1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Starting with three or two finger technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Muggle, Oct 8, 2010.

  1. Muggle


    Oct 8, 2010
    I'm going to be teaching myself bass, and I was wondering if I should start off with two or three finger right hand technique? I listen to technical death metal, and progressive metal, both of which require speed, and eventually I'll want to cover some of that; should I start on two finger and move up to three finger or start right away on three finger?
  2. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    Learn 2 then 3. Also learn to play with a pick. Have as many styles as possible at your disposal
  3. Muggle


    Oct 8, 2010
    I can't see myself ever using a pick, not saying I won't try it, just saying I can't see myself using it in any seriousness.

    If I learn three finger, I could do everything I could do with two finger, because the only difference would be the order in which I use my fingers. From what I've read most people describe switching from two to three finger as learning all over again, so would it not make more sense to start three finger?
  4. mcm


    Oct 2, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    2 is all you will ever need
  5. Lazarus.Bird

    Lazarus.Bird Mr. Personality

    Aug 16, 2010
    Never played anything I couldn't keep up with using 2 fingers but you definitely get a big stamina advantage with the 3 finger technique a la Alex Webster. It will be a lot easier to learn now than it will be later.
  6. levis76

    levis76 Defender of the Low Ender

    Apr 14, 2007
    Metro Detroit
    +1 for start with 2, then move on to 3.
    Don't shun the plectrum either. I never thought I would use a pick, but some songs just beg for some click and scrape, and the pick can give you more definition which can help cut thru a live mix if you know how to wield it properly.
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    More fingers does not equate to more speed, it equates to more dexterity. Two fingers are as fast as three, but the dexterity of patterns are far more with three.

    As for learning..start the way you mean to carry on, so start using three fingers. The idea is to use three in any order, get the use going, get the fingers used to being used. This builds up some muscle tone in the related groups that are being used.
    Then when you have been doing it for a couple of weeks engage the brain.
    This means working out fingering patterns to stick to and develop, not just the random use of playing.
    Patterns are the brains job to work out..whether you start on a particular finger or if your fingers alternate strictly or follow sequence, this is all the job of the brain to sort out and has to be addressed with thought and practice to that end. Anyone who has ever played an instrument has had to do this process, they have had to let the brain and the physical skills required to play the instrument develop.

    They do not develop side by side and at the same speed.

    When you start bass it is all physical, the mental side has no place but to frustrate you with the knowledge that you cannot
    play. As you develop and the playing becomes easier then then mental side will have you think on new skills to develop, then it becomes a physical thing again till that new skill is learned. This process is always on going.

    Its no different to any new task you will have learned, eventually it becomes "internalised" so you just do it, not think it. Like tying shoelaces or a tie, riding a bike, walking, whistling etc, it will become just another skill.

    Follow the link for some ideas to help you understand what you can do to help if you need it.

  8. RestInPieces


    Jun 14, 2009

    Spot on Fergie. Start with three, I promise it WILL be much easier. I started the three finger technique maybe 3-4 months after I started playing bass, and I basically went back in time that 3-4 months. And I thank myself that I had the patience to learn basically everything again.
  9. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    More than often, playing with only one finger is the best solution.
    I started playing 3 fingers because I thought it would be useful if I ever hurt one of them.
  10. BrandonBass


    May 29, 2006
    I started with 3, using the r-m-i. While it may be of an advantage to start off with 3, since you wont hav to relearn ur muscle memory, U have to realise most people's 3fingers differ drastically in length...and u NEED to devote alot of time to ur technique for 3fingers to make sure all the notes sound even. Its alot easier to do that on 2fingers.

    While its true that with 3fingers you get more stamina as you spread the workload, I wont say its significantly faster than 2. I know a ton of 2fingerstylers faster than me....think jaco and jaun alderete.

    There is no 'better' way to start. Its just that with 3fingers, you are compomising consistency for stamina.
  11. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The hand has two distinct sides, each with their own muscle and nerve routes. The ring finger will be on a separate side to the middle and forefinger. In life we all have been developing the the middle and forefinger for dexterity but rarely the ring or little finger, that is why a two finger style feels natural because we have a comfortable familiarity with it since childhood.

    Since the moment we started to use our hands the Radial side (thumb, fore and middle finger) has been developing with the brain, dexterity, while the Ulnar side (ring and little finger) has been used for power and to reinforce grip.

    Since the hand has develop two distinct characteristics, the use of the Ulnar side fir dexterity requires a will, a need of thought.
    Most players who have developed a good two finger technique that try to develop more fingers get frustrated because the technique is always compared to the two finger one. The have a comparison to fall back on, and because the other technique works perfectly well the will to continue is not there. After all why develop something that means starting again....where is the will?

    Its a point i don't labour but there is no such thing as "muscle memory" . Its a buzz phrase used in many things. What anyone that develops "muscle memory" needs is to think their way through the physical process so that they control it, it work when they want it to under the control of thought. If not then it is a reflex, a reaction if you will, whether it is a good one or a bad one will only be decided when it is used in a given situation. If left un-checked it becomes a habit and it can become a safe feeling...one of comfort and familiarity so it will be the fist thing anyone falls on in times of doubt or insecurity. What some players will call a rut, they feel lost or unable to improve.
    To get out of it they have to think different, they have to lose that sense of security and be prepared to work and question what they are doing.

    I cannot and never will be able to understand the assumptions of bass players that playing the instrument is restricted to any one technique using and combination of fingers.

    Think how it would be for a piano player to think that one of his hands is inferior to the other or any fingers cannot perform the same as others. Since most pianos i have ever seen are right handed, yes right handed....all good piano players play them with no real problems regardless of whether they are right or left handed. So playing a bass with one finger per fret and using all the fingers and the thumb of the plucking is not a problem if you want to take the time to develop it. But you can get quicker results using a few fingers to fret and one finger to pluck when anyone picks a bass up for the first time.

    As to the point of the fingers being different lengths...again another myth about developing finger styles...follow the link to see why it is a myth.

  12. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    Try to get strict finger alternation if you play with 2 or move to 3, finger independence is key to utilising 2 or 3 fingers to maximum effect imo.
  13. Years ago I was a metal head and used a lot of r m i stuff for triplets and string skips, and it really helps, on special passages.
    Gary willis always use t i m with no strict alternance but paying a lot of attention to string crossing. He mainly play 16th muted grooves,
    You should notice players like Mathew Garrison who uses four finger picking, still uses standard two finger as main techique.

    Bill Dickens with two fingers plays way faster than many guys with freaky finger technique.

    James Jamerson plays with one finger and some of his lines are the most beautiful sutuff on bass.

    IMO the best is master two fingers, and go for the 3-4 as auxiliar, for triplets sweep, skips...

    Sorry for the bad english!
  14. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    I understand the point you make, but now the emphasis has been changed. It is now not about playing music or the bass but making the fingers conform to a pattern regardless of what is the best way to play a piece or song.

    A player should ideally develop on to more and more complex parts that require better dexterity and the use of more fingers and so a need to use more fingers or better the technique they are using.

    I use two fingers as a rule, but not strictly alternation, that is not the reason for my bass playing...to show a strict alternating technique. I use it because it allows me to play with freedom. I use three, four , even all fingers and thumb if the need is there. I do not introduce such restrictions to my own playing, but i do understand those that want or desire such elements in their playing and how to best develop them.

    I have said many times of my own technique that i come from brass instruments. As a child so i developed a right hand three finger technique as it would become when i started playing bass in late life, through playing valves on those instruments.
    The act of years and years or playing developed my three fingers. Never once was any time spent making my fingers work, the music done that. At no time was it ever ever considered desirable to may the fingers strictly alternating....after all if the music is not strictly alternating then what is the point? Playing bass with tempo variations, rests, accidentals, etc, a player need to start on any given finger. Given the point it is only the player who puts the importance on his fingers, no one watching or listening can tell if that is what he is doing.

    Look at this


    It starts 123 the numbers follow each other, but if i show you
    32123212321 the sequence has not changed, it is still 123 but starting different. Or 321232 it still has not changed it is still 123.
    So can anyone say that the finger you start on in a strictly alternating pattern has any importance but to the person using it, and only then it is their brain telling them, reinforcing that importance.
    I know the debates about consistent tone come to the fore as well, but is a consistent tone the goal, or even again desirable. It is for me the slight difference in notes, the imperfections of consistent tone that separate a player from a computer or sequencer. These imperfections are what makes a piece "breathe" make it possible for some to distinguish a certain player because his attack has a certain voice to it, and emotional quality because of it.

    In the end if the music you play requires you to be more dexterous and use more fingers then that is the way to develop, developing it for the sake of technique is a false goal.
  15. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    I don't try to develop technique for techniques sake, I develop it to play music, technique is secondary, musicality is first imo, I'll use whatever communicates the music in the best way, raking, alternation, 3, 4 fingers, not for show but the fact that my mind can then concentrate on left hand subtleties, technique is a means to an end, it's not musical in itself, but it is definitely nice to have in your 'tool box', I've found alternating comes into it's own for smoother string crossing and more fluidity when it's required, I haven't nailed the technique, but I do wish I concentrated on it years ago, it'll never 'hurt' your playing imo.
  16. Mr. Mig

    Mr. Mig

    Sep 7, 2008
  17. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
  18. AciDBatH666


    Feb 13, 2008
    Lafayette, LA

    Hopefully this wont be too lengthy, as I tend to babble sometimes... But I feel like I'm somewhat in the same sort of in this predicament as you right now. I come from 10+ years of rhythm thrash metal guitar background. Recently switched over to bass several years ago really only playing it once every couple of weeks. Mainly just tinkering with it and playing with my fingers. I've been into metal for years, and when I got the bass I fully intended on playing exclusively with my fingers. I love watching a metal band with a great bassist tear it up with their fingers. And I loved the tone it produced.

    I recently started jamming with some old friends who wanted to start an old school Metallica cover band. Coming from this "thrash" type of background and playing lots of rhythm guitar for years on and off doing Slayer, Megadeth, In Flames etc... riffing, I figured I'd pick it right up. Turns out I just don't have the speed to keep up with it with my fingers. I'd never really even played my bass with a pick so it was a little new. It took a bit of getting used to it but it felt like easy mode for me since I've already got the fast guitar picking down from years of doing it.

    So I've been playing with 2 fingers since I started doing it 2 years ago (tinkering with playing of course). Since I ultimately want to play with my fingers I've been doing some 3 finger drills with the I-M-R-M-I------ technique, and learning to do those triplet gallops like Steve Harris (Maiden). I'll admit, at first it was really difficult to get that 3rd finger in, but after just a couple of weeks of drills it's not that horrible. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel where I feel that I can do it consistently and make it feel more fluid.

    My main problem has been.... Well 2 problems.
    1) Learning when to really throw in that 3rd finger because it for my playing, it's probably going to really only be needed for lots of open E repeatedness. I find that I have trouble starting and stopping it at times and reorienting my fingers to get ready for a string change. Since my default is 2 fingers and I'll always naturally play with 2, throwing in that 3rd has put a kink in my normalness and really made me think of how I actually throw it into my playing.

    2) What order to start it sometimes because of problem #1. I find that if I start the 3 finger chug-chugging I have problems stopping it when it doesn't end on a 4th note when beginning to pluck the fretted riffs.

    Because of my style and the metal that I usually play, sometimes I find that I can play a quadruplet string of a note faster and smoother when I go I-R-M-I....Index first then into a 3 finger gallop starting with R-M-I. I've been looking up tons of vids on it and found a few tips. But ultimately you just have to get out and DO it. I found a vid of a guy who suggested to put a rubber band around your 3 fingers and learn with that for a little while. Helps to get those muscles that we train to stretch one way but not the other. It kind of reminds me of when I was in high school and I'd walk around all day with 5 pound ankle weights on all day, and then take them off for Crosscountry/track practice that afternoon and I felt like my legs were light as hell. When I take the rubber bands off and play I feel like it's a world of difference and easier.
    Just my babbling input on the topic.

    But my suggestion is start with 2, then progress to 3. If you've never really played bass, I think 3 fingers is a lot to start off with. And I think the problem with basically feeling like you're starting from scratch with learning to play isn't all that true.
  19. taphappy

    taphappy doot de doo

    Sep 28, 2007
    Tempe, Arizona
    Done both the tech death, and the prog, mathy insanity. Three finger is essential. But if you don't focus on two finger technique, you'll shoot yourself in the foot.

    You'll have to give time to both to be a rounded player. Being able to RMIMRMIMR will be true joy when it comes to deathy blamblam and polys, but the tech/prog side will very much require you being able to stop on a dime and shift tacks. You will have to be able to lead with all three fingers and interchange seamlessly, and bounce between playing two-finger and three.

    Additionally, being hyper-dependent on three will make you lean towards speed fills and noodles, which are most often technical, rarely musical. The music's already killing 'em with tech, good to give 'em something to tickle their ears. Just something to consider :)

    I would start and focus on 2. Keep it simple. Move up to 3 once you've got a solid foundation, and keep practicing 2 even when you're working on 3. One of the greatest practices we can observe for our own playing is to not box ourselves into corners - either technically, or musically.
  20. AFRO


    Aug 29, 2010
    I will suggest you do what is comfortable, and applicable to the style of music you wish to play...

    but I will follow up with saying this; you will not be disapointed in the overall usefulness and versitility of the 2 finger tech. IMO the time you take to master it will be only beneficial.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.