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Pick vs Fingerstyle volume difference

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by nicoli, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. This has probably been covered but I can't find much with a search. Not sure if it's more technique or effects, but I guess your answers will tell me.

    I've been playing for a little over a decade at levels ranging from hobbyist to full time pro depending on the year. I'm just starting with a new band that requires 50% fingerstyle and 50% pick playing, and I haven't played in a band setting with a pick since my first few months on the instrument. Looking for some guidance for those of you who play both styles regularly.

    What I'm finding is my volume difference between the two is massive, I'm WAY louder with a pick. Right now I'm just trying to roll off the volume on the bass when using a pick but it's neither the most efficient nor the most exact method.

    Is this a technique issue that I have to work on to try to get my pick attack consistently softer? I would say I have an average to slightly softer finger attack. I just feel like with a pick I should be digging in a bit to get that sharper attack so I naturally don't want to play softly. Or is this more something like I need a 2 channel amp setup or a boost pedal or something? I already have a compressor in the rack, but even with it set fairly aggressively taking off 6db with pick vs 1db or 2db with fingers there is still a noticeable volume difference.

  2. bggeezer

    bggeezer Guest

    May 25, 2001
    I mostly play with fingers, but on 3 songs I use a pick and was not happy with the sound. Not the volume so much as the tone... way too much treble. I just knock back the tone pot about 1/3 for these 3 songs and it sounds much better.
  3. oldcatfish


    Jan 8, 2011
    Ideally you should work on both fingerpicking and using a pick until you can do both with enough dynamic control to do either at any volume that you want. But it might take you quite a bit of practice to get there--and your bandmates probably won't have that kind of patience.

    A boost pedal when you fingerpick and a compressor used for both would do the job--if you are on a budget, just get a used Zoom B2...and set to patches with different volume levels, one for fingers and one for pick.
  4. It takes time but you can get both to be the same volume. It's a matter of becoming really attentive to your attack with both methods.

    If you use flat wounds, you might find the difference less pronounced. +1... A compressor can also help until you get the technique down. Similar to the boost pedal idea, you could use a graphic eq pedal to help you get the two sounds to be closer in volume. I'm a strong advocate of solving problems like that with better technique.
  5. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    That's what I do, along with different eq's.

    I can play lightly with a pick and keep the volume the same without the B2 but it doesn't have the same attack, the B2 lets me keep the volume level without loosing the attack.
  6. Thanks for the responses, that was pretty much exactly what I figured the answers would be. I'm sure the 'right' answer is to clean it up technique wise, but as jabsys says I'm concerned about losing the aggressive sound of the pick attack - that is the point of using one. I'll have to experiment a bit more.

    I had been thinking about picking up a Line6 DM4 or a VT Deluxe to have a couple different programmable overdrives / distortions available. Both those would allow me to set finger & pick patches so it'd get two birds stoned at once.
  7. spector_boogie

    spector_boogie No Limit Honky

    Apr 15, 2012
    The Woodlands, TX
    I do both about 60/40 in favor of a pick, and yes it does have a volume difference. Your fleshy finger isn't going to have the same kind of attack as a plastic or metal pick against metal strings, so it's perfectly normal.
    Usually when I cut to fingerstyle, it's for slower more relaxed songs where I want more of a "bassy" tone and the pick is for aggressive or more upbeat songs.
    But on the upbeat songs I play with my fingers, I adapt the The Ox and Ryan Martinie approach of "attacking" the strings with the ends of my fingers, instead of actually "plucking" the string. Gives way more punch and attack.
  8. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    practice, practice, practice.

    It's possible to play very softly with a pick.
    The trick is to keep strength in your fingers so you don't drop it while keeping relaxed in your wrist and forearm so you can "brush" the string with it.
  9. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Lighten up with the pick. Solved.
  10. bakerbass


    Apr 9, 2012
    I have a slightly different take on this problem.

    I play in a band, where three of us take bass duties. The other two guys play with a pick and have the loud trebbly sound you'd associate with that. I can't really get them to play more softly.

    I put the bass through my Empress compressor to even the levels a bit, but the only real thing I can do is to knock the treble off the bass when they play, and put it back up a bit and turn up when I play.

    I could play with a pick (long time guitar player), but when I started, I set myself the challenge of playing fingerstyle.
  11. ReiPsaeg


    Dec 1, 2012
    Rochester, NY
    Well, the pick is naturally going to have more attack and bring out more mids so it will generally be perceived as being "louder". But despite that, you definitely want to practice both pick and fingers from the very loudest, to the very softest you can play. Then you can find a good middle ground to allow both techniques to compliment eachother, much like arco and pizz on the upright.
  12. Ric5

    Ric5 SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    I have been playing bass for a long time with pick and fingers, plus slap, pop, thumb plucking, tapping, etc ... I have the same volume picking and fingering. If your pick playing is too loud then you are moving the pick too far in each stroke and you are hitting the string too hard. You need to learn to play with feel playing a pick. When I pick I use up and down strokes. The beauty of using a pick is you can play a lot of notes very fast with minimal hand movement.

    Practice playing softly and quickly with a pick. Develop a feel with a pick. Then practice loud and soft and fast and slow. Learn to control speed and volume independently. Also practice palm muting with a pick, you can get a great "flat wound" tone by playing with a pick and muting the strings.

    Too many bass players simply dismiss pick playing and don't add it as a tool to their arsenal.
  13. Ric5

    Ric5 SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    I disagree that picking is louder. But it does have more initial attack. There are a lot of subtleties to picking.

    Geddy has great attack playing fingerstyle. You can also learn to play gently with a pick.
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    The other guys have poor technique using a pick on bass. I can get more treble with fingerstyle than I do with my pick playing. I find I need compression more playing fingerstyle than pick playing. I can also play cleaner and faster with a pick.

    Playing a bass with a pick is a different skill set than playing a guitar with a pick.

    Which pick you choose to use on a bass makes a difference. The plastic and metal picks will have a harsher trebley tone. I use the softer derelin (sp?) picks. There are other similar materials with similar names. But these picks have a softer attack that is easier to control.

    I love a pick on a bass especially with a little dirt, or overdrive, or distortion. Then when I dig in and play harder it gives me a nice aggressive tone.
  15. El-Bob

    El-Bob Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    I disagree. I think fingers can bring out far more mids, picks bring out more treble. Contrary to the experience of others on this thread, I find that I get a volume drop and stop cutting in the mix when I use a pick. :meh:
  16. ghostrider


    Jun 12, 2010
    Same here. It's odd, but it's probably because I play fingerstyle so aggressively.
  17. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    I used a pick primarily the first few decades I played bass. It provided a more solid, present tone that cut through the mix better. But I eventually gravitated to fingers...either my index and/or thumb. I can get more pleasing aggressive tones from my fingers than I can with a pick, something I couldn't do 30 years ago. I can pull out as much treble as I want with fingers, but I'm limited to how much bass I can pull out with a pick. Still, some songs seem to call out for a pick.
  18. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    Chalk up another "louder with fingers" guy.

    You should be able to get the dynamics pretty close by altering your playing style - or as stated above you can do it by means of some sort of pre-set that accommodates the volume difference.
  19. Swipter


    Sep 7, 2009
    Hopefully, this will come together for me. I played a few songs tonight with a pick for the first time. I have never used a pick before. It was interesting. I didn't have the volume issue but did have more mids or treble with the pick. The drummer liked it. Can someone tell me a good song to practice that will improve my bass picking?
  20. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    with my current rig i get louder results with the fingers, may be eq or something, the fingers are like a 45, the pick is like a 9mm?