Steve Harris... 2 or 3 fingers???

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by hitman9696, Jul 3, 2003.

  1. Hey there,

    Being a huge Iron Maiden and Steve Harris fan, I am, and always was, amazed at the speed he played and still plays his bass lines with his fingers. Having watched many live performances, I always thought he played with 3 fingers. However, the other day, I read on the Q&A section of their website that he only plays with 2 fingers.

    Immediately, I played my Rock In Rio DVD and tried to analyse his fingering. My conclusion: Inconclusive. I honestly don’t know what to believe. It looks and sounds like he plays with 3, but by analysing the footage very carefully, I realized maybe he is telling the truth about playing with only 2 fingers.

    You can checkout his answer personally by clicking on this link, and searching for the word “fingers”.

    Honestly, I never thought anyone can play “Run To The Hills” with 2 fingers. You need to have quite amazing, thunder-fast fingers to do so. My opinion anyway.

    But the main reason I posted this thread is because almost everyone thinks like me. I always thought he played with 3 fingers.
  2. I've always been amazed too, I certainly can't play all his stuff with two fingers haha
  3. "With how many fingers do you play,and do you have any tips for a young fellow bass player(me)?
    Split, Croatia

    Two and only play when you feel like it. Don't force it!"

    also of interest-

    "Did you play Blood Brothers with a pick? It sure sounds like it
    Scott M
    Seattle, WA

    I never play with a pick."

    I'm still confused about the number of fingers-
    from watching closeup footage of him playing that signature three-note gallop in "Run to the hills", "the evil that men do" etc. his index and middle fingers just don't seem to be moving fast enough to be doing all the work.

    if I ever meet him I'll ask how he does it...

    "Howdy steve, What do you do to warm up your fingers before every show and how long are your warm ups...
    David Alejandro
    U.S.A Weslaco

    I don't. Never have."

    his action is very low, though...
  4. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Don't force it - that's important. Mr Harris has been playing a long time and so can pull off feats of speed and stamina that might cripple a less experienced player. If you can't comfortably play his lines just a tad faster than the recordings (to give you some headroom) then choose different songs or work out an easier alternative.

    You don't want to cramp halfway through your set!

  5. brake


    Jun 23, 2003
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    I can play any of his lines (that I've tried, anyway) with 2, but stamina is the my problem, I can play the trooper at full speed for about 2/3rds of the song, after that I gotta switch to 3 because I'm slowin down with 2
  6. Like TMTR, I also analyzed his hand and fingers during the interlude/bridge in “Run To The Hills”. It sounds much faster than his 2-finger motion. And since his 3rd finger is moving at the same pace as the other 2, it suggests that maybe he is indeed playing with 3 fingers.

    Anyway, it doesn't matter. There are a lot of lightning fast players out there who play with 2 fingers: Geddy Lee, the late John Entwistle (called Mr. Thunderfingers), etc. I was just interested because I wanted to understand his playing technique. He probably plays with 2, but uses his 3rd when the going gets tough.

    I find it real difficult to play fast (like Harris) with my fingers. Forget about playing with 3, because I'm just not born with that talent. My 3rd finger is totally useless ;)

    I believe some are just born with strong, flexible, and agile hands and fingers. They just make good use of it. Harris, for example, started playing when he was 17. He formed Maiden at the age of 19. Therefore, he was playing fast only after 2 years on bass. That's amazing! I've been playing for over 2 years, and I'm still years away from reaching his speed. :rolleyes:
  7. Byron Santo

    Byron Santo

    Jul 8, 2003
    New Orleans, LA USA
    Hi Everybody

    I'm new to the forum and this is my first post.

    I've seen Steve Harris play live in the early 80's. He does play with two fingers.

    I can also play the Steve Harris stuff. The key to developing his technique is a strict alternating finger pattern.

    i-m-i / m-i-m

    The rhythm that he uses the most is an 1/8 note followed by two 1/16 notes. A total of three notes per beat. This changes the lead finger every beat of the finger pattern. Most bass players that have a problem with playing Maiden uses this finger pattern

    i-i-m or m-m-i

    It takes a lot of practice but it can be done.

    atquinn likes this.
  8. Hello,

    I'm a huge fan of Steve and i started playing bass because of him, he uses 2 fingers but the second and the third fingers play at the same time, it can be a litle confusing at first.

    What i think is some of the keys tho is speed is:

    - the use of the bass low, and because of that the wrist isn't bent and can be more relaxed
    - when he plays the also rotates the wrist a little bit from side to side that gives more strenght to the fingers and more speed

    My two cents

  9. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    Doesn't everyone else find that when playing with 2 fingers the 3rd finger sort of follows the 2nd? (Which I believe is because they share a tendon)

    I've always been able to pluck very fast (though the accuracy took longer to develop) but the way I attack the bass it's still very difficult to keep up a 16th note flow at 140bpm throughout a song. However, if I lighten up my attack (and Steve Harris definitely plays quite lightly) I can keep up that speed for much longer. Emulating Rocco's hard plucking constant 16th note grooves(which are a bit slower than Steve's) is much more challenging IMO.

  10. Just keep practicing. I can play most songs now, whereas not even a year ago I had trouble with lots of Maiden songs. It just takes experience, people playing for 25 years are naturally faster than beginners. I remember when I couldn't play 2 fingers (the first month or so)!
  11. Lumdingo


    Dec 8, 2012
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Hire me to design your band's Merch.

    He's always stated adamantly that he only plays with two and that the third finger merely appears to be playing, but is just "slaving". It doesn't actually pluck or play the strings. It merely travels along with the middle finger. I've heard so many people refute this, but I believe Steve. There's no reason for him to lie and I myself (as a terrible novice) can gallop just as fast with two fingers, so...
  12. Steve has pushed his fingers to a faster speed than most bassists as a whole out of necessity to play Iron Maiden material, I did the same thing when I started and developed a really fast 2 finger technique.
  13. Byron Santo

    Byron Santo

    Jul 8, 2003
    New Orleans, LA USA
    Over the last few years I have changed how I play Iron Maiden.

    1/8 note = Middle Finger
    1/16 notes = Index back/Index forward

    It actually sounds more like what Steve is doing.
  14. GeddyLeon


    Mar 8, 2016
    Wow, interesting conversation here. When I learned to play Maiden 25 years or so ago, I learned to do the triplet gallop with 3 fingers leading with my ring finger. So it would go -
    ring - middle - index (rest) ring - middle - index (rest) and so on...
    Makes a great evenly spaced triplet gallop. :)
  15. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    This is an excellent explanation, and I think it nails how to do this on the head.
    /\/\3phist0 likes this.
  16. I can do the gallop using two fingers, leading with my middle.


    I haven't played it for many years so I'm sure my stamina is down, but I'm sure I could still do most of it.
  17. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    From a bass player magazine he said he does a lot of :
    i-i-m or i-m-m
  18. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    I think you're right. The imi mim gallop doesn't quite get that Harris gallop. I can manage it with a imr gallop.