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Fear2288 Aug 14, 2013 @ 11:44pm
Bass Question (Pick vs Fingers)
So I just started playing bass for the first time ever a couple of months ago. It was kind of a random choice so I've been doing a lot of self-teaching, tab reading, and using RS to help me learn.

One thing I've been wondering about though is how important is it to use your fingers instead of a pick when playing the bass? Is it really considered odd to use a pick? Are you considered a crappy bass player if you use one? In the experience I've had so far it's been much easier to play with a pick - I can play faster and more accurately - however I have noticed that there's a large difference in sound between the two. Using the fingers tends to get that much lower, full bass sound while using a pick sounds almost guitar-like.

Is that just how it is? Does it have something to do with the thickness of the pick? Or does it have to do with how hard I'm picking the strings?

I would use my fingers but genetics chose to give me short, fat little fingers and giant palms thus making it quite a challenge to swiftly move between the strings and keep pace with them alone.
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Showing 1-15 of 18 comments
magikker Aug 14, 2013 @ 11:57pm 
They suggest picks or fingers based on what was used in the song. Both are valid. If you want to hear what a great bassist can do with a pick look up Carol Kaye.
ferabreu1980 Aug 15, 2013 @ 7:18am 
I, on the other way, can only play with my fingers. It bothers me, because I like the pick sound too. But I simply can't figure a way to know "where my hand is" when trying to pick.
I think I rely too much on the thumb anchoring. That's not good.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Aug 15, 2013 @ 7:46am 
They defintely provide a different sound, bands like Meshuggah come to mind where the riffs are so tight that the bass has to have alot of attack to compete with the Guitars, so he uses a pick exclusively.

The finger technique, cannot be surpassed for versatility, not including slapping/popping. You can chord on as many fingers as you need to, eliminating touching the strings you dont need. You can play the 5th to a 1st string (or 4th if youre a 4stringer) in a split second with no chance of disturbing another string etc. The only way to get a pick-like attack is with a pick, or a slap/pop

If you're having trouble with short fingers, like myself, try anchoring your thumb on a pickup, and really lean over the bass, bring your right elbow towards the front of your body. Alternatively there are thick picks made out of felt for the finger-like sound. I find it more fun without a pick thats for sure ^^
Ace42 Aug 15, 2013 @ 9:05am 
Originally posted by Fear2288:
One thing I've been wondering about though is how important is it to use your fingers instead of a pick when playing the bass?

Usually it becomes relatively obvious why one method is preferred over the other for each song; it's not essential you follow the game's recommendation, but it's an interesting change of pace and worth doing just for variety and experience.
rapt Aug 16, 2013 @ 8:09am 
if you wanna look good while playing bass, go with fingers
Riavan Aug 20, 2013 @ 5:38am 
i am unable to use a pick, I try and it just does not happen.
Last edited by Riavan; Aug 20, 2013 @ 5:38am
Barnes.D Aug 20, 2013 @ 8:48pm 
Depending on what you're playing, both pick and fingers are absolutely vital to have proficiency in using. There are lots of factors to consider aside from the different sounds. For example, the timing is one of the first considerations. If you're working a bass line to a song that exceeds 200 bpm, you might find it difficult to maintain for very long using finger-plucking. There are other considerations, as well; all of them factored together determine using a pick vs. fingers, or vice versa. Then there are songs which require using both, which can be as awkward as it sounds.

You want to be able to play bass in more than a very specific subset of songs in one or two genres, you need to learn how to use both the pick and finger-plucking effectively. If you aren't able to do that, you're really limiting your utility and usefulness to any group of musicians you might gig or jam with as a result. If you're really serious about learning the bass to be able to do more than sound good with some songs and look kind of pretty, take the time and effort to get both styles down. It may be difficult, but as the saying goes, nothing worthwhile is simple to achieve.

I've been playing bass on and off for over 20 years now, and am also self-taught. I'll tell you right now, these things are basics, you need to learn them if you want to do much. I've been at auditions where lots of folks there were actually better than me in almost every way, but I got the nod because they couldn't break their limitations in that area, while I might have been a bit rougher in many areas. I could play with or without a pick, my musical capabilites were across a number of genres and most importantly, I was flexible enough to adapt myself to the needs of the group, and they simply couldn't, which is a big key. If you limit yourself and your potential in one area, it's unlikely you'll have the flexibility to fit yourself into any group you try to join. Never underestimate the social factor. It's been my experience (which won't be everyone's) that there are lots of groups out there in need of a certain something, which they themselves won't necessarily be able to identify, but they're generally pretty good at judging people, and inability to do something as basic as using fingers instead of a pick, or the opposite, when needed says a lot to them about other aspects of a potential.
BecuzScience Aug 27, 2013 @ 5:20pm 
I use fingers on bass. I played guitar for 12 years before starting on bass and I can play with a pick I just choose not to. It's not a necessity to learn to play that way but, it can help in certain situations. It's not different from from bow or fingers on double bass to me. You can play either way exclusively but you can be more diverse if you learn both. If you plan on doing music professionally then by all means learn every technique available. If you're like most of us hobbyists then use your time to develop the techniques you plan on using most and save the rest for later on.
spiritofcat Aug 28, 2013 @ 11:04pm 
I use fingers almost exclusively.
At first I played with a pick on the songs that Rocksmith suggested a pick for, but I've found that my timing and accuracy is so much better when I'm using my fingers. I find it much easier to pluck the right string and to move from one string to another when I'm using my fingers.
Genesis Aug 2, 2014 @ 8:39am 
Really, it doesn't matter which you use because if you can play, that all that matters. of course there is always one person who will give you crap about using a pick or that real bassists don't use picks, always remember, Lemmy from Motorhead uses a pick and Jason Newsted from Metallica uses a pick.
Fear2288 Aug 2, 2014 @ 12:23pm 
Wow way to go Genesis with necro-ing this post haha.

So it's been a year since I posted this and in the experience I've had the conclusion I've come to is that pick vs fingers is largely personal preference but it also can depend on the song.

For example with a song like "Where is My Mind?" (Pixies) you can go either way but you get a much deeper, lower tone by plucking the strings with your fingers - which is more-or-less how it should sound. On the other hand I can't even imagine trying to play "Hand That Feeds" (Nine Inch Nails), "Royal We" (Silversun Pickups), and other faster paced songs without using a pick.
MTZIGG Aug 25, 2014 @ 7:23am 
TO all the above practice practice practice did I mention practice.
You can be just as fast with fingers.I use both. It all about expression Flea (Red Hot Chile Peppers} and ‎Geddy Lee (rush) are two good exemples you will find.Please dont hammer me with you forgot about so and so.I cant list them all here.Enjoy and practice both ways. It will come together for you faster than you might think.dont think I cant think I will.
Last edited by MTZIGG; Aug 25, 2014 @ 7:23am
Azrael Sep 12, 2014 @ 3:59pm 
I think by now you may already make up your mind in choosing to pick or finger, but the only real answer here is SOUND.

Each style has a particular sound, look up for the sound you want and use the technique that goes with that sound.

For a more aggressive and clappy sound, brighter notes and clear chords: Pick
For a more bold, mellow, versatile sound or slappy and poppy groovy sound: Finger

And that BS about speed, you can be 100s of times faster with fingers, just listen to Metal bass players that uses more than 2 fingers, you can just move your fingers not THAT fast and get a very fast steady beat.
You can also be really fast with pick, just tremolo pick that ♥♥♥♥! so both techniques could be as fast as you want them to be.

This comes from a person that uses pick ALL the time, because I like that bright almost guitar sound and because I love to play TOOL a great band that uses a perfect pick Bass.
jmc1999 Oct 25, 2014 @ 10:34pm 
Really pick is more for say hard metal, while the fingers are more melodic.
nickfromburbank Nov 2, 2014 @ 6:50pm 
I will now tell you the true classical way of playing the electric bass, this way if you ever want to pick up an upright, it will be an easy transition. For this way you must set down the pick. The pick if used properly can be used for bass but traditionally it limits the player greatly. The best bass player I know who uses a pick (not including people who switched from pick to fingers) is Paul McCartney, and that is only because he drives the bass much like you would a guitar. Now, as for the hands. With your plucking hand, hold your fingers centrally over your pick ups so that you can mount your thumb on a pick up. You must never let your fingers leave this position, letting your thumb slide up and down the pickup will not transition well. Now as for your fretting hand, place your thumb in the center, if you have a Fender there is a dark line in the area you should have it. Don't let your thumb leave this area as it is unnecessary, and will make your hand tired. Make sure your hand stays in a curled shape when you are playing notes with your middle finger lined up with your thumb. This is uncomfortable at first but soon you will become used to this and it will become natural. This is the way classical guitarists play guitar and symphonic bassists play bass. It translates well and will make you look comfortable as opposed to trying to hard. If you want other tips or want to correct me as I have only played this way for a few months.
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