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question: re-learning finger picking technique.. no more nails!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by thehangingmist, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. i started learning classical and bass guitar around the same time 4 years back so i always played the bass with my nails. i dont play the classical guitar anymore and have cut off the nails and am now learning to play with the fingers!
    so after playing for last few weeks i have built a bit of callous around the tip part on my fingers but now i get this nail like sound which is inconsistent and trebely/bitey. when i play with the lower flat part i get this thuddy muddy tone which doesnt reall cut through. now when am playing something moderately fast i get a mixture of both the tones at random which doesnt sound any good either :atoz:
    so how do you play, with the tip part or the lower flat part? can you recommend any exercise now how to build the consistency and tone, besides playing a lot?
  2. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    End of fingers, but keeping nails trimmed short enough that there is no pick attack sound. Tone knob is always wide open unless I specifically need tone roll-off for something involving the bridge pickup and burpiness, etc.
  3. do some people incorporate their nail occasionally too?
  4. I do a little bit, I keep my nails pretty short but by rolling my hand out a bit changing the attack angle I can get a little of the nail to bite for added zing. Being naturally left handed I spent a lot of time developing my right hand techniques, just slow deliberate work.
  5. Yes. For an example go back and rediscover some Duck Dunn.
  6. archer121


    Apr 12, 2009
    With my plucking hand, I play the strings between the tip and pad of my fingers and sort of draw them up and off the strings coming to rest on the next lower string or my thumb rather than picking or flicking them with my fingers. I've heard of people using their nails like picks before but haven't seen it, personally. Once you train yourself to play a certain way it can be rather difficult to retrain yourself to another technique but it can be done. Go back to the basics and think about your fingers and how they are contacting the strings and how you have to attack the strings to get the sound you want. Play a lot of chromatic scales up and down the neck while getting a feel for the new technique.
  7. queevil


    Aug 6, 2009
    When ever I have that problem I just bite the small piece of protruding nail off and then get back to playing. Yeah, it's a bit crude but I'm a lifelong nail biter anyway so it's not a big deal to me.
  8. so i should cut my nails as short as possible?
  9. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Mine are always just as short as I can keep them.
  10. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    I personally never advise using the nails to play bass. The strings thickness and therefore tension put un-necessary pressure on the nail bed.
    This constant pulling up of the nail away from the bed will in the end over time cause damage to the vessel structure and nerves under the nail. use finger picks if this is sound you like, that way the picks take the pressure.
    People sometimes varnish the nail of use super glues to make it harder. In this use it makes no difference the nail bed has not been affected in anyway, but the damage can no be caused by harder playing because the nails ability to sense the damage has be compromised.:)
  11. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    I try to keep my nails as short as possible, but different right hand techniques can introduce a little bit of nail into my sound. The problem with doing this is that the sound from index finger to middle finger is a little bit inconsistent. I have learned to play with one finger on the right hand for passages where I put my nails into the strings. I pretty much have to trim my nails every day, and definitely before gigs and recording.
  12. alright thanks
  13. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    If your callouses are giving you too much of a bright, "nail like" sound, use hand lotion. It will soften the callouses, but will not compromise their strength (meaning you won't get blisters). It works. I learned that from the Rufus Reid method book - in which he's referring specifically to upright bassists - and have applied it to electric bass for years.

    I usually use the area between the very tip and the pad of my fingers, but I'll sometimes change the angle of attack to get just a little bit of nail in the mix for that extra 'click' sound. I keep my nails very short and try not to dig in too hard with my fingers. Sometimes I'll also use the backs of my nails, but that's more of a special effect than a regular technique.

    It's worth experimenting with alternate techniques to keep in your tool bag for various applications. Not to use all the time, but just to have other sounds you can use.
  14. so do some people play with finger pads and some with fingers tips?
  15. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    Sure, there are lots of different ways to strike a string and none of them are wrong. Another thing to consider is that everyone's fingers are shaped differently, and also different angles of approach will get different sounds because of where the end of the nail sits on their finger tips.

    As far as the use of nails goes, I'm pretty sure Jamerson had quite a bit of nail in his sound. He played with one finger too.

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