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Having Trouble Strumming Quickly

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by The_Gallows7, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. The_Gallows7


    Sep 25, 2013
    Hey everyone. I was wondering if anyone could give me a few ideas, it'll require some out of the box thinking--I've got one hand and I use the tip of my stump/nub to strum. (I have a thread in the welcome forums with more detail)

    As it is, I use doctors tape over my small "fingers" to help to develop a callous. It's worked wonders so far. However, I tend to lose timing when I've got to strum quickly on eighth and sixteenth notes depending on the tempo. Typically, I strum down on whole and quarter notes, but anything faster I strum down, then up, repeat.

    Any ideas on how I could improve? Practice has helped, but I foresee a possible wall on my accuracy, power, and timing abilities. Thanks!
  2. The_Gallows7


    Sep 25, 2013
    I'm sure someone has an idea! Don't worry, I can take criticism and my feelings aren't hurt easily
  3. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    You have a pretty unique situation, making it much harder to give suggestions over the Internet. I would say just keep practicing, your rhythm will improve. But get a good teacher for at least a few lessons, that will make a huge difference.
  4. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    Id love a picture of the strumming hand/arm.. A better idea of the joints and usable leverage would help alot
  5. The_Gallows7


    Sep 25, 2013
  6. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    Link doesn't work?
  7. The_Gallows7


    Sep 25, 2013
    Should be fixed, copied the wrong links
  8. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    There's a guy in Kalamazoo with one arm. He tears it up doing hammer ons with his left hand. Do you really have to use your right arm?

    Here he is:
  9. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    That's Bill Clements. Super nice guy.
  10. The_Gallows7


    Sep 25, 2013
    It's the left that's missing, I use a lefty setup. And honestly, I've tried with hammer-ons, my friends ask me why I don't try it that way, I just happen to be comfortable using it to strum in most scenarios. It helps with muting, rests, and ghosts. I'm stubborn like that :)

    I was born this way, it makes sense (in my mind) to utilize what I do have on the left arm/stump/nub/bubbagump
  11. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    It looks like you actually have fingertips or something at the end of your arm there. So are you holding a pick? Or are you trying to use the fingertips to pluck the string?

    Fingerpicking requires some flexibility in the wrist and fingers, which you obviously don't have. So you would end up moving your whole arm quite a bit when picking, especially when moving from string to string. Can you rotate your forearm? A short video of how you currently pick notes might help.

    If you can use a pick, maybe that might work well. Maybe you can make (or have built) a pick-holding "glove", something that straps to the end of your arm and holds a pick. That way you would be able to have the pick at a slight distance (an inch or so) away from your arm, giving you a bit of the leverage that you don't currently have.

    And, while I admire the heck out of Bill Clements, that kind of hammering is only good for some styles of playing. A fat, smooth groove would be hard to pull off with only fretting-hand hammer-ons. It certainly wouldn't hurt to work on your fretting hand articulation and use it more than other players, but I agree that you want to have your main plucking initiated by the other hand.
  12. The_Gallows7


    Sep 25, 2013
    I should be able to upload a video later on, gunna be jamming with a buddy later. The arm is, in fact, able to rotate, even slightly more than most (legit, I can lick my elbow).

    Also, those are fingers. Or the formation of them. I use the smallest one (the pinky) to gain leverage against the strings. I have ripped them off before, too. They're essentially flesh type bubbles, and it hurts after playing a few hours, but I'm over that. The fingers are an essential part of my strumming technique, strumming up I use the "thumb".

    I've tried quite a few methods and have found one that is particularly comfortable while either sitting or standing. The doctors tape is just a thin wall between my fingers and the strings, as to not cause too much damage quickly.

    Edit: I tried taping a puck up to the nub once, however it became difficult to keep together and the fact that I couldn't feel the strings I was attempting to strum made it nearly impossible to keep time or pluck evenly.
  13. funnyfingers


    Nov 27, 2005
    Would flat wounds help?
  14. The_Gallows7


    Sep 25, 2013
    Ya know, I played with those on a friend's bass recently. I liked em, I may pick some up. I'd still like to use up these strings first (they're fairly new) and they'll help me callous the fingers. The tip of my arm is pretty tender
  15. The only advice I could offer is don't bother trying to play like anyone else. Try to develop a style that suits you. I know that sounds simplistic, but it worked for Django Reinhardt. Perhaps don't focus too much on 16th notes, and more on just playing very cool bass lines. I know a bass player who lost his thumb (left hand) in a work accident. Instead of quitting, he just completely changed his style to suit what he can do. He's a better bass player now than he was before the accident; perhaps because he gives more thought to the notes he's playing than technique.

    Perhaps active pickups could help as well, so you don't have to actually pluck every note you play. Perhaps some of the more knowledgeable bassists here could tell you more about that. There's always a way though, and I'm sure you'll find it.

    All the best,
  16. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    Have you tried kind of thumping the strings? I dont mean in a slap-bass way necessarily, but a softer, boomier attack.. i use it for boomy sub-bass sounds with effects, but the smooth but heavy attack is fat, versatile because you can always hit hard enough to bite, and it really lends itself to easy connected hammer runs.. i know the inquiry was fast plucking, but... tangent
  17. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    If chugging 16ths are a big part of your playing, maybe a nonstandard tuning would help... hear me out..

    If you tune to minor thirds, you could tap the 3rd or fourth note with your fretting hand one string over on the same note
    B B B B
    U D H U. up dwn hmmer up
    7 7 (10) 7. Whrre (10) is a fret hammer one string lower, 3 frets over, producing the same note (remember, tuned to minor thirds)
  18. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    I don't have any magic answer for you, but I respect the hell out of your desire to make music and positive attitude. Rock on, my brother. :cool:
  19. porterbass

    porterbass Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2013

    You rock!

    Have you ever heard of Randy Lewis? Great singer and bass player, famous in the 70's and 80's in Southern Rock music. In the 90's, he played a lot in Key West, which is where I last saw him. That show was just him on bass and vocals, Bobby Donaldson on guitar, outdoors at Hog's Breath. Amazing. Still one of the most memorable live performances I've ever seen.

    Randy had a similar situation as you, and was very good on bass. He had a device that attached to his "plucking" arm that you can see in this video:

    Good luck and let us know how you progress!
  20. huckleberry1


    Jul 1, 2013
    Mesquite, Texas
    I don't think its possible to stop you,bro-get with a creative buddy with a knack for design and if you want a more natural sound than use a felt type pick in whatever design you choose or a regular in a different application with a simple prosthetic. When you do this PLEASE post a video of it to inspire the rest of us as I assure you it will.

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