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A little picking problem


(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 10340
Topic starter  

So, I recently acquired a new bass - the violin-style bass I recently posted about. It's a lovely instrument to play - the light weight and short scale seem to make it a lot easier to play than my last bass, a cheapish Precision-type clone.

However, I'm having a little problem deciding how to pick the strings....

Last time around, I used mainly my index finger. This time, I decided I was going to use my thumb for the E string, index for the A string, middle for D and ring for G. Only four strings, gotta be easier than fingerpicking on guitar, right?

Hmm....maybe not. First thing I've noticed is, I'm using the edge of my thumb to play the E string - and it's getting sore. I mean, really sore. Sore as in, "think I'll give the guitar a rest today" - and that isn't me. Some soreness on my other fingers, too - this is the right, picking hand I'm talking about. I'm tending to use the fleshy parts of my fingers rather than the nails for picking - sounds very scratchy if I use the nail. I tend to keep those fairly long for fingerpicking 6-string, and I don't use a plec very much at all.

But I'm wondering if the one-finger-per-string rule isn't for me - I've been experimenting with using a plec, and, even though it's a fairly thin plec, I don't seem to get much pick noise - which I hate, it's the main reason I don't use plecs much.
Although it seems harder work using a plec, a couple of days of it and most of the soreness has gone....so I'm wondering if this is the way for me?

What about you guys? Who uses a pick or plec for bass, who doesn't? Is it better with a heavy or light plec?

I'm really going to have to sort this out, before playing bass becomes an ordeal instead of fun!

Just a thought - with a shorter scale bass, are the strings tighter than a long scale, ie under more or less tension? This one's a 30" scale - would that mean tighter or slacker strings than, say, a 33" scale? Could that be what's causing the soreness?

I'll sort it out eventually, and find a solution - but it'd be nice to get some advice from the more experienced bassists here. Or the newer bassists, come to think of it - how long did you have to experiment before you found a style of picking that suited you?

Standard I'm aiming for? Well, I consider myself a reasonably competent rhythm guitarist, fairly average lead player - I'd like to be a reasonably competent bass player, able to jam along with other people. Play me a song once, tell me the chords, and I'll be able to jam along with it next time out - hopefully I'll be able to do that on bass.

Thanks in advance for your advice,

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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 lars
(@lars)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1121
 

Vic- I struggle with bass picking myself, having recently inherited my brother's "Big Sound" (!) P-bass. I *think* the bass players often pick with two fingers - i and m. And they don't pick like on the guitar where you kind of curl your finger upwards. Stretch out your finger, put it on the string and push it down, or rather in, towards the body - eventually your finger roll off the top of the string and the string rings. Does that make sense? Maybe I have dreamed it up This is hard for me - I constantly fall back to a guitar picking style.

Hmm. Time to get back my copy of David's book as well :)

Anyway - if a string is shorter it has to have more tension in order to have the same pitch as a longer string. Wait - doesn't it? Yes I'm pretty sure. ...

good luck to us - can't wait to see a more competent answer

PS. Bass playing is very much fun - it is so cool to have the same interval between all the strings. No B string to worry about. Everything works anywhere on the neck :)

...only thing I know how to do is to keep on keepin' on...

LARS kolberg http://www.facebook.com/sangerersomfolk


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(@jwmartin)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1437
 

I use my index and middle finger and try to force myself to alternate between them, even when the tempo is slow enough that I could play it one fingered. I rest my thumb on top of my neck pickup (Fender J-bass). If I'm playing some punk rock that's fast and just banging on the root note, I'll switch to using just my thumb to beat on the E string.

Bass player for Undercover


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(@tjk0225)
Eminent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 21
 

I picked up a bass a couple of years ago, and like you, I started with a viola model. Since I was used to using a pick, I started with a pick. Just using my fingers at first was difficult, so using a pick made the transition easier. After about 6-8 months, I picked up a P-bass. Since it was a longer scale than the Beatle bass, it felt more natural (to me) to use my fingers on it (only I and P though). Don't know why, but it did. I'm using the fingers more on either bass now, but I still only use the pick on the short scale. Bottom line, do what feels right and doesn't hurt.

I found I would get less pick noise with flat wound strings and a thicker 'bass' pick. Also helped to use the flat edge of the pick instead of the pointed end. If if makes you fell better, McCartney used a pick most of the time 8)

For what it's worth, I think it good to play with either fingers or a pick. Some songs just seem to sound better and flow better played one way or the other.

I could be wrong, but the shorter scale string feel like they have less tension to me. It could be that the string on my P are slightly heavier. They feel like the flop around a lot for sure.

Tom


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(@banre)
Reputable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 417
 

I've been using my index and middle fingers pretty much exclusively. Index most times, middle when I need some driving, fast eight notes.

I went through a few days of what you are describing with my index finger. It was killing me. I've noticed now that I'm developing a callus on my index finger. It's still not to the point of my left hand, but it's quickly getting there.

I think I remember hearing a story about Flea, bassist for Chilli Peppers, having a huge sore on his thumb on their first tour. He had to tape it up and use glue in the hole to play! (according to wikipedia, I was right)

Unseen Evidence
UE Reverb Nation Page


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(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5367
 

What about you guys? Who uses a pick or plec for bass, who doesn't? Is it better with a heavy or light plec?

I have a Yamaha bass. With very rare exceptions (the recorded version of "Sold Out," no less), I never use a plectrum. My eldest also plays bass and by contrast he uses a very heavy plectrum.

One finger per string is probably not the best way to play. I use alternating index and middle fingers, and if I need real precision then it's alternating index and middle+ring - so, if I'm playing the riff to Pink Ployd's "Money" the first B note is played with the index finger and the following B on the 1st string and the F# are both played with the middle and ring fingers together, with the lower B played with the index finger using a rest stroke to fall onto the bottom string for that beefy F#. On rar eoccasions I find I use the ring finger on its own, but that's probably because I've had a mental blockage and forgotten I'm not playing my regular classicals.

If you watch Rush on DVD, you'll spot Geddy Lee using a lot of index finger upstrokes, with alternating index finger down and up strokes for speed, which is a technique I use playing semi-quaver rasgueados for flamenco.

There's probably no "perfect way." I have David's book, but ultimately it's each to their own.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 10340
Topic starter  

You know, that's something I've only just picked up on - I don't play ANY downstrokes with my fingers on bass. With a pick, yes - fingers, no. Whether I'm subconsciously protecting my index finger-nail - which does tend to break easily - or not, I don't know. But I'm definitely not playing downstrokes with my fingers - I just checked! - it just feels very un-natural.

I don't pick downstrokes on guitar, either - upstrokes with fingers, downstrokes with thumb. Does anyone else? I do strum downstrokes...just don't pick 'em.

Hells bells, am I going to have to change my whole style of playing here? Have I been doing it wrong all these years? Or is there no right way and wrong way, just the way that feels comfortable for you?

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5367
 

I don't pick downstrokes on guitar, either - upstrokes with fingers, downstrokes with thumb. Does anyone else? I do strum downstrokes...just don't pick 'em.

Yep - basic classical technique, the thumb always does downstrokes and the fingers upstrokes. Flamenco's a bit more energetic as all fingers perform downstrokes separately but very quickly for rasgueado (and the index finger performs up and downstrokes) and there are i-m-a downstroke and upstroke to get to grips with where all three fingers perform the stroke together.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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(@kalle_in_sweden)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 780
 

Hi everybody
I visited an open Blues Jam ( in a Pub in stockholm old town) last saturday and a really good bass player ( nearly pro I guess)attended with his 5 string bass guitar. Hi played one song with only the thumb and downstrokes , next song with normal 2-3 finger plucking and another song with thumb slapping technique. I was very impressed...

Sometimes I play my 4-string Yamaha bass with a guitar pick in similar way that I play guitar , up & downstrokes etc.
But lately I have started to play in the classical way , plucking alternating with index and middle finger.
I have cut the nails very short on the plucking hand to avoid occasional hard nail picking sounds.
I find myself resting the thumb on the end of the fretboard as I then reach all the strings without any problem ( my fingers are not short). When I rest the thumb on neck pickup its a longer stretch to reach the G-string.

One of my goals is to learn to play bass as its done in this video http://youtube.com/watch?v=djRAF_ph3TQ&feature=related . It doesnt sound fast, but try to do it with a 2-finger plucking technique and get the distinctive attack on every note.
/Kalle

Tanglewood TW28STE (Shadow P7 EQ) acoustic
Yamaha RGX 320FZ electric guitar/Egnater Tweaker 15 amp.
Yamaha RBX 270 bass/Laney DB 150 amp.
http://www.soundclick.com/kalleinsweden


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
Famed Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 3998
 

Mainly I use my index and middle fingers, usually I alternate both but sometimes I tend to use the middle and sometimes the index: the tone is different and I like to keep both although I also can produce the same tone if it is needed. I always use upstrokes.

Sometimes I also use a pick. I started with a heavy pick (2 and 3 mm) but currently I prefer one of my favorite picks for guitars: Dunlop Tortex blue. I mainly use downstrokes.

Try each possibility and select the best one for you. As you know there is not exist the wrong way. And, as always, you should practice, practice and practice each technique... The David's book has a nice collection of exercises in the appendices for both hands (alternating fingers, skipping strings, etc.).

Good luck!

Kalle, I think the bassist is Dave Bronze. I can not see so well but he was in the Clapton's band at that moment. He is only at the beginning of the video but I think I am right. He is in the Hyde Park dvd. Very good bassist!

John Deacon (Queen) used fingers and picks depending on the song and tone that he needed to produce. Many bassist do it. Other players use just one technique. And Paul McCartney can do all he wants to do. He is amazing!


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 10340
Topic starter  

I think I've discovered where part of the problem lies.....

On my old bass, the long-scale, the bridge was a lot further back on the body - on the new one, it's a lot nearer the pick-ups. So it stands to reason that there WILL be more string tension than I was used to, simply because I'm picking fairly close to the bridge where there's least give in the strings.

I'll try and play further away from the bridge, near to the neck p/u for a couple of days, see if that makes any difference.

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
Famed Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 3998
 

Try to move your picking hand, you will also get different tones.

Look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0qyNJ_i6hA

Here, Dale Davis is playing the same bass model and he is playing practically over the neck pick-up. If you play over the bridge pick-up you should get a more "percussive" sound.

Play "with" your bass! :D


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(@hbriem)
Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 646
 

For what it's worth (I am certainly no poster child for sophisticated technique) I use a pick only. I use a medium weight pick (.94 - 1.07mm with a preference for 1mm Jim Dunlop nylon).

--
Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com


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