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Plucking with index and ring fingers

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bassinstincts, Apr 3, 2012.

  1. bassinstincts

    bassinstincts Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Acoustic Image
    After years of clipping the nall of my middle finger every day and still getting a sharp edged "naily" sound no matter where I position my right hand, I have realized that the problem is the relatively long length of my middle finger. Last night, I started two-fingerstyle alternating plucking with my first and ring fingers. I didn't miss a beat and got a consistently rounder sound, without nail contacting string.

    I also did a some reading about what science says about what the relative length of fingers says about testosterone levels and aggression. Don't want to get into that, but wondered if anyone else is doing the one and three thing.
  2. jordak


    Apr 7, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Back when I first started playing, I would find myself playing with middle and ring fingers after a long jam when my fingertips were starting to hurt.

    When playing with index and ring fingers, doesn't the middle finger get in the way? Also, if you tilt the bass at a different angle, you may find that your two picking fingers are at the same distance from whatever string you're playing.

    I don't mean to rain on your parade, but your discovery may just be in your head. You can do whatever works for you, but it sounds like a major technical limitation to commit yourself to playing with index and ring fingers only.
  3. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    23 ft below sea level
    +1 I tilted the bass a little as well and I also bend my fingers. You'll see the tips are quite even when bent.
  4. Psycho


    Jun 24, 2008
    This is something I find very helpful. There's an interview floating around also, where Billy Sheehan mentions that little factoid, and how it helps him out.

    Try both, and do what you find most comfortable.
  5. gavinspoon


    Feb 11, 2008
    Cardiff UK
    I lost the tip of my middle finger in an accident as a child, and have been left with a hard short curling nail and no decent pad for string contact. Because of that I play with index and ring. It works for what I need it for.
  6. D_Quackington


    Nov 7, 2011
    Yeah I do this all the time. I started using all three then dropped the middle and found I had the same speed. I use it for solos and quick fills only. The rest of the time it is index and middle. Index and ring can certainly be used effectively but I generally won't have the same power and loudness.
    I've now been finding that after lots of 16th note endurance training that I can get my Index/ring up to the same speed. I would recommend doing this so you are more balanced.
    Here is myself playing a solo using index/ring.
    NMIT performance by Jimmy Nicholas 'Crazy' - YouTube
  7. bassinstincts

    bassinstincts Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Acoustic Image
    Many thanks
    Good advice and playing
  8. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    I mostly pick index/ring, but the ring finger isn't that nifty and I find tricky passages with lots of string changes are easier with index/middle.

    I can't use my index and middle finger all the time though because it puts my wrist in an uncomfortable position.
  9. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Alain Caron and John Myung sometimes do that.

    Alain Caron use that mostly to do rift like 2 strikes on the E string and one on any other strings. that way his hand doesn't move a lot, very consistant attack with all the fingers curled and a floating thumb you can do very stricky stuff.
    ( go at 2min30 to see what I talk about )
    Uzeb - New Hit Part 2 - YouTube

    John Myung seems to do it mostly for economy of motion and speed.

    John Myung Progressive Bass Concepts chunk 6 - YouTube
  10. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World

    Nov 25, 2008
    i just started doing this today (plucking ring and index) and found it very comfortable.

    if you've seen some of my previous posts in the amp and bass sub-forums you may know that i'm recovering from a spinal cord injury. two years ago, i broke my neck at the C3/4 vertebrae. i was paralyzed from the neck down instantly, and i've been fighting to recover since.

    obviously, i've recovered enough to be playing bass again, but i still have quite a bit of nerve damage that restricts my playing. i found that my right hand picking was feeling awkward and my timing was inconsistent. i've been powering away with a metronome and hoping to just build my skills with drills.

    today i noticed that my left hand (which is the most impaired region of my body, currently) had issues with coordinating the index and middle and that i was compensating by using my ring finger for fretting notes that i would have used my middle for, previous to my injury.

    at first i thought that this might be a coordination predisposition in humans, along the lines of the test where you try to pat your head while you rub your belly. the right side and the left side often try to follow each other, so i thought i'd try going with that flow while picking. it also triggered a thought to look up the nerve pathways i'd learned about through my recovery, called dermatomes, which tell you what part of the body is controlled by which vertebrae level of the spinal cord.

    notice on the chart above that there is a break in fingers, splitting them into groups of the index & middle (controlled by
    C7), and ring & pinky (controlled by C8). it has me wondering if, for some people, that creates an effect on coordination of finger movement. think of it as having a dual processor computer, where one processor controls one group and a second processor controls the other. it may be more taxing on the processor to try to run the "alternate picking program instruction" for two fingers through a single processor than to run two paralel "picking program instructions" with each finger being handled by a separate processor.

    i just put this here as food for thought. obviously, whatever works for you is what works for you. clearly there hasn't been an overwhelming number of players that use the ring/index technique.
  11. I often try to deliberately mix up my technique, using index & middle, or index & ring, or middle & ring fingers. One technique I also really enjoy is slight palm-muting while plucking alternately with my thumb and index finger - I find it usually much faster than any combination of fingers alone. I guess it's something similar to what banjo players do, though I've never learned banjo picking to say for sure.
  12. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I know what you mean about the "naily" sound, but I actually make use of it. If you don't want it you can tame it by rolling off some high mids. You can also offset the length of your middle finger by rollong your hand and lower arm counter-clockwise so as to play more on the side of your fingers, kinda like you would on upright. Try it and see.
  13. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    it might have to do with calluses too. At least for me, the more i play the brighter my tone gets because my fingers skin gets tougher, if you switch fingers to the ones you don't play with it will be fleshier (?) or softer giving a warmer tone. I have switched to index ring at times too just to get that warmer tone... my mid finger has tougher skin.
  14. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World

    Nov 25, 2008
    that is an interesting point.

    the other thing i noticed is that the difference in plucking location of the index/ring vs the index/middle results in a bigger attack difference. the index gets a rounder, softer attack being closer to the neck, while the ring yeilds more bridge bite and cut, and the diference is greater than using index/middle. i've found this can add some bounce and swing to an 1/8th note line, giving it a ghost/syncopated feel with the alternating plucks (index on the beats, ring on the ands).
  15. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    yes I notice it a lot after playing upright since that toughens up my fingers all around. Thumb however tends to get a fatter warmer tone out of all the fingers (and i don't mean slap)... I think it could also have to do with the amount of flesh which plucks the string, same as upright, the more flesh you have on the string the warmer tone. (at least for me). I know what you mean by changing the fingers and getting different tones... maybe we have to use some kind of hand lotion or dip in a pool for a couple of hours to get a warmer tone haha.
  16. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World

    Nov 25, 2008
    i don't know. i kinda dig the sonic texture it gives. right tool for the job means you need to understand the job. this is art, so there is no "right" way that works in 100% of the cases.
  17. bassinstincts

    bassinstincts Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Acoustic Image
    This is one thread I am thoroughly enjoying. Who woulda thought there would be this many intelligent things to say on this subject?
  18. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Interestingly, I don't have callouses on my plucking fingers (I don't play upright anymore) for electric bass. I do use a fairly light touch, but not that light, I didn't think. Been playing electric regularly now since 1988, gigging all the time. Maybe the skin is a little thicker, but not really like what I would call a callous.
  19. Gaius46


    Dec 15, 2010
    I've been messing with palm muting alot lately. Started using just the thumb but found it tough to properly mute the G and especially the high B (on my 6) while striking with the thumb and have started using my index finger on the higher strings. Works well. The alternating technique you're using sounds interesting. Going to give that a go.

    I'm primarily a three finger player (index-middle-ring-middle). It took (takes cause I'm still not there) alot of work to get an even tone across all three fingers. Interesting I burned my ring finger last week - nice second degree burn right on the joint just below the finger tip. Bending that joint is still painful so I've reverted to just two fingers for the time being. Amazed at how much I miss using my ring finger.
  20. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    I'm working on that index, mid, ring combination too (taking baby steps). I will add the thumb later for that Hadrien/Garrison technique. If you guys heard of NHOP, he does that technique on upright

    you can see it around 0:15. Now, doing that on upright, that is the real challenge haha.

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