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Fingerstyle pick tone?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Only, Aug 12, 2004.

  1. Only


    Sep 8, 2002
    Warrensburg, MO
    Alright, I play exclusively fingerstyle. I can slap, too. I'm pretty much alright with all the techniques except two-handed tapping and double thumping. I'd like a pick tone for a rock project I'm getting started on, but the thing is...

    I'm pick retarded.

    I absolutely cannot play with a pick. I've tried, and invested hours into it, and it is simply not working. So, anyone know any technique or EQ tricks for getting a pickier tone from my digits?
  2. Heya Only,

    I'm the same way, I never use a pick, and im not quite good when i try. And there a some songs where the sound of a pick is really needed.

    I do something a bit different to accomodate both sounds.

    For fingerstyle i cut my finger nails really short on my first and second finger.

    For Pick sounds i grow out my ring and pinky nails just a little bit, it gives a 'kinda' pick sound. Ive gotten used to playing that way.

    But each to theyre own, honestly though, might be better to just grab a pick.
  3. I've been playing with my fingernails for years now (on 1 & 2 fingers). In places where I don't want the "picky" sound, I just turn down the treble!

  4. PhunkyPhish


    Jul 21, 2004

    Think about it, when you started fingerstyle, were you awesome at that? Or did you have to slowly get into it and really work. I'm sure its the same with a pick, start slowly and really build a good picking technique.

    However to your real question, I am entirely useless. So I'm just gonna rock :bassist:
  5. AllegroNonMolto


    May 15, 2004
    Go to a manicure salon, ask for acrylic nails(try to get the straightest nails they have but curved ones are still usable), heavy on the acrylic. File them down yourself until they are just long enough to hear them on every stroke.

    Those things can take a serious beating and sound identical to a pick.

    I got my i, m, a, p done regularly for nylon string classical guitar when I was in school but I played bass with them a few times and it sounded pretty great.
  6. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    Hold the pick like you would hold a key.
  7. Only


    Sep 8, 2002
    Warrensburg, MO
    Thanks guys for the tips..I do have another question though.

    When you say playing with your fingernails, do you mean playing normally, just hitting the string with the nail, or playing backwards, so only the nail hits the string?

    I've never been awesome at fingerstyle, but I've always felt at least competent at it. The first time I picked up a bass, I was playing fingerstyle, with close to correct technique, within five minutes. I can't even play 60 bpm with a pick. Even if I hold it like a key. I can't even play a scale. But my right hand is pretty rockin' by itself. At this point, it's seeming more viable to seek alternate techniques than a pick.

    I think I'll seek some acrylic nails in the next few days.

    Thanks again!
  8. play normally.

    if your nails are long enough the tips should be touching the strings.. giving a kinda pick sound.
  9. I think that's a kind of a funny thing to do. You don't need long nails to be a fingerstyle master, just some precision. Really, I mean it. They don't even have to reach past the tips of your fingers. In fact, that usually slows you down.
  10. AllegroNonMolto


    May 15, 2004
    I realize that. However I was blessed with paper thin nails that break off within 2 minutes of playing. With acrylic nails you can file them down as low as need be(i.e. very short) and they never break and need no maintenance at all...not to mention they give much more projection...I had the biggest, clearest tone in my school's guitar quartet for the three years I was there and through dozens of rotating students, and was one of two guys who actually performed every piece in every single version of the quartet(I also focused on getting a good tone for months before I even started learning pieces when I began playing...acrylics aren't the be all-end all for tone but they help a lot).

    Acrylic nails are the shiznit for classical guitar. I'm not the only player that uses them either...David Starobin, Eduardo Rodriguez...both pro players that use acrylics. They are a godsend for those of us with crappy nails.
  11. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH

    There are dozens of different types of picks - rigidity (mostly determined by thickness) and shape can make a big difference.

    Have you tried numerous different picks?

    I would bet that with a little persistence, you could play with a pick.
  12. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    to simulate a pick i do this:

    Thumb and first finger together like you are holding a pick. Then I use the nails and tips of my fingers like a pick. I have short nails so I use the flat part of my nail.

    Tips of my fingers are pretty hard to begin with. I get a decent pick tone that way..plus you get the down and up sound of the pick.

  13. Ozzyman


    Jul 21, 2004
    Rock sounds 1000x better with fingerstyle. Why would you want to emulate a pick?
    Steve Harris, Alex Webster, and Cliff Burton used fingerstyle, and they where rock GODS!
  14. David Russell as well, I think.

    When you mentioned acrylics, I immediately pictured someone using them to compensate for too-long nails.

    I'd still recommend trying your natural nails first. If you don't have breakage problems, no reason to go to some extra trouble.
  15. It helps me, when using a pick, to alternate up and down..one note strum upward, next down. etc etc.

    Run some scales using this alternating method. This will help you get the flow of it.
    I use an Ultex 1.14 pick when I use a pick.
  16. AllegroNonMolto


    May 15, 2004
    I would agree with that to a point. Some people's nails give great tone, some people's nails just don't. My duo partner in college was one of these people...his tone was just scratchy and it wasn't a technique thing, alas he wasn't as willing to subject himself to the ridicule of having big pink acrylic nails in the name of art as I was in school. Nail shape is a big factor in tone and I find with acrylics I can get just about any nail shape I want...

    Again though, this is a discussion about tone on bass, not guitar...and I would highly recommend acrylics + flatwounds for someone who actually wanted picking tone from fingerstyle bass(I personally wouldn't but different strokes, etc).
  17. re. eq tricks, boost at around 2khz for a cutting tone.
    also experiment with the angle of your plucking fingertips- a more pick-like tone results from them being more perpendicular to the string.

    re. using a pick, experiment with the strap length until the angle of your picking hand is most comfortable for you- it might be a bit higher than your favourite fingerstyle strap length.
  18. AllegroNonMolto


    May 15, 2004
    Another really good one to add to the EQ high mid bump:


    About 4:1 or 5:1 ratio, with attack set at around 30ms, threshold probably at -30.0 db...depending on the compressor you might even squeeze it harder than that.

    Those settings really bring out the sounds of the plucking itself, only bad thing is it also really brings out the fret noise and string slide noise, so good technique and a nice action setup is a must.

    In the studio I've been able to get a sound I can barely even tell is fingerstyle.
  19. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Because it gives a completely different tone. There are just as many great bassists who use a pick and sound great.

    Chris Squire, Micheal Anthony, Lemmy, Sir Paul, Jason Newsted, etc.

    To the original poster, it is definitely worth learning. I will bet money that if you only use a pick for a solid month you see a noticeable difference in your picking skills.

    As always start slow, because you will develop muscles that aren't used often when playing fingerstyle. Practice favorite lines, scales, etc. playing very slowly (making sure each note is even picked and has a clean sound with no buzz) and then slowly increase tempo.

    Like somebody said earlier, it took a bit of practice to get comfortable with fingerstyle, and it will be the same for pickstyle. Also, instead getting acrylic nails, maybe you could try finger picks first, that way the technique used would be very similar to fingerstyle.
  20. Only


    Sep 8, 2002
    Warrensburg, MO
    Many thanks, guys. I'm getting a pretty good approximation with the 2kh EQ boost and the compressor. Playing fingerstyle backwards is getting some good results, too. It seems the tone is in my nails. ;)

    I agree it's worth learning, but for some reason I can't seem to do it. It's not like a tried it for five minutes and said, "Eh. too hard. I quit." I've been trying to get it going the same way I started fingerstyle, and there's been absolutely NO improvement in my picking skills over a few months. That's practicing at least an hour every other day, here. And I still suck. However, with my bare hands, I'm not bad. I never had this kind of difficulty when starting fingerstyle, slapstyle, or typewriterstyle.

    So if I can approximate the sound with a technique I prefer, why not?