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Right Hand Technique Questions

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by wishface, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    Hello, I've been playing for around 20 years as a complete amateur. I'm not bad, but I am self taught. My style is probably somewhere between Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler and Jah Wobble, and I like a variety of styles of music.
    However I have never really found a reliable right hand fingerstyle technique to learn from (all the above are, afaik, self taught). I've been trying to improve it recently, but there are many different methods and I can't decide which is right for me.
    Generally I play with two fingers resting alternately on pickup (my bass guitar isn't very good and it has only one pickup in the middle, occasionally i use the edge of the neck) and A string. This I gather is pretty conventional. My weaknesses are string skipping and open string/muting (particularly when coming down the strings where it's not easy to use the left hand to mute them). I'm pretty good with ghost notes, but muting unused/open strings is difficult and I don't have a reliable technique other than to combien both hands probably not very effectively.
    If you take a riff, like Geddy plays near the end of Cygnus X1, where he plays an octave open E-2nd fret D and then slides that up two frets (F# to 4th fret D) I struggle.
    What I'm looking for are some exercises to tighten that up. I've tried the floating thumb and that doesn't seem efficient (though I could be doing it wrong) because as you move across the strings you have to release your thumb and move it up and over the string to the one required as you play. It also doesn't seem to really address the kind of octave string skipping shown above. I have never got along with the 3rd and 4th finger string muting (Jaco does it in his video which is where I saw it done years ago, I've never mastered it) because it feels very uncomfortable and my fingers don't seem to lay naturally on the strings as required: my hand arches a bit too much for that to work.
    Thanks for your time.
  2. Edubagio


    Oct 5, 2011

    I use this exercise to improve my right hand.

    This is a drummer exercise to play with stick.

    You coud start with 90 bpm in metronome, and the " L" you use index and "R" the midlle finger.


    I hope you enjoy.

  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    You could possibly be mixing up the FT with the "movable anchor technique." As the technique says, the thumb simply "floats" over the strings. There is no "release" involved. Below is a clip of the FT technique. Take a look and see if is the same as what you refer to.

  4. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    I have been looking into it and I see the difference. However I find the problem i mentioned is still there: playing on the E using FT means my thumb naturally rests on the pickup, so moving from there to actually floating the thumb (as opposed to resting it on the string behind becomes awkward when trying to move fast. I haven't found a way around that, perhaps i'm doing it wrong. Also I can't get as much speed without anchoring my thumb, is that normal?
  5. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Your thumb does not have to rest on the pick up when playing the E string using the FT. Again, why not just let it float ? It might seem strange and unnatural at first. It did to me, when I first started using the FT.

    With regards speed without anchoring. This too, will come with practice. Alternate the fingers using a metronome at a comfortable tempo. When you have a good clear steady sound at that tempo, then up the 'nome, say five notches or so and repeat, and so on.

    There is no "one technique fits all". It is up to each individual to experiment to find a safe and comfortable technique that they are happy with. Then persevere with it, until it becomes second nature.

    There are no short cuts, I'm afraid. ;)
  6. Randyt

    Randyt RAAPT Custom Wood Productions

    Jul 21, 2010
    Barrie, Canada
    so you dont cheat... practice in front of a mirror..it has great possibilties!!
  7. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    No shortcuts, but not learning bad habits.

    That said technique is a funny thing. I daresay the likes of Geezer Butler and Steve Harris have techniques that strictly speaking are flawed, but those limits inspire unique ideas as well as being able to pull out great tones. Geezer for instance has always had a really solid tone and I have loved copping the way he almost slaps/grabs the strings. The same with Geddy. They play pretty 'hard' and sometimes that harsh style is really effective. But at the same time you want to find a physically efficient way to play that doesn't cause undue tension. Bit like when I see people like Flea play with the bass slung really low (it looks cool, I've tried playing liek that and I just can't because it's too stressful on the left hand - and without a more relaxed right hand you struggle on the higher strings :D)
    But I'm struggling to play the E string with a floating thumb.
  8. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    I can't decide whether to practise just raking, which is, by accident more than design, how i play notes descending. Or whether to spend time trying to utilise strict alternation. Are there any good exercises for the latter? I find that when I do use SA my fingers tend to be more tense, more claw like, as if i'm overcompensating, that's not as comfortable as i'd like (hence the development of the raking technique) and doesn't feel as natural as raking.

    I can't really get on with floating thumb, so I'm trying to develop the floating anchor hybrid, going up to rest on the A string where necessary. But I practise exercises in scales across different intervals, such as sixths, which makes those techniques a bit more difficult.
  9. I had a similar problem to the OP when I first started playing. The only way I could fix it was by taking lessons. Repeated practice and guidance from a good teacher helps to cure many small issues.
  10. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Lots of people claim that strict alternation is the way to go, while others are happy to rake in certain circumstances. Again, there are no rules. Find what works for you. I lean more towards the SA camp, though I do rake at times.

    The only way to practice strict alternation is to simply do it for as long as it takes to become second nature. Start slow and up the tempo gradually. You can do it without the amp, with the bass on your lap, while watching TV etc. Just make sure that you are actually alternating.
  11. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    I can't decide which is best.

    I find that raking struggles when you cross strings. In fact, what is the correct raking procedure if you have to play:


    In these situations, my raking struggles as the finger naturally goes to the string immediately below (D, in the example), but instead it needs to play A.
  12. Learn Strict Alternation. Then rake as needed.
  13. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    To be honest, IMO you are over thinking these things. Yes, good technique is essential, but there comes a time when you have to do what comes natural to you, and works for you, provided it is not going to cause any injury problems. Everyone has their own natural way of playing the bass. That's why it is possible to pick out some bassists after hearing just a few notes from them.

    Regarding SA v raking : personally, I'd recommend SA, but only you can decide what's best for you. ;)
  14. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    But that's the problem: each is better in certan situations it seems. That's why I posted the riff above: how do you rake across strings?
  15. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    In that case, learn both and let the situation dictate which one to use. The more "tools" you have at your disposel the better.

    Raking :

  16. BullHorn


    Nov 23, 2006
    I have the same issue. I was practicing Tower of Power's What Is Hip and I came to a realisation.

    I slowed down the tempo with a metronome to 40bpm and looked closely at my picking hand. What I discovered shocked me!

    Basically, I noticed that when I skip up from E to D or from A to G, I will use my middle finger, probably because it's longer and it came naturally for me to use it. When I go down from G to A or from D to E, I'll use my index finger, because it's shorter and also came naturally.

    What this means is that if I'm playing a pumping beat like straight 16th notes and end up doing index-middle-index-middle and then have to go up, I'll have to pick with the middle finger twice in a row - An instant hiccup!

    Another thing that I noticed when I slowed down was that I'm uninetentionally raking when going down from string to string but the bad thing is that I also sometimes rake when I skip a string, that's another hiccup!

    Currently I'm working slowly with a metronome, practicing consciously to improve my picking and get rid of the 'bad habits'. A general rule of thumb I apply to this is: Practice consciously and slowly at home, but play however comes natural when I'm with my band because I still want to enjoy. Eventually, I believe my practice would take over my unconscious playing technique at band practice and gigs.
  17. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    If you curl/bend the plucking hand fingers you will see the tips all level out...so no finger is "longer or shorter " when playing. The amount of curl/bend depends on the length of the fingers of course, but this is a good starting point for any player....curl/bend the fingers till the tips are level and you have a good place to start.
  18. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    I generally prefer to play a more relaxed way, the fingers flat just sliding across the strings, as opposed to bent and a more active 'pluck'. I like the feel when playing those traditional 8th/16th note runs, it just sounds slightly fatter. That's normally how i play and hence raking is used.

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