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Getting inconsistent tone with middle finger, need help

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Thom Fioriglio, Jan 31, 2020.


  1. I am having trouble getting a consistent tone and rhythm from plucking with their middle finger? Any advice or suggestions?

    Here is the background info. I started playing as a teen back in the 80s and always used a pick. Life gets on, I stop playing for 15 years and recently have picked up the bass again and I am loving it. I want to develop playing with my fingers instead of a pick. I practice everyday. The problem I have is with tone and rhythm consistency. I can play fine using just my pointer finger (like Jamerson) but when I use my middle finger, its just not working for me. For one, its a different tone. My middle finger pluck sounds brighter and harsher. I also can't get a consistent rhythm using both pointer and middle fingers. I keep going back to a pick (I started using the Wedgie 3.1mm hard rubber pick which is close to a finger style sound).

    Is this a common problem? Do others have inconsistent tone with your pointer and middle finger? Will it just come with time and practice?

    Thanks

    Thom
     
  2. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Yes, it will come with time and practice, if your practice is good.
    My advice is to practice walking lines with alternating fingers, so you're playing just quarter notes. Play slowly as you need to but fast as you can while producing a smooth consistent sound.
     
    mambo4 and Thom Fioriglio like this.
  3. This is something we all wrestle with in the beginning. Our goal as performers is to take something disparate, and through practice, make it sound consistent.
     
    Thom Fioriglio likes this.
  4. tshapiro

    tshapiro Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2015
    Jax Florida
    It's a natural struggle, but, there is so much more you can do with your fingers/hands than with a pick(Muting, finger/thumb, chugging, thump/pop).But, it takes years to develop. My suggestion is to not use a pick for at least a few years. As a guitar convert I played bass for years with only a pick. But at this point, I don't ever use a pick because I have so much more control with my hands and fingers. And, I say 'hands' because I regularly use my palm pads for muting and bracing as well as creating rhythmic patterns.
     
    Thom Fioriglio likes this.
  5. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    This is the correct response to probably 85% of the questions in the technique forum.
     
    AGCurry likes this.
  6. Thanks all who responded. I guess as a follow up question or comment, the tip of my middle finger doesn’t have as much meat on it as my pointer and my nail still seems to catch the string no matter how short I cut it, leading to a brighter tone from my middle finger than plucking with my pointer. Do others have this issue?
     
  7. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    Can you post a video or at least a snapshot of you playing?

    honestly your problems make me wonder if your right hand position is healthy.
    It is not difficult to position your right hand for even and consistent plucking.
    But it is also easy to do wrong, making things more difficult.

    What would Adam Neely suggest?
     
    Thom Fioriglio likes this.
  8. Thanks mambo4 for the vid. Lots of good advice. I did cut my nails as low as they can go and that did help. Also, taking my time and going slowly. This is something I will have to continue to practice. IMG_5383.JPG IMG_5379.PNG IMG_5380.PNG IMG_5382.PNG
     
  9. gbrooding

    gbrooding Supporting Member

    Dec 22, 2011
    I have to really be diligent to keep my finger nails short on my right hand, as I can run into the same issue with my nail striking the string, leading to a sharper string strike than I like. I just keep them short and out of the way. I carry 2 clippers/files in my gig bag at all times!
     
    Thom Fioriglio likes this.
  10. MixBass

    MixBass

    Feb 23, 2006
    L.A. Harbor
    Co-founder. GrabAxe
    It’s good you’re aware of the inconsistencies in tone.
    When playing live with others it’s not as noticeable as when recording. That’s when I really notice the difference. For starters
    the harmonic overtones are very different simply due to where the finger hits the strings. Then add the difference in flesh meeting string and length of finger and angle etc, no surprise it sounds different.
    I suspect part of the reason Jamerson used one finger was this, along with coming from the UBS domain.
    Def no nails clicking and lots of practice will help.
    And when the line allows, try getting used to one finger.
     
    Thom Fioriglio likes this.
  11. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    The photos help. My response is still remote, and won't compare to a face to face review with a legit teacher, and I apologize if any of this is too rudimentary, but here goes:

    Your finger length variation is completely normal, mine are exactly the same.
    Your middle nail does come quite close to the tip, but I don't feel that ought to be a problem.

    The biggest factor negatively impacting things is likely the bend in your wrist.
    I'd review the Adam Neely video and adjust your bass and arm position.

    Stand up, lower the bass, straighten your right wrist.

    Curve you fingers more, notice how as you curve them the difference in length evens out.
    pluck with more of the meat of your finger pads, not just the very tip - pads, not tips. Don't just hit the strings or flick across them like a pick. You want to get under them and actually pull the string in the direction of the ceiling.

    Build a physical awareness of the strength of your plucking, find an optimal level:
    pluck as lightly as you can and still produce a good sound, call that "level 1"
    pluck as hard as you can (and still produce a good sound ) - "level 3"
    then try to find what it feels like to pluck at "Level 2"
    go back and forth a few times to learn how each level feels, with each finger individually.

    Another thing to practice is deliberately alternating hard/soft plucks between fingers
    first , while alternating fingers, pluck hard with you index and soft with your middle
    then reverse it - all while maintaining steady 8th notes

    What you are doing is teaching yourself how plucking dynamics feel.

    I'm assuming you are using amp /headphones.
    Unplugged is useless for dynamics and tone.

    and as always:
     
    Thom Fioriglio likes this.

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