Using One Finger

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Xandrell, Oct 17, 2016.

  1. Xandrell


    Aug 23, 2014
    I generally use a pick but practice finger style. I've seen and heard of very good bassists (one of which is Geddy Lee) that generally use one finger when playing. For me the timing is shaky when using 2 or more fingers especially on slower tempos. If I do something like a fast gallop, I think you would pretty much need 2 fingers (I lead with the middle finger) which is probably different than most. Paul McCartney uses his thumb for crying out loud, and so do I when learning songs, and then move to a pick. The point is, for me, using a pick results in a much better tempo than using 2 fingers probably because I came from guitar but using just the 1 finger gimp mode might be an alternative to getting a desired sound and result in better tempo. Are there any unforeseen problems using 1 finger?
  2. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Playing fast passages will be twice as hard as using two fingers. That's the only downside I know of. Probably not an issue for most genres except speed metal, funk, jazz and a few others.

    Evenness in tempo is not hard to achieve with 2 or 3 fingers if you focus and practice it at slow speeds and build gradually. It's a boring thing to workk on though.
    JRA_BaSsNiNjA likes this.
  3. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Many of the great bassists in the Jazz world used either one finger, or used two fingers together (as if they were one finger, to get more volume).

    To me, the bottom line is playing with good musical time. Honestly, even though I use 3 fingers, a pick, and slap, I STILL find using one finger (index) to be the most "solid time" way of playing either electric or upright.

    I also always fall back on one finger if I have upright induced blisters on my middle finger—but that may be TMI, ha-ha!

    BTW, the thumb is a finger.
    Arion likes this.
  4. Fat Freddy

    Fat Freddy Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2016
    Albany NY
    I'm a one finger guy.....Not by choice but when I start using two fingers to pick, my left hand goes to hell....

    Don't know why....It's driving my teacher nuts though! :D
  5. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    That's my current problem.

    When I first moved to bass from guitar I tried using my fingers but, as you stated "my left hand goes to hell" whereas with a pick I don't need to think about my right hand at all. It just seems that I can hit whatever string I need to without thinking and palm muting, left hand muting, ghost notes, groove etc comes naturally with the pick.

    Since practicing fingerstyle a lot lately I can do OK with one finger as I don't have to think about my left hand so much but when I go to two fingers I find I either revert back to one finger unconsciously or if I deliberately push myself to use two fingers I start to either pluck the wrong string or my fretting suffers again.

    I'll keep practicing (and hopefully getting better at it) but when it comes to gigs at the moment, the pick never leaves my hand. I'll occasionally palm it and use my index finger on some slower songs or sections but the pick is never far away.
  6. I'm more comfortable using my thumb. Eight to the bar is about as fast as my music gets so speed is not an issue. I've tried fingers and pick, and can use them, but, feel more at home with my thumb.

    1/8 notes not a problem. I've come to the conclusion, what ever gets the job done is all that is necessary. Thumb works for me.
  7. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I think it's pretty much the same issue as with using a pick: At slower tempos you might play all downstrokes, but at faster tempos you would probably switch to alternate up-down picking. And developing the ability to maintain a steady rhythm, volume, and tone with two alternating plucking fingers is much like learning to do the same with downstrokes and upstrokes using a pick.
  8. Xandrell


    Aug 23, 2014
    Yes, at faster tempos, up down picking is spot on, but using 2 fingers, the rhythm is shaky. It's like one finger is left brain and the other finger is right brain. I may need to learn how to relax a bit. I'm better off using one finger. I didn't know so many people used one finger. I asked a while ago what finger you lead with and the answers were evenly split with some not even thinking about it. If you tap your fingers on the desk, it's from the outside in. If it's from the inside out, you need to see a psychiatrist.:) If I do triplet gallops, I start with the middle finger, but using a pick is much smoother and easier.
  9. Remyd


    Apr 2, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    I'm primarily a one-finger guy - leftover from DB. I am equally able with two, but I find that I only bust out the 12121212 when it's a fast passage (also similar to dB)
  10. I subconsciously switch between one an two fingers. Sometimes I find myself pounding out grooves with one finger and think to myself "What the hell?!" But it works--and usually it's my middle finger that pedals on its own. But I also use my thumb for palm-muting and even use my index and thumb as a pic.

    It's very much a feel thing to me and it just seems to "happen."

    PS--Still working on the triplet gallop. ;-)
  11. I should also add--when I walk and I'm trying to cop that upright sound it's one finger, up by the fretboard.
    Remyd likes this.
  12. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    I mostly play with my fingers, as opposed to a pick or my thumb--but at any given time I could be using one finger, two fingers, three fingers, any of those plus my thumb, just my thumb or a pick.
    But mostly 1 or 2 fingers.

    I don't really think about one or two consciously--it depends on the rhythm & feel of the bass part.
    Some are easier for me to play with one finger, some with two.

    I also do up & down picking with my fingers--mostly up--but I have been known to alternate my index finger up & down--using the nail for the down picks.
    For some songs it sounds great.
  13. I lead with my middle finger as well and have no problem playing fast tempo with two fingers..granted I've been playing that way for 15 years. I play metal so it always requires me to keep up with the others. At times I use one finger for certain helps me keep a steady rhythm..almost like up/down strokes with a pick..Honestly, just keep practicing and working those hands/fingers takes a long time and lots of effort to get those hands/fingers to move like you want..Good luck and hope this helps ya.
  14. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    I play bass with two fingers and guitar with a pick. I have very little success doing doing that differently as my brain is calibrated to flat-picking a guitar and walking finger-style on the bass.

    I'm sure there's a proper technique for everything, but I would point out that Doc Watson used to do a Travis style picking thing on guitar and only used one finger - he sounded incredible!
    JRA_BaSsNiNjA likes this.
  15. You can play however you want. When I switched I dove headlong into two, three and 4 finger (which I really can't do anymore since I broke my hand in 2011) just to add some variety and know it's there if I need it or want it.
  16. Chicory Blue

    Chicory Blue Secretly Queen of the Moon Supporting Member

    James Jamerson.

    *mic drop*

  17. Remyd


    Apr 2, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    Somehow, it makes me happy that (arguably) the greatest bassline in history was played by someone that was blind drunk, laying on his back, on the floor, with bad technique and crappy tone. The same thing does not happen for me in similar circumstances.

    EDIT: And I have bad technique and crappy tone down to a science!
  18. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    No problem if you can do what you intend to do. I go back and forth between pick and fingers depending on the instrument, genre, or song. On some fast riffs I might even use two fingers and my thumb. Whatever works.
  19. I use all four fingers for plucking. I could use one finger if I had to, but I totally dislike it. You can go pretty fast with one finger ( one note on a string played fast for example).

    But that same note you can go much faster with a pick. And you can go much faster on that note using two fingers.

    Takes awhile and training to get speed on one note with two fingers. Quite awhile!!

    Using three fingers on one note for speed is even harder. It can be done but you spend ages trying to get away from the galloping effect toward even sound and correct timing.

    There is a limited amount of speed you can get out of a single index finger.

    Anyway, a pick can be double stroke (up/down) consistently. Fingers are generally upstroke only.

    I think Jamerson was so used to playing an upright, he couldn't really adapt to electric all that well. So he did the best with what he knew. Which admittedly was phenomenal.
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 15, 2021

Share This Page