Picking Issues

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by whitenoise, Dec 20, 2005.

  1. whitenoise


    Jan 11, 2003

    I know many despise the pick, but I have come to embrace it. I love the sound that many of my favourite players get from it. Problem is, I'm still not quite sure how to use one.

    I can strum chords on a guitar nice and easilly, but when I transfer this approach to bass I get an awfully scratchy sound (I'm not hitting any other strings I'm not playing), no matter how thick a pick I use. This is especially true in the case of upstrokes. The one benefit of this approach is that I arm/shoulder/wrist is very relaxed and feels comfortable. This has led me to the following questions:

    1. Should the amount of resistance that the pick encounters when making a downstroke be the same when making an upstroke? If so, how is this achieved?

    2. Should the path travelled by an upstroke be the exact revers e of a downstroke?

    3. How do I get rid of this scratchy sound? Does the pick just need to be worn in?

    4. Is it really easier to play faster with a pick? To me it seems as if it would be just as much work as any other technique to get a fluid and even sound.

    If anyone has any any answers/advice to my questions they would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    1. Yes, for a more consistent tone for down and up strokes. You achieve it through practice.

    2. Yes. If it's not, it means you're moving your hand and wasting energy.

    3. You get rid of scratchy sound by making sure that the pick hits the string flat against the string. Sounds like you've got the pick hitting the strings on the edge, which does make a scratchy sound.

    4. No. You are right. However, at first it probably is.

    A tip...go to www.carolkaye.com and learn her picking technique exactly. She discusses it in depth in her player's tips. You will prevent future problems with hand cramping to learn her style exactly. It certainly cured mine. Just stay away from her forum because she's a crank ;)
  3. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    Doesn't Carol Kaye use downstrokes exclusively (no upstrokes)?
  4. SullyB


    Nov 22, 2005
    You are correct in the sense that she uses downstrokes exclusively whilst walking with quarter notes. However, she uses an up-down pattern(sic), downstrokes on the downbeats, upstrokes on the upbeats ('and' of one-and-two-and-three-and four) whenever eighth-notes and sixteenth notes are called for.

    I won't go into further detail, I'll just let you go to Carol's website and see for yourself. BTW whitenoise, the pick has a sound that is cool and unique in and of itself, but there are A LOT of players who BLAZE with their fingers, Rob Trujillo, Jaco, Stanley Clarke, and Steve Harris just to name a few. Good luck on your journey.

    Sully B.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You just described eighth notes, and usually people count 16th notes "one e and a two e and a three e and a 4 e and a."
  6. Son of Magni

    Son of Magni

    May 10, 2005
    Builder: ThorBass
    I would love to be able to use a pick at times, but I can play 10 times faster and more accurately with my (two) fingers. Now off to check out carolkaye...
  7. whitenoise


    Jan 11, 2003
    Thanks for all the replies. I checked out the Carol Kaye site, but there were a few things I didn't understand.

    She mentions that the pinkie side of the hand should be up. Does this mean that the other side is tilted in towards the guitar? And by flat wrist, does she mean that the wrist should not be arched in any way?

    This is how I interpereted her instructions and I still didn't sound too crash hot and it looked quite different to the picture on her site.
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    OK, pinkie side up...I think she just means to keep it off the front of the body like you see guitar players do. I tend to lean my thumb side into the strings a little bit. I don't get any pain, so I imagine I'm doing it right. Flat wrist...unbent and parallel to the strings.

    She has a video or two on her site of her playing, so download them and check out what she does. I didn't understand it at first until I saw the vid.
  9. whitenoise


    Jan 11, 2003
    Yeah, the videos made a lot more sense.
  10. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    it should sound the same if you pick the string at the same point, with the same speed, with the same part of the pick, with the same amount of grip on the pick, with the same amount of muting, with the same amount of force and in the same direction... you get better at controlling these 7 things with practice

    if you want your upstroke to sound the same, yes

    don't know exactly what you mean by a scratchy sound but you often get a trebly zingy bass-frequency-light sound if you hold your pick lightly and skim the string using the point of the pick rather than gripping it more firmly and using more of the pick... the number one thing guitarists who pick up a bass do wrongly is to not pick hard enough.. so it sounds weak & insufficiently authoritative

    the only other thing I can think of it that you're making a scratchy sound by scraping the pick along the string slightly

    it doesn't make any difference really... you can play fast with any technique if you practice enough... and there are more important things to consider than speed: the tonal & velocity envelope, controllability, expressiveness, phrasing, rhythmic accuracy... etc

    funnily enough, playing slow is often about the only thing a pick sometimes isn't suitable for :) (if you want a lovely fat swelling note under your anthemic ballad forget the pick :) )