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New to Fingerstyle (and this forum)


omegamike

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Hi everyone,

 

I've already introduced myself in the proper thread, so now I hope to drink from the fount of knowledge that this forum has to offer.

 

Here's my situation: I've been playing for 15 years using a pick for 95% of that time and I've now decided to switch to 100% fingerstyle. The music I play is pretty aggressive and 'heavy' and can get pretty fast at times so I need to incorporate the ring finger if I want to succeed.

 

I'm not a complete newbie to using my fingers. My teacher in high school insisted I play fingerstyle, I can play pretty decently with the index and middle finger - but now I have to train the ring finger to get up to speed and to know when to use it. I'd appreciate any exercises of pearls or wisdom the fingerstyle gurus may have.

 

So far I've been practicing a few nights a week on my Washburn acoustic/electric (which has a pretty high action) trying to get that 'triplet' feel down solid. I've noticed a lot of progress in just a few days. I've been playing along to songs like Metallica's Four Horsemen and Creeping Death with a decent amount of success so far. I especially find when moving from my Washburn to my BTB or Soundgear I can just fly since the action is much lower on my 5 strings. The B string works well as a thumb rest which also helps quell the 'sympathetic vibration' issue as well.

 

In essence I just need to zero in on the ring and pinkie fingers and increase my dexterity. If there are any tips and tricks for doing this...please send them my way!

 

Thanks

http://www.myspace.com/omegamyk

http://www.bassguitarrocks.com

Ibanez BTB 505 equiped w/F-Bass preamp(<-for sale)

Trace Elliot AH400SMX & 4x10

Sans Amp Bass Driver DI

Digitech BP8

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Hi Mike :wave:

 

Much to my own surprise, I have actually already started a thread about this topic ... Think I've been on here for too long because

 

1) I didn't even remember that I'd posted that

2) I quit trying to master that technique

 

It hurt like hell. I play Creeping Death with 2 fingers and it works fine.

 

Anyway, here is the topic. Hope it'll help :)

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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Thanks Eddieplaysbass. The first thing I did after posting was a search but I didn't come up with that thread. It was enlightening.

 

I can get pretty fast with the two finger approach, but it takes awhile to get up to speed. Creeping Death for instance - the first four notes on the E I can do with two fingers easily once warmed up...cold it's just not happening. I'm hoping that if I can master the three finger technique that I won't have to be playing for 45 minutes before I can nail parts like that since I'd have an extra finger to help me out.

 

I'm not having any pain problems - so I at least have that going for me. I don't know if I should be happy that you got up to speed with two fingers or scared that you were once on the same quest as me and abandoned it?

 

One thing I've realized since I've posted is just how many finger techniques there are out there. Too often it gets boiled down to 'fingers' or 'pick', but after some of the reading on this forum it's 'two fingers', 'three fingers', four fingers', 'thumb & index' and so on. Definitely different strokes for different folks!

 

As long as it works for you...go for it!

http://www.myspace.com/omegamyk

http://www.bassguitarrocks.com

Ibanez BTB 505 equiped w/F-Bass preamp(<-for sale)

Trace Elliot AH400SMX & 4x10

Sans Amp Bass Driver DI

Digitech BP8

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Originally posted by omegamike:

Thanks Eddieplaysbass. The first thing I did after posting was a search but I didn't come up with that thread. It was enlightening.

Cool! Be sure to look for that Steve DiGorgio (or something like that) article, it'll help greatly.

 

I can get pretty fast with the two finger approach, but it takes awhile to get up to speed. Creeping Death for instance - the first four notes on the E I can do with two fingers easily once warmed up...cold it's just not happening.
Hmmm, I learnt that song for an audition. The drummer liked to 'play it the way Metallica plays it live' which according to him meant friggin' fast ... Doing that cold is painful :D

 

I'm not having any pain problems - so I at least have that going for me.
That's a good thing alright !! I think it was a combination of wrong hand positioning and my injury. But mostly wrong hand positioning.

 

I don't know if I should be happy that you got up to speed with two fingers or scared that you were once on the same quest as me and abandoned it?
I wouldn't say that I abandoned it, really. I tried it. For a long time, actually. And I was getting somewhere, but in the end I realised that I was playing slow sections with three fingers and fast ones with two.

 

At some point I'll probably pick it up again. Right now I'm sort of focussing on slapping, and I'd like to become better at playing with a pick :)

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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I started bass with 2 fingers, then month later went to 3, month later went to 2 again for a week until i switched back to 3.

 

After my final switch to 3 i was watching a sheehan method video, and noticed that he was copying me...

 

So ya, the method works for fast playing and i guess in theory it's more economical since you use 3 fingers for less tiredness.

 

It's worked for me but was a bit awkward at first especially not to just triplet everything, but with practice its been pretty good.

 

Makes battery easy to play :D

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I've used two, three, four fingers at times. I still think one finger sounds the best, and hey...It's hard to argue that after hearin some motown.
Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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Originally posted by musicfiend:

I've used two, three, four fingers at times. I still think one finger sounds the best, and hey...It's hard to argue that after hearin some motown.

i agree. certain parts ask for that solid, even, thumping sound and the one finger always delivers.

 

sometimes it's waaaay easier to use 2 or 3 fingers but soundwise there is always a difference (different place on the string, more or less meat on that finger, different vibration after hitting the string). i dunnow, it's probably a mental thing with me.

 

anyway, good luck with your practicing and welcome to the LD! :)

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You can really see a trend in the "sound of one" epiphany. Marcus Miller has talked about the early days of his carreer, wherein he tried to play whole charts with just the downstrokes of his thumb to maintain a solid, driving attack. The bass player for audioslave also spoke aout how he tries to play as much as he can with his one finger, because the funkiest sound out there is the sound of one finger. He also spoke of going to see Rush as a kid and observing geddy lee's right hand technique, seeing him useing just one finger. Paul jones was also interviewed in bassplyer, where he discussed his approach of playing with only his middle finger for a strong, consistent attack. then of course, there's jamerson and his "hook". I haven't even gotten to the stuff you hear in sly and robbbie's music and other reggae, where the players usually use heavy downstrokes of the thumb to get some throbbing tones.

I recently convinced a friend to try playing with one finger, and then play that same line with two. This was when he was just getting started on bass after a long time spent singing and playing guitar. His general lack of proper technique really accentuates the difference of attack when playing with two fingers.

And then o course, Ron Carter spoke about playing his upright on one spot of the fingerboard and not deviating from that spot to get "his sound".

Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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Well...I have been playing bass with my fingers ever since I started...4 years ago...and up to this day I can consitantly do 24th/32nd notes with my index and middle fingers. But now I have started using a pic 1. for the sound and 2. for 'chugging.' But I haven't tried using 3 fingers...I know the bassist from MudVayne uses his 3rd finger with some of his stuff. Very impressive BTW to watch him play.
You know...when you squint your eye a bit and close your other one it looks like everything is in wide screen.
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Try using just your ring finger to play everything for a couple of weeks.

Tenstrum

 

"Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face."

Harry Dresden, Storm Front

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Thanks for all the feedback guys.

 

Will-Bass - thanks for the link, those exercises are just what the doctor ordered.

 

Tenstrum - soloing the ring finger is also a good idea, I think I'll give that a go as well.

 

Musicfiend - I agree with what you're saying about the tone of one finger vs 2/3 but (with all due respect) tone isn't the issue. Speed is the bottom line, either you can keep up or you can't and in this case tone is secondary. Using one finger just isn't possible on a song like Battery (if it is please correct me, and I'd also like to see it!). This is similar to picking in that downstrokes are best but after a certain tempo they become impossible and you need to alternate up & down.

 

How fast you need to go will often depend on what style of music you play. I 'specialize' in hard rock/metal, mostly original music with the occasional cover or two thrown in for good measure. If I'm to go "Cold Turkey" with picking technique I need to be able to play all of it with my fingers. So it's either get three fingers working for me or go back to the pick, or get into a different style of music (not going to happen).

 

All of this may cause some of you to wonder why I'm changing techniques. I never really gave fingerstyle an honest chance, and I've always found that I come up with my best basslines while playing fingerstyle. I just feel more 'connected' with the instrument.

 

I've also had to rethink my picking technique due to the sensitivity of my F Bass preamp I had installed last year in my BTB. I've been distorting my signal with my down picking style; not the nice kind of distortion that adds grit and helps you cut through the mix, but the evil tone-choking kind. When I lightened up on my attack my tone improved instantly, but cue the band and I end up falling back into my heavy attack habits.

 

So my choice was to either work on my picking technique and 'unlearning' my habits or go a completely new route and experiment with fingerstyle. After 15 years it is refreshing to play songs I learned years ago with a completely new technique.

 

Besides...having this new quest takes my mind off the GAS that seems to haunt many of us on this forum, nuff said :D

http://www.myspace.com/omegamyk

http://www.bassguitarrocks.com

Ibanez BTB 505 equiped w/F-Bass preamp(<-for sale)

Trace Elliot AH400SMX & 4x10

Sans Amp Bass Driver DI

Digitech BP8

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Yeah, what Alex said. You could also work on your speed using two fingers. It's one of the things I have planned for this summer: speed exercises with a metronome.

 

The other are scale exercises (with a metronome) and tabbing out a sh*tload of songs in an attempt to improve my ear.

 

Here's hoping I don't get a summer job :D

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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I play three-finger and most of the advice so far is spot on: practice, practice, practice. You've got to bring that ring finger up to speed (figuratively and literally), and it's already at an innate neuromuscular disadvantage.

 

But I would like to add one thing: if you can get your pinky working for you, good on ya. For most people's hands, it's just too short to be conveniently used at the same time as the others. In fingerstyle guitar you can do it because there's more curvature of the fingers, but on bass it's very tricky.

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I've tried 3-finger with limited success, probably because I didn't stick with it long enough. Like many here have said, I can use it on slow stuff, but I'm still faster with just 2. The biggest problem was "string jumping" in the middle of a 3-2-1 plucking group. 3-2-1 on the G string, then 3-2-1 on the D string is no problem, but 3 on G 2 on A and 1 on D kinda sux.

 

I also tried the 3-2-1-2 16ths that DiGiorgio explains. Again, it's just awkward when string jumping.

 

(String jumping's probably not as big an issue for you metal guys, though, is it?) :D

 

Then I read in Bass Guitar that Sheehan ALWAYS goes 3-2-1 so his 16ths are: 3-2-1-3, 2-1-3-2, 1-3-2-1, etc. This has a tendency to become a gallop for me, and that ain't pretty!

 

Someone else mentioned using both sides of your fingers to pick. Geddy Lee (Rush) and John Entwistle (The Who) both use this technique. It would seem this would be more natural for someone who is used to using a pick. (On the Rush in Rio DVD, you can occaissionally see Geddy doing this; it always looks like he's using all 3 fingers when he's doing the 2-sided thing to me, but I haven't tried to watch it in slomo yet.)

 

I actually started picking with my thumb only. I almost never use it anymore though because I like to lock it on top of a pickup (or whatever I can) to get more force out of my fingers. (I do tend to overdo it this way, though. I'd probably break my pinkie if I tried to pluck with it. :( ) When I took lessons in college it was suggested that I try to get away from that by letting the thumb "float" just in front of the string above the one I was playing, but that never felt comfortable to me. (Playing on the D string, for example, let your thumb hover in front of the A string.) I can do thumb-pointer-index but it is not as forceful as my 2-finger. (BTW, T-1-2 is great for old disco tunes in octaves: DOO-de-de DOO-DEE DOO-de-de DOO-DEE.) :rolleyes:

 

And that brings me to my question (finally!). :P

 

I've tried experimenting with thumb- and finger-picks, a la banjo-style. (I remember reading [in GP?] about some bassist that played like a banjo player, but probably not with picks.) T-1-2-3. The idea was that the picks would help improve my attacks. I just can't get used to the darn things! They put my fingertips too far away from the strings; it's like walking on stilts. The thumb pick is kind of OK, but is still awkward because it requires a different thumb motion than I'm used to. Anyone else ever try these? (The plastic ones, not the metal ones.)

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