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by Carlos Diez Macia 6 Comments
You have probably heard this question many times: Should I use a pick or my fingers to play bass? You can find a huge amount of different answers on the Internet and still be confused.
My philosophy is, to never limit yourself. Both methods are valid and appropriate for the right musical context.
Whether using picks or using your fingers, each technique has its place and, ideally, you need to feel comfortable with either one you choose.
Is there a wrong way to play an instrument? Any method you use to get sound out of your instrument - fingers, pick, nails, palms of your hands, etc - can work, if the sound produced is the sound you are looking for. It is entirely a matter of personal preferences.
Therefore, this is an unimportant debate, if your plan is to be a versatile musician, and be able to understand the rich parts of every bass line, regardless of the method used to play them.
For me, it is difficult to understand how this debate has been one of the most controversial topics since the advent of modern music creation decades ago.
Why not keep an open mind and become comfortable with both methods? There is room for everything.
Usually, bass players report having more control when using their fingers, giving them a richer tonal variety, and beefier tone. In Addition, the popular slap technique used by many bassists can be easily implemented, if you don’t hold any pick between your fingers.
A funny positive argument is, that you will never lose your bass pick if you don’t own one.
One of the drawbacks of this method is that it takes a little more work to learn. Nevertheless, if your goal is long-term learning, this should not be a technical obstacle.
The biggest advantage of using a pick for the bass guitar is obvious: Instant speed. You can develop speed more quickly and effortlessly.
If the bass lines you want to learn, belong to certain music styles that are speed intensive, a pick might make sense. You can develop the same speed as with your fingers, but it will take much more time.
In addition, the tone can be easily changed by using a different guitar pick. This allows you to have different tones, and experiment a lot to find the right sounding bass guitar pick.
Every pick - for guitar, bass, or other instruments - has four different main parameters: Shape, material, thickness, and size. Combined together, they result in a very specific range of tone textures, attack soundwaves, and feedback. Therefore, choosing your guitar pick is one of the most difficult tasks. We have created a guide HERE, that will help you find your tone.
Bass players generally use thicker picks. The thickness improves the bass playing control, and the overall tone of the string.
The average pick thickness for bass players is 1.17 mm, while for guitar players is 0.89 mm. Remember, bass strings are much thicker than guitar strings. Therefore, a thinner plectrum will give you much less control in comparison to a thicker plectrum.
The size of the pick will also have a role in the creation of the tone.
If you have no idea where to start, take the average value and look for picks with a gauge of about 1.2 mm. This is a good place to get started. From there, you can go up and down and try other picks depending on your preferences. It might be a good idea to look for the bass picks your favorite players use, and try to understand why they do so.
The truth is, most classical shapes tend to have an excellent reception between the bass players.
The most popular shapes are the classical teadrop pick shape, the rounded teardrop pick shape, and the triangle pick shape.
In addition to shape, there are many other attributes that define a pick. HERE you can read about the 6 most underrated attributes of guitar and bass picks.
Teardrop is the most popular and known type of guitar and bass pick. Semi-sharp point for quick attacks, that maintain a wide range of possibilities, depending on the thickness and material used.
Rounded picks provide a more warm sound and smooth attack. These are for the bass players looking for a way to play the bass strings with less force and attack. Sometimes they are totally free when a teardrop pick is completely worn down.
A triangle pick is the most practical option because of the tri-sided feature. You can pluck your string with any of the three pointy tips this pick provides. A triange pick is recommended for those players who constantly break the tips of their picks.
When it comes to bass, we apply the same rules as with guitar picks.
After studying the physics of guitar picks, and all the material possibilities we have, we came to the following conclusions. The pick material should:
You can read all about materials used at Rombo HERE.
You will also find a link with the information about Eco-Black - These picks made out of 100% recycled fibre waste, that we manufacture ourselves.
Because the strings are thicker, and bass players tend to play with more energy, the lifetime of your pick will be substantially reduced.
A way to reduce the wear and tear of picks for bass is:
Playing bass with a pick is as valid as using your fingers, if this is the tone you are looking for.
Finding a pick you are comfortable with, is a difficult task, but testing lots of them and recording some of your bass lines can help you find a balance between the tone you want, and the feel and feedback you wish from the pick.
In picks, qualities like thickness, material, shape, and size play a pivotal role in tone, feedback, grip, pick noise, sustain, etc... Music is about staying dynamic and monotony kills dynamic. Therefore, the most logical step for you is to explore enough to understand as many aspects of the bass as possible.
This applies to guitar gear in general (including picks, strings, cables, etc...) and your practice habits, style preferences, and your own psychological bias/barriers.
Sometimes the best place to start is testing a Variety Pack
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by Carlos Diez Macia