View Full Version : Alternate Finger Bass Picking

01-28-2007, 11:05 PM
I recently decided to dive into the bass world after playing guitar for about 10 years. The left hand aspects are obviously not a huge issue for me, but I want to make sure that I am using correct right hand technique so I dont have to fix things later on.

I have been trying to start out with alternate picking using my index and middle finger.

My three main questions are:

1) Does the alternate picking work like guitar, where you always follow a index finger pluck with a middle finger pluck (like downstroke followed by upstroke on guitar)?

2) When you pick with your finger, how much pressure do you use, or how hard to you actually pluck the string? I feel like my hits may be too soft.

3) Lastly, when I pluck with my index finger, the sound comes from the fleshy end of my finger, not the nail. This produces a nice mellow thump. However when it comes to using my middle finger, the sound seems to come from my nail, which has a more "guitar-pick" type sound. It seems funny to hear such a distinct difference in tone in consecutive hits. Where does the sound come from when you pick? I try to keep my finger nails very short but it seems strange that even at this length my nail is hitting the string.

01-29-2007, 02:50 AM
I have a good fast and accurate bass picking style which I'll explain to you. I pick with my 1st and 2nd fingers first of all. I use what's called the "floating thumb technique". It allows you to keep the strings from ringing out whilst you're playing on the higher strings, which is especially important if you play 5/6 string.

Floating thumb is very simple, basically, let's say, a normal average player will rest his thumb on the pickup, and if you have a 4 string bass, and are playing on the E string, then you'd need to rest it there, but lets say you play on the A string... normally you'd leave the thumb where it is, or you may stick in on the E, but using the floating thumb technique, you would move the thumb on top of the E string while playing on the A. Then, if you move to the D, you bring the thumb down again, onto the A, and the back of the thumb should not be touching the E, stopping it from ringing out. You obviously don't use in all cases, like if you're alternating between strings, playing 5 notes on the A, one on the D, and coming back to the A in quick succession, then it isn't necessary to move the thumb each time, or if you are quickly string skipping, like some octave funk thing for example, then there's no need for it.

Regarding alternating the fingers, I alternate them of course, but when I come back down the strings, I "rake". It works, like so: If I am playing 2 notes on the G string, and lets say I pick the first note with my 1st finger, and the next note with my 2nd, and after the 2nd finger picked the note it will be touching the D string, and if the next note is on the D string, I'll use that finger to play the note with, as oposed to alternating, and using my 1st finger. It's just like a sweep picking effect. It is very comfortable, and is very economical. However, I learned both ways, in that I can play with strict alternation, and rake, but I choose nearly always to rake instead.

Next, regarding the sound, you want each pick to sound the same from both fingers. I certainly don't have any nail noises. Perhaps you are really actually plucking the strings, what you want to do is play with the tips of both of your fingers, the pads, no nails (I have none), unless you're after that kind of sound :eek:. Notice, that if you pick INTO the body of the bass, then you may produce a clicky sound, which isn't what you want either. You want to pick towards YOU, so basically, you're fingers kind of make a 90 degree angle when they meet the strings, get it? It isn't quite so, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

If you haven't tried raking or floating thumb, and are new to the bass, I suggest you try and use these techniques, but learn both ways, it isn't hard, and doesn't take double the time ;) I also went from playing guitar to bass, or rather, I play both, but had played guitar before, and so, like you, I had good left hand dexterity, but my right hand was ****. So, with that holding everything back, I concentrated on just getting a good right hand technique, and with that I found out about alternative techniques, and put them to practice. :D

01-29-2007, 09:34 AM
I agree with Rizla ,"floating thumb" is good if you 're playing runs on the G & D strings but I always return to anchoring the thumb on the p/u for the low notes for stability .I personally don't like nail click and keep my nails cut short to eliminate this also you get a fatter sound if you attack the strings with the flesh of the fingers . I also use AP and raking which kinda happened naturally cuz I was acquainted with classical fingerstyli and I adapted it from there. You could also try using the 3 finger pluck. Regarding the the left hand sometimes it's a good idea to pivot from the 3 finger which facilitates playing arps over 4 frets or more.You can make a stretch of 2 frets from the 3 finger to the pinky a bit hard at first but definately worth it. G'luck