Plucking or Pulling?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Plissken, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. Plissken


    Jul 6, 2009
    I'm new to playing bass and for the first few months I've been plucking the strings to play with my fingers. However, I started reading a book called "Complete Book of Bass Essentials" by Bunny Brunell.

    Bunny says that you should keep your fingers straight and that the joints shouldn't bend. He says to "pull" not pluck the strings. For example, if you pull the open G string with your first finger, then after you pull it, it should be resting on the D string, and if you were to hit the G string again, you have your second finger up and ready to pull it again.

    I've tried it and it definitely is something that you have to get used to. I've wondered if you can actually get some speed on it as opposed to plucking and I saw some videos of Bunny playing and sure enough, the man is super fast.

    However, is pulling the strings THE right way? Or is it just one way?
  2. Kevinmach


    Dec 7, 2008
    Dear Snake-

    They give different tones, and which method you use depends on the style of music you play. But if you were to ask me my personal opinion, I would say you should be pulling 99% of the time, and only plucking when it's being used to produce the that different sound it makes.

    There are a few reasons for this- one is the "rest stroke" you mentioned- resting your finger on the next string. I think that's very important to produce consistent tone and fluidity. Another reason is control the noise made by the bass- the rest stroke helps tremendously, and plucking with add to the "clanky" noises the bass likes to make when the string resonating with a little too much force (fret buzz,etc).

    In other words, Bunny is right. Pull back... don't pluck yourself.
  3. uethanian


    Mar 11, 2007
    well if i understand what u mean...

    plucking is a much more complex motion than pulling...when plucking, every joint in the finger is performing an action, and the entire finger tenses to build pressure before the release. but pulling, only one joint (the strongest one) is working, and the rest of the finger can stay relaxed. pulling also has a faster recovery, as you can (kind of) swing fluidly thru the string, as opposed to re-setting under the string. and yes it may seem slower at first but that's just because you're not used to it.
    when you watch jaco play this, notice two things: 1) his left hand/arm is totally relaxed, it looks effortless. 2) his fingers are straight but loose; they actually bend backwards a bit at the tips before each release
  4. TheSilverKnight


    Jun 2, 2007
    I think the word pull adds to the confusion of the technique. You aren't so much pulling as just letting your finger move through the string. The best description I can give is to gently(KEY!) push down. GENTLY! Push down and across the top of the string.

    Where you are likely loosing speed is because you are placing you finger on the side of the string and actually adding force to pull.

    The easiest way to visualize it is to pretend you 1st and 2nd finger s are a person you know like you did in school and walked across your desk. Do the same thing accept let the pads of your fingers walk through the strings barley touching the side and just going over the tops to rest on the next string or your thumb if you are on your lowest string.
  5. OP -

    What does your intuition tell you?

    Do you have some belief in the words and gravity of this teacher? If so, then listen to that because they are speaking an essential particle of the whole truth to you. Practice that they are sharing. A lot.

    A L O T

    Make it your own.

    And make it a tool in your tool pouch; ready for you to draw upon whenever necessary. Pluck, pull.... whatever....

    Get some discipline, then trust what your ears and hands tell you...

    Then get some more discipline and throw out everything you thought you knew....

    and learn to trust your hands and ears once more.

    "pull the open G string with your first finger, then after you pull it, it should be resting on the D string"

    This is an awesomely expressive and flexible method for playing bass. And it has little to do with how YOU may sound. Practice the heck out of it until it becomes your mother tongue. This may take a lifetime.... and it would be a worthy endeavor.

    Go for it...
    Have fun!