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Thinking About Completely Overhauling My RH Technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Sep 12, 2004.

  1. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    A couple months ago, I read an article in BP by Bunny Brunel that suggested you use the same finger when descending strings to economize movement. I thought "yeah, that's a good idea, but I pretty much do that most of the time."

    Cut to this week. I've finally got some time to practice regularly again now that my daughter's nursery is set up and she can safely walk around the room while I play (I'm a stay-at-home dad). I pop in an old Michael Manring video that I got by accident last year (I ordered "Thonk" but was sent "Bass Essentials") that I haven't really had time to play along with until now. There's a long section about left and right-hand permutations to increase dexterity and accuracy. When going over the the right-hand string crossing permutaions, I notice that, although he doesn't mention it, Manring always uses the same finger when descending. But what really got to me was that he was doing it while descending and skipping strings, and alway goes back into the 1-2 pattern when ascending, and never repeats the same finger. An example would be when playing an open strings pattern of D E D A D G. The fingering for that is 1 1 2 2 1 2. It may sound simple enough, but years of playing 1 2 1 2 1 2 has made it very easy to get snagged up when using this much more efficient way of plucking, and if you REALLY pay attention to your right hand, you notice mistakes that you normally wouldn't take notice of. The patterns and permutations you can practice can get far more complex than the open D E D A D G pattern as well, so playing with complete consistency in the ordering of how you alternate your fingers can become very challenging to relearn.

    In addition to this, I am also considering switching to a three-finger style rather than two. I've always been interested in playing three-finger, and I do use it to some extent, but I've never felt comforable playing more than triplets with it, and was overall far more comfortable playing two-finger. But that comfort is most likely derived from years of playing that way, and I imagine if I choose to go three-finger and not allow myself to switch back to two at any point, it could become just as comfortable.

    This has left me thinking that after 8 1/2 years of playing, I need to forget how I'm used to playing and really focus on a tight, accurate right hand. For me it's much easier to practice left-hand technique-you hear your mistakes pretty audibly in wrong or badly played notes. Your right-hand, however can make many mistakes or simply not be as accurate or fast as it should be, and might be misconstrued as neglibile if you aren't paying a lot of attention to it.

    What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel it will be worth relearning my technique? Has anyone else gone through a similar situation?
  2. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Not to hijack the thread, but this is something I'll be following closely. I'm a self-taught bassist but a trained guitarist, so on bass I've treated 1-2 fingering with my right hand like downstrokes and upstrokes with a pick, and tried to keep strictly alternating on anything faster than quarter notes.

    But I've also learned that my 2 finger "wants" to lead on bass, so that I have to fight playing 2-1 2-1 all the time. This really becomes apparent when changing strings in either direction.

    My left hand has no problems, I just pretend I'm playing the world's biggest classical guitar, and I reinforce the pinky with the ring finger when playing on the low frets (esp with my 35" scale bass). But my right hand is pretty naiive.

    Oh, sometimes when pumping eighths, I play with both 1 and 2, not alternating, in the equivalent of playing "all downstrokes." It's slightly muted. My ears like how this sounds, but if someone wants to offer any caveats, I'm listening.
  3. I think RH technique can be very basic...which isnt a bad thing,and than it can be stellar which is just great.
  4. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Anothing thing on the Manring video was that he suggested practicing everything both in 1-2-1-2 pattern (when not descending) and playing 2-1-2-1 as well, so you won't naturally favor starting on one finger. That'll be a tough habit for me to break.
  5. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I naturally started descending strings with the same finger and never noticed i was doing it until a few months ago. I never knew if it was correct or not, but all i knew was it was comfortable so i continued doing it. I still always do it when descending strings, but not ascending.
  6. well ive always decended strings with the same finger, unless i have to miss a string say from top d to bottom D/E (kubicki :smug: ) ill have finger 2 on top D and 1 on bottom D/E and if i play a 3rd, 4th or 5th chord like so

    G |---5-------3--------------------------
    D |---3-------3---------2----------------
    A |---------------------5----------------
    E |--------------------------------------

    i always have finger 2 on the top string and finger 1 on the bottom, i used to use a 3 finger technique but ive decided it was fruitless and im strickly 2 finger now, and so i can mute the other strings ala jaco...

    i spose my practise regiment is a little different but for about a 1/3 of my schedule(whenever i feel like doing this in the day) i might learn 2 or 3 songs and ill learn the bass line fingerstyle, then slapping, then ill figure ot vocal or guitar meoldys and tap them...one of the best songs to do this was cake's i will survive, but i kind of dont think of this as learning songs, i look at it as turning songs into an exercise
  7. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    This is just the thread I need to see now.

    This last weekend I really practiced a lot, and feel like I got somewhere on a few different fronts. This thread is totally making me think of a part that I quite obscessed on the last couple days - it's a bass line as played by 'butt Boy' from Dred Zeppelin for their interpretation of the song Sunshine of Your Love; the psudo-reggae main verse line (OK - maybe more like Reggae-parody, but it's a great excercise for my finger picking). Aaaanyway: I started doing this song with a pick back before I ever used fingers (yes, our band does it, but we gave up on trying to reproduce the Tortelvis-vocal), and as I've switched to almost all fingers over this last three-quarters of a year, this is one of the very last lines that I just couldn't do cleanly with fingers (well OK - couldn't do at all with fingers); this weekend I decided that I am dickin' this one if it's the last thing I do!

    It was from this that I really started becoming aware of finger alternation. I guess I never really studied what I was doing - but I realized that I ALWAYS use the same finger when descending strings, and pretty-much CAN'T alternate fingers when descending like this. This is bugging me; I should be able to do it! The bass line I'm talking about here is mostly tight, even 8th-notes. It seems to me that with a line like this I shouldn't reverse alternation in mid-stream - it doesn't feel right, groove-wise. Another thing I discovered about my right hand style that made it worse is that it seems I also can't play an octave-jump with my middle on the low string and index on the higher - it has to be index-on-the-lower (lower NOTE, I mean).

    Now it makes sense to me that it would be awkward for anybody to skip two strings ascending with middle finger on the lower note (right? most of you guys don't do that, do you?), but now I feel strongly that I should be able to keep strict alternation, especially when descending only one string!

    Well I'm still not strictly alternating, but I am nailing that Dred part pretty well. As it is now the only way I could manage to pull it off OK was to throw-in a ring finger for just the first note of this 8th-note series, so that it reversed the finger alternation through the rest of it.

    I'm going to look into this subject some more. This area of technique seems important to me - I mean important for someone who's goal is to be known as 'one of the best around'. Maybe next year.

    I'll stop now...

  8. when I play double stops I upstroke on the jazz pickup with both or my middle finger...*shrug* I like my right hand technique,but not as much as my left.
  9. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    To answer your question, I almost always lead with my middle finger when ascending and skipping strings. But like you, I know I should be able to do it with my index finger in order to keep the 1-2-1-2 alteration going when ascending if the last note I played before the string jump was with my middle finger.

    One of the toughest things is that the moment you start paying attention to your fretted hand when you're trying to reteach your plucking had, you subconsiously revert back to your old patterns.

    I'm still working on playing open string patterns (or fretting the harmonics at the 12th fret) to be able to focus on just my right hand. Here's a simple ten-note pattern that's pretty tough if you want to play with this technique properly because of the string skipping and finger alteration it has.
    So if you play
    E D E D G G A E E G

    Then your corresponding finger alteration patterns would be
    1 2 2 1 2 1 1 1 2 1 when leading with the index
    2 1 1 2 1 2 2 2 1 2 when leading with the middle.

    Oy vey.
  10. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    There is no "proper" technique other than what works for you in the context of what you are playing.

    I don't think about my right hand when playing yet it finds the right string (most of the time...:D ) and I alternate or not as the line demands, sometimes I'll even use my index and middle together as one finger!

    It's all quite automatic and the only time I ever revisit what I do is when I have trouble playing a particular passage in a particular song.
  11. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I agree there's no rule that "you have to play like this." But there are ways of playing that can be more effiecient than others, and I'm trying to get there. Also, when reviewing videos of players whom I really enjoy listening to, I see how a really effiecient right hand allows the left hand to work better, and for music to be made with less effort. I would like to get my hand to be automatic in this sort of playing. It already is with my current technique, but it will take a lot of focused concentration and time before I can get it to be automatic in this more efficient way, I imagine.
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Yeah, mine to, I think it's cause the middle finger is longer. Personally, I tend not to worry about that too much, I just mak a conscious effort to alternate fingers where possible.

    I've been trying to correct my fairly shoddy right-hand technique a while now since Steve Lawsoen pointed it out to me in a lesson.

    I used to be playing like this, example:

    open strings: E A D A D A
    fingers: 2 1 2 1 2 1

    Now I'd play the same pattern like this:
    fingers: 2 1 2 2 1 1 or 1 2 1 1 2 2

    Of course it's still under develeopment, but it's just a case of forcing myself to play using corrext RH technique every time I play. I also find dragging dowbnstrokes are easier with narrower spacing - I have pretty slim fingers.

    Bought HH Future to Future DVD recently - Matthew Garrison has some interesting technique it has to be said, pretty damned cool!
  13. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Herbie Hancock?
  14. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    yeah, tis good.. lovely bass playing, upright & electric
  15. fiebru1119


    Mar 2, 2004
    Orlando, FL
    I may be misreading all of this.. and if I am please let me know, but it almost seems like what you guys are describing here is racking- which I've heard people advise against.
  16. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    No, you're right, we're talking about string raking, but I've not been advised against it before.
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Hmm, it is the same thing, but for a different purpose - a rake would be raking down the strings as almost as an effect. We're talking about the same technique, but using it as a way of minimising finger strokes rather than attaining a particular sound.

    It is undeniabley more efficient if you can play three notes with two finger strokes than three notes with three finger strokes. Let people advise against it, I know it works for me (and many others) :)
  18. fiebru1119


    Mar 2, 2004
    Orlando, FL
    I'm not advising against it at all, infact the first "pro" I noticed that employs this technique was John Pattitucci in his "Dictionary of Grooves" VHS. In fact I do it quite a bit - to the extent that I had to overhaul my technique towards the strictly alternating side because it was getting messy. IMO, if you can rake in a controlled manner then by all mean whatever works for you. But in my case I'd often "get ahead of myself" with the right hand through raking. I currently use a mix of both, which is what I've found works best for me.
  19. Ozzyman


    Jul 21, 2004
    I use exclusively a 3 finger technique and I use strict alternation. When you rake (descending strings with one finger) you will always get some very annoying and sloppy sounding finger noise. This is unavoidable without moving your finger off of the string and then bringing it to the next string which is harder than strict alternation.
    If you can figure out all the patterns of two finger or a three finger technique then your fingers should automatically adjust. It's like knowing your multiplication tables, you don't ever think about it (unless you're extremely tired). It took me 6 months of straight playing those patterns (approx. one hour a day) to get it to a point where I never have to think about strict alternation. My fingers can just do it naturally now (i started off raking because it felt more comfortable, but it actually led to sloppy string noise and uneven timing).
    So know I just have to work on my ear to hand coordination :D
  20. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    This doesn't make sense. The sound is produced by your finger leaving the string, setting it in motion. Now, your finger is already on it's way to the next lower string. Why would you want to interrupt the flow? It's just crazy. I don't get sloppy sounding finger noise, and I rake all the time.