Right hand: Alternating 1st and 2nd finger.

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Jack Clark, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. In this Youtube video (link below) Scott Lafaro is shown pumping out walking quarters at around 200 bpm. He's doing a lot of alternating between the first and second fingers of his right hand, sometimes doubling up with his second finger. (See starting at about 1:50 on the video.) How usual would you pros say that is? And at what tempos? And does it depend on the comparative lengths of a bassist's first and second fingers, do you think?

    Scott LaFaro playing his Prescott Bass - YouTube
  2. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    I find watching the right hand of the greats endlessly fascinating. Each has a different thing going on with it's own nuances. Watching guys playing at tempos even faster than Scotty in that vid, I often see them mix up their right hand technique to keep from getting worn out and to help stay relaxed.

    here's some fun right hand technique: this one has been posted before but....
    Dig the way Ray mixes up right hand technique seamlessly during his solo. 1/2 finger parallel and perpendicular...and ya gotta love his pinky stickin' out.
    Then, check out Niels' three finger rake drops amongst other things!
  3. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    From what I've seen, it's not unusual at all to mix up fingers. Two fingers sound different than one and IMO, it's the sound they're after. Of all right hands, IMO, Buster Williams has the most unique technique.

    It's almost like his fingers are fully extended.
  4. MR PC

    MR PC Inactive

    Dec 1, 2007
    .......but Buster, wow!
  5. Ray, Niels, and Buster are great in these solos, but really I was just asking about walking bass lines. In the video I attached, Scott was walking quarter notes in the section I referenced, and at around 200 bpm he was alternating 1st and 2nd fingers a lot and even doubling up on his 2nd finger sometimes. I'd like to know how common that is during walking bass lines and about at what bpms you pros tend to begin including the 2nd finger.
  6. Ross Kratter

    Ross Kratter Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2010
    New York, NY
    Artist, RS Berkeley, La Bella Strings, Phil Jones Bass Amplification, Remic, 64 Audio
    My teacher, Mike Richmond, always plays with 2 fingers and can walk at some ridiculous tempos because of it.
  7. bssist


    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA
    Are you only "supposed" to use one finger? I use two most of the time and occasionally three if it gets me where I want to go.
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    It's personal preference. There's no hard fast rules for using how many and when. For bright tempos, typically you're going so fast that the tone from note to note matters less and so you just go with alternating fingers like in LaFaro's vid.

    Here's a cool twist in the opposite of what was previously linked:
    Wes Montgomery - Twisted Blues (Belgium 1965) - YouTube

    I think I might just start trying to do everything with the least number of fingers neccessary just to see what happens.
  9. 251


    Oct 6, 2006
    Metro Boston MA
    I find the music already has enough rules. If it enhances your musical creativity, I say, eliminate a "rule" or 2. YRMV
  10. bssist


    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA
  11. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    For me, it's like this... when I'm just playing walking lines, I'm more relaxed at really obscenely fast tempos playing one finger (or two bridged into one big finger) than two. It may be because the pizz motion comes from the arm and wrist more, and less from the fingers. I learned largely that when I was playing gut. I can play fast all day using that technique.

    It's probably worth mentioning that I can play fast walking bass on gut strings much more easily than I can on other strings. I think that whole "tuned drums" approach is kind of key to letting it swing.. the guts allow a little more air between the sonic events, and that serves this situation really well.

    The other thing that makes it work for me is to try to integrate the right and left hands rhythmically, so I'm not plucking each and every note. Bass guitarists might call it "hammering", just as a point of reference. I've found that it swings a little harder that way, and adds nuance to a bass line that might be static otherwise.
  12. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    As BIGGUS is alluding to, there's more to pizz technique than the number of fingers. Some players entire eschew using the arm/wrist. John Clayton comes to mind. Considering that he's Kristin's mentor, she's gonna pick up those elements from him.

    OTOH there's the "chicken wing" types, as we like to call it, who use more arm/wrist action.
    John Coltrane Quartet 3 - YouTube
  13. Wow. Really interesting, Marcus. Thanks.
  14. bssist


    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA
    That is something that I have caught myself doing increasingly lately. I'll "bounce" or "roll" hammer and roll off techniques for quick runs into the downbeat, or often bounce the e or &.

  15. Alternating fingers. Great punch and articulation. Nuff said.:bassist:
  16. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    Absolutely gorgeous! I haven't heard a trio this good since the Tal Farlow, Eddie Costa, Vinnie Burke group.
    I couldn't hear Malone when he was playing behind McBride's solo. I kept expecting him to go into a rhythmic muted-string comp on two and four as Farlow often did.
    Thanks for the post.
    As for the fingers, you should relax and simply do what feels best to you.
  17. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    If you want to use both fingers equally, work on it!!! There's no advantage to using just one finger, and if you ever get an injury in your first finger you'll be glad you had backup!

    Personally I take issue with segregating walking and soloing technique. Use what you need when you need to use it. If your second finger can't swing quarter notes, the only issue is that you haven't spent enough time walking with that finger.... I make all my students walk an play scales with 1 and 2, completely isolated, then alternating, with rakes on the way down. Voila.
  18. Thanks!
  19. Emoody

    Emoody Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2012
    Aside from the technical aspect, I don't like this tune played so fast, kind of elite-sport mentality, a pity :rollno:
  20. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    I have to disagree. I think it's a splendid display of virtuosity. Give a listen to Vic Feldman, Scott La Faro and Stan Levey (drums) on Serpent's Tooth for another. One of the beautiful things about jazz is that there are no "right tempi."
    Plus it's fun!
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