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Is this bad pick techniques?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by TheIndieKid, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. When I play my bass with a pick, I notice that my thumb knuckle catches on the strings sometimes and I've also noticed that when I transition from a higher string to a lower string (and back again in some cases), I strike the lower one with an upstroke. Is this bad technique?
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    It's not good.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  3. How should i be holding the pick? And you're saying only downstrokes to start with?
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Check out tips number 26 & 27 in this link :

    The Official Carol Kaye Web Site
    Andre678 and rumblejunkie like this.
  5. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I don't know how to answer your question about the thumb knuckle without seeing what you're doing, but obviously something in your technique needs to be modified to prevent this. This shouldn't happen if you use a technique similar to Carol Kaye's (see link in previous post), in which all of the motion is a straight up-and-down motion in the wrist. Your hand should never rotate far enough to make your knuckle touch the strings.

    As for upstrokes and downstrokes, there are several options. Some folks recommend strict alternation of downstrokes and upstrokes at all times (just as some recommend strict alternation of plucking fingers when playing fingerstyle). Others, including Carol Kaye, recommend using downstrokes on downbeats and upstrokes on upbeats. (I try to do this myself as much as possible, because I like the way my hand motion synchs with the groove -- like bobbing your head or tapping your foot.) Lots of folks use downstrokes-only, but that obviously makes it difficult to play very fast lines, so some folks downstrokes-only for slower lines and switch to alternation for faster ones.
  6. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Don't bend your thumb when you're holding the pick. You shouldn't have to, and that way your "thumb knuckle" won't get in the way.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  7. Rickengeezer


    Feb 25, 2005
    Central Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Steve Clayton Accessories
    FWIW, my experience as a nearly full-time picker for (gah) 40 years:

    - I start almost every sequence with an upstroke; then alternate if the sequence is rapid. I've noticed that Will Lee typically does the same thing when he picks, which makes me feel better.
    - When playing primarily with upstrokes, your thumb naturally will rotate "out" (toward the audience). I will use the upper SIDE of the thumb, right above the knuckle, to mute strings--I have a pretty good callus there from doing it. So my thumb knuckle is aimed up, not at the strings--the side of it contacts the strings.
    - I often anchor my ring finger on the G-string--so as I pick up, the tension of the string sort of pulls my hand back down for the following downstroke, without any need to rotate the wrist. Very economical motion, and I never have any cramping, RSI, or tendonitis issues with my picking hand.

    You can kind of see the resulting "claw" look in my avatar pic. Works for me, but everyone is different.
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    LOL! Will Lee has the most bizarre pick technique I've ever seen. He actually holds it at the tips of his two fingers and plays all upstrokes, like he's subbing the pick for his fingers. I once asked him about it on his website, and he said, "I don't recommend it but it works for me."

    At any rate, I went full Carol about 12-13 years ago, and it was the best thing I ever did for my pick playing. I used to get horrible pain playing with a pick, but after adapting her technique, the pain is all gone.
    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  9. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton My P doesn’t have flats or tort Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    Can you take a picture or something? I can't even picture in my mind how that looks when you're strumming. Are you rotating your wrist out on the down stroke?

    In your second question, no that's not bad technique as long as you're hitting the note as you're supposed to. I do that sometimes, nothing wrong with it.
  10. Rickengeezer


    Feb 25, 2005
    Central Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Steve Clayton Accessories
    I guess it's bizarre--I have had a few people over the years comment to me that my picking style was strange.

    But it isn't really at the fingertips--the index and middle finger are there to brace against the pressure of the string forcing the pick back down, while the thumb mainly keeps the pick from flying off after the string is hit. Watch his picking hand, like around 2:30 of this clip:

    I find that the Carol Kaye arm angle works better for me if I'm sitting down--I notice she seems to be sitting while playing in a lot of pictures of her. But I've never had any pain or RSIs in my pick hand.
    JimmyM likes this.
  11. Getting in late...... When I came over from rhythm guitar I used the pick. After awhile I started using my thumb as if it was the pick. I liked the sound so this became my go to way. I still have a thumb pick on top of the amp, just in case, but, I very seldom use it. Point of my post - try using just your thumb, you may like it. It'll eliminate the problems you speak of.

    Thumb good enough for Sir Paul, good enough for me. Notice he is left handed so the fretting looks a little different than a right handed person.

    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
  12. NealBass

    NealBass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2014
    Chris Squire had a 'just the tip of the pick sticking out - hit the string with the pick, then a bit of thumb" technique. It creates some neat harmonics. I've been practicing it lately. He demonstrates it really well at the 2:50 mark on this vid. If you press play, it should go right to that spot.



    I also catch myself occasionally muting strings with my thumb knuckle on my right hand, after I pick a note. I'm not sure where I got it from, but it does come in....handy. Bad technique? Sure. Works for me though!
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I can't speak for everyone, but I don't have a problem doing it wearing my bass fairly low and standing up.
  14. taylor16


    Dec 25, 2012
    This guy nails it. Do what he does.

    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  15. Can't really take a picture, since it's quite awkward using my iPad! :) I don't have a phone. I've adopted the Carol Kaye technique and it's brilliant. It's just hard playing up by the neck on a thunderbird with the body angle. It just doesn't get that angry clank from a Bird that's nice. It's a killer method though :)
  16. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Maybe you just need to adjust the length of your strap or the angle at which you hold the bass/neck to make it more comfortable to pick near the neck. Try experimenting with some small adjustments like that and see if it helps.

    Also, Carol points out some legitimate advantages of playing near the neck, but don't feel compelled to obey that rule slavishly. Just as with fingerstyle, you can get different sounds by picking in different places between the neck and bridge. I doubt that even Carol would say that you must always-always-always-no-matter-what pick close to the neck so help you God. I like to think of all the aspects of her method as "guidelines" rather than rigid rules. I stick pretty close to them most of the time, but I don't hesitate to vary from them sometimes when I have reason to.
    TheIndieKid likes this.
  17. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    If the thumb problem is something that just started to become a problem, you'll need to make adjustments with holding your pick or adjusting your picking finger angles. There are guidelines on how to use a pick. If you're new to picking, check them out for the basic fundamentals. However, IMO there is no one way to effectively use a pick. There are many great players who use all kinds of ways to hold the pick. Some use 2 fingers, and some 3 fingers, and some even 4 fingers to hold a pick. If your technique is not working you should make adjustments to get it right. Start with the basic fundamentals, and develop what works for you.
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I take it that you have had no direct communications with Carol :D
    Lobster11 and ErikP.Bass like this.

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