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Switching between two and three fingers?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jordy_on_bass, Aug 16, 2012.

  1. jordy_on_bass


    Jul 6, 2010
    Hey guys,

    Just a question about technique here. I started off my fingerstyle using two fingers. Having been self-taught, I never even knew that you could play with three fingers until years after I started. It has taken me a long time to transition as I feel I have better endurance and rhythm using three fingers - although that was when riding continuous 8th notes. Whenever it got technical, I would have to change back to two fingers and then be stuck in the mindset of playing with only two fingers for the rest of the song.

    Over the past 12 months, I thought I had refined my technique down and felt as though I played with three fingers consistently. Whilst at band rehearsals a couple days ago, one of the guitarists pointed out that I switch between two and three fingers. Upon actually concentrating on what my right hand is doing, I realised they were right. Although the thing I found interesting is that I was doing it sub-consciously. I felt frustrated, but they were trying to re-assure me that it was fine as the bass sounds awesome and it's a good thing that my fingers 'do their own thing.

    Is this something I should work on? Or is it OK to let my hands instinctively do what they do since it is not hampering my sound or ability to keep up with their fast, technical riffs?
  2. BKuettel


    Apr 8, 2011
    Oneonta, NY
    IMO do what works and as long as you're not doing anything that's bad for your hands (by the sound of things you're fine) then you should be ok. If it's broke then don't fix it ya know? If you can play what you want to play with 3 fingers then do it. There's no "right" or "wrong" way to finger your bass. I sometimes use 1 finger just because I'm more precise. Other times for fast tempo or galloping parts I use 3 fingers. It all just depends on what feels natural and right, which is what you suggested. Use common sense and don't do anything that is unnatural or hurts your fingers.
  3. nightwulf


    Feb 27, 2011
    Edmonds Wa
    If it's comfortable, and you're playing fine, then don't worry about it...I usually play with two fingers, but when I'm playing Killing Floor, there's that little triplet in there that I use three fingers on...Works just fine...watch what Geddy Lee does...he sometimes plays with one finger, sometimes two alternating, sometimes two together in a sort of "claw". sometimes three...Chris Squire plays with a pick, but sometimes, he'll throw one or both of his middle fingers in there (when skipping strings, I suspect)...Just go with what works...it's easier that way:)
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Let it be. You do what many do, and many hope to do, in that in playing what you play you do not try and dictate a technique, it flows from nessecity. The fact you did not even notice it, should be a testament to everyone on how technique develops. You do not notice it happening it just does. Those that look for affirmation all the time that they are getting better waste time and energy because they are looking for a metal conformation rather than accepting the physical....which is unless you have a problem you accept what you play.

    Now think on this, does a trumpet player like Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie etc, try and use all their fingers in an equal way?
    Does a sax player like Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, John Coltraine etc, try and use all their fingers in an equal way?
    Does a piano player......well you get the idea.
    The answer is no, their fingerings are a direct response to the music not to any sinle idea of technique.
    Yes you could argue that plucking is not fingering but the note generation in the same way breath control is in a woodwind or brass instrument and yes it is a fair point. But note generation is as much about attack and variations of attack, not about producing continuous notes of equal timbre, which some players seem to desire in their playing.

    So I would say be a ware of it, but do not place any real merit on it as a single thing to change or try and harness, let its use in the music you play dictate how many fingers you use.....after all if I was to listen to you.....would I really be interested in how many or what fingers you are using......if it sounds good it's good, if it sound great it is great.
  5. ^This. Didn't motown bassist James Jamerson use only his index finger? I'm sure he didn't bother to listen to the technique police about that. Use two fingers when needed and three when itis needed.
    I saw a bassist use one finger per string (index-E, A-middle, D-ring finger, and G-pinkie) and never switched. He played lightning fast when needed. It was a strange technique. He was a really good player. Told me it took him a while to ingrain it into his playing. It really was odd top watch him play.
  6. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    My playing style is somewhat similar. I was convinced that, for conventional playing, I used a strict alternating pattern with my index and middle fingers. Then we started rehearsing in a room with a mirror wall opposite the band and noticed that I lead with my index finger and use it more frequently, aha, that also explains why the callous on my index finger is bigger. At first it bugged me and I made attempts to 'correct' my technique when practising.

    Then I realised that I actually use a wide range of techniques with my right hand. I play with two fingers most of the time but use three whenever I'm required to do a 'Steve Harris Gallop'. I rake the strings, both downwards and with Flamenco style rakes (I also played a bit of classical guitar years ago and was doing Flamenco rakes before Geddy, cos I'm old). I also use guitar style finger picking for some stuff, sometimes tap a note or two and even slap and pop a few notes (although I'm not a big slapper or tapper and just use this for effect rather than all the way through a song).

    In the end I realised that the only time I screw up my right hand technique is when I think about it too much, so now I don't sweat it and just let muscle memory do the worrying for me.

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