Is the best technique the one that comes naturally?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by H K, Feb 3, 2023.

  1. H K

    H K

    Jun 18, 2021
    As the title says, what do you think? I mean, looking back, I wish I had learned the "right" technique back then, as it would have made it easier as an intermediate. But now that I consider myself advanced, I'm not so sure anymore. Where do we draw the line?

    Say for example when it comes to sustained superfast notes; IF it feels much easier and more natural to do them with two fingers, should you really force yourself to do them with three?
    Or is that just overcomplicating it?
    I see the benefits of learning to do it both ways ofcourse, improved finger strength, speed across the strings etc etc, but in a scenario where it isnt really needed, should you really force it?

    Or for example, using three fingers across the strings on a song, when 2 will do just fine?

    I enjoy using all fingers myself, but I've found that for certain songs, especially playing live, I some times "crowd myself" with the plucking hand, and what would have sounded great with 2 fingers, ends up sounding jumbled and less good with three.

    So yeah, with that in mind, what do you guys think?
    Is it best to improve on what already feels natural, learn it "the right way", a combination of the two, or what?

    All the best, HK
    Auspuff likes this.
  2. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Music is the goal, and the best music is produced when players play their instruments with the most appropriate technique.

    If a two-finger technique sounds better than the three-finger technique then perhaps the three-finger technique is not right for that particular piece or passage. Or it needs more work? IMHO the mark of the advanced player is less about having a big bag of tricks and more about knowing which ones to.pull from the bag and when.
  3. Recover9720


    Oct 16, 2020
    No one can define the definite "right" way. It is the "right" way if it sounds good without hurting your fingers. I also use 3 fingers technique but I don't use it when 2 can be better than 3. It is just one of the tools I can utilize when it is needed. We use those tools called techniques, not being bounded by tools. For example, I use 3 fingers in a 2-1-3-1 pattern when many others use a 3-2-1 pattern because that pattern is much more comfortable for me.

    I think you already investigated your technique thoroughly. Do what sounds best to you. It is your playing that shows your own character. If what you sound is your ideal sound, stick to it and elevate its level. If other technique helps your playing, then it is time to practice a new one.
    6-3-2, Koog, Polfuste and 1 other person like this.
  4. H K

    H K

    Jun 18, 2021
    Thanks for helping me change my perspective:)

    Some times we need someone else to point out the obvious in our own statements I guess :D
    Flamingo21 and SteveCS like this.
  5. There isn’t always one right way to do something, but you can be sure there are a lot of wrong ways. Some can be downright painful.
  6. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021

    If you can get the job done without injuring yourself then sure. But many techniques have a way that is the most efficient IMO. Doing it any other way will likely just make it harder for yourself to apply that technique. How much harder is debatable, and whether it holds you back is debatable.

    Look at Michael Johnson running the 400m. No athletics coach would tell you to run like that. But it works for him.
    dieggsy and H K like this.
  7. Polfuste


    Sep 10, 2010
    South France
    Jamerson was playing with one finger. We don't need more. :)
    More seriously, +1 with already said: you start with a way to learn "proper" technics, and with time you practice it, your personal "physical" approach makes evolve this "proper" technic in your way. Perhaps it's a lighter attack, perhaps a stronger one, etc, etc. The only thing i would consider is: as soon as a technic brings pain, it's a wrong technic for you. Perhaps this same technic will not bring pain to other guys, but it's not for you. And this is my criteria: no pain to play.
    RyanSaranich and WrapRough like this.
  8. Unless there is some benefit (physical or otherwise) to using a certain system or technique that can be proven, I prefer to find my own way. Sometimes there is a logical explanation as to why it's better to follow the manual, but if it's just snobby legalism, no. "We always did it that way" or "Watch (insert superhero player's name here) how he/she does it", or just "NO!" from your teacher without hearing the advantages of following their advice, I'm wary of. Some of the best music ever played came from visionaries who broke the rules.
    Spidey2112, Polfuste and dieggsy like this.
  9. Micha84


    Jul 11, 2021
    I am self tought and I learned a lot of stuff "wrong". I used to tell myself all that stuff about "there is no right or wrong in music", "it is right if it sounds good" etc., but if I am being honest: those were just excuses I made to myself to not work through the hard bits of learning an instrument.

    Do yourself a favor: learn proper technique! It may not be a cool, rockstar-y thing to do, but it will make things much easier in the long run. The problem with the things that come naturally is that naturally only takes you so far. It works for your simple beginner's stuff, but it has a high chance of holding you back later.
    MisterUbu, tchristian, JRA and 7 others like this.
  10. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    Slap is a good example of this for me. When I learned to slap, I learned the thumb down technique. I got really good quite quickly. Then I wanted to play more advanced lines and soon realised the limitations. Such folly. I had to re-learn "proper" thumb technique.
    CaribooBass likes this.
  11. Michael Stanley 2112

    Michael Stanley 2112 Supporting Member

    Aug 23, 2020
    I think each individual player has to determine that. I'm sure there are ways a Chris Squire or Steve Harris or Geddy deviate from "the right way". I doubt any of them thought/think they should have done things differently.

    I have doubts about my own technique, but I shouldn't be allowed to stand on the same stage as Geddy or Steve.
  12. dieggsy


    Sep 5, 2022
    I've played violin the longest of all my instruments, and have developed some pretty awful habits after periods of less practice that come "naturally" to me, truly feel just right, but are certainly not the best way. I know this because I decided to get a teacher again (in a better spot for it in my life in many ways), and many of her suggestions really make me go "wow, that feels so much better/causes less strain/sounds better with less effort". I think that good toeachers, formal or otherwise (could just be a friend or colleague's suggestion) are invaluable because of that.

    At the end of the day, it's important to keep an open mind in both directions. Not everything my teacher suggests is the best way for me, but if I (and the mentor) can stay open to the possibilities, we can find what does work best. Sometimes, often, those with a lot of experience do things a certain way for a reason. Sometimes it's just following rules. It doesn't have to be about their way vs my way, it's about different ways with different implications for sound, difficulty, strain, etc, and finding the sweet spot.

    There is a fine balance. Maybe a "standard" technique hurts because your muscles aren't developed yet, or you don't have the calluses, etc. Or maybe it's your body telling you there must be a better way.... Getting better at knowing the differences, and being flexible in choosing our technique, comes with time and practice as well as getting to know not just the instrument but our own bodies, and can probably only lead to better musicians.

    Or so I'd hope - I'm still a fairly mediocre bassist :bassist:

    I think setting the goal as good music with enough attention to strain and physical health is a great approach.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2023
  13. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Right. To be specific, I think "wrong ways" fall into two general categories: (1) they have the potential to cause injury, either immediately or over time, or (2) they limit your ability to improve further sometime later on.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    3 plucking fingers versus 2 is an interesting question. I don't think there is 1 "right answer". A few folks (they're actually pretty rare, but Billy Sheehan is an obvious example) can make 3 fingers work well, but for most folks, 2 works better.

    Your middle finger is longer than your index or ring finger - if you try to do 3 fingers, your middle finger has to do its work in a more curled up position than the other 2 - there's no way around that, unless you somehow have an abnormally short middle finger. I think that's un-ergonomic for your middle finger. With 2 fingers, you can (many of us do this) angle your hand (wrist leaned towards the nut a bit) so that both your plucking fingers work with a small and similar amount of curl. I think that's more ergonomic - for the sake of your middle finger. Others may disagree.

    3 fingers also makes it harder to get consistent 2 or 4 note figures (unless you drop a finger for those), which come up in music more often than 3 note figures.

    There are also those who make it work with 1 finger. Jamerson is an obvious example of someone who made that work quite well. I was a 1 finger player in my youth, but a wrist issue gave me a slow index finger, so now I'm a 2 finger player.

    Good technique is helpful, but there isn't one answer. Imagine trying to teach Django how to do one finger per fret.....
  15. sawzalot

    sawzalot Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2007
    I think as long as you’re not hurting yourself, do whatever works for you. Look at someone like Sonny T.: he’s amazing, and he plays lefty with the bass just flipped over, low strings closest to the floor, and yet he’s fast, funky, and somehow even slaps. Or Geddy Lee, who has a very unusual right hand technique that a teacher would probably correct in a young player.
  16. If you can play the music you want to play and be comfortable doing it, what could be "wrong" with doing it that way?
    I play classical guitar and I also play classical pieces on bass. There's no way I can make some of the stretches I make on a 25.5 " scale on a 34", so I work round it with different fingerings. So different, but not "wrong".
  17. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    It worked for Jamerson because of the type of lines he played. You can't use one finger playing Iron Maiden,for example :)
  18. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    IMO good technique should always be the goal. It comes naturally to some and is hard work for others, but a good technique makes playing bass easer with less effort. All the great bass players have good technique and know their stuff.

    The successful bass players with poor or limited techniques are pretty rare.
    bassGtar likes this.
  19. Hounddog409


    Oct 27, 2015
    Short answer. Yes.
  20. smtp4me


    Sep 30, 2013
    Philadelphia, PA
    ^^^ This. If a player's technique isn't causing injury and isn't holding them back, and if it works for them, then the idea of "bad technique" becomes subjective.
    KRJax, Durham52 and 6-3-2 like this.