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Getting "comfortable" with 3 finger technique.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by NickCormier, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. NickCormier


    Dec 3, 2006
    Ive been playing bass since May, basically starting from scratch with no teacher (moving around from city to city and school ending and getting new jobs, no time, been hectic few months) but I am a 4year guitarist so I have all the theory down and everything I need, its just technique that is totally screwing me up. (Its annoying knowing how to do something in your head, but your fingers wont let you do it!)

    Anyways, I spent that time trying to just comprehend the basics of fingerpicking style, before May I couldnt fingerpick at all, now I feel slightly comfortable with 2 finger style, and can play thru most Jamiroquai songs and other easy ones, but I am trying to adapt 3 finger and slap, and its really difficult

    When I use a 3 finger technique, mainly R-M-I-R, it just gets so inconsistent and doesnt "flow" like 2 finger does for me. Granted, I know since I learned naturally with 2 fingers, it will feel more natural and 3 finger takes time, but Im just curious if anyone has some good exercises that focus specifically on 3 finger technique (not scales up and down, I do that often), Just curious what you guys did/do to build up consistency for 3 finger technique.
  2. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    There are many ways to pluck with the fingers, its all about where the 1 is for many. As you can appreciate 3 into 4 does not go, 3 in to 8 does not go, but 3 in 12 does.
    In following 3 finger style the 1 is on the move because of this.

    I will show the 1 using inverted comas in a following finger style use.

    'R' M I R 'M' I R M 'I' R M I

    As you can see the one will now returned to the ring finger on the next beat. Following finger style just means the fingers follow left to right or right to left, it does not matter it is what the plyer feels comfortable with. In this situation you need to practice slow simple scales and follow the progress of the 1. Now this will entail getting your brain involved and it will get in the way and it will take time. Tapping out on the tableis a good exercise but with two hands. Use the 3 fingers of the plucking hand against the 4 fingers of the freting hand always.
    Start right to left so it is
    ring with index finger
    middle with middle finger
    index with ring finger
    ring with little finger
    middle with index finger
    index with middle finger
    ring with ring finger
    middle with little finger
    index with index finger
    ring with middle finger
    middle with ring finger
    index with little finger
    and now you back at the start to repeat.

    Obviously time sigs. that divide by 3 and triplets are easy because of the way the are constructed to buld in 3s.
    Time and patience is the key and getting the brain around it, not the fingers but the brain.
    Good link to Billy Sheehan on the subject.
  3. Rudyboy98


    Jan 25, 2008
    South Bay, CA

    That's not a bad way to go. I use the three finger technique myself and find it aggravating when I play and I am having to concentrate on the technique though. Creating a pattern seems easier said than done, but I have used a slightly altered technique:

    1. R M I
    2. I M R
    3. M I R

    Now, that may seem easy, until you play something that doesn't require triplets. And then, your technique goes to heck as you are watching your fingers and you screw up.

    That isn't to say it can't be done as Fergie Fulton described. Of course, I'm no expert, but my three finger technique comes more natural now after many years of playing.

    Go with your gut man! Practice makes perfect.


  4. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    You say "not scales up and down" - I would suggest you do your scales up and and down, skipping tensons etc. playing with three in the the R-M-I sequence you're comfortable with and play every note twice. Also practice string alternation doing the same thing - each note twice. This will force you into a four feel. The sooner you can concentrate on the sound of what you're doing rather than the mechanics, you will be well on your way to being a solid 3 finger player.
  5. mpm32


    Jan 23, 2009
    I use three and sometimes four. I never worry about plucking in order I R M or M R I. It all depends on the song and passage. If pedaling on one or two notes, I'll go in order but most of the time I'm not plucking in order.

    For example - lets say I'm playing something on the D and G strings and I need to hit the E string. My pinkie is the closest to the E string so that will most like get used.

    For me having my right hand adapt to what I'm playing works well - and I think that if I forced myself to pluck in order my playing would suffer - your mileage may vary.
  6. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    There 3 are main ways to play 3 finger, sorry i only gave you the one, it was the one you described, so i thought you wanted to develop it.

    1/ Following, which can be ring middle index or index middle ring. As the name sugests the finger follows from left to right or right to left. This will move the 1 about
    2/ Alternate, which is ring, middle, index, middle, ring, or index, middle, ring, middle, index which leaves the 1 on the starting finger.
    3/ Ocassional, which is a basic two finger technique in which the 3rd finger joins in when ever required. again this leaves you free from worring about the one and is the technique i mainly use as it is easy adaptable.

    Any one of the three is good so long as you get past thinking about them, and that is the problem....thinking to much on the technique.

    Some player have a problem in there fretting hand as they will develop the habit of following the fretting finger and can't seperate the two for a while. Tap it out on the table for 10 mins. a day or as a warm up and you will notice a difference in whatever one you choose. The visual reference of seeing both hands work is a good one to keep track of what is actualy happening.
    Try developing the ocassional and just blend in more 3rd finger as you progress.
    As for me i was trained in brass instruments as a kid, so the use of my three fingers in valve work stood me in good test, i had no problems when i started to play bass, my fingers just done it, i was my fretting hand that was the problem.
    Its about sorting out your brain rather than the fingers, as said practise makes perfect:bassist:
  7. NickCormier


    Dec 3, 2006
    I have no issues with which "order" the fingers go, i can play scales up and down all over the neck with R-M-I-R no problem, its all about getting the fingers consistent in attack and in odd string patterns (skipping strings, octave jumps, etc)
  8. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    That is for you to order and sort out, like i said it is a brain thing. You are dealing with two sides of the hand each with their own individual functions, two muscle main muscle groups, two main nerves, trying to function as one. The need to complement each other so you may have to do some extra work on the little finger side of the hand for dexterity and a little extra work on the thumb side for power. The split is little and ring finger one side, middle fore and thumb the other side, the middle finger share certain dual functions with both sides.

    Try a daily practice session of two finger techniques of only forefinger and ring and then middle and ring, then all three.
    Do 5 minutes on each( total 15 min session) and gauge how each session on how well the last three finger one went and adjust to suit. I would give it a couple of weeks then re-evaluate whats working.
    Some more info in the link if you the details of why your hands are so, and some exercise tips.


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