"pop" with middle finger?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by mpderksen, May 26, 2020.

  1. mpderksen


    Oct 10, 2011
    Just learning Slap technique. The most comfortable hand position puts my thumb at about 2 o'clock (just above horizontal) and middle finger the perfect position to pluck without reaching or straining. Plucking/poping with my index feels cramped and awkward.
    I'm SO early in this, should I just use the index and get used to it before getting incorrect technique ingrained into my hand?


    Scarysharkface likes this.
  2. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    If you're "so early" in this...why not get comfortable using both the index & middle for popping.
    There is something called a flam.
    Victor Wooten & Alain Caron are 2 players that excel at this.
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member


    good luck! :thumbsup:
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  4. DarkStar90


    Feb 4, 2008
    Flea pops with his middle finger. When I was a beginner I just copied what I saw him doing. Works fine for me.
  5. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    Is there some rule that says it has to be index finger?

    Comfort is important, and for a whole host of reasons (reach, spacing, speed, economy of movement) the middle finger always worked more naturally for me.

    I seem to remember a lot of my peers, and a host of role models, such as Flea, primarily used their middle finger too.

    That said, playing position is a key factor : if you wear your bass below the belt, the middle finger is usually more comfortable.

    If you wear your bass above your belt, or play primarily seated, the index finger may be more practical.

    Everyone's body is different.
  6. mpderksen


    Oct 10, 2011
    Just stepping in carefully. I am learning on Scott's Bass Lessons, and he was instructing with the index (not that I couldn't use middle, just that was what he was showing). He said in the video that selecting thumb angle was individual choice, but that if you pointed it more "up", you could later advance to plucking UP with the thumb. If you started with your thumb down, you would be later limited for this specific style. No mention of the popping finger, but want to develop from the beginning and not be sorry.
    I play both seated and standing, and in both positions, my middle just feels "right".
  7. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    I'm not going to position myself as a tutor - I'm comfortable just doing what works for me.

    If by
    you / Scott means "popping" with the thumb, that's not a limitation I've ever run into.

    If you / Scott meant regular (ie neither slap, nor pop) down strokes with your thumb - yes, that would be a limitation with your thumb pointed downwards.

    In situations where that was required, I slightly changed angle, so that my thumb was parallel with the strings, enabling both both regular down strokes, and slapping / popping.

    In all honesty, I don't think I've been required to play any slap bass since the early 2000's, much less had any interest in doing so (in spite of being pretty damn good at that aggressive punk / funk style), so take all of this with a big pinch of salt, as I'm well out of practice in that regard.

    Scott, and his instructional courses, are very highly regarded, and recognised.

    I don't see any conflict in you following his tuition, with regards to the angle of your thumb, and both your own, and my preference for using the middle finger for popping.

    Doesn't part of your membership fee to Scott's Bass Lessons include either some direct email Q&A with tutors, or access to a members discussion board?

    They may have valid reasons to preach the index finger, but I've honestly never encountered one beyond personal preference, or the niche ability to play trills.
    Mr Cheese likes this.
  8. mpderksen


    Oct 10, 2011
    Thanks. I need to go through the video lesson specifically. They have a new section "players path" with a brief slap overview, not the full lesson, which is what I watched. To be clear, he was NOT indicating middle was in any way wrong. He was showing the pluck with his index.
    I've posted a follow up there as well, but this site gets far more traffic, and already have a conversation going. Plus, I feel talkbass has a diverse set of members, and it never hurts to get a range of opinions.
    Mr Cheese and Wood and Wire like this.
  9. I think Scott’s reference is to double thumbing - rapidly alternating slapped down stroke then a slapped up stroke with your thumb. Effectively doubles your playing speed.

    Either index or middle is fine IMO IME, but thumb angle/forearm angle can strongly influence which one is more comfortable.
  10. vvvmmm, franvarin and JimK like this.
  11. MordBass


    Nov 1, 2017
    I use my index,middle,ring in that order to pop triplets and at times when ive been playing too long, ill switch to my middle for regular pops just to give the index a rest. If I were you, id learn both or all 3. easier to build muscle memory than it is to reprogram it.
  12. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    Somewhere in time
    You should be able to pluck with either finger (and even with your ring finger for nice triplets :)

    Practice practice practice. And since you're just starting, it's great to get this thing down: try to use as little force as possible to generate the sound. Let the amp do the work, you don't have to generate the volume with your hands.
    Check this video out:

    Check how it looks effortless. There's no slapping the bass like it owes you money. And the index and middle fingers appear to barely get under the strings, and pop kinda sideways.
  13. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    It's worth the woodshed time getting comfortable popping with both index and middle, IMHO. Then you can pull off the T-P-P "machine gun" triplet trick.
    HolmeBass likes this.
  14. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    For me:
    • Thumb slap + middle finger g string pop
    • Thumb slap + middle finger g string pop and index d string pop. G and d double stops too with both index and middle.
    • Thumb + index for motor snap
    • Pick + ring finger pop
    • Pick + middle finger and ring finger double stops
    Haven't found a use for my right pinkie yet.

    Best wishes to you!
    TOOL460002 likes this.
  15. Work S-L-O-W-L-Y and learn to use either/both fingers. You shouldn’t decide that there’s only one way for you to play. Bear in mind that awhile ago you couldn’t play at all and now you can. Always add to and improve your bag of tricks and one day you’ll hear, “How’d you do that??!!” Practice new things S-L-O-W-L-Y to teach yourself the right movements. After you get it right it’s much easier to make it fast.
    songofthewind likes this.
  16. Texan

    Texan 667 Neighbor of the Beast. Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2004
    Houston, TX
    I use middle, just more comfortable. Do what feels right.
    Rabidhamster likes this.
  17. It's prolly fine, but if you're concerned study other techniques.
  18. I go either or, mostly index, but middle as well, to give the index a break. The index will get sore after a lot of popping, I’ll switch to middle. There’s no right or wrong if you can play it clean.

    Cool stuff happens with both, popping the D with index and G with middle.

    Don’t neglect the left hand slap, it’s the hardest one to get even and clean. Get all four working together, thumb, left hand slap, index middle.

    Check out Tony Oppenhiem’s book Slap It for a great technique study. Use one of the online drum machines or apps to slow tempos down till you get clean.

    Look into your set up, slappers tend towards very light strings, low action, and a light touch.

    Have fun!
  19. Dr. Keebs

    Dr. Keebs Bassmaster General

    Jan 9, 2016

    Here's Brian Bromberg, a jazz/fusion icon, explaining his reason for using his middle rather than index, to pop.
  20. geophreigh

    geophreigh the artist formerly known as tb-player™️ Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    I use both. It definitely helps to be proficient with index and middle. It's all muscle memory.
    electracoyote likes this.