1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

pick style: upstrokes and downstrokes

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Corona_Clyde, Nov 2, 2007.

  1. Corona_Clyde


    Sep 10, 2006
    When playing with a pick, when is it best to use upstrokes and when is it best to use downstrokes? I've seen lots of people just use downstrokes with a pick, but I know sometimes it is neccesary to pluck up with the pick.
  2. For my purposes, I am using downstrokes to sound tighter with guitars and up and down strokes when the music is a bit slower in tempo...

    I use downstrokes for thash metal...Megadeth, Metallica, and Faster Metal...mainly because the guitarists prefer it and it sound tighter.

    I use alternate picking if I am playing Hard Rock: G N' R, Aerosmith, AC/DC etc

    I use fingers when I want a "fatter/thumpier sound"

    I use pick for rock because I'm better at it and it give me more attack. I prefer a pick when I lock with the bass drums exclusively because I find that fingers locked witha bass drum drowns out the bass...and I prefer to stand out a bit...not too much but a bit.:bassist:
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Good question. I use a pick occasionally, and I used to use all downstrokes for everything until I started to get very bad hand pains. Then I learned Carol Kaye's pick method, which involves using a heavy pick, picking by the neck, never moving your thumb, and all down/up using your wrist to move, and I haven't had a pain since. I do think downstrokes gives most people a heavier sound, but you can work at the down/up thing and get just as heavy a sound. Carol believes that everyone who doesn't use her method will get crippling hand pains eventually, and 10 years ago I'd have laughed at her. Now I'm totally with her.
  4. I'm with her too. I haven't ever experienced pain from picking, and I attribute that completely to picking with good technique and using upstrokes and downstrokes equally. In my opinion, if your upstrokes don't sound exactly like your downstrokes, you can't honestly say you know how to use a pick.
  5. Or you could make the most of that difference... And still be a genius with a pick.
  6. A genius who has a pick, perhaps. Not a genius with anything approaching good technique.
  7. Ramstien


    Aug 19, 2007
    I use both equally? I've never felt the direction I'm picking changes the tone at all.
  8. dls59

    dls59 Supporting Member

    What do you mean, "never moving your thumb"? Just locking it into position and not flexing the joint?
  9. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    I'm definitely not a pick player and I've never studied the technique seriously, but that's my instinctive approach. Besides, and although the way she says it sounds kinda harsh (click here and look for tip # 103), I definitely agree with her remarks about the "pinkie laying on the board". I simply can't rest my little finger on the bass body. BTW, the plate on the Rickenbacker 4003's that covers the bridge pickup is a godsend for playing with a pick (to me). On my Bongos, I have to move my right hand closer to the bridge to avoid unintended palm muting.

    P.S.: Again, I don't feel qualified to give opinions about pick playing, but I'm posting here because currently I'm having so much fun with a pick. I'm going to post a new thread about it.
  10. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Click here.
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Exactly. Moving your whole hand by pivoting your wrist in a side to side motion instead of the thumb.
  12. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Upstrokes and downstrokes don't necessarily need to always sound the same(though I agree you should be able to pull that off). Sometimes for certain pick parts I like my pick to hit the string a little different, maybe say, on the upstrokes I use a bit more of the edge, but the downstrokes are striking the string totally flat. But it's a conscious decision and adds to the vibe--it has to be consistent. Sometimes a bit of my thumb hits the string on the downstrokes, but for a certain phrase or fill I'll go all-upstroke with no thumb meat hitting it. It's very useful to have a handle on the subtlety of tone you can create by varying the pick-meets-string approach, even within one bass part. Lotsa people just do it without thinking of course(or maybe they can't do it any other way), but some folks, like probably Anthony Jackson, could write a thesis on it.
  13. gjsven


    Oct 6, 2007
    Canberra, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: Cutting Edge Guitars
    Ah, an interesting question, and one I've given a lot of thought to!

    IMNSHO, all-downstroke playing gives a more defined 'rhythm' (for want of a better word) to a phrase, like the sound of the tracks on a train journey. Can be a little 'lumpy' and overly 'percussive' when not done well or with an inappropriate tone, but compression can help. It can also make your hand/wrist hurt like hell if done too fast or for too long! :bawl:

    Alternate picking, done well, is a lot smoother and more even. It's not as forceful or dynamic (unless you want it to be), but it records a lot better due to the even-ness of the notes. It's also much easier to play fast! Having played in a few punk bands, I tend to move from the elbow when pedalling 16ths and from the wrist for more intricate stuff by parking my forearm on the body of my bass. :bassist:

    As for upstroke-specific playing, the only circumstances where I would imagine this would be an advantage would be if you were emphasising syncopation or a tied '+' in a quaver-based phrase, eg 1..+.+4+. You could also use it to get a 'pop' like sound by 'digging in' on the way up.

    I guess that addresses the OP - technique with the actual pick itself is a whole other bag of worms! :eek: As has been said, some interesting sounds can be made with the use of different picks, tones, dynamic, angles of string attack (from above and below) and distance from the bridge, and techniques where other parts of the hand/thumb/fingers are used too.

    My 2c. :)
  14. Getting that sound when alt. picking is a simple matter of spacing your notes like you would if you were crazy enough to play using only downstrokes.

    But you can do that with downstrokes too.
  15. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I learned this wrist/thumb technique during my final stretch of guitar lessons, and it was a revelation. It does work well for bass, and using it up near the neck is great in the studio. You get extra definition and tightness from the pick, but some fatness from playing near the neck.

    I tend to use downstrokes only for non-syncopated, root-riding type stuff, but otherwise it's whatever feels/sounds right in the track. Sometimes it takes some focus to keep the heaviness on the upstrokes, and I will adjust the stroke pattern to maintain consistent tone if my initial instincts don't pan out. This usually means converting some upstrokes into downstrokes.
  16. jimbob


    Dec 26, 2001
    Charlotte NC
    Endorsing Artist: Acoustica Mixcraft; Endorsing Artist: DR Strings

    Try this exercise using eighth notes.


    v ^ V ^ V ^ V ^
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

    Then turn it around

    ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

    Listen to what you are playing and see if you can hear any differences.

    Picking is cool!
  17. Yes. I agree and I'm def on the same page as far as heavier pics go. I use dunlop triangle pics the blue tortex 1.0. I also use the dunlop Big Stubby Red Triangle 1.5 pic. My main pic is the 1.0 gauge...Once I tried the triangle pics I never went back to regular guitar shaped pics. Order different gauges from www.elderly.com untiul you find what works for you and your tone.
  18. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Here's a good and fun exercise for practicing alternate picking: The lead guitar riff from AC/DC's "Thunderstruck". And yes: It's not a tapping riff, as faked in the music video. Angus only uses his guitar's B string playing open notes on the upstrokes and the "melody" notes on the downstrokes. I've just transcribed a version for 4-string bass:


    Now, if you want it to sound as on the recording, place a capo at the 4th fret and play it like this:


    Or, if you have a 6-string bass, play it on the high C tuned down to B following the tab on the first picture.

    Again, I don't practice this stuff enough, so I just can play it accurately at a very slow tempo. When I try to play it faster, lack of coordination between picking and fretting becomes very evident. Nothing that cannot be solved with a good amount of practice.
  19. I tend to play with a lot of upstrokes... With my peculiar technique, I can be much more precise that way. My upstrokes sound more percussive and I can dig in to the strings from a different angle. I use downstrokes to sound more deep and smooth. And I'll alternate between the two in different rhythms for variety sake, sort of the way a drummer will go for a variety of toms during an extended fill, and come at them from different angles. I may tend to suck at "proper" technique, but it's my own technique; and people who use proper technique tend to suck at my technique and can only approximate with "proper" technique the sound and feel that I get.

    I have my own way of playing guitar too, and can get many wonderful sounds that seem to appeal to people, so I know I must be doing something right, even if it's not "proper" technique. I have my own sound and it works, and although I may not be able to do certain things that come from proper technique, there are things (i.e., musical, useable things; not noise) that I can do that many people can't do or don't even think about doing.
  20. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Alvaro, I'm really diggin your posts. Is there a site you use
    or did you scan those charts?