Using four fingers when playing fingerstyle?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by 43apples, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. 43apples

    43apples Guest

    Nov 9, 2003
    Rigth now i'm using three fingers for "plucking" the strings, finger 2, 3 and 4 (index finger, middle and ring). No matter what i do, it makes playing 32th note power metal stuff a bit difficoult in the long run, after 2-3 minutes my fingers are so tired i miss a note and get out of the beat.

    Therefore, i'm wondering if someone is using four fingers (index, middle, ring, little finger)? I've tried to do it, but it becomes ackward since my little finger is an inch shorter than the rest.

    Any replies or advice is appreciated,
  2. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    Usually when my fingers get tired, it's because I'm playing too hard because I'm not loud enough and I'm trying to be louder using my fingers instead of my volume knobs. Could this be a possible problem/reason for your finger tiredness?
  3. AcousticBass


    May 28, 2005
    Power metal? use all four i guess
  4. 43apples

    43apples Guest

    Nov 9, 2003
    Well, i play with a pretty ligth touch, and i'm pretty sure that isn't the problem. ;).

    Thanks for the advice, but my question was if anyone played with 4 fingers? Do you think it could be done?
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I think you just answered your own question. That's what prevented me from using it. It's easy on a guitar because your hand is flatter across the strings. Not so easy when the hand is perpendicular to the strings.
  6. 43apples

    43apples Guest

    Nov 9, 2003
    I was thinking that if i maybe "curved" my secound, third and fourth fingers more, it migth worked out?

    Do anyone know if someone is doing this?
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    Yes, there are-but instead of using their pinky (although there are some that use that as well), players like Matt Garrison use their thumb for their fourth finger. Using your thumb also helps in skipping strings, as it's naturally hinged differently so it can comfortably pluck lower strings while your other fingers pluck higher.

    Check out this thread:
    Matt Garrison technique . TBer Mike Flynn has been working on the technique and has some videos of him executing it. I'm working on it myself right now.
  8. I find that curving my fingers more helps, but I've never worked up any real speed with the technique. I use my pinky sometimes because I like the feeling of using all five plucking fingers. I find the thumb more useful.
  9. I use all 4 fingers (pinky, not thumb) sometimes when I play fast stuff like Fight Fire With Fire or Damage, Inc., but a)it is awkward, b) I only hit the string with my pinky about 3/4 of the time, and c), it doesn't make as big of a difference as you might think, since your pinky is probably fairly weak compared to the rest of your fingers.
  10. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    I've never been able to use my pinky. I cut it pretty bad working on a car when I was a kid and it's been weak ever since. And I have never seen anyone play who did. I would say just keep at it and try to relax - don't tense. Practice slower when your by yourself and work up to speed.
    That's what I had to do playing power punk pop. You'll get there no prob!
  11. Corbow


    Mar 15, 2005
    Hi there
    I use all my 4 fingers...its a long distance run to master this style but then.... :hyper: :hyper: :hyper:
  12. big evil robot

    big evil robot

    Feb 27, 2005
    Edmonton, AB, Canada
    Innovations Music - Retailer
    I don't fully see the point of using more than 2 fingers. When I was younger I'd go for 3 for the sake of wanting to be flashier and thinking that would make me faster. It really didn't.
    I find for even solid speed, 2 is perfect, keeps everything nice and simple. Really in the amount of split seconds it takes to get your ring finger and pinky going in the sequence, you're just as well of to work on the speed of 2 fingers back and forth.
    I find now for a lot of things, I can use just my index finger with enough speed. Almost like a pick I guess.
    Though I like 3 fingers for a quick triplet when I need one.
  13. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Check out the Matt Garrison Live CD/DVD. Some nice pointers.
  14. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    Less effort-if you use four fingers instead of two, you exert half as much effort on your two fingers and can go twice as fast than to just play with the two fingers (not that four fingers is necessarily faster- I mean that you can get four notes played quickly by using four fingers and not have to move each finger very fast, but for the same four notes to be played as quickly with two, you need to move those two twice as fast).

    And the main one is probably string skipping. With Gary Willis' three finger approach, he always has a third finger waiting on the string above the one he's playing, so he can ascend far more quickly and cleanly than most can with two fingers. With a three or four finger approach using your thumb, you can skip strings far quicker because of the thumb hinging below your other fingers, allowing it to comfortably play lower strings while your other fingers play higher ones, and you can assign each finger to play an individual string for very fast string skipping runs. There's one part on Herbie Hancock's live dvd during Dolphin Dance where Matt Garrison plays a really badass, very fast string skipping part that I don't think could be played with two fingers.

    I've been working very hard at incorporating my thumb and ring into my standard plucking technique for a couple months now, after playing standard two fingers for over nine years. Getting the ring to work evenly is tricky, but my thumb is definitely becoming very natural now.
  15. + 1 for checking out Garrison on that Herbie DVD - his use of this is so subtle and funky - he's taken it to a very high level - but he did start doing this back in about 1995 - so go figure - plus he's an amazing musician anyway. I'll say have control over the way he plays it but I've a lot of work to do - I made a stab at trying to explain how it works on my site - but I think there are so many variations on this stuff - if all you want to do is play fast 16ths or 32nds on one note it's not that hard - if you want to move it around skipping strings and hitting different cominations of notes - then you have your work cut out - good luck.

  16. eldave777


    May 24, 2005
    See any Billy Sheehan video.
  17. I was never able to play with my pinky. My pinky is so much shorter and weaker that I never saw any point to do it. If I would do it I'd have to change my whole technique and curve all the other fingers to be the same length as the pinky. Besides you can do most of the extremely fast stuff with 3 fingers or even 2 fingers if you just try and build up your stamina.
  18. Sure its possible, and it can really only help your playing. I usually don't do it though, as 3 fingers + thumb is enough for anything I play. I do have the same problem with my small finger being much shorter than the others, but I find if I angle my hand a little bit (~45 degrees to the string) the difference isn't as bad and I can reach about equally with any finger.

    As far as it being weak, that's just a matter of exercising it. Get one of those grib builder tools to speed the process, otherwise just practice with it a lot until you build your muscles up.
  19. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    no! those things are bad bad bad. You don't need raw strength in your hands, and those things can lead to narsty RSI and such.

    As far as playing with 4 fingers... I guess I've never seen the point in terms of speed at least, I play just as fast with 2 as I've heard anyone play with 4. Well, okay, maybe some cats play with 4 a little faster, but by and large, the difference is insubstantial.
  20. Corbow


    Mar 15, 2005
    Yes, my pinky is so short too...anyway I changed my style....I had to.....I started to use a metronome at slow speed and in one year I was able to play all the stuff I did before with only my two fingers /index-middle/..with all the four fingers ....but more comfortable and with more control. /in the first days my pinky was sounding something like a mattock hitting the pick-up :rolleyes: but i didnt give up :spit: /
    All the success is slow practising with metronome, finger exercises, DONT GIVING IT UP and slowly practising again :p :bassist: :bassist: :bassist: