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> Three Finger Bass Technique, Dividing licks by three?
post Sep 28 2012, 04:32 PM
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Hey everyone! I want to learn the three finger plucking technique as Billy Sheehan and others use it, playing in a straight ring finger - middle finger - index finger (RMI) fashion. I want to be able to play scales and sequences fast. In a way I want to emulate what guitar shredders like Paul Gilbert or John Petrucci do on the electric guitar, just playing it on the bass and with three fingers.

The problem now is that if you play with three fingers in the RMI way, you will have a lot of licks where you have to divide 2 note-, 4 note- or 5 note patterns by three, so that the fingers of the right hand turn over.

Licks where you have a number that is dividable by three are actually quite easy to play, so e.g. for three note per string patterns, the technique is quite ideal.

But when I try to play something like the pentatonic, for example this lick over and over:


it gets way too confusing.

In some videos discussing the technique I found the advice to just pay attention to what finger would play the next note of the lick, e.g. if you have a four note pattern it was as follows:

RMIR, then paying attention to middle finger: MIRM, finally paying attention to index finger:IRMI

and so forth.

I found this advice not really helpful because you still have to pay attention to your right hand quite much. If you play with a pick or with two fingers, you always intuitively know what movement comes next because you only have two possibilities. Also, if you consider how you "think" your shred playing, you´ll notice that you hardly ever think of the right hand, exept for when things go wrong. Usually you would think of the fretboard and what notes you would play in what order, right?

Does anyone know a bass school or bass player who has conquered this problem? Or does anyone have his own advice?
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Bogdan Radovic
post Sep 29 2012, 10:56 AM
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Hi Dairwolf!

Very interesting subject. I don't play with 3 fingers technique but I think the same approach applies: to be able to play fast, you need to get used to strict alternating between the fingers. Never play two notes in a raw with the same finger unless you are doing it on purpose (raking technique). At first this technique is also confusing when there are patterns like 1 note G string followed by two notes on D string. Changing fingers happens and it can be really hard on the "mind" to keep straight alternating going.

What I would suggest is to just take it step by step and practice every possible picking pattern in strict alternating fashion.

Also - I would look into possible right hand picking patterns.
Do you really need to play strict : RMI all the time?
Maybe playing RMIM and other combinations works and makes it easier for you?
There is no right or wrong way to do this, find patterns that work for you.

As long as you are playing 1 finger at a time (not repeating same finger twice) - you should be able to play fast and economical and it shouldn't really matter which pattern you go for.

Ring finger is naturally the weakest of all our fingers and will take time to get strong. When practicing, try to get exactly same sound (level of attack) from all 3 fingers so it is not possible to tell the difference.

Billy Sheehan has several instructional videos and I think I remember there is one instructional video by some power metal bassist (which speaks French in the video if I remember correctly)?

Someone help me out (Superize - I think its your favorite band!), I just can't remember the name... He plays with 3 fingers and made an instructional video on it.

p.s. for the lick you have posted, I would play it in this pattern : RM - IM - RM - IM.....

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