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From fingers to a pick

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by mattattack187, Jan 18, 2017.

  1. mattattack187

    mattattack187 Bass Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    Ellsworth, ME
    I was practicing some songs from the Punk genre last night and finger picking just wasn't cutting it so I switched to a pick. I've never played with one for more than five minutes. It feels like a whole different mind set playing that way and it exposed my poor left hand technique when it comes to muting and going up and down between strings. It almost felt harder moving from fret to fret. The good thing is, I really liked the tone. A P Bass through the VT Bass DI produced a pretty aggressive monster of a sound. I'll keep practicing but do any other players who primarily play finger style have similar issues translating over to a pick?
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Naturally, any new technique is going to feel alien at first. Carol Kaye is one of the most iconic pick players. In the link below (see tips numbers 26 & 27) she gives advice on how to use a pick and at the same time, avoid potential injury problems.

    The Official Carol Kaye Web Site
  3. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I've been playing pick and finger style for a long time so I don't really remember, but I see a lot of people on TB who try a pick and seem to think that because they've been playing bass for years there should be no adjustment period. It takes a lot of practice to get good with a pick, especially picking smoothly across strings.
  4. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I've tried and failed a few times. I don't like feeling disconnected from the strings like that.
    rks, Mind Eroded, MojaveVox and 10 others like this.
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yeah be able to do both. It's a whole new world and I avoided it way too long myself. I had been playing over a decade before I let go of my "fingers are the only way" mindset. I'm glad I did.

    Good luck with it!
    Kubicki Fan, matante and Sartori like this.
  6. mrb327


    Mar 6, 2013
    Nobody Knows
    It's taken me about a year to get proficiently decent using a pick. Some songs still give me fits

    Mine was out of need though, not desire. Broke a finger on my right hand last year and couldn't pluck.
    nixdad likes this.
  7. Although I stopped playing with a pick lately, it's a great tool to have. Especially with a P (that I don't have anymore), what a classic sound! As mentioned, it takes time and effort. For some reason, playing with a pick on bass is much tougher than on guitar, at least for me. It can be frustrating at first but worth the hassle especially if you play punk / punk rock where a pick is almost a necessity. When I started using a pick, I practiced some easy but relatively fast punk pop songs (Blink 182, Green Day...) and it helped improving my attack for both down/upstroke as well as getting a feel for pick playing. My Generation solos are also a good exercise to build up speed while working on articulation, but you may not want to start there right away :)

    Forgot to mention I am a follower of Carol Kaye's method: although I love the sound of playing with a pick closer to the bridge, I don't want to sacrifice my wrist over it so I stick to playing very close the junction fretboard/body :)
    nixdad likes this.
  8. mattattack187

    mattattack187 Bass Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    Ellsworth, ME
    Great stuff guys.
  9. And regarding muting, I use similar muting techniques than with fingers:
    - mute lower strings with right hand (floating thumb when fingerpicking, side of the palm when playing with pick) and/or tip of the fretting finger
    - mute upper strings while resting the fretting finger and/or other fingers on them
    petch, Crazy Otto, nixdad and 5 others like this.
  10. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i've never truly played with a pick (maybe a few short phrases on recordings) and it has always seemed 'limiting' to me --- because i'm not good at it. i too would like to become more proficient at it. maybe some lessons. thanks for the carol kaye reference, fearceol . :thumbsup:
    nixdad likes this.
  11. Systolic

    Systolic Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2009
    Took me multiple months to get comfortable with a pick as well, and like many here, I was quite surprised by how tricky the transition was. Now I split my time about 50/50 between fingers and pick.
    nixdad and Mystic Michael like this.
  12. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    If I ever commit to learning I'd want to emulate Bobby Vega's technique more than Carol Kaye.
    redhed, nixdad, Matt R. and 3 others like this.
  13. mindwell


    Aug 17, 2006
    Wichita, KS
    Good enough for Danko and Spampinato, good enough for me when it's called for.
  14. morgan138


    Dec 10, 2007
    Couple more options:
    • If you're fretting with a finger that's not your index, mute all the strings by lightly fake barre-ing your index over them
    • Use the tip of your fretting finger to mute the next lower string
    • When you're playing open strings, drop your left thumb over the top of the neck Hendrix-style to mute the lowest 1-2 strings
  15. morgan138


    Dec 10, 2007
    As someone who went from playing fast punk/metal bass as a dabbler who was really a guitar player, to now being mainly a bassist in my serious bands, I'd say the most helpful thing was:

    Really paying attention to up- and down-strokes, and making sure I'm hitting downstrokes on the downbeats even if that means sometimes starting a phrase with an up-stroke.

    EDIT: the other really helpful thing is the Rezillos LP. Highly recommended!
  16. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    Dude, amen to that. I still like playing with my fingers too, I have for over 15 years. But a couple years ago, I wanted more attack and punch. So I picked the pick up. I’ve played with a pick many times before in the years leading up to that, but it always felt foreign and weird and I kinda sucked with it. So it usually didn’t last long at all. This time though I was trying to get a particular sound for a newer song my band was working on so I picked it, and I loved the way it sounded so I relented and no matter if I thought I couldn’t play a certain song with a pick, I played anyway, no matter if I messed up or not. I just kept at it. There is a rather large technical change in fingers to pick. I’m still not awesome at it, but I’m not bad at all. And that attack!! Oh the attack, I love it. I use an ATK 300 too so it sounds really great and I get a whole new dimension to my playing and tone. It really suites my band’s sound quite well. So I just stuck with it.

    So I know exactly what you mean man. I’m more a pick player than a finger player these days. I just like the sound you get, the attack, the presence in the mix, the driving pick tone. I also think it’s a little easier to sing and play at the same time this way too. It’s also caused me to write differently in a great and inspiring way. It’s just cooler IMO. I used to be a finger purist haha ;) but now, I can go either way but prefer a pick.
  17. vivaknoxvegas

    vivaknoxvegas El Duderino Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2002
    Knoxville, TN
    Playing with a pick kind of reigns me in. I can get sloppy / too aggressive with my fingers. I don't know why this happens but I kind of cut loose more when it's just fingers. Playing with a pick forces me to be more accurate, but I may be weird in this aspect.
    morgan138 likes this.
  18. I play about 50/50. Playing with a pick can make an easy song pretty challenging at first, and I totally agree on it exposing left hand weakness.

    I try to learn songs in both fingerstyle and pick now.
    Mystic Michael and hopwheels like this.
  19. morgan138


    Dec 10, 2007
    As far as pick vs. fingers go, the weirdest difference for me is that I don't really worry about which finger leads when plucking, and I pretty consistently re-use the same finger when moving to a lower string. Whereas like I posted above, when picking I try to be super aware of that stuff.

    Honestly though, it's just that I don't play fast music with my fingers. If I was doing that, I'd probably have to "fix" my right hand. :unsure:
    Mr. Sound and corndog like this.
  20. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    I play with a pick almost exclusively with my cover band. It makes huge difference when trying to cut through a mix with two guitars who use a good bit of distortion.

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