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Use a pick because slap is impossible?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ArvindJayaram, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. Hey-lo,
    Ever since I got my bass three days ago, I've been learning finger-picking style. Thanks to the great advice and threads on this forum, I think I've made rapid progress, managed to play songs like Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" and Pantera's "Where You Come From" (besides Iggy Pop's "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog" :p) using my fingers.

    Today, the fingers on my right hand were raw and blistered. Needed to give them a rest so that they'd heal and I could resume in a day or two. So I thought, "Let me practice with a pick"

    I found it very easy using a pick on this bass. It has narrow string spacing, approximately 17 mm. Was able to cover a lot of ground, play some classic songs, work on my own grooves and basslines because I was able to free my mind of stuff like the floating thumb.

    Got me thinking. Am I straitjacketing myself by not playing this instrument in the easiest way possible?

    [Thinking Aloud]
    I was so keen on doing things finger style because I think there is so much scope to play stuff that would be impossible with a pick, I really loved the rounded tone of finger picking vis-a-vis the more consistent attack of a pick. Also, slapping and popping is something I want to learn and have been working on, but there's so many arguments against even attempting that on an instrument with such narrow spacing.

    In the end, I decided I would take time to learn both styles of playing.

    But do you guys think I'm being too dogmatic about finger-picking on a bass, just because it's a bass? Is there some kind of concrete argument that says finger style is better than picking.

    I like John Myung, Steve Harris and Alex Webster on the finger picking side. Krist Novoselic, Lemmy Kilmeister and Duff Rose McKagan on the plectrum side. [END OF THOUGHT]

    - Jimmy Rage
  2. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    You must play the same way as everybody else - there is no room in bass playing for uniqueness and innovation :mad:.
  3. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    Use every technique you can, they all sound different.
  4. +1

    If you appreciate diversity of tones, if you like many different styles across many genres, you will eventually find yourself trying to duplicate those tones. Finger style, slap, and pick style will all give you new sonic ground to explore, and becoming even moderately proficient with different playing techniques makes you a versatile bassist.
  5. Ottsworth


    Dec 14, 2010
    London, UK
    Dude, my 6 string has string spacing of 16.5mm between each string and I can definitely slap and pop. I've been playing for just under 3 years (I'm 16)... so it definitely is possible! You've been playing for 3 days, it will take a little time! :D And as for the sore fingers, keep playing a little even with the blisters and hopefully you should get some nice calluses ;)

    Have fun playing!!!
  6. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    Continue learning both picking techniques. LOL at 17mm string spacing being close, it isn't. I've got a custom 6-string bass with 13mm string spacing and I can slap and pop on it. You have much to learn, young Padawan!
  7. My fat fingers and slow brain cant handle anything less than 16mm on a 5-6 string. :eek:

    Use them all! I used a pick on some rock cover songs, as the bass lines were uber simple eigth note drills ( think 80's rock!) and picking them defined them better and held the groove of the song better.

    And I use slap in traditional songs for a musical emphasis at times.

    And I'm fingering 88% of the time!

  8. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    learn the bass first, with fingers or pick or best of all, both. I really believe that learning slapping and popping distracts bass players from the basics. It's way more fun to practice the intro to "higher ground" than it is to play eighths or sixteenths to a metronome.
  9. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    practice, practice, practice
  10. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    No, but you ARE (potentially) straitjacketing yourself by thinking that there's one "best" way to play the instrument, especially when you're just starting out.

    You have a lifetime to learn, and will be learning over the course of that lifetime. The greatest musicians are still learning - they are the first to say so.

    Different techniques offer you different things. Experiment. Learn them all. Spend time with the instrument.
    Trust that there will be some things that take longer to learn than others - that doesn't mean that they are "worse" or not worth learning.
  11. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    I started playing bass with a pick,,played that way for many years,, joined a band that fingerstyle suited best and learned to fingerstyle,, gave up the pick,, now i van switch back and forth,, no loss in accuracy or style,, still not much of a slapper,, but i can pick and pop at tje same time,, just practice what is best for now keep on the other styles ,,it will all come in time.
  12. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Are you trying to say that pick playing is innovating and unique?
  13. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Yah, next thing you know he'll be fretting the strings instead of just using the open notes :mad: .
  14. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    I often enjoy fretting the notes. It opens up a lot more possibilities :)

    Seriously, though, to the OP,
    This forum is a great place to accelerate your development by talking to pros.
    Practice, practice, practice, and when you have a question about the right or best way to do something, you will find people here are helpful.

    For starters, slap is impossible if you hit too hard. Hit very lightly with your thumb and pop with the very tip of your finger so it doesn't catch the string and mess up your timing.

    Lots of folks use a compressor when slapping to even out the volume.

    Find the "sweet spot" to do the thumb slaps. For me it works best between the neck pickup and the end of the fretboard.

    I saw a video from Brian Bromberg (Monster bass player) who said he never pops with his index finger, rather he uses it as a "pivot point" while he rotates his hand between thumb slaps and middle or ring finger pops.
  15. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    sarcasm ...

    the next innovation will be to hit the strings with a dead fish on downtuned floppy strings while using a beer bottle to do glissando ... the more you drink the beer ... less compressed to tone will be. So each show will be differend depending of the decay of the fish and how fast you drink your beer.:D
  16. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    Some of the best advice I've ever heard in this whole debate is that "how you make the sound is a matter of technique, not style". Don't limit yourself to any single way of doing it or you really will straitjacket yourself. Learn all the styles you can, and use them where appropriate.

    I suppose a handy example would be Chris Wolstenholme of Muse. He does everything from plucking to using a plectrum, and more recently, slap bass. You'll be able to do one thing really well, but you won't be able to diversify your sound much. That's a fatal error if you have hopes of playing in a band.

    Keep your bag of tricks full, it'll never hurt you. You'll never go "Damn, I wish I didn't learn how to pluck".
  17. Huge

    Huge Hell is full of musical amateurs. Like me.

    Dec 2, 2005
    I just started slapping a few weeks ago, and it's pretty much all I do now, because it feels so easy compared to fingers and (especially) pick.
  18. Razman


    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    Although I transitioned from guitar to bass (so I use a pick primarily) some styles I play require fingerstyle and I am picking up slap/pop - albiet very slowly.

    Because the main place I play is my church sanctuary and theater (the theater is a concrete echo chamber) playing with a pick gives the sharpest, most consistent sound needed for the style my band plays and helps with the sound challenges presented by our venue.

    Regardless of how I play, I have a lot of fun - which I hope you will have too - after you heal.

  19. Damn!! Really? 13mm? That even makes the Gerald Veasley Ibanez seem like a P-Bass. Do you use a night vision scope to hit the target area of the strings?
  20. DethByDoom


    Sep 23, 2012
    YES. Step one should be learn what bass is. The other half of the rhythm section. Instead of getting hung up on techniques, learn to play on the beat. Behind the beat. In front of the beat. Learn to manipulate the feel of a song. Become a metronome.