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Fingerstyle players: which finger do you lead with?


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In another fairly recent thread, I saw someone mention that they lead with their middle finger when playing finger style. Last night during rehearsal, I paid attention to my right hand and I lead with my middle finger too. I also noticed that I often times will play part of a line with *just* my middle finger. Odd, because it's something that I never even think about - that hand just makes the notes go when I want it to.

 

So my question is this: Is that weird? Are you supposed to lead with your index finger? By "supposed to", I'm assuming that some method book out there says that you should always lead with your index finger.

 

I was self taught for a long time before I started taking lessons. I had a few bad habits that I've since corrected, but I never recall my bass teacher telling me which fingers to use for what on my plucking hand. Though, we did have many discussions on my horrible fretting hand technique. :D

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I usually lead with the index, but I will pretty much never play more than two or three consecutive notes with any one finger.

 

I have a student who, if I'm not watching him closely, will get lazy and just play everything with his middle finger, though.

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i read from an old BP mag (a Steve Bailey column, i think) that it would be ideal to lead with the middle finger, 'coz it is usually longer.

that being said, it depends on what groove i'm playing and what strings i pluck. i'm left-handed playing the right-handed way, and usually pay attention to my left hand more, as it also has the more mental aspect of playing.

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Had to play a few to figure it out...

 

It all depends on which string I'm going to next. A 'distance'/finger length kinda thing...

 

If I'm going to a lower pitched string, I'll start with my middle finger.

If I'm going to a higher pitched string, I'll start with my index.

If I'm staying on the same string, it's index.

 

I call it conservation of energy...

 

 

...my Mom would have said I was just lazy.

 

Jim

Jim

Confirmed RoscoeHead

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Hah, very cool Bumpcity - I never really paid much attention, I guess. Seems I do it that way, too. I had a thought as to why: Ever try ghost mutes on the low strings with the middle finger while accenting higher with the index? If you do you may end up with hands like a g***ar player.

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On the more uptempo stuff and the 16th note lines, I usually lead with my middle finger. On the slower tempo, groove oriented stuff, I usually play with both my index and middle fingers together. But, I have also been known to play with both fingers on the 16th note stuff, as well. I guess it just depends on if my forearm is starting to cramp up.
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Originally posted by Bumpcity:

In another fairly recent thread, I saw someone mention that they lead with their middle finger when playing finger style. Last night during rehearsal, I paid attention to my right hand and I lead with my middle finger too. I also noticed that I often times will play part of a line with *just* my middle finger. Odd, because it's something that I never even think about - that hand just makes the notes go when I want it to.

So my question is this: Is that weird?

Neither of those are weird. I did mention that I lead with my middle finger when plucking with two fingers, and I'll lead with my ring finger if I'm playing with three fingers. I tend to play parts with just my middle finger as well, without realizing it sometimes. My explanation for it is that the middle finger is the strongest finger out of the bunch, and I think it's easier to nail a pickup with either the ring or index finger when you are solely using the middle finger as opposed to any others.

I've also noticed that if I'm tapping something out on a desk or any other surface, I'll lead with my middle finger then. This was before I played bass. I guess it's just a natural action for most people. even right now I'm tapping something out starting out with my ring finger mocing down fromto middle, then index and thumb, and finally the pinkie.

I just tried that pattern on my bass...it was weird.

;)

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Aww man now I feel like I'm doin something wrong! I certainly never thought about it before but a quick check says that I am more likely to rake with my middle finger, but for straight sequences of eights or sixteenths on one string I lead with my index. Also, if I play a line with one finger I am most likely to use my index and if I play a line with three fingers I mostly lead with my ring finger. Now that I'm thinking about it I can't get myself to just play how I normally would... but I am finding myself able to lead with any finger and I think I probably change it up lots.
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I lead with my index (of course this is a trick answer since I don't have a middle finger on my plucking hand :D )

 

What I did notice, once I had the opprotunity to watch myself play on videotape, was that I tend to use just the one finger most of the time. I was disappointed, I thought that I alternated much better than that. I'll keep working on it.

 

Cheers!

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Life is what happens while you are busy playing in bands.

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Great thread Mr. Bump sir.

 

Middle. Have been working on incorporating the pinkie for a couple years now. Very tough.

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I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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I noticed several years ago that I lead with my middle because I was working through Rocco's Fingerstyle video and I saw that he always led with his index. I also noticed that if I led with my index, some of his lines were easier to play. I never bothered to break my habit though.
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Middle for me as well.

 

And generally, m-i-t in 3 finger technique, although I'll alternate middle and thumb for speed passages.

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Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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You're the first person I know of that uses their thumb in three finger passages, that's pretty cool if you ask me ;)
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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Depends. My right hand fingers seem to sort out the most efficient way of playing without me getting consciously involved.

 

Recent musical demands have expanded my repetoire of plucking hand techniques to include palm muting with thumb/index/middle, strumming 1-4 strings simultaneously with thumbnail/middlenail/ringnail, popping 1-4 strings with thumb/index/middle/ring, plucking 1-4 strings with thumb/index/middle/ring, and then combining the above techniques (+thumbstyle slap) to fulfil the bass and chordal functions simultaneously. It's proving fun!

 

But for single note passages I'm pretty much just using straightforward two finger plucking (single finger if it sounds better) or thumb slaps or plucks. (Though strumming single strings creates an interesting rhythmic rumble which will soon find a use for triphopesque grooves...)

 

Alex

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Wow.

And to think, when I was sitting there watching GPJ play with the Funky Meters and noticing his hands, that it would come to this. :)

 

 

Don't you guys watch the player's hands? :)

 

I play so my hands are as comfortable as possible.

I use whichever fingering on whichever hand will get the job done.

Sometimes I'll even use a pick. :eek:

 

Here's a related thought, that might mess you up (hi Ace :) )-

Does the pinky on your picking hand stick out?

And if so, when?

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Originally posted by wraub:

Here's a related thought, that might mess you up (hi Ace :) )-

Does the pinky on your picking hand stick out?

And if so, when?

 

Peace,

 

wraub

okay, do you inhale or exhale on your backswing? now i've just put 12 strokes on your game.
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Short answer: middle leads.

 

Long answer is based on this quote:

Originally posted by TylerlovesAva:

i read from an old BP mag (a Steve Bailey column, i think) that it would be ideal to lead with the middle finger, 'coz it is usually longer.

Because it's longer, it's easier to pulse the downbeats (of 8ths/16ths/etc.) with the middle. Yeah, yeah, it's all about eveness, and making your fingers sound alike. But when you want that pulse, the middle does the job a little easier. (For triples it would make sense to go 2-1-3 as some have indicated here.) Middle makes tasty accents, too!

 

However, like most of you, this is not a hard, fast rule for me. There is one riff I wrote, in particular, that if I start with the proper finger (probably index) is cake, but otherwise has a rough spot. It's the same problem someone else mentioned: plucking a low string with middle and following with plucking a high string with the index. It's just not natural! :P

 

If I "let my fingers figure it out", then yes, there will be times when they are not alternating -- 2-1-2-2-1-2-1-1-2-1-etc -- but in general they are always alternating.

 

My one-finger technique is usually played on the neck and is a "solo" for my index. :D Keeps the soft, slow stuff more even/smooth.

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It's weird that you should ask. If I was just asked about it, my reaction would be that I was leading with my index finger. But then I actually started playing and found that I lead with my middle finger. I tried alternating how I lead and found that I could get off to a quicker start with my middle finger rather than my index finger. Definitely a little bit weird, but kind of cool to understand.

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Originally posted by wraub:

Wow.

And to think, when I was sitting there watching GPJ play with the Funky Meters and noticing his hands, that it would come to this. :)

It's all your fault. I blame you for this thread. :)

 

Originally posted by wraub:

Don't you guys watch the player's hands?

Not really. Sometimes I'll watch their fretting hand to see how they play a line vs. the way I play it. Side story to this below.

 

Originally posted by wraub:

Does the pinky on your picking hand stick out?

And if so, when?

Yeah, totally. I've noticed that it sticks out when I'm playing really fast continuous lines. Mister Miyagi does "Obsession" by Animotion and I double the synth keyboard bassline through the verses. It's all 16th notes at ~120BPM for 4 minutes. Not blisteringly fast by any means, but trying to be very mechanical and "keyboard sounding" adds to the fun and excitement.

 

My little side story:

 

When Yogi's band opened for the Mike Keneally Band a few years ago, Bryan Beller and I sat down with our basses and we went over one of Yogi's tunes that he sat in on. Bryan played on the albums; for those of you who aren't familiar with Yog's stuff. Anyway, while Bryan and I went over a few different parts, we noticed that we approach some things very different. OK, WE didn't notice it, uber-drummer Chris G was sitting there watching us and he pointed it out. Same notes, just different positions on the neck. Just goes to show what is comfortable and natural for one person isn't necessarily going to be true for someone else.

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Originally posted by wraub:

Here's a related thought, that might mess you up (hi Ace :) )-

Does the pinky on your picking hand stick out?

And if so, when?

Yes. Seemingly, about half the time someone decides to snap a picture.

 

It looks too 'tea & society' for rock 'n roll. :mad:

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I really don't lead with either index or middle. But if I'm wanting to hit a note really hard and chunky, I use my middle ("Man in the Box"-ish). If I'm wanting something a little more subtle and mellow, my index "Californication"-ish). Most of the time I alternate between them for a nice even attack.

 

I guess I tune my fingers differently depending on what I want... :freak:

Tenstrum

 

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