Playing with a pick: why so unpopular?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by OldSchoolFlats, Sep 27, 2021.

  1. OldSchoolFlats


    May 29, 2021
    I have exclusively (well, with rare exceptions) played palm-muted, with a pick, since the ‘70s. Lets ignore the many years here/there where I didn’t play at all. Only ever played for fun: parties, church folk group, and drum/bass jams.

    Anyway, in starting up again, I have been playing exclusively finger-style and slap for a few months now. Getting pretty good with muting, but individual note duration and articulation needs work.

    Anyway, listening via headphones - I have been playing unplugged a lot, and not using amp to bother family - my picking sounded much better than finger-style. Also, I am much faster with a pick.

    Any pick players out there? Not just occasional, but all-the-time pick players, perhaps Carol Kaye style (showing my age here)?

    I want to keep-up with slap, but not so sure about finger-style.
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    It’s never a bad idea to increase your skill sets. But plenty of folks use picks on bass. I do sometimes, especially if it’s something hard that I can’t play with fingers.
  3. G-Dog

    G-Dog What a fun place! Supporting Member

    Like Jimmy says, plenty of bassists use picks! If it fits the song/tone/whatever you're going for, go for it and don't worry about it. It's not really unpopular, it just seems that some people "look down" on it. :rollno: That's their preference. That don't make it The Only Way for everybody. But, so what?!?

    It's like some bassists' preferences for tubes versus solid state amps. Some tube aficionados seem to "look down" on solid state amps. That's their preference, not The Only Way. But, again, so what?!? :eyebrow:

    You do you. And don't worry that someone else does it differently. You can't please all the people all the time. Different strokes for different folks! :cool:
    bpc, Old Blastard, Crispus and 9 others like this.
  4. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    I am left-handed, but play right-handed.
    The kind of precise and rapid wrist motion needed to play with a pick is something my right hand simply cannot do (I can't really explain why; try this with your weak hand, maybe you will feel the same).

    So I simply don't play with a pick. But I definitely don't "look down" at people using a pick. We are all different and need to find out what works for us and serves the music. If the pick is what works for you and the music you want to play, go for it! Other people's preferences are irrelevant to you.
  5. smeet

    smeet Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    These days I play with fingers for jazz and funk, pick for harder rock, and either for “in between” styles.

    I recently switched to warmer pickups with less bite in the highs, and playing with a pick is really nice with those. It gets a little of that flats-with-a-pick magic, but in a more modern way.
  6. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    If your chops are rusty, the rustiest aspect will be your right-hand fingers. At that point, getting a good sound is easier with a pick.
  7. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    Playing with a pick isn't unpopular, it's just not everyone's MO. Whatever works for you, brotherman.

    Also FWIW I would advise against too much playing unplugged. I'm still unlearning the heavy touch I developed over many many years of doing that.
  8. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    I started playing bass with a pick out of necessity when I starting singing lead vox. I’ve played guitar for 40 years so a pick in hand is not unfamiliar to me. I play guitar both with a pick and finger style depending on what’s called for.

    I suppose I play bass these days 90% with a pick and move to fingers when a particular passage calls for it…whether I’m singing or not.

    If I was back in a proper blues band, I’d probably be playing almost all fingerstyle again. Last time I sat in with a blues band, I didn’t use a pick (wasn’t my bass).
    G-Dog likes this.
  9. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    My theory is that a lot of bassists are converted guitarists who find it easy to play bass with a pick but often struggle to learn to play fingerstyle. In contrast, those of us who started on bass -- "real" bassists -- almost always start out learning fingerstyle (and later struggle to learn to use a pick). So, I think converted guitarists sometimes feel like using a pick on bass is "cheating," since "real" bassists use fingers.

    Personally, I played fingerstyle exclusively for 15 years, occasionally trying to learn to use a pick but always giving up in frustration. Eventually I decided to really commit to it. It took a long time for me to get to the point of being equally comfortable either way, and now I go about half-and-half depending on the song or, more often, my mood at the moment.
    gebass6, Matthew_84, micahwc and 5 others like this.
  10. Lowend65


    Sep 21, 2006
    San Jose, CA
    I would say that playing with a pick was looked down upon for many years because of the perception that guitarists could simply pick up the electric bass and be a bassist.

    I personally find it more difficult to groove with a pick. That's not to say it can't be done, but for me and I think most, it's more difficult to settle in. Straight-up rock songs, this isn't a problem.
    Matthew_84 and BritFunk like this.
  11. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Playing bass with a pick is plenty popular. A relatively small percentage of bassist or non-bassists look down on it, and they are often quite vocal, but pickstyle bass playing is still extremely common among amateurs and pros alike.

    I'm probably around 60% fingerstyle vs. 40% pickstyle myself, although it varies over time.
    CrawlingCarpet and DirtDog like this.
  12. nickpc


    Jul 23, 2012
    North Carolina
    I think there is much more of a perception that people look down on bass players who use a pick than there are actually people who look down on bass players who use a pick.
    gebass6, Old Blastard, Pacman and 9 others like this.
  13. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I never knew it was a bad thing until I joined TB. Been using a pick on and off since 1974 and never heard a single comment about it.
    JRA, groovepump and Bruiser Stone like this.
  14. TBird1958

    TBird1958 As a matter of fact....I am your Queen! Staff Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Seattle Washington
    Endorsing Artist Mike Lull T Bass pickups
    With my band I use a pick about 95% of the time, rock, power pop, etc. it works really well, but you have to work at it to really "get it" like slap or fingerstyle.
    BlueTalon and Smooth_bass88 like this.
  15. Leonid Nidis

    Leonid Nidis

    Jan 1, 2018
    I used to, it came to a point I was master with a pick but useless finger style.
    Since then I play mostly finger style to balance.
    Now I'm enjoying finger style more.
    BTW I have seen some amazing players who couldn't play with a pick cos they avoided it all their life.
  16. OptimalOptimus


    Jan 4, 2019
    It took me almost 20 years of playing bass before I took any interest in playing with a pick…

    im not bad but it isn’t my preferred method. But I find easier to cut through so it is a dilemma
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  17. hieronymous

    hieronymous Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2002
    SF Bay Area
    I have no idea where the prejudice against playing bass with a pick came from, but it's real. Probably not that many people feel like that, but those who do can be real jerks about it. To me, it betrays their ignorance of the history of the instrument.

    At this point, I am probably 40% pick/60% fingers - one thing I did when I was younger was try and play stuff I played with pick with fingers and vice versa (actually slapping too at that time). But I also find that I often play differently with a pick - it helps me express different aspects of my musicality. There are times when I want to sound like me, other times (usually with a band) where it's more about the song - using the pick (or not) can be part of that - or not!
    Outshined91 likes this.
  18. PaulCISSA

    PaulCISSA Unsweetened, highly-caffeinated Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2014
    Northest New Jersey
    For a long, long time I didn't have gigs or engagements that needed pick. I got a call to do a brit-pop album in 2016 that needed a Ric w/flats played pickstyle. It surprised me how much muscle memory I had lost while devoting my time to regular gigs of finger style work. It took a good while to get that back. I admire those that have it nailed down.
    BlueTalon likes this.
  19. It just depends what tone you're going for. I find my pick tone to be too thin, so I play with fingers mostly to get a thicker tone. It's good to be good at both so you can use whatever the song calls for. YMMV
    scott sinner and SemiDriven like this.
  20. Jek Porkins

    Jek Porkins

    Jun 9, 2020
    Lacey WA
    I play with a pick 90 percent of the time. I'm trying to use fingers more especially since I started to attempt to play some Iron Maiden tunes. If I was to be stuck with one style I would choose pick. I did not start playing guitar until years after I started playing bass so the former guitarist thing does not apply to me..
    danbones likes this.
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