Your technique is the foundation of your playing. Bad technique leads way to poor playing. It isn’t nice, but it’s true.
The best way to improve your playing is to go back to the start and work on developing proper bass guitar techniques. If you are a new player then this is the perfect place to start.
In this article, we will talk about plucking the bass string using the thumb.
When you pluck a bass string there should be a noticeable tonal quality. Unless you are playing a ghost note (and even then your notes shouldn’t be muddy) your note should be clear and easy to understand. You want your note to be like your signature; easy to recognize. Your form is your playing identity. If you have poor form, your identity will suffer as well.
In order to pluck the bass string with your thumb, you need to think about a few things; do you want nails, or do you want skin.
If you want nails, you need to take care of them. Trimming, filing, and coating in a clear lacquer are all necessary to maintain healthy nails. Don’t feel weird about it; thousands of professional musicians receive manicures to keep their nails in proper playing condition.
This is because healthy nails are strong nails. Weak nails break. Nail breaks are extremely painful. Sometimes a nail break can spread down to the root of your cuticle. To prevent any of this from happening, all you need to do is man up and take care of your nails.
If you want to use skin (the pad of your thumb) be ready for a bit of pain at first. Your thumbs need to develop calluses. At first, playing will leave the tips of your fingers raw. This is something to consider if you have a job that requires typing, as your thumb will be in some pain for a week or two.
When you pluck the bass string with your thumb, whether you use your pad or nail the form is the same. A bent digit is a strong digit. Keeping this in mind, it is best to keep your thumb bent over like a hook. Keep your digit stiff. If you use the pad of your thumb, you will use it to hook the string. Push the string somewhat down, and then release.
If you use your nail, you will be playing with the very tip of your thumb. The pluck will roll from the tip to the nail. This is why it is so important to have well cared for nails; you are using the very tip of your nail. The form will be the same; pull the string in a downwards motion (don’t grip it, just let your nail slide over) and release.
The best way to perfect your form is through practice. It will take time; good form doesn’t come overnight. Set aside a block of time each day and dedicate it to practicing your thumb plucking form. Good luck, and no matter what, keep at it and review the list of beginner bass lessons for quick refreshes.
JamPlay has thousands of video lessons that are conveniently arranged in structured lesson sets. With high quality instructions from world renowned bassists, Jamplay is an unparalleled learning resource. Whatever your genre preferences, you’ll find something here to help you improve your current level of playing.