For the beginner - pizzicato with one or two fingers

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Michal Herman, Dec 25, 2014.

  1. Michal Herman

    Michal Herman

    May 31, 2013
    I noticed, that lot of upright bass players play mainly (or only) using just index finger for pizzicato. So when I started playing upright bass I played that way.
    My teacher (person with music school degree) told me, that I should play using index and middle finger (like all the time) and that this will give me more possibilities in future.

    What do you guys think? Should I as a beginner start more focusing on playing with two fingers, or maybe to focus more on getting good sound with only one?
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    If you trust your teacher, I'd at least work on what your teacher says. If you don't trust your teacher, you need a new teacher.

    That said, it isn't necessarily an either/or thing. Many bassists primarily walk with their index finger (or their index supported by the middle finger) and then use two fingers for soloing or when need otherwise dictates. It couldn't hurt to have a certain comfort level and ability with both.
    Jeff Bonny likes this.
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    There are many ways to get good pizz tone. If you do a search on the jazz forum you should see a few threads covering this topic. One from a few months ago detailed how many different ways there were. I expect that your teacher is trying to help you get a better and stronger tone and it's easier to do that with multiple fingers. Lynn Seaton showed me a technique he called *the wave* in which you use your all of the fingers of your right hand. John Goldsby demonstrated using his fingers perpendicular to the strings and still got a very bright, full, aggressive tone. It may be easiest to get a good tone with all of the fingers, and I still use it along with other techniques. Once you're used to producing good tone, I found it became easier to use different techniques. Ultimately, if you aspire to be a good bassist, I think you should learn as many techniques as possible because all of them have a slightly different tone and use.
  4. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Your index finger is the strongest, it pulls the best tone if you're walking hard. I've learned to use index and middle finger. The middle finger is useful for bossa, accents and rhythmic figures. Straight walking is all index. I try to always use the index finger on the ONE.
    Levin likes this.
  5. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Myself, i generally use the index until the music requires the use of the middle too. By using the index primarily, i feel i get a more consistent tone. For faster passages, or swing accents, i will use both fingers in an alternating way.
  6. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    Both. Study the differences between playing with your index finger, index and middle, AND alternating both (semi like electric players).
    Chris Fitzgerald and Seanto like this.
  7. Has you "teacher with a music degree" demoed his point to you? Better yet, have you gone to any of his gigs? If so,you will know if he "walks the talk".
  8. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    Be able to play (consecutive) either index OR middle finger ( NOT ALTERNATING 1-2-1-2 ) for Walking.
    Like this fella:

    Here is a clear example of the RH wrist "drop" or "break" starting @ 1:53 - 2:02 (Note that Drew uses both his middle finger, as well as his first finger, but NOT alternating "1-2-1-2").
    The motion of the wrist, arm and shoulder, is worth noting - as well as the strength of his quarter-notes.
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I like to use all the possible permutations of finger combinations as scale/arpeggio warmups, thereby attacking multiple avian creatures with one chunk of compressed mineral matter. It's always fascinated me to observe how much the right and left hands affect each other when working together.

    EDIT: Many players report that when they start practicing with the bow their left hands seem to forget how to play. I think what's really going on here is that playing the bass is a unified activity, and that when you weaken one aspect, you weaken the whole because the mind is pulled away from what it knows how to do to focus on something it doesn't. Finger combinations in the RH have the same effect on me: at this point, I can play at a consistent level in the left hand when plucking i-i-i-i, m-m-m-m, i-m-i-m. or m-i-m-i. But when I switch to the NHØP r-m-i-r-m-i paradigm, my intonation and stability in the left hand suffers.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
    Levin and mtto like this.
  10. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    I like to isolate the RH "walking quarter note" motion with beginning students.
    Sometimes it's a good idea to isolate just one bird in the flock at a time...IMHO.
    Previously on TB:

    Attached Files:

  11. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    Chris - you might be interested in the "Bilateral Transfer..." phenomenon, mentioned in the post below: (from a discussion concerning the book "A Contemporary Concept of Bowing Technique for the Double Bass", by Fred Zimmerman).

    don kasper
  12. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    There are even more than two fingers on your right hand up to do all the pizzicatos you ever dreamed to execute, as this video so very clearly shows:

    Boy, one really gotta love Ben Websters phrasing.
    He makes even NHOP play in a relaxed way.
    While Oscar Peterson seems to have too many fingers left over to use in his voicings ...
    There may be moments when too many notes are too much ...
    It could be a question of taste ...

    //sarcasm on
    If you watch this video often enough his technique will blend in your playing naturally
    //sarcasm off

    No, but really: there are a lot of threads in this forum that states: it is the 'inner urge' that commands you to play something should come before technique. You first imagine a sound and then figure out how to play it.

    Otherwise you will get be in the 'empty virtuousis' style, that is not good for you or the other musicians or the audience and fetches nothing good, only brings you bad karma.

  13. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Inactive

    Nov 20, 2000
    Harrison Mills
    What do I think? I think that you're extremely ill advised to be getting online second guessing your teacher. Even a cursory mechanical analysis confirms two fingers gives more technical options. Like Lee said if you trust him do as he asks, if you don't find one you do trust and do as he asks. If you'd spent a focused forty hours practicing getting a big sound with alternating fingers you would have been full of "how?" based questions not "why?" based ones. Do the work and the why of things becomes obvious.
    Lee Moses likes this.
  14. I totally agree that you must, sooner or later, learn to use both fingers and to do so with a consistently even tone and volume.

    However, I hesitate to accept that two fingers alternating (especially if used in a bass guitar type stroke) will ever match the sound or volume achieved with the side of the end of the index finger, especially if supported by the middle finger.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm not sure the hemisphere reference is exactly current scientific thinking, but I agree that isolating skills in each hand is extremely important. Ultimately, our brains are like processor chips with a limited amount of RAM, and if one "app" (hand) is taking up a lot of juice, it leaves less for the rest. Unfortunately, in my case, the three finger thing is something that I simply haven't put in my 10,000 hours with yet. It needs to be kept current like any skill, and when practice time gets scarce, it's one of the first things I jettison as a priority.
  16. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    With all respect, Chris, I admire your playing & teaching, it is way above my head and body. But here I feel an urge to say something that is:
    Nah, we humans are not machines neither is our brain made of chips. This way of thinking turns us, our imagination and feelings, spirit and body, into production line workers that could be seen so eloquently in Charlie Chaplins 'Modern Times'.

    In my view playing music is not a process that should be 'streamlined' for better efficiency et al. Who really thinks that playing faster is better? This is not the double bass forum for the drummers double bass drum, is it?

    Instead it should be serve to traduce emotions that we receive from the music. So if your mind (body & soul) commands you to use two fingers or three to get a sound out on the bass they will follow and you will practize in a good way, with a need and a sense. Not the other way around.

    This is what I tried to say in the post above to the OP ... Imagination is first, and your body will follow ...
    korotkov likes this.