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Increasing plucking speed

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by 3bc, Nov 5, 2018.

  1. 3bc

    3bc Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2010
    Chicago Burbs
    As the title states, what would everyone recommend as far as increasing right hand plucking speed/accuracy? I hear all the time that it’s better to practice slow and accurate than fast/sloppy. And i largely understand that. That has made my playing a lot cleaner over the last year or so as i have focused on my muting with my right thumb and ring finger moving up and down the strings as i play. But i haven’t gotten ANY faster this past year.

    Some background on me - been playing 20 + years but got good enough to play the rock tunes i wanted to and never took practicing very seriously. My playing has gotten cleaner over the past year where i practice as much as possible - usually about an hour a day most days, not at all some days, maybe a couple of hours one day a week or so.

    Do i need to start practicing licks faster, even if it means slopping through them to build up my plucking speed/dexterity? Am i just not practicing enough to reasonably expect to improve? Right now i’m working on a pentatonic scale thing through the modes, working up and down all 4 strings through all 5 modes, and at 16th notes i’m not getting any faster than say 100bpm. Even after sitting down for an hour a day for two weeks I can’t stretch that to 105bpm with any consistency.

    Any suggestions on how/what to practice to improve speed/dexterity would be wonderful!
  2. Anything repetitive and consistent. Scales and arpeggios are always good. And getting faster on bass is no different than getting faster at running. Each time you practice try to go just a little bit faster.
    JulienP. and Rhythmman535 like this.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    No! The worst thing you can do is "just slop through." Every time you practice playing sloppily, you are practicing playing sloppily, which is exactly what you don't want. Never practice anything faster than you can play accurately and cleanly, or you're just practicing errors. Practice at the highest tempo you can play error-free, and then slowly raise the tempo over time.

    Scott Devine has a good video in which he points out that the problem usually isn't that you can't play fast enough per se -- it's that you can't maintain that speed for more than a few notes or few bars. His suggestion is to start out at the desired (fast) tempo, playing only the first three or four notes of the line. Once you can do that perfectly and reliably, add the fifth note and practice the first five notes of the line -- then add the next note, etc. This way you're always practicing at the desired tempo, but never for any longer than you can do mistake-free.

    A variation on this that I like to use is to practice playing the first couple of bars of the line (say, 8 or 16 notes) at tempo -- if you can do that reliably and accurately -- and then lay out by playing a whole note for the next bar or two; then play the next couple of complete bars, followed by a whole note or two, etc. Then, over time, gradually increase the number of bars/notes that you play completely, and gradually decrease the number/length of the "rests" in between. This also has the advantage of practicing at the desired tempo without making mistakes.
    JulienP. likes this.
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    if you didn't risk playing sloppy you couldn't evaluate what needs attention. you'd also stay 'stuck' in a zone which becomes more comfortable but which doesn't 'advance'.

    you'll be sloppy when you test your limits. eliminating/reducing the slop is what moves us forward. good luck eliminating yours! :thumbsup:

    moving from 85 BPM to 90 BPM is easier than moving from 100 BPM to 105 BPM: try 101 BPM until you have it ...then 102 BPM...
  5. Use the shortest movements you can with your plucking fingers.
  6. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Playing fast is easy, maintaining it is the issue.

    Most common way is to understand what speed is within tempo

    So lets play 60 BPM, if you use quarter notes on the beat you have the effect of 60 BPM, but play on the beat and in between the beat you have the effect of 120 BPM.
    So quarter notes at 60 BPM sound slower than eighth note at 60 BPM, but eighth note at 30 BPM is in effect the same a quarter notes at 60 BPM.

    So if just adding one moving from quarter notes to eighth notes in effect "doubles" the speed because more notes are being used with in that tempo.... the tempo is not faster.

    So get a nome, or drum machine and set it to 60 BPM and play on the beat, then change it to eighth notes, work moving between the two with ease and leading with any finger.
    Once you can do this with ease move to using sixteenth notes, again the tempo is the same, but you are using more notes, which in effect is playing faster.
    If the introduction of the sixteenths is hard, slow the tempo down and repeat using quarter notes and eighth notes as before.
    Once you can do this with up the tempo and repeat the exercise, each time you up the tempo you change the stamina aspect of the exercise.

    In all take it easy, start slow and build it up, speed is a side effect of good technique.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
    danster likes this.
  7. H. Bob

    H. Bob

    Dec 22, 2007
    New York
    First work out optimal fingerings on both hands. Get the tune under your fingers. Repeat sections that give you the most trouble. Then set your metronome at 1.2x the tempo of the version you like and hold on for dear life. Try that a few times until you can get with only a few mistakes. Then slow the metronome down to the "real" pace. Don't play along with the recording until you can play it with the metronome. Record yourself and listen for "holes". Many of the techniques are from tricks I used as a drummer earlier in life. Bass is in many ways like tuned drums.
  8. ak56

    ak56 Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2015
    Carnation, Wa
    Increasing plucking speed

    :sorry:I'm sorry. I just had to do it.
    :(I'll leave now.
    saabfender likes this.
  9. ThudThudThud


    Jun 4, 2010
    e upload_2018-11-7_16-9-20.

    Attached Files:

  10. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    I too am trying to build speed, but so far nobody has mentioned how HARD you should be plucking when building speed. I'm having the same conundrum building speed on guitar. When I play bluegrass I want to play fast, but to get it to sound right needs a firmer stroke, but greatly inhibits speed.

    Take something like Incognito's "Talkin' Loud" where you're going 90mph all the time. When I play up to speed it sounds wimpy but when I add pressure my fingers start to get hung up on the strings at the appropriate speed. Should I just play lighter and let the amp do the work? Or will the articulation suffer if I don't dig in a little?
  11. 3bc

    3bc Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2010
    Chicago Burbs
    Wanted to chime in on my own thread with my recent experience. Focusing on the same drills, I have increased my speed from about 100bpm to close to 115bpm by following a bit of both methods. Playing slow and deliberate, focusing on each note and my muting, and really slow speeds, maybe 80bpm, and then playing at 120 bpm where it is just a slop fest but it forces faster movement than I’m otherwise used to. Spend some time practing at a speed I can’t maintain, then slow it down and focus on the accuracy. Alternating has helped more in the last week or so than either technique achieved on its own the first few.
  12. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I really think that your 120 bpm slopfest is probably hurting more than helping. As I said in a previous post, practicing playing sloppily is, well, practicing playing sloppily. I encourage you to try the "second" method I suggested instead: i.e., practicing at 120 bpm in short bursts that you can play accurately, and gradually increasing the length of the bursts and decreasing the length of the rests/breaks between them.
    lfmn16 likes this.
  13. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Use three fingers consistently. Mechanically, it’s a 50% faster than those slow two-finger guys.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    More time practicing on the bassis ideal. However, if you find yourself in the car or at your desk, and there’s a relatively sharp corner at hand, plucking at that can help you improve consustency and speed.

    I disagree a bit about 3 finger picking - for some guys it works great, but for mevaccomodating my short ring finger puts my hand in an awkward position and slows down my middle finger.
  15. 3bc

    3bc Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2010
    Chicago Burbs
    I agree with you and also respectfully disagree. I believe there is merit in the practice of adding one note at a time until you can get through the run at speed. I believe this because it is maddening, difficult and drives me nuts. I also think there is at least SOME merit in slopping through something faster than you can play it cleanly, because at least for me it highlights specifically those things that need the most work in the run. By doing this I was able to highlight that bringing my thumb from the e string to the a string for muting purposes was not done at the exactly right time, and when using the pinky more than twice in a row on different strings during a run was causing me to flub the additional notes.

    I was able to work these things out at a slower speed and then work them up to speed, but it was really the slop fest that highlighted where I was falling short.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  16. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    No, no, no, no. You'll just learn to play sloppy.

    How much time do you actually spend each day with a metronome trying to increase your speed?

    One thing I read on TB that helped me with a really fast line was to practice at a slow tempo and then double that tempo, always with the caveat that you should never practice faster than you can play cleanly and accurately.
    Rhythmman535 and Lobster11 like this.
  17. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I would respectfully say that I don't know a single qualified instructor that would say that you should practice faster than you can play cleanly.
  18. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I've said it before but I think worth repeating. Speed comes through synchronisation of left and right hands. Imagine this...
    Playing whole notes at a given tempo, there is dead time between the notes caused by lifting and placing fingers on/off the fingerboard and the time you plucking finger is in contact with the string. If you place a finger before the start of a note, that time is stolen from the previous note. If you lift your finger for the next note before full value, that time is lost from the current note. This lost time is pretty much constant regardless of tempo - it's a function of you.

    Say your dead time is 50ms. At 60BPM, your 1/4th notes will lose 5% of their value - barely important. Up the tempo to 120 and 10% is lost. Still not much, but your 16ths will have lost 40%. At 150BPM, half of your note is missing. If the missing part crosses the beat your playing will just be a mess. Work on tempo by reducing dead time through faster placing and lifting of fingers and plucking at the instant you place your finger.
  19. 3bc

    3bc Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2010
    Chicago Burbs
    Agreed about playing being all about synchronization. However, I can’t think of much in the way my own playing, or the playing of others that I enjoy the most, where a major feature of the line is eleiminating as much dead spaces as possible. In fact it’s frequently the opposite, where the line is defined by dead space - staccato, ghost notes, articulation, dynamics, etc. I understand it’s better to have the ability to run notes together if necessary (and I think I’m pretty good at that), but I find the opposite is harder, and I spend quite a bit of time working on the opposite - making sure each of my notes has a clearly defined beginning and end and that they don’t all just run together. A strong example of this would be a disco riff like “virtual insanity” where you move in octaves up and down the fret board, but you don’t run all the notes on top of each other, each one is clearly articulated and in its own space. This is much more challenging and musically pleasing to my ear.
  20. 3bc

    3bc Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2010
    Chicago Burbs
    I appreciate that and I’m sure it’s true. I am not spending 50+% of my practice time at speeds I can’t sustain. It’s more like 10-20%. Testing my progress and illuminating what still needs work.

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