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Recommended books on bass right-hand fingerpicking technique


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I come from practicing guitar in a very methodical way, and had plenty of books full of exercises focused on techniques and physical skills.

For some reason, it doesn't seem just as common to find similar books for bass... most bass books I see around are about learning grooves and styles, or theory and improvisation. Which is great of course, and very understandable considering the nature and role of the bass instrument!

But I also would like to put my hands on a book with plenty of mechanical exercises, to increase my skill level towards playing more challenging songs. Perhaps because I already play the guitar, I have the feeling that my LEFT hand is much better than my RIGHT hand at the moment. After all, as a guitarist I pretty much always use a pick with the electric, and even though I play fingerpicking on my classical, it's a VERY different kind of fingerpicking than the one used in bass 🙂 So I definitely feel like I should seek out for exercises that can help my right-hand index and middle fingers be more consistent and precise when changing or skipping strings.

Do you know and have you used such books for bassists?

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When I switched to bass 5 years ago, I got a couple of books, mostly theory ones. One that was an "over all everything" one was of course the bass for dummies book by Patrick Pfeiffer. No, seriously I bought it. I'm not really recommending it either. Like you said, it had practically nothing in there as far as proper bass techniques. If there was, I surely missed them.

Goes back to what I said the other day, this day and age so much stuff out there, it is difficult to sort through it all and find what it is you are needing.

I heavily favor a pick coming from a guitar. I am going to put that out there for you, Guitar finger picking is more like a plucking. Bass for the right hand is more like going through the string toward the bass body. The other difficult thing is learning the gallop, À la Steve Harris or Pete Griffin. I struggle with it still, and honestly I will for a while to come. I think using a pick as a triplet is easier in some aspect than trying to use my three right hand fingers which differ at great lengths. The left hand is not curled in using a bass as you would a "regular" (wish we would go to calling them tenor) guitar. Placing your fingers a little more flat, a tiny bit further down the pad.

As a guitarist, you probably also stretch your pinky as you would at or near the nut frets for the fifth or sixth frets as I do. A bass player whom starts on a bass, or has Upright / Double acoustic bass classical training will use the Simandal technique. (took me a while to look that up). No, I haven't read Simandal's book, so I can't suggest it for a read, nor would I, but it is out there.

I am not saying I am a world class bassist, far from it. I am a fumbling one at that. I know where you are coming from though. I know you asked for books. Tangible paper, something some one my age likes.

There are a few Bass teachers on the youtubes. Yeah, instant credibility lost on my part. But seriously,

Bass Buzz is one. The guy is goofy, I can't stand his dumb banana and ***** tattoo, but he he has excellent demonstrations on using both hands and how to anchor. Mark from Talking Bass is another great teacher in my opinion. Which it is, just opinion. There are other ones like Scott's Bass Lessons.

Now, understand I am talking their free videos, I am not plugging their courses.

Since you are looking for literature, you are willing to go back to the beginning and build the fundamentals. A lot of people would snub this idea, but I commend it. If i come across anything particular I will dm you something. Until, I would look at both Bass Buzz, take a look at his beginner videos, not his courses, and Mark from Talking Bass.

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I'd have to second that bass buzz recommendation, their content is informative and fairly entertaining too. His video on Steve Harris pretty much changed my whole bass playing technique and was half the reason I wanted to chart their recent senjutsu album.

Unfortunately I'm too much of a zoomer to have any book recommendations though.

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These are good recommendations nevertheless, thanks!

Naturally I already watched my share of online videos 🙂 and I found doing so mainly useful to get a better understanding on proper technique in general and constantly re-thinking posture and movement of fingers, hand, arm and body. See how different people play differently, and try everything to find the way that suits me best.

The reason why I'm looking for exercises is because I am going through a phase where I feel I need to sit down and do things repetitively. To develop muscle memory and progressively decrease tension. I am not happy about my right hand: alternating index/middle is not consistent (I start with either a bit randomly), volume is often unequal, changing strings is everything but seamless, and I get tired on long 16th runs.

If I don't find exercises (books or otherwise) for this purpose, I'll have to make them myself or even try to adapt guitar exercises from technical books (for instance I wonder how the famous Stetina book would work with bass...) but I still hope someone knows about bass specific ones 🙂


PS I am consciously trying to avoid using the pick on the bass! It is way easier for me as a guitarist but feels like I'm cheating 😆 I don't want it to become a shortcut otherwise I'll never learn fingerpicking properly. I understand it's part of the style and sound in certain genres (heavy metal, new wave, dark) but for learning purposes  I'm trying to fingerpick everything. I make an exception only for some Thin Lizzy songs because they're one of my top favourite bands.

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6 hours ago, Shroud said:

PS I am consciously trying to avoid using the pick on the bass! It is way easier for me as a guitarist but feels like I'm cheating

Anything I will say will be the proverbial "beating a dead horse", and this is a can of worms, that the 2 sides for the most part are pretty polarized on. I agree with everything you said above. It is cheating if you are trying to learn. And I am against neither. You have been using a pick for how long, and now trying to learn movements and techniques most other players learned younger. It not only feels cumbersome and un-natural, but it is a physical and mental chore to do. If it wasn't, you wouldn't be looking for (a) training exercise(s).

I personally like the tone from a good pick better. I like what some are calling the "piano sound". I like it sharp and crisper, like you said certain particular genres have unlike the dull buried in the mix subdued flat sound.

I will not say do not fight it. I myself need to devote more time to finger style and actually practicing it.

However and needs not be said there are many a pick users, many that switch back and forth between the 2, song dependent. Using a pick is cumbersome when having to switch to slap and pop. I won't list the hoard of professional labelled musicians that use a pick.

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  • 6 months later...

Coming back to my own thread after half a year...

Eventually I did not use any bass exercise book and ended up designing my own exercises for right hand fingerpicking. I got rid of my worst index/middle fingers inconsistencies and now I play significantly more naturally with alternate picking. 

One thing where I was really bad at was fast octaves. Now the simplest ones (one note down, one note up) are almost a joke after practicing alternate picking, plus playing Laura Branigan's "Gloria" as a cardio every now and then 😄 but more galloping octaves like Rod Stewart's "Da ya think I'm sexy" are still very challenging. In such case now my fingers want to always play different strings, index on the lower and middle on the higher, and so long for alternating...


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5 hours ago, Sniper Reload3d said:

How many ever years, and I still can not do a Steve Harris gallop.

So besides doing a Gloria cardio, what did your exercise consist of?

Harris is still out of the question for me as well, even with a pick.

The exercises I chose for my own fingerpicking at this stage are all of the "fundamentals" type, meaning low-complexity and continuously repeatable. This is what I do on any instrument when I feel I have a basic mechanic to build or flaw to correct, based on the "divide and conquer" principle (i.e. isolate one minimal skill and focus on that).

The most obvious first exercise was just to play 8ths strictly alternating index/middle, single string and single fret. The note chosen doesn't matter, but it shouldn't be the same each time, so that I build consistency with different string tensions, therefore I vary between low and high frets. More importantly, I made sure to do this on each string every time I practiced. At the very beginning, the difference between my index and middle picking was so evident, that I did not use the metronome, in order to focus on sound and volume consistency; but eventually I had to add the metronome because timing consistency is another side of the matter.

From this most basic exercise, I created two branches.

The first branch is for practicing changing string while alternate picking. So I simply substitute one note every four with another note on an adjacent string, and practice a bit every pattern on every pair of strings. For instance (using EADG to mark the strings but not the notes, which are still arbitrary) EEEA, EEAE, EAEE, AEEE and then AAAE, AAEA, AEAA, EAAA... The point is to practice all cases of moving up/down a string with different fingers while still trying to make all notes sound identical. When this becomes too easy, move on to patterns with two+two notes like EEAA, EAAE... or alternate two patterns, or apply them to non adjacent strings, or just increase speed.

The second branch is about accents, breaks and subdivision. I stay on the single note single string but accent one note every four, or skip one note every four (then when ready, accent or skip two, alternate two patterns etc.) and also practice triplets, quintuplets, septuplets or shuffle timing.

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