Although many bassists attempt to sound most of the notes they play with a single picking finger, utilizing the alternating two-finger technique is a much more efficient manner of playing and provides better economy of motion because you can play twice as long while expending half of the energy.
The alternating two-finger technique also facilitates in crossing and skipping strings. String crossing and string skipping are two of the most technically demanding aspects of playing any stringed instrument especially for the picking hand. String crossing is defined as moving from one string to the next closest adjacent string such as going from the E to A string, the A to D string, or the D to G string whereas string skipping refers to leaping over a string such as playing from the E to D string or the A to G string.
During a short practice session, you could play quite a bit of material with a single picking finger. However, over an extended period of time, your finger will eventually tire especially if you are required to play for one or more hours without a break during a live performance.
While most bassists tend to lead or begin playing strings with the middle finger using a 2-1-2-1 alternation, the order in which you choose to alternate between the index (1) and middle (2) fingers isn't significant as long as they constantly alternate. In other words, you may decide to alternate using a 2-1-2-1 rotation or a 1-2-1-2 cycle. You may also choose to employ your ring (3) and pinky (4) fingers for picking, but you will rarely, if ever, be required to execute a passage on bass which is so fast that it can't be done with the alternating two-finger technique. The small percentage of bassists who have adopted a three-finger picking hand technique typically alternate 3-2-1-3-2-1 or 3-2-1-2-3-2-1-2.
In terms of picking the strings, most of the movement in the fingers comes from the middle joint. The sound produced with the picking hand fingers should be so consistent and even that you shouldn't be able to differentiate between the fingers and tell which one is picking. In other words, the index finger shouldn't be picking the strings any louder or softer than the middle finger and vice versa.
With regard to the amount of force required to sound a string, it takes very little pressure from the picking hand fingers to produce a good tone. Rather than striking the strings hard in order to generate additional volume, your bass and amplifier can provide more headroom for greater dynamic range between the quietest and loudest sounds. If you turn up the volume controls on your equipment and play with a light touch, your tone will have more depth because notes will need less attack but have more sustain. Plus, playing soft will extend your endurance since using a constant forceful attack requires more energy.
Even though the duration that a note sounds can be controlled by simply lifting the fretting hand fingers off the fingerboard to release it, stopping the length of a note in this fashion with the fingers on the fretting hand generally produces varying degrees of fret buzz across the entire range of the fingerboard. By controlling the length of notes with the index and middle fingers on the picking hand, this problem can be corrected and the fret buzz minimized. The index and middle fingers can control the length of the notes from staccato (short) to legato (long) depending on how quickly the string is stopped after picking it. For example, play the G-string with the index finger. As soon as the string is sounded, you can dictate the length of the sounding note by deciding when to stop the string from vibrating with the middle finger. ... Subscribe Today & Read More!
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