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Fingerstyle: alternating with mixed note lengths

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by phnx, Apr 27, 2015.

  1. phnx


    Apr 27, 2015
    Hello :)

    I'm a guitarist transitioning to bass. When picking on the guitar, my right hand usually follows the rhythm when alternate picking, e.g. I will play

    1/4 1/8 1/8
    down (empty up) down up.

    Does this apply to bass fingerstyle as well?
    I.e., would I play above rhythm as
    Index (empty middle) index middle?

    Or is it more common to always alternate, regardless of timing?
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I would say play it however you like, whatever feels good to you. I almost always alternate (no "empties") unless there's a long gap to "reset". I keep trying to get my right ring finger up to speed as well, not very successfully thus far (on bass, at least, all 5 work ok for guitar fingerpicking, but that's a rather different hing). With fingerstyle, there's normally not a whole lot of tonal difference between index and middle, unlike down/up pick strokes on guitar.
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You could do it that way, though I find it pretty exhausting. I think it's best to keep the alternation strict.
  4. Bass notes take longer to develop so keep in mind your tone. If you are wanting to play fast make sure you have the treble and mid highs dialed in so that your notes are articulate
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    They really don't take longer to develop.
    cheapbasslovin likes this.
  6. Play much guitar?
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not as much these days, but yes. Why?
  8. it shows. Anyway, going from the front to the back is always difficult. I was never a big fan of alternate picking because of the lack of efficiency and loss of feel, that said, I transitioned to bass and it was always nice at first to have a since of rhythm which translates to the highs and mid highs on bass...the sounds your ear instantly hears in a live monitoring setting as a click. The further I got along the easier it was to dial these back into a tone that worked better for me. When I am learning a new riff or writing something I will start with what I am trying to accomplish and practice the way that it is easiest for my brain to make my fingers do it.
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Way to make me not even bother reading the rest of your post.
  10. BazzTard

    BazzTard Banned

    bass notes take longer to develop?

    THAT is the dumbest thing I've read in ages!

    Tell that to Geddy Lee !

    Going by your theory we wouldn't hear any of his notes coz they don't hang around long enough to 'develop'

    ROTFL PMSL I needed that !
    Daz JP likes this.
  11. thabassmon


    Sep 26, 2013
    New Zealand
    If it works fine you the cool, when I play guitar I sometimes do that too. But on bass I never do it.
  12. On guitar, I tend to consistently strum up-down for subdividing tempo especially for funk-style percussive strumming. Certainly I could use all down-strokes especially for certain music like metal when I want to make sure the low-strings are hit first.

    For bass, I'm pretty inconsistent when it comes which fingers are used for plucking:

    ||: (Q) (E)(E)(Q) (E)(E)|(Q) (E)(E)(Q) (E)(E) :||
    ||: (2) (1)(2)(2) (1)(2)|(2) (3)(2)(1) (2)(1) :||

    Sometimes I might start with my index (1), instead of my middle (2). I add in my ring finger (3) sometimes when I feel like resting my other fingers. There's absolutely no actual planned set process when I pluck other than what string I may have to play next, and where I want to strike the string. So if the second note is an octave higher and I want a brighter sound, I'll use my ring finger to play closer to the bridge, then back to the index and middle to pluck closer to the neck on the lower strings.

    I might do ghost notes, barely plucking the string, if there are off-beats as a means to subdivide the tempo. Such as if the second note was a eighth-note rest instead.

    Now that I wrote it out, it just seems ridiculous, but that's the technique I use.
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
  13. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I've recently been working on learning to play with a pick after 15 years of playing exclusively fingerstyle. One major reason I'm attracted to pickstyle is exactly what you said about guitar: i.e., alternate picking with a strumming motion that follows the rhythm, with downstrokes on downbeats and upstrokes on upbeats, as per Carol Kaye (whose bass pickstyle technique is considered by many as something of a gold standard). I really enjoy the way that physical motion matches up with the rhythm, especially on certain kinds of grooves. (Maybe this is because tapping my foot to the rhythm doesn't work for me at all.)

    In contrast, I've never heard of anything analogous to this for fingerstyle: I think it's much more common to just maintain more-or-less strict alternation. I've actually tried playing around with this, to see if I could find some way to carry over the downbeats/upbeats thing into fingerstyle, but I haven't found anything that works. I'm staying with strict alternation for fingerstyle, irrespective of note lengths.
  14. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    You didn't miss a thing! :D
  15. It's physics.
  16. And neither of you added a thing to try and help the op.
  17. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Better no information than misinformation. ;)

    Also, Jimmy did add to the thread. He told the OP to alternate and then disagreed with your assertion.
  18. BazzTard

    BazzTard Banned

    I was too stunned to add anything......

    To the OP, eventually it will come naturally, it kinda depends on the speed of the song too, ie how long the gap between notes is.

    Sometimes if I want to mute the string I drop either the plucking finger or the other one onto it
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    OK Wisenheimer, if bass notes take longer to develop, then how come I don't have to compensate for it playing low notes to sound like I'm in time?
    lfmn16 likes this.
  20. BazzTard

    BazzTard Banned

    I studied Physics at university, which part deals with the longer development time for bass notes? :)

    when you make a stupid statement, and people call you out, just admit it and move on.
    lfmn16 likes this.

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