
     
  11. You're welcome... One more tidbit about that mirror thing...
    When you start to play more regularly with your new/improved technique, for a time your hand is going to feel confused at times. By feel you won't know whether you're doing it the old way, the new way or some other way. I believe it is good to have a visual reference during this period of "one foot on either side of the border". Also, you'll be amazed at what you pick up visually if you practice regularly in front of a mirror. At least for me, it often sure doesn't look like it feels.
     
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  12. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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