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I hate playing with a pick

Mandaliet
Posts: 7
12 months ago
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The discussion of pick vs. fingers has probably taken place many times in forums such as these, so I'm sorry for the repetition, but I'm wondering if anyone has thoughts on my specific issue.

Playing with a pick seems to be the most popular style, so learning good technique must be a very basic thing, but I'm having a really hard time with it. Sometimes I'm smart and sometimes I'm dumb; this must be one of the times where I'm especially dumb. I also wonder if there's something wrong with my right hand, but it seems like a fairly typical hand.

I've been teaching myself to play bass as a hobby for about eight years. For a while I avoided using a pick because when I played it in a way that seemed natural, it hurt a lot. Using my fingers hurt a bit at first, but soon my fingertips became numb and there was no pain.

Lately I've been trying to branch out and play different styles, such as metal, where the speed requires a pick, so I've been trying to learn from the various resources online how to do it right. One thing I learned that surprised me is that you're supposed to hit the strings at an angle. At first I thought the resulting scratchy sound was bad, but after listening more closely I realize that lots of bass players play with a tone that amplifies this sound, especially when the band doesn't have a rhythm guitar player to fill in the middle range. Also, it really tears up the picks to the point where they're hard to use pretty soon and my bass is covered in plastic dust. I'm sure this happens to everyone but I've never heard anyone talk about it.

After working on my technique for a while I can play for a long time without it hurting so much that I have to stop, but it still hurts. The pain was mostly in my middle and ring fingers when I played with a closed hand (for a while, it hurt to grip anything with that hand) but now I'm trying with an open hand so my forefinger hurts instead.

If I'm understanding right, the pain comes from exerting pressure, so what I need to do is make sure my fingers are completely dead when I'm holding a pick. This is really difficult to do, though. For one thing, it's hard to keep the pick pointed in the same direction without squeezing, especially when my hand gets sweaty. Also, I'm used to controlling the strings with my fingers. There's a whole lot less control when you're just using your wrist to do everything.

I should mention that I mostly use extra-thick picks like Dunlop's Big Stubby and Triangle, but I also use the standard thinner ones sometimes, and it doesn't make a difference.

If anyone has advice, or wants to share that they've had similar problems so I don't feel like a complete idiot, that would be greatly appreciated.
moonbutt74
Posts: 5
So try using plastic banjo/finger picks.

Edit: Not the fake fingernail ones, use the the regular style that wraps from under and around the pad of your finger.

You could use the steel ones but you might want to shape/grind them a bit.

Dunlop 9020TP Shell Plastic Finger & Thumbpicks for example.
2nick3
Posts: 367
I don't like playing with a pick much, I stink at it, too. Not that I'm all that great with my fingers, but I can't stand how I sound with a pick. The raspy/scratchy sound you mention just bothers me when I hear it in my own playing. I mute the strings as I reach over them, either with my right or left hand, but playing with a pick breaks that so I often end up with a ringing E string.

I use the Big Stubbys as well, and will score the surface up with a knife to get a better grip on them.

So yeah, I'm with you - I hate playing with a pick.
LoudLon [moderator]
Posts: 1699
You don't need a pick to play faster. It's an option, obviously, but if you're more comfortable playing finger-style, there are a couple tricks you could try. The most obvious would be to simply use more fingers to pluck. Billy Sheehan, who is basically a bass god, is known to use all four fingers to pluck.

A second option is to practice flicking instead of plucking. Robert Trujillo, for example, when playing super-fast stuff like, say, the pre-verse to All Nightmare Long, isn't plucking with two or three or four fingers, he's actually rapidly flicking one finger back and forth over the string.

Both ways take practice of course, but so does anything worth doing well.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, yet another option is to use your index finger as a pick. You put your thumb and index finger together as if you're holding a pick, except you're actually using the tip of your index finger to pick with.
Marko1960
Posts: 2785
The bass guitar is just a version of the upright double bass and nobody plays a double bass with a pick, so technically a pick is the wrong way to play but obviously many would disagree. So don't feel inadequate just cos you can't use one, I can't, the pain becomes excruciating. I have a technique I use for fast rock, I've never seen anybody else use it, it comes from way back when I was into the drums, I'd always be tapping drum patterns on the table with my fingertips, don't know how it happened but I just got into resting my thumb on the body close to the neck and hammering the strings with my fingertips, pretty much the effect you would get from slapping with your thumb but using three fingers for almost limitless speed. Me and a few lads used to play Orpheus by Ash, it's got a riff with a fast run off at the end, I couldn't get it with just picking so used the fingertip slap/hammer technique, it takes a bit of practice to get a clean sound but it's worth it. Have a go, and bin your picks
Marko1960
Posts: 2785
The bass guitar is just a version of the upright double bass and nobody plays a double bass with a pick, so technically a pick is the wrong way to play but obviously many would disagree. So don't feel inadequate just cos you can't use one, I can't, the pain becomes excruciating. I have a technique I use for fast rock, I've never seen anybody else use it, it comes from way back when I was into the drums, I'd always be tapping drum patterns on the table with my fingertips, don't know how it happened but I just got into resting my thumb on the body close to the neck and hammering the strings with my fingertips, pretty much the effect you would get from slapping with your thumb but using three fingers for almost limitless speed. Me and a few lads used to play Orpheus by Ash, it's got a riff with a fast run off at the end, I couldn't get it with just picking so used the fingertip slap/hammer technique, it takes a bit of practice to get a clean sound but it's worth it. Have a go, and bin your picks.
Just thought of an excercise you can use to practice this technique, play the William Tell Overture using three fingers like a galloping horse running on the strings above the fingerboard
And here we go AGAIN! In response to Marko1960, Leo Fender designed the bass guitar to be played like a guitar, not like an upright bass! The only similarity the bass guitar shares with an upright is that both are tuned, EADG. That having been said, let us continue shall we? Upright players who switched to Uncle Leo's new fangled guitfiddle, naturally played with their fingers because they played their uprights that way. Guitar players who started playing bass guitar,(Having finally seen “The Light”!), generally played with a pick because that is how they played their guitars. There is no “Right Or Wrong” way to play bass guitar, it is simply a matter of your own personal style. I play with a pick the lion's share of the time because it sounds right to me. However I use fingerstyle for certain things, again because it sounds right. I wouldn't play a blues set with a pick because it just doesn't sound and feel right to me. What matters is what sounds and feels right to YOU! Oh and you guys who say you can't use a pick because of “Excruciating Pain”?! That's because you are doing it WRONG!!! Pain means something is WRONG!!! Sit down with a friend who plays guitar well and watch his/her technique and learn from it. Also watch Carol Kaye's instructional videos, her pick technique is flawless!
Marko1960
Posts: 2785
And here's where I blow Space 1999 fan out of the water, Paul Tutmarc, from Seattle invented the bass guitar, it was in the 1935 catalogue of Tutmarc's musical instrument company, Audiovox and advertised as the Model 736 Bass Fiddle, it had a solid body and fretted fingerboard and had an electromagnetic pick up. Tutmarc beat ‘Uncle Leo’ to the punch by 16 years! Like Thomas Edison before him, Fender didn't invent anything but used other people's ideas to his own ends, (Joseph Swan of Sunderland, County Durham, invented the electric light bulb, Swan had an office in Moseley Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland. Moseley street was the first in the world to be lit by electricity)

Over to you Trekkie
MotorMog
Posts: 657
Quote:
but after listening more closely I realize that lots of bass players play with a tone that amplifies this sound, especially when the band doesn't have a rhythm guitar player to fill in the middle range. Also, it really tears up the picks to the point where they're hard to use pretty soon and my bass is covered in plastic dust. I'm sure this happens to everyone but I've never heard anyone talk about it.

What works for me is lighter strings, D'Addrio 35 - 95 steel roundwounds for less resistance
small stubby 2mm picks (I like the cheap “Alice” brand on eBay)
Set my amp Bass 2 o'clock - Mids 12 o'clock - Trebs 8 o'clock so I'm sitting just below our rhythm guitarist
And whack the he'll out of it ,resulting in a pile of pick dust by the end of the night

Whatever works for you man

The first rule of punk is …………

There are no rules , just do it ☺



IamMark
Posts: 1010
Steve Harris plays pretty fast and doesn't use a pick either.

I don't like playing with picks, but I have found that singing and playing with a pick is do-able for me. I can't for the life of me say a coherent sentence while playing finger style. But I prefer the control you have over the tone with finger style versus the pick.

There's a fine line between playing with a relaxed grip on a pick and losing your pick. I used to grip a pick like someone was trying to steal it, but it would hurt my index finger at the knuckle.

But I only play with a pick when I need a really bright tone and have to sing something.
The Bassist
Posts: 140
I only play with a pick although I will occasionally use some very limited fingerstyle on some parts. Im not very good at fingerstyle and I dont value the tone enough to learn. I did experiment a little and found it to be unsuitable for my needs, it was difficult to hear me over the backing track in my videos. I used to not be able to alternate pick, for which I have no explanation as to why. Ive never had the problem you describe but my guess would be that you're holding it too tightly. I use thick Stubbys too but most of mine have thumb indents in them.

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