Finger Picking Technique For Bass

Right- Hand Positioning

Position the Bass on your Right-leg and place your Right-arm onto the body of the Bass so that you are holding it with the underside of your arm, just below the elbow.

Photo Bass pluck 1

 Photo Showing the Position of the Bass, Right Knee and Right Arm

 This should give you control of the balance of the Bass and also freedom to strum the strings. At this point the Bass should fit comfortably and shouldn’t require any more support. If it does, then adjust the Bass on the leg. The left-hand should never be used to support the Bass as this will stop you playing the Bass effectively.

Right Hand Finger Technique

When playing the Bass you use the 2 fingers next to your thumb to pluck the strings. Here you will see a photo of the starting position of the pluck. You pull the finger across the string to pluck it and then end up resting against the string above it, if there is one. The reason for resting on the string above is that it ensures that you only play one string at a time.

Photo Bass pluck 2

Photo Showing Pluck Starting Position

 Photo Bass pluck 3 

 Photo Showing Pluck Ending Position

Exercise 1

Always alternate between finger 1 and finger 2 (the 2 fingers next the thumb) no matter what you are playing. Here are some exercises :-

1)         Finger 1 on string 4, finger 2 on string 4.       Finger 1 on string 3, finger 2 on string 3.

Finger 1 on string 2, finger 2 on string 2.       Finger 1 on string 1, finger 2 on string 1.

Then repeat the process going from string 1 to string 4.

2)         Finger 1 on string 4, finger 2 on string 3.       Finger 1 on string 2, finger 2 on string 1.

Then repeat the process going from string 1 to string 4.

3)         Finger 1 on string 4, finger 2 on string 3.       Finger 1 on string 3, finger 2 on string 2.

Finger 1 on string 2, finger 2 on string 1.

Then repeat the process going from string 1 to string 4.

All the exercises above must be practices looking at the right-hand and then practiced looking away from the right-hand. This must be done because you can only look at one hand and it is better to concentrate on the left hand.

Use a metronome at all times and increase the tempo( speed) as you feel able to. As with all exercises don’t think that you can just do this a few times and that is enough. You must train you right-hand every time you pick up the Bass or you will lose the ability.

Practice getting steady even strokes which hit every string evenly. This is the correct movement for playing the Bass. Use the metronome to practice playing at a steady speed (tempo), also making sure that you don’t drown out the metronome. This should help you to play at a consistent volume (dynamic).

To play dynamically you must have a reference that you can call normal and this is what you need to achieve with your right hand – every stroke being the same as the last and the next.

The right hand must, eventually, be like a metronome. This means that you can play in time and that there are no gaps in the music, that aren’t meant to be there. If you can’t play in time then you will never be able to play in a band.

Exercise 2

This exercise is used to give you more control over your right hand. Each exercise should be perfected while watching the hand movement and then perfected while looking away from the strings. The idea of this is that while playing you can only look at one hand at a time and it is better to look at your left (fret-board) hand. Below are string No’s in various orders.

1. a) Play each string with finger 1 then finger 2 in the orders given. You should aim to be able to play each exercise for at least 2 minutes without stopping or mistake. This may take a period of weeks but is essential.

  1. b) Play each string with 1 pluck but still maintaining the alternating fingers. (as in exercise 1 no. 2)
  1. c) Play each string 3 times but still maintaining the alternating fingers.
  1. d) Play the strings a differing no. of times but still maintaining the alternating fingers. (e.g. string 4 – 3 times, string 3 – 2 times, string 2 – 1 time, etc.)

Remember to use your metronome all the time and this will maintain your tempo. Start at a slow tempo of about 40 beats per minute and gradually increase the tempo.

Always maintain the same loudness and tempo (speed)

1)      4,3,2,1,2,3,4.

2)      4,2,1,3.

3)      4,3,1,3,2.

4)      3,4,2,1,4.

5)      Make up some of your own.

What are and why do I need – Scales.

What are scales.

All western style (not Indian or Chinese) music is made up of scales. Even though you don’t realize it you are listening to music made up from scales. There are number of scale types but the most common ones are used for the vast majority of music. The two most common scales are the Major Scale and the Minor Scale. These account for probably about 85% of all music.

 Why do I need scales.

 So if you want to play music you need to know scales and how they work. It is a bit like learning what words are so that you can read. There are many guitarists who simply learn things from hearing them and never know what they mean or how they work. This means they will never produce anything that hasn’t already been recorded which is very limiting.

Working out scales.

 All western music theory starts with the CHROMATIC SCALE (which is all 12 notes written out). The Chromatic Scale can start on any note but we are going to look at the Chromatic Scale that starts on C :-

C, C# or Db, D, D# or Eb, E, F, F# or Gb, G, G# or Ab, A, A# or Bb, B, C.

 There are no E# or Fb notes and there are no B# or Cb notes. There is no explanation for this it is just something that has happened that way.

The distance between each note is called a SEMI-TONE. This distance is the same regardless of the names of the notes, so the distance from C to C#/ Db is a semi-tone and the distance from E to F is a semi-tone.

SEMI is Latin for Half so 2 SEMI-TONES is called a TONE. So the distance from, say, C to D is a TONE.

To find any Scale you can use a, pre-determined, formula and the first Scale we are going to look at is he Major Scale. Because the Major Scale will start on C it is called the C Major Scale. So firstly we need to learn the formula and then apply it. To find the C Major Scale we need to use a formula made up of TONES and SEMI-TONES. The formula is :-


So to find the C Major Scale you must firstly write the note C. This is very important and if you don’t the formula will not work out correctly. Once you have the first note (C) you can then apply the formula.

Having written C then count up a tone to find the next note ( use the Chromatic Scale for this) – D.

Then count up another tone from D to find the third note – E.

If you continue to apply the formula you will get  the C Major Scale. You will know if you are correct as the last semi-tone will bring you back to C. You should get the notes :-

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

Having found these notes you can find them on the guitar. You will find that as you play them in alphabetical order that they should sound familiar and the reason for this is that the Major Scale is the most common and popular Scale in modern music and the C Major Scale is the most common Major Scale. This makes it a good place to start.

Below is a diagram showing an example of the C Major scale as it appears on the bass. To understand the diagram you need to know that the vertical lines are frets and the horizontal lines are strings. The bottom horizontal line is the thickest string (E string) and the top horizontal line is the thinnest string (G string). You play the notes in alphabetical order and you are playing a scale.

bass Scale 1


Using positional playing start at the C note at the bottom of the diagram (string 3) and play it with the 2nd finger and then play note D with the 4th finger and so on until you get to the note C at the top of the diagram (string 1).  The numbers below the diagram are fret numbers.