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Thread: A suggestion - Plucking technique needs more attention.

  1. #1

    Default A suggestion - Plucking technique needs more attention.

    Maybe this has already been addressed, or maybe it's just me, but it seems that in the assorted bass lessons I have experienced thus far (TMBG is not my only source, but my favorite) the plucking techniques are covered quite briefly, and in some cases, like an after thought. At first this seems stroke and free stroke, got it. But, after getting into the bass a bit deeper, it becomes not so ok. I think the lack of specific technique information on this topic is probably due to the fact that it is kind of hard to precisely quantify what you are doing with your fingers. I think muting techniques suffer from the same problem. I am not sure what the best resolution to this issue would be. I feel with experience a bassist-in-training could work out the technique on their own........eventually. However, more specifics would really speed that process along. Maybe close-up slow motion video of Roy's plucking hand in action with a narrative of what is going on would be good. Or maybe just a detailed explanation would work. What I do know is what seemed to work fine for me in the beginning, I am now not so sure about. Maybe I am alone on this, but reviewing posts here would indicate otherwise. Perhaps hearing from other members on their trials and tribulations in dealing with plucking, as well as muting, techniques would be of benefit to all.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Alberta, Canada


    I don't think there is the "correct", "approved" and "only" way to pluck. I've found it depends on your fingers (not everyone's fingers move exactly the same way), the tone you are looking for, the length of your fingernails and a bunch of other stuff like the strings you are using.

    I've read about, and often use the "slip the string off your finger and let your finger come to rest on the next string" technique. Works in some instances - mainly when a want a very smooth silky kind of tone (like when playing 4 beat sustained notes for a ballad singer), but pretty useless if you are trying to dig in and get a tone that pops out at you more in a rocky tune. In those instances I find myself using more muscle in my fingers, getting my fingertips a bit more beside, or almost under the side of the string and letting the string pop off my fingertip.

    Neither of those techniques work in precisely the same way on my upright.

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  3. #3


    I think you may be right about there not being a "correct" way to pluck. However, your comment is a good example of elaborating on the plucking technique that I address in my original post. In fact, the technique you describe sounds a lot like a synthesis of the rest and free stroke. I find myself sometimes combining the two as I traverse the strings on various guitars. When the pickup I have my thumb anchored on is not in a position suitable for snapping my plucking finger into that anchored thumb when executing a rest stroke on the "top" string (E or B as the case may be), I find myself making what I would describe as a "vigorous" rest stroke. I appreciate and thank you for you input. This exchange we are having, I think, illustrates my concerns voiced in my original post. Mastering the rest stroke and free stroke, as all the lesson courses I have examined instruct the pupil to do, is clearly not enough. I feel it would be quite beneficial to novices, like myself, if more experienced bassists chimed in and described, in as much detail as possible, how they have dealt with the surprisingly numerous nuances of the plucking techniques. It appears that plucking variations are needed not just for different types of music, but for different types of instruments, strings, pickups, amps, etc., as well.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    Blog Entries


    For me, the greatest challenge in plucking is consistency in the strokes. As you mentioned, kimgee, there is a physical disconnect between the strings and your fingers when you use a pick, so you lose the tactile sense of control over the attack to the string. Of course, this is also common with anybody who plays a lead guitar, a banjo, or any stringed instrument with a pick.

    I find the best way to handle the problem is to practice. Because the first way to play a bass is normally with the fingertips, we get used to that physical contact. If you play with a pick as often as you can, you'll begin to develop a consistency. I'm not sure if there are any particular lesson books on the subject. If you get a lesson book on lead guitar or banjo, there are probably many lessons on plucking tecchnique.

    I'm much the same way with drums. I play all sorts of hand drums with my fingers and palms, but don't have any kind of feel for using sticks. Remember the concert movie, The Song remains The Same? You get to see John Bonham play his drum kit with his hands instead of sticks. If I played a drum kit, that is how I would do it.

    The type of pick matters, too. I use Wedgies - don't like the feel of nylon or steel picks.

    - low life -

  5. #5


    That's a great tip! I had not even considered looking into banjo and guitar plucking techniques. I try to use a pick frequently for the additional tone available, but hadn't thought of studying the techniques used on other stringed instruments. I will definitely look into it. Thanks Elmeaux.


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