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Picking speed/triplets?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by njones89, Mar 23, 2017.

  1. njones89


    Mar 27, 2015
    Sioux Falls
    Can't find a good tutorial on this - picking or fingering. Was recently requested to play triplets, as in Run for the hills by Iron Maiden, which I can't do very well. I would like to work on my technique. I can tremolo pick with thumb/two fingers like a classical guitar, but not three fingers. Picking triplets [with pick] is obviously difficult because of the string thickness. I can kinda do it if I angle the pick, but since it is a bass, it thins out the sound and doesn't work as well as it does on guitar. How do you do it??
    Fergie Fulton likes this.
  2. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    First off it is not really triplets, it is sub dividing 4/4 in to a gallop, so not a triplet which is playing 3 notes evenly in the time it take to play 2 notes of equal value.

    So basic example is a 1/4 note followed by two 1/8th notes and repeat this so you play and count 1234 1234 1234 1234 or sub divide the feel to 123 123 123 123 123 123.

    So in the first count is it 1/4 note on the 1 follow by two 1/8th notes on the 2 followed by a 1/4 note on the 3 follow by the two 1/8th notes on the 4.

    In the second example the feel is i23, the 1 has a longer feel than the 2 and 3...so phonetically it sounds woooon two three woooon two three woooon two three etc.

    To cut a long story short ( as i do not know your theory knowledge) you can sub divide into threes without them being triplets in two ways.
    First way is to have a time sig that allows more sub division, most songs can be in 12/8 for better syncopation and movement, (works great for slow blues songs) and since the target number is 12 beats to count 1234 1234 1234, so 12 beats in 3 groups of 4.
    The second way is to stay with 12/8 and sub divide the 12 beats into 123 123 123 123, so four groups of three....still adds up to 12 notes but the feel can be different as explained earlier.

    The cool thing is to practice it slow, get the count and the feel you want to match, then as you become uses to it you will stop counting and just feel the passing of the notes in the grouping you choose. it makes no difference what speed you play them live, but it does when you practice them, you need to practice it slow so your brain can understand the finger co-ordination needed. Once you have learned the co-ordination you just apply the tempo needed.

    The big question i get asked is when using the fingers on the plucking hand which one leads?
    Simple answer is tap it on a table and see which method produces a consistent gallop...two finger or three it makes no difference if the gallop is even groupings that actually sound like gallops.
    njones89 likes this.
  3. njones89


    Mar 27, 2015
    Sioux Falls
    Thanks Fergie. You're right. Steve Harris's gallop playing in general isn't equally subdivided triplet notes. That was the only example I could think of. The band wasn't being specific about what kind of triplets they wanted. Either way your post was enlightening and it gave me a few ideas to think about and things to work on.

    I will start by practicing slow. Upon reflecting on my technique, I think one thing that is slowing me down is the way that I fingerpick. I tend to keep my fingers stiff when I'm trying to go fast. There was a Billy Sheehan video I saw a long time ago (don't know if it's on Youtube or what) where he recommended keeping those fingers lax and curling them to change the way they strike the strings. Any tips on those specific things?
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    No probs, and yes Billy has it right that curled fingers work better than straight fingers.
    For me the amount of curl needed is just enough to bring the tips of the fingers level.
    So with the palm of the hand facing up, just curl your finger until the tips are level, by level i mean levelish, then try tapping out rhythms on a table top and see if it easier or harder.
    From there just alter the amount of curl needed and experiment with what will work work with you.

    Curling the little finger in helps the fingers move better as it deactivates the Ulnar side of the hand from being a passenger, so have the little finger flap about, and can give the fingers on the Radial side more momentum to move freely. Holding a coin in the crook of the little finger helps, as the finger muscles tire the coin will drop out, so it is a good bench mark to gauge how well the hand is developing and the better the hand becomes the longer the coin can be held...untill ultimately it is not needed.
    You can hold a pick in the crook of the finger, and with a bit of practice slid it in and out of the fingers to be used for playing...which is a cool technique to swap between fingers and pick if needed.

    But most of all, practice your pattern, and that is what it is, slowly. Consider it a rudiment if you will, and like say a drum rudiment, once you have the pattern down and consistent you can move it from string to string, or note to note to create rhythmic variations.
    If you have a metronome, set it slow and build in the pattern, then build in the speed by doubling the tempo, do not graduate the tempo up.
    So start at 50 BPM then 100 BPM, then 200 BPM, the 400 BPM.

    So develop the pattern to repeat consistent then develop the stamina to maintain it over the length of the song.
    You will find the pattern will open up many other song by Iron Maiden as it is a pattern Steve Harris uses a lot, so practice other Maiden songs.
    Keep hydrated, eat good carb loading food for energy, and most of all do not over do it. so warm up and down with stretchs to ready the hands for the task to come.
    So practice in short sessions, 15-20 minutes, then have a break for 5 mins the start again....and most of all have fun doing it.
    Improvement will happen, but over time, so don't rush it as you have two elements to develop, the pattern and then the tempo.....the two seldom compliment each other by developing at the same time.
    So you may develop the pattern and not maintain the stamina, then find that when you maintain stamina you lose the pattern, but it will come together as one with use.....and did i mention have fun doing it?

    Here is Billy again
    njones89 likes this.

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