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Picking vs. plucking?

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Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 8
Topic starter  

Okay, guys, here's my dilemma. For a long time in school, I played guitar. Thanks to a series of horrible/inept teachers I didn't much like it and never really learned that much, but I DID play for about six years, and obviously I picked up a fairly solid base of technique. I quit during sixth form but last year I started to learn bass.

My gut instinct is to pluck, even though I'm aware that almost every bassist I have ever liked uses a pick because I listen to punk, rock and metal. I think I'm partly just trying to rewire my brain into a 'bass' sort of mode, I mean, I already have enough problems remembering I'm reading off a bass clef, recalling what little theory I know and getting used to all the subtleties of having four strings.

What do you guys suggest here - do I:

a) learn to pluck until I'm more comfortable with all the other new things I'm trying to do, then relearn picking on the bass when I'm not so likely to get mixed up or

b) stick with picking because it's one less thing to learn and the sound is more appropriate for what I will be playing just as soon as I remember all the notes on the bass clef (ha, this time next year, then!).

I'd really appreciate some different views on this, seems like half the time my mind's still trying to use the stuff I learned ten years ago...

Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1196

do both, fingerstyle "plucking" and picking, depending on the song and style of music being played. It depends on the tone of the song. Finger picking the strings will be more of a warm, round attack and picking with a plectrum will give a more sharp attack.

It is a small world for metal fanatics. I welcome you fellow musicians, especially the metalheads!

Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 28

'Tis definitely a dilemma. Lots of metal and punk guys play with picks, but some of my favorites don't. Take Troy Sanders from Mastodon as an example. His boomy fingerstyle playing provides a lovely foil to the constantly distorted guitars in the band's sound.

I definitely prefer plucking when I play bass, but I'm kind of a weird case, I suppose. I started on guitar and began to fill in on bass when the low register was needed. I started with a pick, 'cause it's what I knew from playing guitar a few years. I gradually switched to plucking for the fuller sound it gave me (especially with flatwounds on my J bass). Now I find myself playing guitar almost exclusively with my fingers. I think I can be more musical without a pick and admire folks like Mark Knopfler who don't use picks.

I actually played my strat with a pick for the first time in months this morning and, after a few dramatic bends, snapped the high E string at the saddle. I hadn't snapped a string at all since I'd been playing with my fingers.

Hopefully this helps.

King Harvest has surely come.

Prominent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 779

I have the same dilemma, switching between guitars ( acoustic and electric) and electric bass guitar.
After trying to pluck or pick I have decided to go with a pick ( for the time being at least).
With a pick I can use the same technique as I use when playing guitar, wich makes it possible for me play faster and more precise than I can do when I pluck.
I know that I can´t get the round "double bass" sound when playing with a pick, but I can live with that.

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

Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 4338

I pluck. But then, I'm a fingerpicker on guitar, so it's more natural for me to pluck the bass. I use a pick for the mandolin and the dulcimer, but only fingers for guitar and bass. I'm just the opposite of Kalle. I feel like I have more control and can pick faster with fingers rather than with a pick. Different strokes for different folks and so on and so on and scooby dooby doo bee.

..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
¸.·´ .·´¨¨))
((¸¸.·´ .·´
-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ -:¦:- Elecktrablue -:¦:-

"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264

Another plucker here. Like Elecktrablue, I alternate between fingerpicking and strumming on guitar, so I never even thought about using a pick when I started out on bass. I hate using a plectrum unless that pesky nail breaks on my index finger!

I also prefer the tone. I like a low thuddy sounds-like-it-was-recorded-at-the-bottom-of-a-well bass rumble!

:D :D :D


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

Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2261

I pluck. I can't use a pick on bass to save my life, and I'm useless at fingerpicking on the guitar... so I just stick to using a pick (a bass pick, of course ;)) - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer

Noble Member
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 1735

Bass should use both for different songs. Picking for metal/punk/fast songs and fingers for others. I do both (when I'm asked to play bass) and even use the thumb at times since it's a natural extension of finger pickin' on guitar.

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."

Eminent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 21

I go along with Elektrablue and Vic - I'm a plucker on both guitar and bass.
But I will force myself to play with a pick every so often to keep up with it.


Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 87

I always play fingerstyle myself, on both bass and guitar, and I'm more of a bassist than guitarist. I've found that with the right settings, and developed technique, I can play as fast and forward as a bassist with a pick. But most of what I play works more with fingerstyle anyway.

Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2736

Plucking or picking has got nothing to do with punk or metal. Its the 'way' bass is played. So, I would advise you to concentrate on your technique rather then getting concerned about playing with a pick or without it.

Do what is most comfortable to you and you would be fine.

Good Luck,