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FDP Forum / The Chop Shop / Bass picking techniques

Contributing Member

Vero Beach FL

Jan 3rd, 2016 09:30 AM   Edit   Profile  

Not sure if this belongs here, but I'm a guitar player who's transitioning to bass. I've been playing guitar with thumbpick and two/three fingers for awhile now and pretty comfortable with that.

Most bass players I see use index and middle these days. That way is not uncomfortable, but when I used my thumbpick and fingers, I liked it even more.

I know there's no right/wrong here, but opinions appreciated.

Te 52

Laws of Physics

strictly enforced
Jan 3rd, 2016 10:21 AM   Edit   Profile  

I often play bass with a flat pick if I want a snappier sound, and when playing with bare fingers, I often sound notes on the lowest string with my right thumb. Haven't used a thumbpick, but I think I'll try it.

The main risk I see is it will reduce your ability to mute unwanted sounds with your right thumb.

I'd say, if thumbpick and fingers works for you, go right ahead. Just make sure there's not too much difference in timbre between the notes played with the fingers and those with the thumbpick, and that it doesn't interfere with your muting technique.

As someone here recently said, "McCartney made it all right to play bass with a pick."

(This message was last edited by Te 52 at 12:25 PM, Jan 3rd, 2016)

Contributing Member

Vero Beach FL

Jan 3rd, 2016 12:35 PM   Edit   Profile  

What made me try the thumbpick was that my fingernails on my index, middle and ring fingers are a bit long and they got much more attack than my bare thumb. I'm liking this because it's not too much of a switch from guitar for me.

I'm going to experiment with a bit of foam across the strings at the bridge, just to give a bit of muting. I play mostly 50-60's stuff, so this might work for me as well.

(This message was last edited by greg1948 at 02:37 PM, Jan 3rd, 2016)

Contributing Member

American Patriot

I'm on guard these days.
Feb 4th, 2016 04:02 PM   Edit   Profile  

I also switched from guitar to bass back in 1978 but now back to guitar. I play bass at church on Sunday.
I normally use my index finger but at times I use my thumb when I am playing really low notes that I want to fill the auditorium. I pick the strings in a range from behind the pup on a P-bass to up to the fret board. I can get lots of different tones or sounds this way. When I first started I used a pick but not any more.

Contributing Member

Vero Beach FL

Feb 4th, 2016 08:30 PM   Edit   Profile  

I have since decided that bare thumb and index finger work best for me. I did like the thumbpick too, but then I dug in harder with the nails of my index and middle fingers to equal the attack. It didn't take long before the nails felt like they were being ripped off. So now it's the fleshy parts of the thumb and index.

Contributing Member


Albino Blue
Feb 5th, 2016 11:24 AM   Edit   Profile  

It depends on what tone, sound, style and the tune you are after (fast or slow, bright or muddy etc). Use a pick or any combination of fingers you want. Whatever is easiest for you and the tune. On a 5 or 6 string bass, I use all fingers. Just got that from my fingerpicking guitar days. And slap, only 2-3 fingers unless it is fast and super funky think Bill Dickens.

So as you said, there is no right or wrong way ...

(This message was last edited by woodall at 01:25 PM, Feb 5th, 2016)

Contributing Member


Hoarder of instruments
Aug 26th, 2016 07:16 PM   Edit   Profile  

Maybe ten years ago I started to rethink my bass playing right hand tech technique. I had started out as a thumb player in the mid '60s and moved through pick to fingers. I found I was comfortable hybrid picking with thumb and fingers as well as using my thumb for rapid up/down strokes. Sometimes I like a Jameson index finger "hook" technique. I use whatever technique satisfies the song.

Contributing Member


Sep 25th, 2016 08:09 PM   Edit   Profile  

Hey most bass players rest their thumb on the neck pickup. That is not comfortable for me at all. I use a floating thumb technique and rapidly alternate between index and middle fingers at whatever speed is needed and at times I use a pick using down/up strokes. Whatever works for you go that way and don't worry about it. Hey look at Willie Nelson. How many guitarist do you see pick mostly with up strokes? :)

(This message was last edited by Bubbalou at 10:15 PM, Sep 25th, 2016)


LA-la-land, CA

Insert clever comment here
Oct 11th, 2016 11:36 AM   Edit   Profile  

I'm a guitar player who occasionally plays bass. I've recently moved to mostly finger picking with index and middle. I only use the thumb when either slapping it or playing chords. I use a pick as little as possible, because I'm liking the control better. And you can still rock out with your fingers. Look at Steve Harris!

Contributing Member

St. Louis

"Thumbpicks don't slide into soundholes"
Feb 26th, 2017 06:42 PM   Edit   Profile  

I just bought a bass and found out that the pick is all that works for me currently. I got a couple of 5 minute blisters trying to play without a pick. A heavier flat pick seems to work best for me so far. I tried the thumb pick as I use one a lot on acoustic guitar thinking I would be more comfortable with that but soon learned I have to keep a lot of them near me because I shoot them across the room with bass strings pretty quickly.

FDP Forum / The Chop Shop / Bass picking techniques

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