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Plucking for disco riff

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by CJK84, Jul 6, 2004.

  1. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    A popular disco-era fingerstyle riff is to pluck an 8th note, followed by two 16ths an octave higher (e.g., chorus of YMCA).

    I'm struggling to play this at a brisk tempo. I'm plucking the low string with p, then using m and i (in that order) for the octave string.

    This aproach seems to minimize hand movement, but I've not made good progress.

    Any suggestions on alternative fingerings?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated - I could really impress the neighborhood kids if I could groove to YMCA with clean execution!
  2. Well, when I try and play "Right on Time" by RHCP; there is a disocesque bass line, but its a double 8th, then a double 16th(or wherever you're playing it at). So for your bassline, I would cut out the thumb and play it index index middle. It does involve more movement, but if pulled off it gives it a funkier sound(IMO). Now if only I had a bass synth I could play all my favorite Italodisco basslines.
  3. quallabone


    Aug 2, 2003
    for old timey stuff like that i've always been a fan of the sharp thumb into the lower octave followed by index middle for the higher. I like the big fat bottom with the sharp top. If I was going for all staccato notes I would play low octave with index and then the high with middle index. The string skip just takes some practice and you'll be set.
  4. Thee


    Feb 11, 2004
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    I've been doing it with the thumb index deal too... I've always had fun with these sorts of lines.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yep - I'd always play that kind of thing using thumb for the lower octave - I'm sure when that kind of thing was popular (Yes I was around then!!) that was how I saw bass players doing it?
  6. I like the index sound better, but I actually do use my thumb sometimes...I guess its just preference. These basslines are indeed fun to play.
  7. SuperSluggard


    Jan 2, 2004
    When I'm having trouble with stuff like this, I use my index finger to do the top string (like the E) and my middle finger for the bottom string (Maybe the D). Going fast might be a problem but try it anyway.
  8. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Thumb-index-middle is probably the most efficient fingering for that groove, as it requires minimum right-hand movement.

    I think you'll find that if you keep at it, you'll gain speed with that fingering faster than anything which requires using the index or middle fingers to alternate between strings.
  9. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    This is what's worked best for me when I've tried to play this pattern at speed (although I've never kept at it enough to be proficient). That pattern is in Rod Stewart's "If You Think I'm Sexy" song-that's one tough song to play!
  10. birdsg


    Dec 18, 2003
    Birmingham England
    Guys, when you mention thumb do you mean slap or pluck? or something else?
    I am in a similar predicament with things like we are family, I can play it ok if I slap all of it but think it maybe sounds better with slightly less aggressive fingerstle but am struggling to make those octaves sound good 'n' solid. Feels awkward - maybe its just practice, practice, practice!!

  11. Neeto


    Jul 21, 2004
    I think you hit the nail on the head.

    One thing I would recommend is to get the groove goin slow. Make sure you got it solid. Then speed it up a nothc. Not too much. Just a little.
    Make sure you got it nailed there, and proceed a little faster. This type of excercise dis wonders for me.

    Wait...did? lol I had to do this just a couple weeks ago when rearranging one of our band's songs. The line I wanted to play took some timing and speed of my plucking hand. So I took from tortouse speed to rabbit speed in incraments.

    Each person will pluck a line different. And there's no right way to do it, just like there's no right eq setting for your amp.
  12. quallabone


    Aug 2, 2003
    When I say thumb in this topic I mean a smooth downstroke much like a pick. Not slapping.

    Totally agreed about the slapping. Most funk lines are a lot easier to play if you slap. Not usually appropriate though.

    You're right. It is practice, practice, practice, and a lot of patience.

    Like Neeto said, start slow and work it up. A good right hand exercise is to play straight 16th notes with index and middle. The first 2 on a low octave and second 2 an octave higher doing a string skip between the 2. Do this till you get it smooth. Then adapt the pattern to things like 3 low 1 high etc.

    Good luck. Lots of practice ahead.
  13. I know the exact 8th-16th-16th you mean. See chorus of "Cosmic Girl" by Jamiroquai. I agree, it's about what feels comfortable for you; I play these lines using index (8th)-middle (16th)-ring (16th) fingers. Never been comfortable using my thumb to pluck. I'm trying to get a three-finger-fingerstyle happening, and so far the octave is the only pattern i can get straight. practice practice practice...
  14. frodebass


    Apr 11, 2004
    Another thing to think about is to view the two sixteenth notes as pickup-notes to the downbeat.
    Think that they are resolving down to the lower octave. Might make it easer to get clean.
    Am I making sense?

    Anyway, try practising major scales in octaves using different rythms.
    | || | || | || | ||
    || | || | || | || |
    Do this on both the E and D strings as well as between the A and G strings.

    Start around 60 on the metronome, or slower, and gradually notch up. Don't try to do this within two or three days, it takes time and patience.

    I used to play gigs with Donna Summer, and the charts there had a lot of these kind of lines! Only way to do it for me was to sit through a summer just practising G major and C major scales up and down with my metronome!

    But again, try thinking the groups as : "and-a ONE and-a Two" etc. Turn the focus. Groove gets better also. You want to emphasize the downbeats a little more than the sixteen notes anyway.

    Good luck,

    Frode Berg
  15. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Wasn't YMCA/a lot of disco keyboard basslines?
  16. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH

    YMCA is played with an electric bass (not a keyboard bass).


    I get what you're saying about viewing the pair of 16ths as pick-up notes and, thus, emphasizing the downbeat - and agree that this improves the groove.

    That's why I feel that I can't play the downbeat with the thumb - too much of a rounded tone that won't stand out in relation to the higher-pitched, brighter notes on the D and G strings.

    btw, I really like some of the bass gooves on Donna Summer songs.
  17. frankosaurus


    Feb 27, 2002
    San Jose
    I was thinking of asking this question myself.

    The technique I currently use is index on the low note, and hit the octave 16ths twice with my middle finger. Probably not the correct technique, but it's the fastest I can get.

    Not to mention using open strings plus the twelvth fret if the key allows it-- that's a lot easier!
  18. birdsg


    Dec 18, 2003
    Birmingham England
    An interesting one to learn would be "I feel love" as played by flea on the Live in Hyde Park cd just released.

  19. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Yup- I used to play that song! I played it 8i 16r 16m 8i 16r 16m...ad infinitum. It does get to you after a while, you can feel the big muscle in your forearm getting bigger! LOL...
  20. birdsg


    Dec 18, 2003
    Birmingham England
    Bassic 83, I have just been trying to play it and it certainly is a good one for building stamina in both hands.
    I am not 100% certain that I am playing it correctly and have looked for tab to check and cant find any...

    I reckon its A# CC GG A#A# (7 notes - 1st one 2 beats long) repeated as a pattern many times and moving the first note up from A# to C#, then D# and lastly F? I appreciate you may have played it in a different key but does that shape and pattern look vaguely familiar?

    I am interested to see if my ear is improving - I am sure that my muscles in arms and fingers will be if I keep this up.

    Lastly, I can concur that the advice of playing slowly and building up speed is the best there is!!

    I know this song isnt related to octaves but its still a great exercise and sounds pretty cool as well :)