Playing with 3 fingers

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by BahamaBass, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. BahamaBass

    BahamaBass Guest

    Nov 15, 2008
    When I started playing bass I used my thumb.

    Then 4 months ago I started using my index and middle finger.

    now I've also been using my 4th finger. seem to be able to play above the jazz pu and seems to add a slightly different voicing and more color.

    anyone play like this on here and are there any youtube or instructional info on this? is this ok to play like this?

    anyone playing with 4 fingers? might be too busy I think?
  2. Bocete

    Bocete My E string is 36 1/4" long

    Sep 30, 2006
    Try playing like that and see if there's any consistency between your first two fingers and the pinky. I doubt you'll be hearing any.
    If you want to play by the bridge - I like that sound - then move your plucking hand there. The pinky is too small, light and weak.

    People do use 3 or 4 fingers. Three include the ring, middle and index or thumb index and middle, while four include the thumb, index, middle and ring. No pinky.

    Check youtube, there's a ton of people showing these techniques. However, I would recommend to stick to 2 finger plucking for now, there is a whole lot of things that can be done with them.
  3. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Reviewer: Bass Player Magazine
    I have a couple videos on YouTube demoing how to start plucking with three and four fingers- there's a link to them in my signature. If you plan on using three or four fingers most of the time, then you should be plucking with them as much as possible and avoid plucking with just two fingers. It's very difficult to break the habit of plucking with two fingers for years and trying to move up to three or four fingers. Just as with deciding on how many strings your bass should have, you should make your decision based on what you'd like to end up using in the end. Don't start on a 4-string if you plan on playing a 6-string, don't pluck with two fingers if you plan on plucking with four, etc. On the other side of the coin, it's easy to use just two of your fingers if you're used to plucking with more.
  4. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    Yes I try to use three fingers where I can, trying to build it into 'my' style, although I still revert to two occasionally for some passages. It can be awkward to do as most modern music is in 4/4 timing, and 3's into 4 don't go, so the down beat constantly moves from finger to finger.

    The upshot is, if you're playing long gigs like I do (2 or 3 hour function sets) using an extra finger means the other two do a little less work and don't get as fatigued or sore so quickly. You can do all the warming up and practice in the world, but you're going to hit a point sometime in a long session where something starts to give. Just like marathon runners hit 'the wall'.
  5. paganjack


    Dec 25, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    ive been enjoying the three finger technique in the last few months. i figured out how to gallop and have been since working on an even-keeled 4/4 with three fingers. it's fun and it looks cool. but I am using RMI not the pinky, unless i want a weird quiet sound all of the sudden.

    sometimes i practice the even three fingered technique while playing bass on rock band with my buddies. it's actually been helpful!
  6. wizay


    Mar 5, 2008
    I use the 3 finger technique always, no matter the song. Practiced alot, and now its the most natural for me.
  7. i've got two words for you
    Erlend Caspersen!:bassist:
  8. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Have been working on the same issue/technique. Slap/Pop of course using the thumb and index/middle fingers, but have been working on the index finger for repetitive 8ths and 16ths with a mirror and a metrone. Not easy to get a consistent strike from three fingers for me anyway.

  9. Low Main

    Low Main Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    What I'm currently doing is warming up and playing awhile with 3 fingers (ring middle index) and then doing the rest of the playing session with 2 fingers. I'm comfortable using either 2 or 3 fingers. Lucky I guess that I can switch back and forth without getting mixed up.

    I got my 3 finger approach from Steve Bailey's website. He uses the 12321 method rather than 123 123 or 321 321.

    That takes some getting used to until it's fluid. He says to expect to really have to focus for a period of time to get it to feel natural and he's right.

    Best thing to do is practice at slow speeds until it's automatic and you don't have to think about it. In fact once you get the 3 finger thing down, slowing down and checking to make sure you're doing it right and paying too much attention to it screws up the line you're playing.

    I find the 12321 pattern to be very fluid and even once you get it going. Great for triplets or maybe pretending you're Rocco. You can get a nice stream of even notes going. You can even pump eights at moderate tempo and get them to sound very consistent.

    But if I do a ton of 3 finger playing at one time with the wrist of my plucking hand bent forward, it starts to give me pains in the forearm. Like when I'm practicing sitting down. Not good. Probably a kind of carpal tunnel situation. Something about reaching out that ring finger to pluck bothers my internal mechanisms.

    So when I hit the discomfort zone, I stop and change up. I play standing up if I'm not doing so already, go back to 2 finger plucking, etc. That ends the problem right away.

    I find that I get a more even attack from note to note when I use 3 fingers. But I find that the tone of each note is rather bland.

    When I pluck with two fingers, the notes have a lot more character and heartier tone. I can articulate the notes better.

    So for me, I think of 3 fingers as kind of a clean "hi-fi" thing and 2 fingers as a meaty groove thing, if that makes sense.

    I gotta try getting the thumb involved one of these years.

    The closer you play to the bridge, the more of a difference you'll hear between notes plucked by your index finger and notes plucked by your ring finger.

    Final note: any plucking I do is based on the teaching from Dale Titus, who says to ALWAYS alternating the picking fingers no matter what. I thought that was BS at first because I liked to rake when I went from high to low strings, etc. I had a lot of deeply ingrained habits, and trying the always alternating plucking approach seemed unnatural.

    But I finally decided that I would get more fluidity and speed if I did what Dale Titus suggested, so I put in the time to get that alternating system under control. Maybe that's what makes it easy for me to go from 2 finger to 3 finger. No matter which method I'm using, I'm always plucking the next note with a different finger.

    And Billy Sheehan is always plucking his next note with a different bionic finger from a different solar system.
  10. I use all five right hand fingers to play but they don't do the same things. As for "normal" plucking, I don't understand why one would use three or four fingers to do what two can do. I've never have speed or fatigue issue plucking with two fingers. I don't use any pattern. Here's what they all do:

    Pinky: Lays accross the strings for muffled plucking similar to palm muting. It also plucks false harmonics since it's bony and closer to the bridge while being far from the nod (index) for brighter harmonics

    Ring: Stays one or two strings above index. Mutes one higher string permanently and when descending, it mutes the string that were plucked by index or middle after it was plucked (as opposed to pinky which muffles the pluck itself).

    Middle: Long finger that plucks across all strings and mutes in a similar fashion as the ring except it mutes a plucked string both ascending and descending.

    Index: Plucks across all strings but never the first to pluck a higher string. It also mutes a plucked note when ascending (example: pluck with middle, mute with index)

    Thumb: Plucks for a fatter tone and chords (other fingers are also used for chords). Mutes all lowest unplayed string permanently (floating thumb) and mutes a plucked after the fact when ascending.

    All that pluck and mute is basically the Gary Willis technique. See it here:
  11. BahamaBass

    BahamaBass Guest

    Nov 15, 2008
    Thanks for the feedback. Guess I'll keep plucking away. :)
  12. Just a curiosity, I've been playing with 2 fingers for around 12 years. How long would you expect someone like myself to learn the 3 finger technique, seeing as 2 is obviously completely natural? 3 months? 6 months? A year, more?
  13. BahamaBass

    BahamaBass Guest

    Nov 15, 2008
    I spent like 5 hours on it the other day. However I've always tapped my fingers to beat since I was a kid. before I could play a drum set.