Shifting from mainly pick to mainly fingerstyle - Ideas?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Jack, Aug 21, 2004.

  1. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    Ok guys,

    Ive been playing bass for about 19 months now and Ive slowly started using my fingers more and more. Now Im using my fingers almost exclusivly but I think I need some tips.

    Ive always been 'ok' with my fingers but Ive always had problems with a few things:

    1. I keep accidentally hitting strings I dont mean to, though this is happening less and less.
    2. If I play quickly my notes loose definition, especially on the lower strings.

    Any ways to combat this?

    Yes . . . . . I know . . . . . practice. . . . .

  2. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    You got it.
  3. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    And how exactly do I practise getting more definition?
  4. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    This is a similar case to mine. Last rehersal we were playing Little Girl by Steve Miller, in which the bass part is prominent in holding down this simple ditiditiditidit (nine sixteenth notes -are they eighths... dang.) on just one note (I suppose I should be able to remember what that note is too, huh?... it's between the dots; I remember that... dang.). I thought to myself how those notes need super-clean definition, yet a smoooth and easy feel (NOT distinct like from muting the strings above the fret and hammering the note to make it sound like organ pedals or something, or the 'violent' sound of a pick), and how those notes weren't getting the proper treatment from me! Now a regular part of my practice is playing scales with doubled-up or triplet plucks.

    Hasn't done me much good yet in about three hours worth of total practice in the last three days (about 20min of which actually incorporating this definition excercise), but I'll let you know in another week if I'm beginning to NOT sound like a rank amateur on that song.

    Of course my friends likely wouldn't notice the difference, and will still call me a virtuoso if I just rip-out a sloppy claypool ripoff followed by a second and a half of some hammer-on-pull-off trill or something.. oh yeah, and finish it up any random harmonic taps. If I want too seem like I improved, maybe I should try looking a little stunned after the harmonics, like it took a lot out of me, and I'm gaining composure.

    I'm glad you guys know what's beautiful about bass, and what's important. I think I'm going to get a satisfaction and pride out of bass playing that was extraordinarily beyond my goals.


  5. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Experiment with plucking position and pickup selection.

    For example, when I play with a pick I crank the tone and solo the neck pickup and then pick in front of that pickup and it gives the typical, thick and punchy, pick tone. But, when I play fingerstyle I will usually pluck over the bridge pickup. Depending on the tone I want, my settings can go neck soloed with the tone rolled off, to bridge pickup with the tone full on.
  6. The only thing I can think of is to make sure your right hand rest stroke technique is happening well. Remember that when you pluck with your index finger, your middle finger should be there immediately after to stop the string from vibrating so that the notes won't sound blurred together.
  7. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    Jacob - Ill practise the rest strokes. Thankyou.

    Abark - My main Bass is a Fender P, which only gives me one pickup option, however Ive had different results based on where I pluck and the tone control, something to try out, thanks.

    Joe - Im not quite sure I unserstand your post, are you saying that you are trying to practice definition by running scales in doubled up or triplets?

  8. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Jack said:
    "Joe - Im not quite sure I unserstand your post, are you saying that you are trying to practice definition by running scales in doubled up or triplets?"

    Yes - instead of do-re-mi-fa-sol..., it's do-do-do-re-re-re-mi-mi-mi...

    Last night I spent about an hour doing the doubles and triplets in conventional finger-style, and then like a half-hour trying to get down fast 'Wooten triplets' by doing thumb-down, thumb-up, index pluck (with my finger crossed-under like that to pluck the same string as the thumb is on).

    For the conventional part, I'm sort of discovering that if I lightly mute the string with my left-hand pinky (at least for those nine repeting notes), it improves the definition.

    MAN! That Wooten technique is going to change my life! It should have been obvious, but it was amazing to me to discover that you DON'T have play raucous 'baowmp-bank! baowmp-bank!' tones just because you're using your thumb!

    Also: I was thinking about my last post, and thought I'd try that 'Little Girl' part I mentioned using the nut-side mute (I think you guys use 'scrunchies', but I've been slipping a folded strip of velvet under the strings), and hammer the notes with my right hand for super-definition, like I do for 'Digging in the Dirt' by Peter Gebriel. That doesn't sound too bad! Also, I have my left hand available for hammering a little off-beat ditty up high (or even hammered harmonies up there, but I'm terrible at that right now!).

    This is a great place you guys have here.

  9. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    Thanks Joe. The pinky mute is something Id forgotten about, im also having some luck by boosting the low mids. I wasnt sure if you meant do-do-do-re-re-re-mi-mi-mi... or do-re-mi---far-so-la---....

    Thanks for clearing that up.
  10. Jerry Ziarko

    Jerry Ziarko Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Jack, You obviously have the biggest part already figured out. PRACTICE! Make sure when you do, keep in mind your finger speed and accuracy most likely won't be up to par with your pick speed. It is crucial that you start slowly. A metronome helps greatly also. At this stage it is far more important to be accurate and consistant than it is to be fast. The speed will pick up in relation to the amount of detail you pay attention too. The same goes for someone learning to play with a pick when they only before have used their fingers. If I might add something, just because you now want to play exclusively with your fingers, it would be a great future benefit to keep up your chops using a pick. You never know when it will come in handy down the road. I spent some of my early years learning to use a pick, and I couldn't even begin to count all the times I have needed that technique throughout the years. Good luck!!
  11. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    A good way to improve definition and speed it to use a light touch. No need to dig in, let the amp do all the work.

    Using a light touch will do the following:
    1) Create an economy of motion. There will be less wasted motion.
    2) Less random noises to get in the way of your notes.
    3) Less chances of hitting the wrong strings, since you won't be moving your fingers as much.
    4) Improve your dynamics. It's much easier to be a light touched player digging in, than the other way around.
  12. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    one thing it's taken me years to learn...

    Figure out the mechanics of what you are trying to do very slowly. Painfully slowly. Work on the mechanics at extremely slow speed until you get your hand and fingers programmed to do it properly. it will start becoming automatic as you practice it.

    Not the most fun way, but it works.
  13. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    Thanks, good advice all round. :)

    When did I say exclusively?
  14. Jerry Ziarko

    Jerry Ziarko Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sorry, Jack. I thought that was what you were going for. I'm glad you will still keep the pick style in your arsenal! I have seen many people make that exact switch over the years and NEVER go back to their former style. When they did infact need it, it wasn't in their bag so to speak. Now before anyone gets upset and states when do ever really NEED it, I have been hired for jingle work etc, where they wanted the part played with a pick. It's there dime so you should be able to give them what they pay for. That is only one reason I'm glad I kept my pick chops up. Take care, Jerry
  15. Also don't forget that you have an eq, you could dial more high mids and more treble to add definition. You may even discover a sound you like with a completly different eq than you used before. A good picking EQ setting is not necesarly a good fingerstyle EQ and vice-versa. :cool:
  16. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    Tell me about it! On ym practice amp (3-band rotary) Ive been slightly cutting the mids, because theyre honky and bad, when I can get my big amp out ill have to try the parametric and see what I like.
  17. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Where you pluck will make a big difference. I like to pluck in front of the pickup to get a fuller more rounded sound. I can then move back over the pickup for more definition.
  18. Get your finger in place before plucking the note. Rather than going pluck-pluck-pluck really fast, go pluck-next finger on string-pluck-next finger on string-pluck really fast. You're muting the string with your plucking finger, then plucking the string with that same finger. Flamenco guitarists do it for fast staccato passages.
  19. GrooveSlave


    Mar 20, 2003
    Dallas, TX

    From what you are saying, it sounds like you are trying to describe rest strokes as mentioned above. If you are plucking your do-do-do-re-re-re etc, each note should be muted with your right hand finger slightly before you pluck the next note with the OTHER right hand finger.

    Let's say you are plucking on the A string. So it goes like this:

    You start with both fingers resting on the A string
    Pluck with the index finger, index rests on E string, Middle mutes the note plucked on A string, Middle plucks note on A string, Middle rests on E string, Index mutes note on A string and repeat....

    The key is to do this REAL SLOWLY until you get it and to STRICTLY alternate fingers. Another suggestion is to practice your plucking stroke on your leg, a table, a pencil, a parking brake, etc... whenever you are away from your bass.

    Some will say that you can never improve unless you have a bass in your hand. I disagree. There is no substitute for practice with your bass, but you can get in a heck of a lot of reps without a bass in your hand. For me at least, the key to smooth plucking is REPS. I've been doing this for five years and have gotten way beyond my expectations by this simple idea alone. I still work a LOT with my bass too, but this helps pass the time in a boring meeting. :D

    One last thing...if you watch TV, do it with a bass in your lap and work on this plucking technique (mute the strings with your left hand). You would be surprised how much progress you can make if you just practice this ONE thing, slowly, for an entire football game!

    Best of luck.
  20. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    Wow! After trying out GrooveSlaves technique, all be it for a short time, hes is 100% correct. I recommend this to anyone!