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Digits or Plectrum ?


fryer
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As has been said, it's another tool. For most bands you don't need to slavishly copy the original bass parts, but also deciding you're going to have your own 'style' will make you look an ass if you try to play like a hard rocker on a gentle ballad. What works for the song is what makes the song sound the best it can - possibly better than the original if you're covering someone else's music.

As a guitar player of >30 years, when I came back to bass I deliberately used fingers to differentiate from my main instrument. Now I really enjoy the sheer physicality of playing bass and literally getting to grips with it, but I carry a pick in my pocket to use if a song calls for it.

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[quote name='Ancient Mariner' timestamp='1324228484' post='1472059']
As has been said, it's another tool. For most bands you don't need to slavishly copy the original bass parts, but also deciding you're going to have your own 'style' will make you look an ass if you try to play like a hard rocker on a gentle ballad. What works for the song is what makes the song sound the best it can - possibly better than the original if you're covering someone else's music.

As a guitar player of >30 years, when I came back to bass I deliberately used fingers to differentiate from my main instrument. Now I really enjoy the sheer physicality of playing bass and literally getting to grips with it, but I carry a pick in my pocket to use if a song calls for it.
[/quote]

What he said :)

(I too carry a pick, even though I can no longer use one :( )

I do use my thumb to do up / down strokes but cannot gain the speed for metal etc playing. (I stick to the blues now!)

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[quote name='peteb' timestamp='1324167070' post='1471530']
I don’t get this mantra “what's right for the song” that some people keep repeating on here – obviously you should play the right part for each song but does that mean that you have a completely different sound and approach to how you play on every single song?

Why not develop your own style and sound that maximises your potential as a player and becomes recognisable as part of what makes your band unique…!
[/quote]

Learn to use both, for sure.

I think a pick can help maintain clarity and precision at high speed. But of course then you have players like Billy Sheehan and Steve Harris as mentioned previously, who can rip it up at light speed, though they do use three finger techniques to achieve their fastest lines as far as I can tell.

On the above comment. I don't think anyone is suggesting changing your sound for every song, but being flexible and understanding that the fat, round fingerstyle tone, or trebly pick tone with some chorus on it, might not work for every tune you play, and that is a good thing.

Having a trademark sound can be a good thing, but depending on the musical situation it might not be. I love Billy Sheehan's tone (I'm using him because his name has popped up), but would you want to hear it on a reggae tune? And Billy does definitely tweak his tone from time to time - his tone on 'To Be With You' and the walking part in the verses of 'Colorado Bulldog' are definitely different to the tones on something like 'Rock And Roll Over'. He's changing them slightly to fit the song.

I can't think of many bass players, and I'm talking about players we'd all know, who haven't adapted their sound for different songs, whether that's simply by playing with a different technique (fingers on a ballad, pick on a rocker), adjusting their EQ, adding an effect or two and so on.

And if you have a trademark sound, and you work as a gigging/session musician, well it could limit your gigs if you're very rigid about it. Your sound could be all the rage one minute, and not the next, so if nobody wants to book you for your 'sound' then you'd better be prepared to change it, or go without the gigs. I guess.In your own band I suppose it matters less.

Just my two penneth's worth :)

Edited by bencooper
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[quote name='bencooper' timestamp='1324293860' post='1472555']
I think a pick can help maintain clarity and precision at high speed. But of course then you have players like Billy Sheehan and Steve Harris as mentioned previously, who can rip it up at light speed, though they do use three finger techniques to achieve their fastest lines as far as I can tell.
[/quote]

Steve Harris actually uses two fingers, which makes it even more impressive :)

and I do agree that if you are a session musician, you should have as many techniques at your disposal as possible. However, if you are in an originals band, then having your own style is a very good thing I think.

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I'm primarily finger style and have been for over 30yrs until recently asked to use a pick because the kys thought a particular song needed more attack.
To cut this short i took advice on BC and ended up using slightly longer fingernails to achieve what i believed was the attack required. Band were over the moon with the sound and it then led me to setting up my Roland m/fx for a more high ended Ampeg attack via m/fx 2x15" cab sound to capture the Glenn Hughes live sound.
Can't get to grips with a plectrum but i have now started to use my index finger (with longer nails) as a pick.
These were styles i had used many yrs ago but had let slip as never any requirement or been asked.
As someone pointed out on BC - i was lucky that the band paid enough attention to the actual bass sound.

Dave

Edited by dmccombe7
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[quote name='jackers' timestamp='1324295103' post='1472575']
Steve Harris actually uses two fingers, which makes it even more impressive :)

[/quote]

Yes you're right - it looks like he uses three when you see him playing, but the man himself says he plays with two fingers. I stand corrected. :)

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[quote name='bencooper' timestamp='1324293860' post='1472555']
Learn to use both, for sure.

I think a pick can help maintain clarity and precision at high speed. But of course then you have players like Billy Sheehan and Steve Harris as mentioned previously, who can rip it up at light speed, though they do use three finger techniques to achieve their fastest lines as far as I can tell.

On the above comment. I don't think anyone is suggesting changing your sound for every song, but being flexible and understanding that the fat, round fingerstyle tone, or trebly pick tone with some chorus on it, might not work for every tune you play, and that is a good thing.

Having a trademark sound can be a good thing, but depending on the musical situation it might not be. I love Billy Sheehan's tone (I'm using him because his name has popped up), but would you want to hear it on a reggae tune? And Billy does definitely tweak his tone from time to time - his tone on 'To Be With You' and the walking part in the verses of 'Colorado Bulldog' are definitely different to the tones on something like 'Rock And Roll Over'. He's changing them slightly to fit the song.

I can't think of many bass players, and I'm talking about players we'd all know, who haven't adapted their sound for different songs, whether that's simply by playing with a different technique (fingers on a ballad, pick on a rocker), adjusting their EQ, adding an effect or two and so on.

And if you have a trademark sound, and you work as a gigging/session musician, well it could limit your gigs if you're very rigid about it. Your sound could be all the rage one minute, and not the next, so if nobody wants to book you for your 'sound' then you'd better be prepared to change it, or go without the gigs. I guess.In your own band I suppose it matters less.

Just my two penneth's worth :)
[/quote]

Excellent post.

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thank you all for your comments. I didn't realise it changed the sound that much but now having tried a pick, I see what you mean. My main concern was about speed tho', not sound, so I'll keep trying the pick and see if I can get a bit faster.

There is mention of finger nails. I use my fingers, not my nails. Is this normal ?

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[quote name='fryer' timestamp='1324321770' post='1473034']
thank you all for your comments. I didn't realise it changed the sound that much but now having tried a pick, I see what you mean. My main concern was about speed tho', not sound, so I'll keep trying the pick and see if I can get a bit faster.

There is mention of finger nails. I use my fingers, not my nails. Is this normal ?
[/quote]
I use the pads at the end of my fingers with nails cut extrmely short so that no nail catches the string. Some people like a slightly longer nail so it catches the string. I know one guy who plays fingerstyle with long nails - which makes me shiver.

It's up to you.

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[quote name='fryer' timestamp='1324321770' post='1473034']
thank you all for your comments. I didn't realise it changed the sound that much but now having tried a pick, I see what you mean. My main concern was about speed tho', not sound, so I'll keep trying the pick and see if I can get a bit faster.

There is mention of finger nails. I use my fingers, not my nails. Is this normal ?
[/quote]

Again it depends on the sound you want, as EssentialTension said. Geddy Lee and Steve Harris both have slightly longer nails, and that helps give a bit of pick like attack to the tone, especially if you strike against the strings rather than across them, if you get what I mean. Steve and Geddy both seem to slap their fingers against the strings somewhat which gives some extra clank, and Geddy certainly seems to hit very hard. I read an interview with Geddy years and years ago where he said he wanted to emulate a pick tone, but use his fingers.

If you trim your nails nice and short and use the meat of your finger then it'll round the tone out.

I've always tended to have the nails on my picking fingers a little longer, but not in the classical guitarists way. I just don't bite them back as often! That way by altering my hand position slightly I can get a bit of edge, or a rounder sound as I want. Of course if I want a pick tone, then I grab a pick.

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I started with a plectrum, as I am sure many of us did!

Playing pop punk etc most of my heros used picks and I didnt really see using the fingers as anything but what people in 'the olden days' did.

As I progressed musically in both playing and taste I began to feel I could not do enough with a pick and began some formal lessons with the goal of being 'good' at bass rather than just playing. Cue getting into a ska band and using the fingers almost exclusively, buying a ray (based on the tone with fingers) and basically practicing.

Now I am back in a 'heavier' band and am back on the pick diet!

I like to be able to do both and even throw in a little slap here and there. Good to have the options.

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After long debate with myself on this issue i decided to leave my fingernails longer and use the nails rather than the finger itself.
I agree with JTUK that it isn't as accurate maybe because its relatively new to me and it definately gives that clanking sound.
The one thing i didn't really give much thought to was the action of my bass. Because of the added attack (clanking) it meant more vibration and general fret buzz than previous technique with just my fingers. I had to raise the action on my bass very slightly to alleviate the problem.
This was on my Jazz bass only - other basses were fine for some odd reason. Maybe i just play my Fender a bit harder - who knows.

I have also used my index finger as a pick utilising the nail side to give a nice picky sound.
My biggest issue with the pick itself is the technique required to keep a constant rythmic feel. That's more difficult than you would imagine after 30+ yrs of playing. Don't underestimate pick players. Its a whole different technique in itself and definately one to explore.

I'm still trying to get used to it before i actually put into band situation but not giving up on the idea.

Cheers
Dave

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