Basic Finger Plucking Technique – Bass Guitar

About two years after I first picked up the bass, I started taking lessons to get better at it. My bass teacher noticed that I was playing with one finger and worked with me to try to play with two. It wasn’t until years later that I made the conscious effort to focus on playing with two fingers.

What is Finger Plucking?

This is using your pointer and middle finger to pluck each note rather than using a pick or your thumb (if you are slapping).

Now the norm is using your pointer and middle fingers but every bass player is different. Geddy Lee (Rush) plays with one finger, Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Deadland Ritual) plays with two fingers and Billy Sheehan (Talas, Mr. Big, Sons of Apollo) plays with three fingers.

None of these styles are wrong but for the sake of this video and beginning to pluck we are going to focus on playing with one and two fingers.

Practice

Consistent practice and taking the technique slow is key to mastering finger plucking. Know when it comes to playing

learning any new technique and style of music taking it slow and practicing consistently will get you to where you need to be. It will be frustrating and you will want to give up but don’t! This takes time and once you get the hang of it you will only get better.

Dominant Hand (Plucking Hand)

Your dominant hand is the most important part of plucking. I am going to show you how to place your fingers and hand on your strings and how to pluck them properly.

First things first, curl your ring and pinky fingers and keep your pointer, middle and thumb out.  This looks like a weird peace sign.

Once you get your fingers to the strings, you will then make an alligator with your pointer, middle and thumb. This will be the basis for you playing with your ring and pinky curled up.

This is a good habit to start out with so that you only use your pointer and middle. From there you can loosen up your fingers as you become more comfortable.

From there you can transition your pointer and middle fingers down onto the strings. There are two options for resting your thumb. You can rest it on the pickup or on the string above the one you are using.

Pluck one note at a time and to start off one string. Alternate between your pointer and middle finger plucking. You don’t even have to play any notes just move your fingers up and down.

*When playing aim for the middle of you strings to pluck. You will be able to rest your thumb and the sound will be a lot cleaner.

When plucking the string, you should just use the padding of your finger. If you find that you are plucking your strings with your nails cut them! The only thing that should be plucking the strings should be the padding of your finger.

Your fingers will look like they are walking. They will curl slightly at the top when plucking. Keep your ring and pinky fingers curled until you are comfortable enough to loosen them without them hitting the strings.

You do not need to pluck the string hard. You want to make sure you get sound without popping the string (like when you do slap/pop) but not so light you can barely hear it.

Your amp is going to amplify the sound when you are plucking the string.

When you start plucking your hand is going to cramp right away. That is normal! This is a totally new movement for you to be doing so don’t get discouraged if you have stop and stretch your hands and fingers often. Overtime and as you play more your hands will loosen up a bit and they won’t cramp as much.

Non-Dominant Hand (Non-Plucking Hand)

This hand does not change it will be the same as it would be if you were picking the string. Starting off, take it slow as you alternate between your middle and pointer fingers. Keep the hand eye coordination constant and slow as you begin to ensure that you are playing the right notes and that you have enough sound coming out.

You Don’t Have To Be Perfect

I think this should be stated because getting this down takes time, consistency, patience and lots of practice! For a long time, i was a predominant one finger (pointer) player. I made the conscious effort a few years back to work on playing with both my pointer and middle fingers. I focused on playing each note back and forth focusing my eyes on both hands to ensure that i was really focusing on each note. After a lot of practice, I am a much better two finger plucker than I was before.

If you want to learn more about music theory, scales, and becoming a better musician, check out my book “No-Nonsense Guide to Music Theory, Scales and More!” available on Amazon!

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