Missing Index Finger

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by kirkdickinson, Dec 12, 2014.

  1. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    Before I ever started playing bass I lost my index finger on my plucking hand. (Right)

    My first teacher thought I should learn to play bass with a pick. The pick felt unnatural to me and still does. I can use a pick if I have to but it is uncomfortable and I don't like it. Chording on the guitar is different - pick is okay for that and comfortable.

    I learned to use middle and ring finger for a two finger technique. Ring finger is pretty strong and my eighth notes sound fairly even.

    I play mostly contemporary praise and worship music, so the technique I have has worked pretty good. However a few songs that I come across are very difficult for me. There's a song called salvation is here by Hillsong that has 16th notes at 105 bpm. There is simply no way that I can maintain 16s for any time at that speed.

    I have been watching some guys use a double thumb technique a-la Victor Wooten. I have been practicing this but can't seem to get very even notes. Using a push pull with my thumb and then pluck pluck with my other two fingers seems like eventually I might be able to play the 16's fast but right now it's not very good. Somewhere I saw written that to master that technique you need about 50 hours of practice. I have about 3 and have progressed from impossible to bad.

    Any other recommendations for me of techniques I could use to compensate?

    As an aside, I met another bass player with a "short" index finger named Gary Lunn. Gary is a session player in Nashville and is currently on tour with Dolly Parton right now. The missing finger doesn't seem to slow him down at all.
    6tzguy, Winoman, Ace Of Bass and 2 others like this.
  2. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
  3. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I have played thumb-middle-ring for triplets. That works ok especially for triplets when playing like root-5-5 or root-3-5 by paying the thumb on the lower string and the fingers on the adjacent string.

    I see that Geddy Lee does a index finger flick back and forth for 8th's some times and I have started working that with my middle finger too.

    Thanks, I will check out that link.
  4. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    You could even bring in the pinky for some three finger technique. It will be difficult at first, but you will have one hell of a strong pinky.
    MaxJJK and lz4005 like this.
  5. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I have tried some three finger with the pinkey, and it is really weak. Besides the fact that it is a lot shorter than the other two. I can and have used it for picking the 10th in a dyad or chord. Thumb, pinkey.

    Don't see ever having a fast three finger technique with the pinkey. Seems more likely with a double thumb and/or extra finger flicks.

  6. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    I'll take a few pictures of my right hand while using the "2-finger"/"Thumb-Middle" fingering (No Slap/fingerstyle guitar).


    I use it on the same string, even on the same note for the 16th or 32nd notes, etc...
    It's very comfortable. And it produces a powerful tone, not like Chuck's technique.
    It's like playing with a pick - Down/Up or Up/Down/Thumb down and Middle up.

    Also, I use it when crossing the strings.
    Let's say, I can play faster the following 16th note riff by using the "Thumb-Middle" fingering than any other fingering combination.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
    Poncherello likes this.
  7. Gary Willis technique, use all your remaining digits.

    Even though the pinky is shorter, it shouldn't matter if you adopt Willis' hand position and technique.



    Used for octaves & 7ths,
    1 chord groove playing

    Used more for linear playing,
    adjacent notes & soloing

    Were I you, I'd also practice: thumb middle ring middle thumb middle ring middle etc.

    My fiddler friend showed me his thumb index (thumb middle for you of course) pizz technique, all thumb downstrokes and finger upstrokes alternating between thumb and finger, and he's freakin' fast! I believe this is the technique WhoUsedToPlay is describing.

    Hit the woodshed, you'll get there, mate!
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  8. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Yes, you are correct with a few notes:
    The one and only Gary Willis perfected that technique, as an amateur, I've just dabbled a little.

    Also, I dabbled a little bit with a mixture of Chuck Rainey's "1-finger up and down technique and Gary Willis' technique.
    What I mean is:
    My thumb is plucking/going down and up - like a pick - let's say, D on the A string simultaneously with my Index finger plucking/going down and up - like a pick - D (or C) on the G string.
    My left hand is doing the muting, but sorry I've digressed.
  9. If you find it, be sure to let us know. Maybe you can file a report at your local police station.

    I'm sorry, dude. The possibilities are virtually endless when you really start thinkin' about it. :thumbsup: How'd you lose it, if you don't mind someone asking, that is? Is it work-related, or maybe an ex-girlfriend? Them there snappers can get pretty vicious.;)
  10. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Do you have full functionality and range of motion in your remaining fingers?
    If so, and I'm not trying to be flippant here, all you lack is practice.
    Two finger technique works with any two fingers with enough practice.
  11. friendlybass

    friendlybass Guest

    Jul 19, 2012
    Use your thumb like a pick! I do that a lot cause I dislocated some fingers and had to do it for about a year.
    Also check out Mick's picks. They're much thicker than even the extra heavy guitar picks and I find them to have a very natural sound
  12. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    Lost it when I got in a hurry with a log splitter when I was 19. Crushed two joints beyond repair. Took up the bass a few years later. Took lessons for a couple of years and got frustrated because my ears did not come around very fast. Pretty much put the bass in the closet for 20 years. Wife talked me into taking it dark up in my 40's to accompany her at our churches Celebrate Recovery program. Been playing ever since. Play most Saturday's in our church coffee shop type service, and fill in about once a month on the big stage Sunday morning.
  13. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I have full range, but if I stress my middle finger I can get the tendon so sore that I can barely use it. I have been working on economy of motion and working a lighter touch to help with those issues. I play a GWB-35 most of the time now and that is helping me to have a lighter touch with my right hand.

    There is a bassist that I saw a while back that only had thumb, ring, and pinky on plucking hand. Seems like she was right handed and played lefty to use the hand with all the fingers to fret. She did some amazing stuff, but not fast.

    I have a lot of holes in my ability, just trying to work a little on this one. :)
    lz4005 likes this.
  14. kenneffdupriest

    kenneffdupriest Guest

    Dec 5, 2013
    Palo Alto
    I'm pretty sure Jerry Garcia (R.I.P) was missing part of his index finger. Godspeed
  15. 7dollarbologna


    Apr 22, 2014
    Downtown Albuquerque
    Desert Eccentric
    I'm missing the tip of my right middle finger, I pick index/ring. maybe you could go middle/ring?
  16. LanEvo


    Mar 10, 2008
    I prefer to play finger style, but sometimes come across something that sounds better with a pick. I push the tip of my thumb into the pad of my index finger (as if I'm holding an imaginary pick) and use the tip of my index finger as a kind of pseudo-pick. You can do the same thing with the middle finger.
  17. I do not see it as a problem. Use what you got.
    Take Bill Clements for example.... no right arm. He does pretty good I'd say. ;)

    You just need to put the hours in and develop your technique. Just like everyone else... no matter how many fingers.
    Then you will be able to do anything you want, with no limits.
    cchorney likes this.
  18. lowfreq33

    lowfreq33 Guest

    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    If your remaining fingers are fully functional there's no reason you can't get up to speed. Just have to put the time in to work the muscles.
  19. Shabz

    Shabz Guest

    Jun 20, 2014
    I agree with the others who said 2 finger technique shouldn't be limiting you to that extent, certainly 120bpm on a single string should be attainable
    I dont know if using the different fingers makes much difference but i'd say probably not

    Make sure to keep your hand as relaxed as possible, use small movements. Maybe start out near the bridge so there is less string movement to worry about

    IMO it would require less practice learning to use 2 finger technique well enough than learning some other technique from scratch
  20. MaxJJK


    Jun 29, 2014
    Using the pinky is hard, but it's doable if you keep at it, and you should be able to pull faster than this piece by a fair margin.