There are a ton of elitist type bass players who will tell you that finger style is the only way. Well, it isn’t. In fact, using a pick allows you to play techniques that are much more difficult without half as much effort.
In the end, playing is all about comfort. Keep that in mind throughout, as the harder way isn’t always the best.
In this article, we will discuss using a pick for bass guitar playing.
Before you even sit down, the first thing you need to do is think about pick gauges. Just like your strings gauges, certain pick gauges may work better for certain tunings than others. Higher tuning may need thicker picks as they have more tension, while with lower tuning you can pretty much take your pick of pick gauge.
If you find that your picks are constantly snapping, the best thing that you can do is either try a new brand or go up a size or two. No matter how comfortable they may feel buying tons of picks is a waste of money. If your picks are always snapping, fix the problem and get a different gauge.
Unlike using your fingers, picking on the bass guitar makes alternate picking, sweep picking, hybrid picking, and a ton of other picking styles available. While you may not be able to play slap bass with a pick (you need your entire hand for slap bass), if you aren’t interested in the style in the first place you lose nothing.
When starting off with picking on bass guitar, use a metronome. Work on your alternate picking first, as this is the most commonly used picking form. Keep a steady rhythm along to the clicks and allow yourself to find a feel for your picking. What you want is to find a comfortable hand positioning. There is no certain way to set your hand, so go by feel.
When you are comfortable with alternate picking, try using some sweep picking. The goal isn’t to shred like a guitarist; it is to synch up your hands. Sweep picking is a great way to synch up your picking and fingering hands as it involves complete accuracy.
Try working on some scales, then try writing some bass licks using the scales. Play the licks along to the metronome and get a feel for them. Learning to play with a pick is just like anything else; the more you practice and the more you try different patterns and techniques, the quicker you will learn. Set aside a block of time each day for practice and use a pick throughout the entire practice.
Don’t feel the need to play fast; building your skills from the ground up is the only way to become a proficient picker. The goal should be to move a step forward each day. The steps shouldn’t be large either; be realistic. You won’t be an expert picker after five days. You won’t even be one after five months. What you will be is improving. That is what should matter.
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