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How exactly to play fingerstyle?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Murmaider, Oct 23, 2013.

  1. Murmaider


    Oct 20, 2013
    I'm getting a bass pretty soon but I'm just wondering how exactly this is done. I've had a problem with anchoring my pinky on guitar, so I'm wondering if it's still considered bad to plant your thumb on a pickup or whatever like I see many bassists do. Is your hand supposed to be just floating above the strings with no contact on the guitar or is it ok to anchor your thumb on bass? And also, am I flicking the strings, plucking, or tapping/smacking them with my fingers?

    Thank you! \m/
  2. senp5f


    Jan 27, 2008
    Santa Barbara, CA
    It's a matter of taste mostly. Lots of players anchor the thumb on a pickup for the lowest string (E or B) and then anchor on the next lowest string when playing higher strings (eg, anchor on E when playing the A string).

    This helps mute unplayed strings. Other players float the thumb and have different strategies for muting strings. Watch some YouTube clips of players you like and see if what they do works for you.

    Remember that with bass, the feel and groove are everything. There are some technical hurdles and speed barriers that can only be broken with specific techniques (by us mere mortals anyhow) but if you're just starting, feel free to anchor that thumb on a pickup and focus on what really counts -- the groove. Once you have that down you can expand your techniques to achieve what the music demands.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Lots of people anchor their thumb on the pick up and get away without experiencing any hand/wrist problems. For others it causes problems in the form of hand or wrist pain. It is up to each individual to find a technique that suits them. Just be aware that consistently (over maybe years) playing with both wrists at a severe angle MAY cause carpal tunnel and other problems at a later time. Playing with the thumb anchored on the pick up, forces the wrist into an angle.

    Check out this link :

  4. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN
    I have gradually been disconnecting the need to rest my thumb somewhere from my playing, and I actually kind of let it just dangle there now, lightly touching the strings above the one I'm picking.

    The important part is make sure you aren't in pain.
  5. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    OP is not asking about putting his hand on the pickup, he is asking about putting his thumb right on his bass from what I can gather.

    OP a good starting place, and what most bassists do, would be to rest your thumb on the pickup and pluck the strings with your fingers. Do not slap the strings down. Do not rest your thumb directly on the bass.

    I highly recommend taking at least one lesson with a teacher who can show you proper technique. You can try to learn from videos but without somebody to physically correct you, you might get poor technique ingrained into your head and that is very hard to get out.
  6. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    All the techniques offered here are legit. There's no "incorrect" way to finger pick. Just individually comfortable or uncomfortable. Try several hand/thumb positions and see what's most comfy to you personally. Eventually, you may find several techniques work for you depending on the tempo and style of each song you're playing and what particular bass you may be playing. Those with multiple basses find this to be true.
  7. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    What is wrong with doing this? I ask because I rest my thumb on the bass up against the pickguard.
  8. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I do as well sometimes. I don't feel there is a specific place your thumb should be (unless it's getting in the way or something like that). Where my thumb goes is not a conscious decision, but rather just the way I evolved as a player from the perspective of comfort. I put my thumb where it's most comfortable.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    There's no one correct method, as you can see. The main thing is to be able to reach the strings comfortably and accurately and not to contort your hand into some unnatural posture. Myself, I started off anchoring on the pickup, but then moved to "floating thumb," which is a good way to mute the lower strings when you're playing the higher ones.
  10. There's no one way to do that, but surely you have to rest your thumb somewhere in the bass. Floating thumb is just resting the thumb across all the strings.
  11. bggeezer

    bggeezer Guest

    May 25, 2001
    Floating thumb is not the same as moveable anchor.

    Fixed anchor is resting thumb on pickup (good way to start)
    Movable anchor is resting thumb on string below playing string (kinda intermediate)
    Floating thumb hovers above strings to use for plucking or damping (hardest)

    Make sure your bass is positioned so you dont have to use your wrist. You should be playing from the shoulder.
  12. SidMau


    Sep 3, 2012
    Another way is to lay your thumb perpendicular to the strings, over the ones you aren't playing. Then you move your hand up and down. This keeps unwanted strings from making noise and also keeps your fingers in a relatively consistent form, as opposed to stretching out for the higher (D-G) strings
  13. jay tay

    jay tay

    Aug 12, 2009
    Manchester UK
    The way I did it was to find a position that is comfortable to me, as my technique evolved, then I found that my hand position changed for different sounds, tones, and techniques.

    In regard to how to pluck the Strings, I experimented with different methods, they will give me different, sounds, and tones. Some I loved, some I hated, some I learned to appreciate.

    Finally I watch some videos and went to gigs and followed what the bass player was doing, I saw what players I liked were doing, as their approach to playing greatly affects their tone.

    Also lessons are a good idea, as a beginner I never had lessons (I couldn't afford them, and I was too busy playing), this has meant that I have found many different techniques along the way (Two fingers, three fingers, thumb, palm muting, pick), and I have eventually become versatile, but sometimes I wish I did have lessons as there is a lot to learn regarding timing, notation, feel, technique, chord structure, and countless other elements. Having someone point me in the right direction regarding technique from the start would have made things easier in the long run.
  14. The Celestials

    The Celestials

    Jul 1, 2013
    Well, well, well, Mr. No-Anchor. We meet again. :mad:

    I just switched over to bass semi-recently, and beforehand I was exclusively a finger picker on guitar. And I anchored my pinky, and I never had a problem doing so. So with bass, and for my weird style, my bass and guitar finger picking techniques are EXACTLY THE SAME! :hyper:

    I can play bass the normal way (I prefer to anchor on fretboard), but really, it always come down to what it is you want to sound like.
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Remember the word "guitar" in bass guitar and try not to get stuck on the "bass" part of it. All techniques are valid for playing, but only one is valid for the mechanics as far as the body is concerned.

    The one valid part of any technique is the wrist and forearm being in line...so no bend in the wrist.
    Now this means many things, as the wrist and the forearm are hard to see in-line, view it from the side, rather than from the back of the hand. So that can be 'minimal bend', or 'only enough bend'.
    It can also mean if you have to bend the wrist do not do it for long, get it back to being in line as soon as you can.
    Everything else from floating thumb, anchors, movable anchors, pick use etc...will flow from the "wrist being in line" to start with.

    Again it is a personal thing what you do when you play, but in body mechanics the hands and wrist have a defined neutral position, and being in line is the accepted one.:)

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