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Four-fingered plucking?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by 4StringFox, Feb 12, 2004.

  1. (Sorry if this is a repeat post -- I did a search first, I promise!)

    I'm a baby bassist (6 months old). I play fingerstyle 90% of the time. I find it easier and more natural to pluck with all four fingers when playing, especially on very fast and very slow songs. Other musicians seem bewildered by this, and a number have told me they've never seen a bassist do that before. Is it really all that weird? Does anyone else here do it? It's what works for me -- I mainly want to make sure there's not some Big Obvious Reason that (apparently) no one does it, and that I'm not imminently going to hurt myself somehow.
  2. I've been playing for about 7 months. I also play with all 4 of my fingers. It feels more natural. and I can shred so much faster. however, most speed can be accomplished by just using two fingers. which most bassist prefer. some players involve a third finger for triplets and extra speed and whanot. but some feel the pinky is not necessary. I prefer to learn every technique I can. playing with four fingers will not hinder you in anyway, in fact it will build better finger independence and finger dexterity. so rock on man. and keep on groovin
  3. I kinda play with four fingers. Index, middle, and ring fingers I pluck with, and I use the thumb to mute the strings when necessary.

    I come from a classical guitar background, so that's probably the main reason why I play like that. It definitely helps with speed, and my right hand rarely (if ever) gets tired. If you could even remotely hurt yourself playing that way, then classical guitar players would be in a world of hurt...
  4. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    Me too. I am currently in the "i-m with rare use of a" camp of fingerstyle player. The way I was taught to play the guitar was to rest my forearm on the bout (?) of the guitar such that my arm is balanced and my hand is in playing position over the strings. In the relatively static seated position that is usual for classical guitar, resting the forearm on the guitar stabilizes the hand. I sometimes wish that basses had a geometry that allowed you to play them in the same way. I believe in floating the thumb, both for stability/consistency and muting, but the problem for me is that there is no string for my to 'float' my thumb onto when I am playing on the E string (4 string bass). I can use float onto the pickups, but that is tone limiting. Have you noticed this too? If so, how do you deal with it?
  5. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just not the 'traditional' way of playing. We're kind of fortunate that our instrument is so new because we can do things like this without being frowned upon. You won't see many violinists that hold their bow different than 90% of other people. :) It should be said that most people's concern with the 4 finger approach is that the tone from the pinky doesn't match the other 3 fingers. So just make sure you focus on keeping the tone and volume the same with all fingers. Have fun!
  6. I haven't really noticed that, and I had to pick up the bass and play a little to realize what I was doing. When I play the E string, my thumb rests on the body of the bass above the strings. It doesn't support my hand, since I kinda rest my forearm on the edge of the bass.

    A couple of other things I noticed. I don't really do the follow-through pluck where your finger rests on the next string after a pluck; my thumb does most of the muting, and sometimes my fretting hand mutes too.

    Hope that helps. I never really planned on playing that way; it just came natural to me. Maybe something else will come natural to you. Whatever works for you...
  7. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I have tried at least three different RH positions.

    1) Forearm floats. Thumb floats onto ADG strings neck pickup, and supports some considerable fraction of the weight of the hand/forearm. This produces the fattest sound for me, but limits my RH to positions it can reach when the thumb is glued to the neck pickup.

    2) Forarem floats. Thumb floats onto ADG strings, and whatever part of the body is convenient. No tone limitations, but requires more forearm stablization than #1. Playing consistently and with good tone when switching from A to E strings is problematic with this one.

    3) Forearm floats, but I apply the heel of my RH to the body of the bass to stabilize the hand when playing on the E string. I still float the thumb, but mostly for muting purposes. The heel sometimes comes off the body of the bass to play on the G and D strings. In those cases the RH thumb is wedged between A/E strings and provides a solid anchor. Tone is inferior to #1 with this approach. I think it is because the hand is flatter and the strings are being pushed down more than sideways.

    4) Forearm is anchored on bout of bass. I wish I could get this to work for me, but the geometry is too cramped to be comfortable and either my Pedulla or Lull. The contact point is too far down my forearm for me to be able to balance my arm classical guitar style. I still try this from time to time, but without huge success.

    I used to think that the objective was to identify the 'best' option above, and use it exclusively. I have slowly come to the realization that each groove/line/tune has different technical and tonal requirements, and that having facility with each of the approaches, and knowing when to use it, is probably the best course.

    WRT your RH finger stroke: I got David Tannenbaum's book on the 20 (Segovia) Sor Studies, and was very surprised to read that a lot of the stuff I would play rest stroke he plays free stroke. He stressed that you need to develop your free stroke technique so that you can play with emphasis without resorting to rest stroke. If memory serves #5 in Bm is an example of one where he plays the melody free stroke, but I play it rest stroke. Would you call your RH technique 'free stroke'?
  8. Yeah, it's definitely free stroke, but the thing is, it probably sounds more like a rest stroke due to the almost constant muting of the next higher string(s) by my thumb (I tend to strike the strings in a diagonal, across and down). That way, I can play fast, slow, hard, soft without having to adjust the way my plucking fingers act (well, all obvious adjustments aside, anyway).

    I should also probably point out that I never had professional, classical guitar education. I'm self taught, so I probably did alot of things wrong. I don't recal ever using the rest stroke when I played, though that might be due in part to the fact that I always played with my fingertips, not the nails. That, however, made my transition to bass more easy.

    BTW, I always loved Sor's studies. Him and Carcassi.
  9. I think the four finger technique as a means to play faster is garbage, if it feels good for you and you can get a good tone with all four fingers than do what you want, but I know someone who learned the four finger technique and practiced it for a year and he cannot play any faster than I can with two. Upright players can get as much speed as electric bassists, even though upright strings are much harder to move, and almost none of them play with four fingers (it is very difficult physically to play with four).
  10. Wantsafoderabas


    Feb 11, 2004
    It's great you are using 4 fingers. What ever you feel comfortable with you should do. It doesnt matter that you play different from other people. It's just your style. Kinda like the way you talk, your personality, you apparience. Everyone is unique so dont be fooled by the looks of your style. Do your whatever you feel its rigth :)
  11. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    Read this thread then was on the bass thereafter and thought about it. Someone commented about even tone. Personally I can't get the same tone from different fingers. It's like using a different thickness pick. It just doesn't sound the same. More a concern is volume. It's very difficult to get even volume no matter how you play, which in part is why compressors are so popular. Then you throw a volume pedal in to compensate for that and soon you have no dynamic capability or tonal flexibility from technique. Jammerson used to play almost exclusively with one finger - a bit extreme in the other direction. So I'd just say pay attention to the sound next time you play and draw your own conclusions as to what direction you want to take.

    Depending on what you're playing a lot of times it won't matter anyway. But if you're recording or you've got space in the music, it may become more apparent.

    Which is not to say to abandon what you're doing. You'll naturally gravitate to what meets you're needs.
  12. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I think the reason why 4 finger RH technique isn't the 'norm' has to do with finger length. Most 2 finger players angle their hand back toward the bridge to compensate for the extra length of the middle finger. Once your hand is in this position, using your ring finger or pinky is awkward. However, if it works for you, go for it. For myself, two fingers are all I need, except for places where there are lots of string crossings. However, when I try to use my ring finger, it doesn't balance well with the other fingers. I used to play a lot of classical guitar, so my RH ring finger is independent, etc, but I think the wider string spacing of the bass makes it more difficult for me to use on the bass, than when I was playing guitar.
  13. rockrollain


    Feb 23, 2004
    Crofton MD
    Go for what ya know, if 4 works for ya then go for it!!! I use three fingers personally :p

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