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Trouble with three fingers?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by BassMoley, Dec 22, 2013.

  1. BassMoley


    May 20, 2013
    I'm trying to get three finger technique down solid to hopefully play 16ths much easier. I can do 2 fingers no problem like anyone that plays fingers can, but making that jump to 3 seems impossible. It feels extremely awkward with the ring finger. I know theoretically if you keep your fingers close to the string you should be able to hit them faster, but when I do it that ring finger just won't do it no matter how hard I try it just flys backwards naturally. Obviously practicing more is the best way to go but does anyone have any other advice to bestow?
  2. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    There are no secrets, tricks or short-cuts. How long have you been trying to do this and how much time do you spend practicing this technique every day?
  3. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    I play 3 fingers constantly, been doing so for the last 15 or 20 years. I don't really think about it.
    The easiest way to learn is to go 2 fingers index-ring, then middle-ring which take a bit more time, then move to 3.
    Get used to different orders, i-m-r, r-m-i, i-m-r-m, whatever. It comes quickly.
  4. It could be the angle at which your knuckles are in relation to the strings.

    As Sheehan pointed out in his Bass basics vid, most two finger pickers tend to work with the front (index) knuckle closest to the strings and on a downward offset angle in the style of a stand-up bassist.

    So your four fingers in this position are at different heights and radii.

    Anchor the thumb on the side of the neck (if you like that tone) or on the side of the bridge pickup (if you like that tone) or on the bottom pickup (if you like that tone)

    Instead of picking "offset" and at an angle with the front knuckle down....try having all your knuckles more parallel
    to the strings evenly....

  5. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Depending on the situation, I would use I-M-I-R, or I-M-R-P, with my thumb always ready for action, but...

    Legendary Rocco Prestia somehow was able to handle his right/picking hand phenomenal technique with just two fingers.
    I remember trying to apply that Billy Sheehan's 3-finger technique to play "Come On With It — Tower of Power", but it was kind of confusing; therefore, I decided to abandon Billy's technique for Rocco's bassline.

    Right now, depending on the situation, I could use all my five right hand fingers, but not for Rocco's "Come on with it".
  6. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    It take time and it takes practice. It is not a finger issue but a mental one as your need use a dominant finger to the strong beats (or divisions) will influence your plucking patterns.
    As for stamina you need to use the fingers to play more finger intense use....speed is not the issue when doing this, it is the dexterity and intensity of the use. This will build stamina to support the intensity so the hand does not tire, then the dexterity will develop the speed. This is of course based on the person using it and their hands daily use.

    If your hands are tired then so will your playing. Many things in life tire out our hands, you may even practice with hands that are tired, or over do practice and weaken your hands. If a sprinter runs 50 100m races will he be as fast in the last 10 races as he was in the first 10?

    In all your hands should not feel tired after practice, if they do you are practicing wrong. Warm up, stretches and warm downs are all part of a good practice routine. I personally practice 45 mins rest for 15mins. I use an alarm clock to set my durations and play to them. This keeps me aware of how much time has passed and to focus on practice not noodling.:)
  7. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013

    I've noticed a strange thing.
    If I play notes/passage going from the bass neck towards the bridge, my right hand automatically starts with Index finger (Thumb) - Middle - Ring - etc...
    If I play the passage going in the opposite direction, my right hand starts with Ring finger (Pinkie) - Middle - Index.

    Also, let's say at fast tempo I play
    C - D - C - Eb - C (3rd - 5th - 3rd - 6th - 3rd frets) on A string and
    C on G string(5th),
    my right hand plays - C=Index - D=Middle - C = Index - Eb=Ring - C= Index - C(on G)=Ring (Pinkie),
    and vise verse.

    Is it a sign of my amateur upbringing?
  8. Try starting out alternating your ring and index finger, help a lot. Also stuff like the varigrip actually comes in handy for this stuff, since you've never ever trained your ring finger.
  9. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    I have been using the 3 finger method for approximately 24 years now. First time I gave it any thought was when I was asked to learn a Maiden tune when I was 16. I did it to play the galloping triplets but for the most part I was a 2 finger player. Then later I came across the Sheehan method & gave it a try.

    It's NOT an "Absolute, use all the time, done 1 way method". I think that is a big misconception. Other than single note/string exercises or bass parts, I found "Johny B Goode" or "At the Hop" type lines good to get it going on. As I did it more I found my ring finger became stronger & the one I would & do lead off with the most. As mentioned above most times your thumb is anchored to the neck or any of the pick ups but I do float depending. I prefer to be on the bridge side of the P's or on a J. The additional string tension adds resistance.

    At times though I do insert the TWO finger method here & there. When I do I lead off with the Middle finger. I did/do this because I found it cumbersome for certain licks like the "YYZ" verse section, or as Whousedtoplay mentioned Rocco lines like "What is Hip" so I did/do a hybrid.

    Also, Sheehan's epoxied P's kept up close to the underside of the strings or the now popular "Ramp" sure helps with the technique keeping the players fingers from over-shooting the underside of the strings. Keeping the picking/plucking even.
  10. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    No you have just became aware of how you are playing it, so you are thinking about it. By all means think about it, but if there is not playing issue then forget about it, it is no more an issue as being aware of what foot you start off with when you walk.
    So long as the playing is un- effected there is not issue it's about situation, as in the situation of use.
    If you are in formation and marching then what foot you start off with is important, in daily life it is not.
    The same applies in music, try not to make issues out of nothing.

    Technique wise we have to evaluate the use for the function, so evaluate it this way;
    do not use two fingers where one finger will do, do not use three fingers where two will do, do not use four fingers where three will do, and do not use five where four will do.

    OK that rule may seem a strange evaluation, but it is based on time V effort for the same result.
    Learning techniques takes patience, it takes time and that is a very personal view.
    Its personal because only the person doing it can decide on its worth, what i or others say about means nothing, only the person putting in the time and effort can justify the time and the use.

    I am all for developing techniques, but only for a musical necessity, so why use two fingers when one will do?
  11. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    Whousedtoplay, I am wondering, why you would approach these lines using Examples 1 &/or 4? I would say it isn't necessary & even may be complicating the situation.

    It has been suggested that no ONE finger should do more work than the other 2 when using this technique. Most times I agree & it seems I tend to stick with
    Sheehan's RMIR MIRM IRMI RMIR, though I have applied MIMR MIMR MIMR MIMR to certain things.
  12. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    to me three fingers should go :

    imri - mrim - rimr so each fingers can be the strong beat.

    I like that vid by John Myung

  13. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    Both. I've seen Sheehan use the pinky for a speed thing in a Roth tune on a single note line. I use my thumb to down stroke quick while descending to a single note on the E string before ascending again. Kind of like a Willis type move.

    Unless I missed something I'm not sure what your trying to achieve.
  14. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
  15. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I must admit, when you say "I can do 2 fingers" it makes me a little nervous. You haven't even taken me to dinner yet! :eek:
  16. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    I would play the same like this.
    The lines pointing to the Double R's were noted as being RAKE MOVES.
    Meaning after the Ring finger struck the note on the G string it was drug upward to pluck the note on the A string at that point the RMIR picking sequence would begin again. RMIR MIRM IRMI RMIR = 1234 1234 1234 1234 or 1 & 2 & etc or 1 e & a etc.

    Attached Files:

  17. vince a

    vince a

    Jun 13, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    I didn't read every response, so if this was said, I apologize: I mainly use two fingers, but since I also play guitar (and can fingerpick), I use all five fingers on a five-string bass.

    I started learning to use all the right-hand fingers by perfecting the index and middle fingers. Then as those became solid, I taped the ring finger to my middle finger, and practiced like that until the ring finger was trained - kinda like muscle-memory training, tho there are no muscles in the fingers. Make sense? It worked for me!
  18. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    Who's! I don't get you wrong.
    It's not for you & that's cool.
    I was only responding to your """""Ex.1 is the most comfortable for me. Any other ideas?""""" but first needed to understand.

    I also agree with why use XYZ when so & so did it with Y. Only up to the point that so & so sometimes can't play live what they recorded or I don't play with a pick so I do what I must to simulate.

    After all these years it's not uncomfortable to me at all & as I said earlier, it's not the only way I play, but it seems to have become the natural first choice for me when I approach something. I am not strict about it at all & did say that is a big misconception of players starting out.

    Yes I could play your example at the noted BPM & I didn't think it out at all. I looked at your samples & played them, then came back noted what my fingers did as I played to share with you.

    I agree with the lack of attention given to the right/picking hand technique and fingering but then again back in 1986 in high school jazz band I never had a "Bass Teacher". The instructor taught music..technique or how to play the thing at all was never discussed. It was whatever you came up with to get it done. If what you did was not cutting it you were told & then went back to the drawing board.

    Best of luck with your quest.
  19. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    Yes it is. The tune was certainly a challenge at the age & being new to the art form.

    Yes it does.

    Happy Holidays to you also.
  20. tmdazed


    Sep 29, 2012
    My technique has been crap since I started , so I have always used the third and sometimes 4th finger doing runs and 16ths, like anything it will just take getting used to , first consciously, then muscle memory will eventually take over