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Plucking Hell

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by wishface, Aug 16, 2012.


  1. wishface

    wishface

    Jan 27, 2012
    As I work to improve my right hand I find the usual problems I don't have an answer for. I play two fingers and achor the thumb variously on the pickup, e and a strings accordingly. Using the a takes pressure off the wrist, though stress on the wrist has never really been an issue. It's more about playing with as relaxed a hand as possible.

    However when achored on the e string is left open. I cannot play in a position that allows the thumb to be flat across both strings. Consequently the floating method is too alien to me. I find it deeply inefficient.

    Maybe this is an issue of the strings on my bass being particularly far apart, but I'm not sure of a solution. Usually the left hand does more of the muting for the purpose of sympathetic vibrations and such, but it isn't easy to have the unused fingers cover all 4 strings.

    I've watched people like Adam Niti talk about playing with the floating anchor, which is more or less how i play, and he plays on 6 strings. I can't see how it's possible to anchor with a thumb flat across the strings and still have the freedom the fingers need for plucking. I don't grab at the strings as a rule (unless i'm deliberately doing so), but some people argue that finger movement should come solely from the joint at the tip. That is as unnatural as expecting the little finger to be able to move without moving the third. In fact it seems restrictive because the whole finger moves sympathetically and to expend energy otherwise is regressive.

    This is part of the problem I have with the floating thumb. Also the thumb gets in the way of the fingers. Lacking an anchor also makes the act of plucking much less smooth and the subsequent tone is poor. But the big problem is the hand even if from the shoulder moving up and down; if you're playing across the strings, say on the E and G, for an extreme example, it's just an inefficient technique. Same with octaves, your hand is moving in a way that anchoring the thumb relaxes.
     
  2. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1

    Jan 17, 2009
    N.H.
    I play a 5 string low B, and anchor only on the low B or pickup end.
    One basic plane(point) gives me a better reference when going across all strings.
    Anchoring on the A may make it hard to drop down to A or E.
    My finger movement is mostly at the knuckle(hand) & mid knuckle.
    There are a lot of techniques out there. One radical one to me anyway
    is Geddy Lee's plucking. He surely gets the job done though.
    It takes time & patience
     
  3. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Thread title of the month. :D
     
  4. fearceol

    fearceol

    Nov 14, 2006
    Ireland

    Perhaps the FT is simply not for you. However, there is nothing limiting about it (see clip below). Do you think Todd's plucking is smooth, or his tone poor, in the clip ? It takes a lot of time, patience and practice. How long have you being experimenting with the FT.... six months, a year ? If you persevere with it, I am sure you will find that after a while the thumb wont get in the way of the fingers.

     
  5. jarrydee

    jarrydee

    Oct 22, 2011
    Michigan
    play the way that is comfortable and works for you. I have never even thought about different plucking techniques, I just do what feels natural and works.
     
  6. JEBassman

    JEBassman Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2008
    Connecticut
    Ultimately you have to do what works for you. If the floating thumb method doesn't feel right, then don't use it. I was taught from the beginning to anchor my thumb on the thumb rest or pickup, and that's how I've always practiced and played. As with any instrument, it takes practice time and concentrated effort to become comfortable with posture and hand position. It sounds like you're happier with anchoring your thumb, so if that's the case there is nothing wrong with that approach. Countless bassists use that method, quite successfully.

    So relax, and practice with the position that works for you. :bassist:
     
  7. jarrydee

    jarrydee

    Oct 22, 2011
    Michigan
    +1...I was never taught anything, I just learned what worked for me and stuck with it!
     
  8. wishface

    wishface

    Jan 27, 2012
    The problem is doing waht is natural to me leaves the e string unmuted.
     
  9. fearceol

    fearceol

    Nov 14, 2006
    Ireland
    In that case, use your L/H fingers to mute the E string.
     
  10. JEBassman

    JEBassman Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2008
    Connecticut
    + 1 Use your left hand to mute, then.
     
  11. wishface

    wishface

    Jan 27, 2012
    That's been my default muting method. By default I mean, not always terribly effective.

    Essentially the problem I have is: free vs rest strokes.

    I'm trying to learn strict alternation (and yet i still rake, again both are in conflict). These are techniques with equal validity. There are times when rest stroke playing is preferrable, but when playing at greater speeds rest strokes are, imo, inefficient. This is because they use more of the finger and travel further (to rest on the adjacent string). Playing rest strokes allows my hand and thus thumb to sit in a more relaxed position allowing the hand to deal more effectively with muting. It's an aesthetically pleasing way to play, if nothing else. So there is, when i practice, a constant tension between both techniques.

    But I really don't think FT is for me. Other people's mileage certainly varies.
     
  12. fearceol

    fearceol

    Nov 14, 2006
    Ireland
    That's fair enough. The FT is not for everyone. As has been said already, it is up to you to find "your" technique. So keep on experimenting till you do so. Another thing you could try is muting with the palm of the plucking hand.
     
  13. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Going to come in on this one as I have been reading it with interest, and a few other posts by the OP?

    So to the OP.
    How long have you been playing bass, serious or other wise?
    What do you do as a day job and when do you practice?
    What is your goal when you practice your plucking hand...what are you expecting to happen?
    What do you really do when you practice and how long is a session?

    Four questions to start with to find out why a simple concept is not developing for you.
     
  14. wishface

    wishface

    Jan 27, 2012
    I have posted these answers before.
    I've been playing for 20 odd years, seriously to varying degrees of self taught study.
    I practice about two hours a day in total on varying things.
    My goal for my right hand is to be able to pick cleanly and quickly: to be able to play whatever I want to play. Probably the same as most of us. Ideally I would like to use the rest stroke style of play at any speed, but I don't think that styole of plucking works at high tempos.
    When I practice I play the exercise at hand, usually for 1/2 to an hour at a time. Anything longer than that and I become tired. As i've said before i was practicing for 2 hours at a time but that was too much and my arm was starting ache.

    I don't have a particular good instruyment, but that can't be helped. I can't do anything about that so we work with what we have.
     
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Playing to long and playing till you are tired is a problem......maybe even the main problem.
    There is constructive practice, practice that improves or maintains a level skills.
    Then there is destructive practice, practice that actually does more harm than good, practice that actually does nothing but help maintain the problem to be repetitive, it actually grooves the problem.

    Try cutting down your exercise practice to half of what you do.
    Take a break inbetween practice, split it up unto 10 minute sessions.
    Learn any exercise slow and deliberate, then once you have that then add some tempo.
    Start with simple exercises, then progressively make them harder, that could be adding more notes or tempo.
    Your hands should feel as good, if not better, than when you started your practice..fatigue should not be an issue.

    Try this exercise and tell me what happens when you do it.?..what the feeling is as you progress though it and any problem areas. Use the counting of it as described.
    Do it over an hour in sessions that take 5-10 minutes, then have a short break while you think about the exercise and rest, then repeat.
    Do them super slow then and add tempo as needed.


    Hand Exercise.

    Using the notes of a C scale play it up to the octave and back down at the 8th fret on the E string.

    C D E F G A B C B A G F E D C

    On the first play you give each note 8 times
    Second play you play each note 4 times
    Third play you play each note twice
    Fourth play you play each notes once*

    Do this slowly using a strictly alternating technique, so one note with each finger every time. The idea is to play them altogether as one flowing movement from start to finish, then move it around the neck, each time starting again with the 8 notes working back to one note.
    Count off the plucking hand fingers so you know exactly what finger is playing what. This is important to start with as it will help the brain to associate fingers to movement.*
    If you count of the plucking hand as 1&2&3&4&1&2&3&4& etc you will develop to keep time and also feel that in a two finger use the number 1 falls always on the leading finger and the & on the following finger. All this is in reality is eight accents, it is still counting to eight but not using eight numbers as the accents, it is still eight beats, but relating to you brain in a different way.
    So in truth when you practice, you are practicing more than is actually happening,the exercise as such is relating you to a flowing time...which can be any tempo.
    When playing the eight note you will count 1&2&3&4& for each note so effectively eight counts and eight strikes.
    When playing the four notes you will change note on the 1 then the 3
    When playing the two note you will change each note on the 1 the 2 the 3 the 4.
    When playing the single notes you change on every accent.
     
  16. wishface

    wishface

    Jan 27, 2012
    With respect, the point of the OP wasn't about alternate plucking per se. It was more the issue of right hand muting. I appreciate your effort here, but I think you may have misunderstood what I was getting at.
     
  17. fearceol

    fearceol

    Nov 14, 2006
    Ireland
    To be fair, you said you were also trying to perfect your plucking technique (post #11).

    Perhaps you need to take a step back, to see if you can rectify things, before moving on.

    Why not take Fergie's advice and work on that for a few weeks or so. It certainly would not be time wasted IMO.
     
  18. wishface

    wishface

    Jan 27, 2012
    Of course. I've been practicing strict alternate plucking for about 6 weeks, if that. It's not going to be perfected in that time.
     
  19. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Not really, the exercise deals with many aspects of playing. It is a foundation exercise. Once this exercise is learned, then the fun begins in its application. See it as learning to drive, once you have it you can go where ever you want, as far as you want, and of course stop when you want.

    I personally do not teach many different skills in playing....unless I decide something needs targeting.
    So on-line when a player has a problem it is best to start them from the beginning and rebuild rather than repair.

    I already know what you should find, I will also have an idea from your answer whether you are developing your hands for playing, or just developing them in a way that will ensure you never move on.
    So if you try it for a few days and tell me what you find, I can offer better advice.:)
     
  20. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    My friend practises and plays golf every week, and has done for 30 years...........he is really no better now than when he started, so why?

    All he does is practice and practice wrong, he make it almost impossible to improve, because he is making the fault in his swing repeatable, so grooved, so ingrained all he can do is hit the shots he does.

    Playing an instrument is the same, you can actually practice at not getting better....and groove it , anyway the results are the same as the golfer, it gives the same bad results every time.:bassist:
     

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