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Developing your Fingerstyle Technique

One of the most commen requests I get from new bass students is to help them improve their fingerstyle technique. There are many benefits to playing bass with your fingers, but only if you have good execution. Luckily, it is an easy thing to accomplish.

When you are first learning to play the bass with your fingers it can help to anchor your thumb on the top edge of a pickup (see image 1) or on a thumb rest if your bass comes with one. Later, as you get more familiar with the fingerstyle technique, you may opt to have your thumb rest directly on the strings or even "float". Whenever I am playing a live rock or metal show I usually anchor my thumb just so I can move around and still keep consistent fingerstyle technique.

The real key to plucking the bass is to not have your fingers too straight or too curved. If the fingers are too straight (see image 2) then you will not have good agility or power. If the fingers are too curved (see image 3) you will not have good speed or dexterity. What you are looking for is a nice, subtle arc to the fingers that is relaxed but rigid. (see image 4)

Now that you have a nice finger shape, you need to work on the mechanics of plucking the string. First of all, do not pluck with too much of your finger - just use the tip. When you pluck a string it is ok (and actually preferred) to let your finger pass through the string that you are plucking and rest on the next string. (see images 5 and 6) This will not only generate the proper string movement, but it will help mute the next string, which can sometimes vibrate sympathetically and create noise.

There are a lot of opinions about finger plucking technique. Some people use one finger, others prefer two fingers while still others like three fingers. I like to use my index and middle fingers, and I try to always alternate between the two. Consistently alternating gives me an even tone, better groove and helps me to play intricate passages at fast tempos. But that is just me. The bottom line is that regardless of how many fingers you use, the concepts covered here will aid you in getting a great tone and have the maximum dexterity and strength.

If you have any questions about this lesson please email me at!

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