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Gary Willis' finger style difficulties, should I switch back to how I used to play?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bassmanwho, Jan 24, 2006.

  1. bassmanwho


    Jul 3, 2004
    Hello dear friendly Tbers:

    I’d like to ask for suggestions from you concerning my technique problem. I’ve been practicing Gary Willis’ three finger alternative plucking style for one and a half year, but there are two things holding me back, which gave me the idea that I should switch back if the technique doesn’t suit me well. First, I can’t incorporate it into my playing when playing in live situation. Seems my technique on this doesn’t quite catch up with the stuff I’m doing. So on stage my fingers automatically switch back to two finger style and when I intend to switch to the new style, it feels unnatural. When practicing its okay, though not better, compared with the old style I used to play. Another thing is that since my fingers are short and I have preference over standard Fender jazz basses, which have 20mm string spacing, unlike Gary, who has long fingers and play basses with closer string spacing, I found I could not nail the technique down quite well after hours of practicing. I do enjoy some of the benefit brought by the technique, such as less shifting on the right hand and much clean sound. But as it brings frustration even though I tried hard, I’m considering switching back. However I am not sure it’s because I didn’t practice enough to make it a second nature or just some “physical limitation”, so I’d like to hear opinion from you guys. I’ve joined the society and am found people here are helpful and friendly. Thank you for your suggestions!

  2. EmmSee


    May 23, 2004
    Boston, MA
    It seems like playing Gary's style does not come off naturally to you... so you should probably go with what works best for you.

    Good luck. Peace!
  3. bassmanwho


    Jul 3, 2004

    Thanks! I've been considering for a while. Maybe I should switch back. Gary's style is great when playing classic, which has a lot of string crossings... the fingerstyle helps lessen the necessary movement on the right hand. But this is the only benefit I can get out of it.
  4. learn every style you can and use what you are best at
  5. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    try just two fingers and a thumb instead , i can't do the three finger thing either .
  6. Steve Brooks

    Steve Brooks

    Jan 6, 2005
    upstate ny
    The three finger technique is something that the musical situation demands. If you are playing something triplet based or in a three pulse, you should use this technique. A dual pulse would only require two RH fingers, as the two grouping would keep you in line with the music. I use a combination of 3 and 2 for complex times, such as 5/4, 7/8, 11/8, etc. 5/4 would be 3 + 2, so 3-2-1-2-1. 7/8 is 3+2+2, so 3-2-1-2-1-2-1. If you need this explained in greater detail, PM me.
  7. First question you need to ask yourself:

    Do you need that speed? 2 fingers can be damn fast three can be even more.

    then it'S pretty normal at least for me to switch to 2 finger technique when the speed is not needed.

    I use 3 fingers only when I can't play at that speed with two.

    Other than bossting your max speed there are no advantages to playing with 3 fingers.
  8. bassmanwho


    Jul 3, 2004
    Gentlemen! Thank you for the replies. My questions is, Gary's 3-finger style is not about boosting the speed while striking the same string, but to alternatively use conbinations of index, middle and middle ring fingers to achieve better mutting and string-crossing. And by doing this the fingers are laid on different strings while playing, that's my problem is. Cause I don't feel natural when stroking with index, middle, while the ring finger rests on upper string. I think it's because the length of my fingers.
    I'm still using the technique recently while practicing simply becuase I think it's a pity to give up the technique after 1.5 year... well... I still have no idea how to improve it even though I've watched the instructional video many times.
  9. ninnlangel

    ninnlangel Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2005
    France, Switzerland
    Have you taken lessons with Gary about it ?
  10. bassmanwho


    Jul 3, 2004
    Well, he's on the other hemisphere :meh:
  11. strap height?
  12. adisu

    adisu I admit it, I'm a "user"

    Apr 8, 2005
    Yes i remember this one... i tried to learn it also when i moved to six strings not long ago but i gave up very fast.
    His 3 fingers technique is very complecated and unlike other 3 fingers players (like billy sheehan for example) he use them in a very specific way to play and mute.
    I think this technique is too complexed and fit only the ones who starts their bass playing with this technique and with 3 fingers from the begining (like willis himself).

    what i actually did take from Gary's technique is the floathing thumb thing to mute the above strings while going up (tone wise) on the BG.
  13. ninnlangel

    ninnlangel Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2005
    France, Switzerland
    He gives webcam lessons, works great, I did that once !

    As for his technique, he told me he developped that later, didn't start with it at all.
  14. ninnlangel

    ninnlangel Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2005
    France, Switzerland
    Webcam lessons are a possibility, and where are you from ? Fill your profile in !
  15. adisu

    adisu I admit it, I'm a "user"

    Apr 8, 2005
    Yes i know, but he started to play with 3 fingers from day one.
    For the two fingers players it's much harder because they have to first get used to using 3 fingers and than try to play with gary's unusual plucking.
  16. ninnlangel

    ninnlangel Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2005
    France, Switzerland
    Been there, done that... Couldn't make it work for me, I decided to get on the Matt Garrison bandwagon and learn T - I - M - R. It's hard work, but I feel like I can start to get the benefits soon...
  17. I got on with the Willis technique a lot better once I put ramps on a couple of my basses. I only really use it for string crossing, either linear lines, or for things like jumping octaves.
  18. ninnlangel

    ninnlangel Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2005
    France, Switzerland
    The ramps and light touch are the two aspects I really implemented in my playing, as well as occasional ring finger use...
  19. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    He's got probably the best muting and string crossing technique out there, but I could never get a handle on keeping one finger stationary on a higher string while the other two plucked. He goes over it all in his old video-it's a very complex technique and difficult to get comfortable with.
  20. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    Yes,you should go back to the 2 fingers's technique.
    It has to feel natural when you play.