Alternating plucking…sometimes?

Hey guys, I am relatively new to the forum so forgive me if this has already been discussed but I was hoping some more skilled players could give me some advice!

I have learned tons of different riffs throughout the last 10 months since I first got my bass, and for the most part I always alternate plucking between Index & Middle fingers. Sometimes I find it very very difficult to repeat this pattern depending on the complexity of the riff and I often find it way easier to use the same finger (usually middle) for multiple notes.

For example, playing Billie Jean my plucking pattern is:
I/M/M/M/M/I/M/I

I can play the whole thing really clean this way and it allows me to use my index finger to keep strings muted or ready to use again as I make my way back through the riff. I am a little worried that this might end up hurting my playing as I advance to more difficult pieces, but so far I haven’t had any issue. Is this considered wrong or bad? Any advice is much appreciated!

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I don’t see it as a bad thing. The whole idea of alternate fingers is to give speed to play fast eight and sixteenth notes. The same idea as typing with ten fingers versus one. If you are comfortable playing some songs on a different pattern from I/M so let it be.
There’s many bass lines that are not played exactly alternating the fingers because makes more sense. I play to have fun and be able to play the song well is part of the fun. If playing by a set of rules is the right way, then that’s not for me.

Just my 2 cents

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I generally ignore plucking and alternating unless I’m having difficulty executing something, then will try that but/riff a couple different ways to see what plucking finger order works best.

If the rest gets out on one finger, so be it, worked for Jamerson.

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For me, alternating plucking does not have to be necessarilly a “strict” alternating pattern, it can (must) be adapted to what you’re playing. What’s important in my opinion is that you use two fingers, but not always in a strict I/M/I/M form.

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Right? Perfect example

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@JoshFossgreen is the ultimate authority on this. He mentions in the B2B course that plucking is line-relative, i.e., whatever finger start or subsequent sequence of finger plucking is dependent on what makes playing the line the easiest.

For example, sometimes he suggests starting with the M instead of the I. Sometimes he suggests repeating the use of a particular starting finger when doing string jumps. So, yeah, it really comes down to what finger plucking pattern is most efficient in a given bass line. Hope this helps.

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I wouldn’t worry about it unless it’s gonna be on the exam. You can do it with all index or in your case your middle finger. When you can try to out in some finger exercises. When your plugging gets too fast or too complicated for one finger the other will automatically kicks in subconsciously.

This is the way.

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The longer I play the less I tend to follow a strict pattern.
Funnily enough after watching one of @John_E great recent covers and seeing how he adapted the plucking pattern I felt a lot less guilty about it

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again one great benefit of the covers :v::grin:

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Most definitely @terb

I would be contributing but even after @John_E and @PamPurrs excellent how to video I still cannot get my stupid head around it

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Finger plugging is like a golf swing it means nothing if it doesn’t produce good results.

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is it a technical issue @Mac ?

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It’s a brain issue more than anything @terb
I stupidly cannot comprehend which cable connects where!
Which leads to frustration and me “spitting my dummy out of my pram”

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This…. Learn to use alternative plucking so that when you play on your own, you can use what “best” works for you…. Timing and tone are what matters…. How you get it is up to you…. Learn the basics and develop you own “personalized” style of play.

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Thanks for the replies everyone! Feeling a lot better about my playing now…I was always worried I was doing something “wrong” but tended to tell myself “who cares as long as it sounds good?”

I guess playing the bass is like eating a Reese’s

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You can’t eat just one.

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I used to worry about this as well, but at the end of the day its whatever works for you. There are no strict rules. Occasionally I do think about it but it doesnt concern me like it used to.

Right now I can feel callouses on both my M and I fingers and they both feel the same, which means without me thinking about it I must be using both fingers somewhat equally!.

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I haven’t seen it mentioned, so I’ll say my two cents:

If you want control, you should go really slowly go through a pattern like a scale, choosing each finger and note combo consciously (and repeating it!).

You can do unevenly numbered patterns so you switch fingers, string raking and lots more to mix it up.

Of course it doesn’t matter if you can play what you want to play, but when you run into a wall, go back to technique and control drills. :slight_smile:

Cheers,
Antonio

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For those early on in this journey, I’d recommend maybe looking at 3-finger plucking. I’ve been using it for a few months, and by now it feels as organic as using just 2 fingers used to. I typically go ring->middle->index, varying when it seems beneficial as discussed above.

I have experimented with three finger plucks but it still feels unnatural to me, especially since my ring finger is primarily used for muting. I can see how it would be useful for triplets but I guess I will just need some more practice!

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