Picking technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by BavidDass, Jul 22, 2013.

  1. So after many months of lurking the forums, I finally decided to take the plunge and sign up!

    Anyways, I've recently started to play with a pick as well as the usual fingerstyle in an attempt to become a more versatile player, however I've been running into some issues.

    I've been watching lots of tutorial videos and trying to replicate what I see by playing in front of a mirror and comparing it yet it never seems quite right and generally feels a bit awkward/uncomfortable to play. I understand it may just be an issue of needing more practise to get used to it, I just want to make sure I'm doing it right to start with to avoid and problems further down the line. In particular I'm finding it very difficult to find a method for palm muting that feels natural, despite trying to keep my hand as loose and relaxed as possible it always feels like there is some tension, especially in my pinky, in an attempt to keep the other fingers out of the way. I'm very wary of this as I occasionally get issues with pain in my wrists which I'm usually able to avoid through stretching and generally being careful while playing, I just don't want to exacerbate this.

    As an experiment I decided to try and play in the way that felt most comfortable, though it looks quite goofy/inefficient so I'm not really wanting to develop it unless if I know I'm on the right track. I've recorded a video of myself playing a song this way so you get a better idea of what I'm talking about, including both normal picking and palm muting, which can be found here:

    Apologies for the long post, I'm just trying to explain things as best I can, though any insight on the situation would be much appreciated, thanks. :)
  2. f.c.geil


    May 12, 2011
    This gal has the just about the best pick technique around. One of the few that won't end up giving you carpal tunnel syndrome...

  3. f.c.geil


    May 12, 2011
    A couple thoughts direct from Carol:

  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
  5. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It looks to me like the root of your problems is that your right arm is nearly perpendicular to the strings, which makes it impossible to use the kind of strumming motion (all in the wrist) that you can see Carol using in her video. In turn, it looks like this awkward arm position is being caused by the position in which you are holding the bass: The body of the bass isn't in front of you, but way off to your right side, and so to get your hand in picking position you're having to hold your elbow way up in the air. All this looks very uncomfortable, and is is bound to be creating tension and interfering with your picking technique.

    I'd suggest that you figure this out while standing first. (Once you do, you can figure out how to replicate the appropriate position while sitting down if you want to.) When you're standing, the body of the bass will naturally sit more directly in front of you rather than off to the side, and when you put your hand in picking position, your right arm will be at something more like a 45-degree angle relative to the strings rather than a 90-degree angle. You might also experiment with angling the neck slightly higher relative to the body, adjusting the strap length, and picking closer to the neck -- all of which can help you get the arm angle you need to be able to pick comfortably (using only wrist movement). I think once you get the arm angle right, you'll feel a dramatic reduction in tension and discomfort, and you'll find the strumming motion with the pick to feel much more natural.
  7. Thanks for the replies guys. I had actually been looking at the Carol Kaye method but was still finding it a bit uncomfortable, I think Lobster11's onto something though, I've noticed that by raising the strap and holding the body more in front it's a lot easier to get a better angle for picking. It does make it a bit harder to reach the lower frets when playing though but I think that a compromise can be found.
  8. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Here's a video of the best bass picker I've ever seen; seeing her play was what motivated me to try to learn how to play pickstyle myself. I chose this particular video because of the camera angle, and because she plays pickstyle throughout the tune (she's no slouch at fingerstyle or slapping either, and often switches among them within a given tune):

    Ironically, after watching the video again myself, I see that she is pretty much defying every piece of advice I gave you! (Um.... "never mind"?) But her way obviously works for her, so maybe it'll work for you.
  9. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
    LOL thats exactly what i was thinking. yeah dont do that. Quick way to tendonitis and carpal tunnel. Stiff arm and a stiff anchor point are bad.
  10. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
    what your doing for the most part doesnt look too bad. just keep the forearm, wrist and hand loose. that's the trick. where and how you pick will change the tone as well. just stay comfortable and stop if there's pain.

    what i do:

    but thats what works for me. just remember stay loose.
  11. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I have found that due to the string spacing on bass that when I use a pick (which is seldom) that I need to kinda use some of the strumming motion in my arm, wrist, and fingers that I use to strum guitar with. It's certainly more motion than it takes to pick a guitar, especially when skipping strings on bass. (Sorry, I didn't look at the Carol Kaye stuff, maybe she mentioned something like that?).
  12. baileyboy

    baileyboy Inactive

    Aug 12, 2010
    BavidDass, I, too, have been studying Carol Kaye's videos, reading her educational tips, as well as TB threads on the subject of picking. I have been practicing daily for the last month and it is getting easier. I am to the point where I can play about half my set list with a pick, though I really need to concentrate. I still prefer to use fingers, though I have started to develop some pain due to overuse. Picking affords me the ability to switch things up a bit and play pain-free. You are right to get down proper technique now before bad habits set in. Good luck with all this.