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Keeping time with your fingers (plucking hand)

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by nellie48, Feb 18, 2019.

  1. nellie48

    nellie48 Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I’ve never really had lessons on technique and am wondering if this is a bad habit I should get rid of.

    After plucking a string with my index or middle finger, I will then rest that same finger on the string just plucked. This resting has become more of a tap on the beat however. I’ve found that I’m pretty much tapping the string to the beat of the snare drum. I have a hard time playing in the pocket if I don’t do this. Advice?
  2. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    keep doing it!
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    If it makes noise through the amp when you do that, bad. If not, good.
    The Rage, nilorius, MDBass and 4 others like this.
  4. Bassndrums73


    Mar 13, 2018
    I always found a slight movement of some part of my body back and forth along with the beat of the drums, a metronome or your own internal timing if it’s good and then lock your playing to that is the trick. It doesn’t have to be a big movement. Just barely moving your head forward and back ever so slightly or your body from the center of your chest or your waist. The key is to learn to keep it even back and forth until you feel it’s even on every beat and lock your playing to that. Not jerky but nice and even like the swinging of a tiny pendulum. Too much movement and you can get off time. You can even practice this timing exercise just when listening to music when you aren’t playing. I played drums in a rock band for 40 years and remember back to the days when I was trying to make my timing more solid. It takes awhile for it to become automatic and second nature but with time it comes. After I finally “got it” I became known as one of the most solid timekeepers in the area. I believe this can work for just about any musician unless your coordination is so bad you trip over your own feet when you walk. Hope that helps.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
  5. nellie48

    nellie48 Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    So is it considered good technique or even normal technique for bassists if the tapping is light/inaudible? anyone else do it?
  6. nellie48

    nellie48 Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I think I have some movements like that as well. There is something about using the fingers though. I’ve also noticed that I make a grunt sound in my throat when I pluck notes and even odd lip movements. It must be genetic. My brothers play guitar and they do the same thing. My Mom plays Celtic harp and has always tapped her foot. Got reprimanded for doing that when she took lessons from a professional years into her playing.
  7. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    First of all I don't believe there is a "right" or "wrong" way to play the bass.

    The fingerstyle technique I was taught is this: The plucking finger comes to rest on the adjacent string. So when I pluck the A string for example, the finger comes to rest on the E string.

    The sound shouldn't come through the amp, and in fact, this technique can help eliminate unwanted noises, by muting the unplayed strings.
    Lobster11, Avigdor, Artman and 4 others like this.
  8. nellie48

    nellie48 Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I play exactly that way as well. Pluck the A-string, that finger then rests on E-string, but then that same finder immediately taps the A-string again(lightly, almost a ghost note on the snare) before preceding to the next note.

    The reason I ask if “this is proper technique” is that I believe it may be sacrificing my speed as I challenge myself to get better. I think it may even influence my note (string/fret) choice on the following note based on the movement and position my fingers made previously.
  9. If you're not making any unwanted noise I don't see any problem except one. You say . . .

    What if the note you just played is supposed to be legato? By touching that string you are making that note staccato. Does it mess up your timing when you have to let that note ring? Just food for thought . . .
  10. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Your finger can't both "rest on the E string" and "immediately move to the A string."

    Only one of those things can be true. ;)
    Lobster11 likes this.
  11. Is it audible? If so, there might be times that could be an issue. Perhaps you should incorporate tapping the toe, raising your heel or bobbing your head to keep time into your practice routine. It just might free your fingers up and give you some more speed.
  12. Bassist’s use ghost notes, and all manner of clicking and popping to augment their sound. I see nothing wrong with it.

    I would be more concerned with using the same finger each time. You will be a lot faster and more efficient if you alternate plucking fingers.
  13. nellie48

    nellie48 Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I alternate in most situations but not all the time. 16th notes on the same string, certainly. But if I’m going from A string to E string, sometimes my index finger will take care of E string duty and middle finger the A string. Also, I may rake the same finger from D string to A string to E string when playing a octave, fifth, root.
  14. nellie48

    nellie48 Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I’ve learned to tame it down, but there has been times when the sound guy asks the band “what’s that click sound?” Bass player looks around at other people looking for an answer. Lol
  15. nellie48

    nellie48 Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Let me rephrase that. Finger plucks the A-string and then stops on the E string. Then that same finger returns to the A string to either play another quick A- string note or to tap the a-string on the snare hit.

    I found that I don’t alternate fingers in this case. It has something to do with the finger that comes to rest on the E string being in the way or too close for using the other finger to play the A-string again. It just feels odd with that original finder still resting on the E. Again, this is situational. Playing a driving 16th notes on the A string will certainly se me alternate. Maybe I’m holding my hand slightly differently in these two situations.
  16. nellie48

    nellie48 Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    If the song calls for that note to ring out, then I certainly do it. In general, when I tap/mute the string I’m talking about, it is on the snare hit, so the note is done in most cases.
  17. 7bridges

    7bridges Supporting Member

    May 3, 2015
    SW FL
    I see many folks doing this on youtube bass demos. Kind of like they are playing drums between notes. Personally, I find it very annoying. (Putting on flame suit.)
  18. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    If you are hitting the snare beat with that technique
    then check out Doug Johns, the Funky bass player.
    progmanjum likes this.
  19. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    While there's nothing specifically wrong with what you're doing, I'd try to wean myself of the habit. Try to internalize the time and it's subdivisions. There may be times when you'd rather that finger be somewhere else, or on it's way there.
    MynameisMe, eJake and Wasnex like this.
  20. RoaDan


    Jan 24, 2019
    Anyone who calls themselves professional and says to stop tapping your feet... is not professional. Our guitar player did a similar thing with his right hand and it turned every song into a bad reggae tune. I worked with him on tapping his feet to the beat and it cleared up a whole lot of unnecessary right hand movement. Your foot is the metronome... use it...
    MynameisMe and JoeWPgh like this.

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