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Old 06-22-2009, 10:15 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Bass Question: Using your thumb and your fingers for picking.

I've been playing bass guitar for a fairly short time and I occasionally catch myself using my thumb in combination with my pointer and middle finger to pick. Is this bad technique to learn, or is it good to be comfortable using your thumb as well as your fingers to pick?
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Old 06-22-2009, 10:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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When it comes to using a pick, I don't think it matters so much.

You planning on learning how to play with your fingers eventually?
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Old 06-22-2009, 11:14 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Veridical Fiction View Post
When it comes to using a pick, I don't think it matters so much.

You planning on learning how to play with your fingers eventually?
I wasn't talking about using a pick. I'm asking about using both my thumb and fingers.
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Old 06-22-2009, 11:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Ohhhhhhhhh... goddamn, sorry about that. My misunderstanding. I should read more carefully.


When I play with my thumb I'm generally going for a more subtle tone that stays on the E string, but I use both my index and middle fingers in conjunction with my thumb if I won't be on the E long and am doing a ride that transverses to the other strings. It's easier than moving the hand. But there's a little difference in tone and control of how you hit the strings in either scenario.

I think you'd be well served to learn multiple ways of fingerpicking on the bass and not getting locked into a specific thing, because you'll have more options that way. Get comfortable with different methods and learn how each method affects your playing.
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Old 06-23-2009, 12:35 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Veridical Fiction View Post
Ohhhhhhhhh... goddamn, sorry about that. My misunderstanding. I should read more carefully.


When I play with my thumb I'm generally going for a more subtle tone that stays on the E string, but I use both my index and middle fingers in conjunction with my thumb if I won't be on the E long and am doing a ride that transverses to the other strings. It's easier than moving the hand. But there's a little difference in tone and control of how you hit the strings in either scenario.

I think you'd be well served to learn multiple ways of fingerpicking on the bass and not getting locked into a specific thing, because you'll have more options that way. Get comfortable with different methods and learn how each method affects your playing.
Thats good, I'm glad I find it comfortable. What I thought was just me getting a bad habit might actually end up helping my playing. I will try to get good at using my fingers and my thumb in all scenarios, more flexibility is always good.
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Old 06-23-2009, 12:51 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Thats good, I'm glad I find it comfortable. What I thought was just me getting a bad habit might actually end up helping my playing. I will try to get good at using my fingers and my thumb in all scenarios, more flexibility is always good.
Indeed.
I think you'll find that using your thumb helps in particular scenarios, so never look at it as a handicap or a bad habit.
You're doing well if you're learning how to use every option available to refine your ultimate output.

It's a far cry from some poor sod playing a 4 note progression at 4/4 time with his index finger only.
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Old 06-23-2009, 01:02 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Well the thumb is supposed to rest on the pick guard but it never hurts to try different techniques, I'm guilty of doing it from time to time.

It's a habit I picked up from playing the banjo.
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Old 06-23-2009, 01:05 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Is this bad technique to learn,
absolutely not.

it's like VF said, used properly it can provide a nice tone for your low end - smoother attack for softer passages. getting used to using your thumb and fingers in tandem is also beneficial if you ever want to play some slap and pop funk too.
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I type whicked fast,
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Old 06-23-2009, 03:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Im all over the place, never used a pick. Slap it, pop it, walk it, combo it... Whatever sounds good to you, do it. Thats how you get style. Just dont do the same thing all the time, music has dynamics, your playing should too.
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Old 06-23-2009, 05:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Im all over the place, never used a pick.
it took me a very long time to start using a pick with my bass. i always followed the misguided ideal that 'real' bass players only use their fingers. using a pick provides a distinct attack and an ability to play runs with a different kind of aggression than your fingertips.

it's not something i use a lot but i found i was also able to pull out way more harmonic sounds while using a pick as opposed to my fingers.
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