How to Play Bass With a Pick (from an ex-Pick Hater)

Our first BassBuzz YouTube video for Module 16!
Yet another great video Josh.

Side note: Josh has over 410k subscribers now!

Added under Module 16 in the BassBuzz YouTube Video Guide.


I SWEAR I tried to edit this down. A little.

T-shirt check: RAGE – yes! [Hums intro to Killing in the Name]
00:03 NOT PICKS [shudder] LOL
00:07 All this talk about fingers makes me uncomfortable for some reason.
00:12 “Pick players are terrible people.” Lol – we’ve heard this voice before:
“You don’t want to think of all the bad things I have to say about Flea.” This voice is like an anti-Noob Josh, hiding in the shadows, ready to spew bass pessimism at a moment’s notice. No? Just me? Oh, OK.
00:20 2001: A Pick Odyssey [Ella laughs at Josh’s sniffing] [OK fine – I laughed too]
00:25 This is exactly the type of video I was searching for earlier in the year, when I got bored trying to watch an unfunny, 30-minute video about using a pick. THANK YOU
00:30 “Pickitup!” [Kristine does a little ska dance]
00:35 From their website: “Phat-Tone was designed to provide bass players the feel and tone your fingers produce.” Um…
00:39 Nice dance moves, @JoshFossgreen :slightly_smiling_face:
01:09 At some point my brain realizes, after hearing the long list of pick-using pro bass players, that the pick vs fingers myth is just another thing people like to argue about instead of practicing.
01:18 “…pretend they can play it…” Who needs aloe?
01:27 Point for Wayne!
01:31 Really? I wouldn’t have thought that, but my brain was conditioned to use fingers first from playing violin. We played pizzicato at first to focus on fretting before adding an inanimate object, the bow, to the mix.
01:50 “I am a bass player who uses whatever technique is needed for the song” – yes, please and thank you.
02:18 Love hearing the tone comparison and am realizing that pick playing is why I have occasionally mistaken bass for guitar in the past.
02:19 CLEVER
02:32 Another way to gauge bass player progression (a la @Gio ‘s thread): when you can look at a waveform, hear the explanation, and understand the nuance the visual information is giving you
03:44 SPEED: This is why I originally wanted info on pick playing, but…maybe I just need to practice more. :grimacing:
04:10 Still can’t imagine starting with a pick. Bass strings are so tactile.
04:43 Ella immediately yells “OMG a Minecraft Diamond Pickaxe!”
05:51 TORTEX (my current favorite) – ooooh that’s what I bought at my local music store recently

06:10 Ella had to rewatch and verify that Josh was actually using a toothpick to play. And then pick his teeth lol
06:34 A good opportunity to teach Ella about Wyle. E. Coyote. Also, a fun reminder of how tall Josh is! It was a looooong way for the pick to fall.
07:03 Five Point Checklist – visually detailed from multiple angles – THANK YOU
07:20 Not too tight, but don’t drop [scribbles notes]
08:07 AY it feels like a picking free-for-all! At least I can cling to how to hold the pick for some sort of consistency. And practice. Lots of practice.
08:42 – 12:13 There is a lot of detail here that I will be going over again and again. THANK YOU
10:30 “Then just put on a Ramones record and downpick your way to heaven.” That sounds like fun
12:14 “So now you know that I love the pick…” oh you gave that game away back in February with that plastic, clicky, nasty pick playing in your love letter of a tribute to Roundabout :grin:
12:15 “…but don’t think this means I’m gonna stop throwing them off the screen with stupid sound effects.” Wouldn’t hear of it.
“Cat fight!” - cat against a pick? That pick’s ending up under the sofa
“Angel choir!” - this pick’s gone to heaven
“Qbert!” – g#%@*&~it I dropped it again
“Arnold Schwarzenegger!” – that pick will be back
“Stairway to Heaven” – Ledd Zep, sure, but have you considered The Chicken?
“Pottery smash!” – didn’t need that vase anyway
“James Hetfield!” – ummm…dreams of dragons’ fire and of picks that will bite
“The Brady Bunch theme!” – Today I was reminded that Barry Williams (Greg) asked Florence Henderson (Carol, his TV MOM) out on a date. When he was 16. Scandalous!
“Wilhelm Scream!!!” – Classic! :rofl:

Ella’s Top 4 Laughs

  1. 12:20 – Pick-throwing Sound Effects Rundown!
  2. 02:19 – Subscribe to BassBuzz!
  3. 06:09 – A Toothpick!
  4. 06:39 – A Long Drop and Exploding Pick!

Love your show notes @kristine , it’s a fun reward for me after putting out a video. :slight_smile:


Yay - I’m glad you feel that way! Your videos have such an effortless, conversational feel - it’s hard not to get sucked into them as a participant (and not just as a viewer). Which is probably why this happened…

Tonight in Next-Level Parenting: Ella and I were going to watch a couple of Chickensan videos. She likes his version of Let It Go in particular. As I start to search YT, she says, ”WAIT. How about…Les Claypool?” Who am I to argue?

During “Slap ’n Strum” she says, “I want to try that…can I use your smallest bass?” I get the Gretsch. She smacks the strings with her fretting hand and tries to slap (no, she didn’t get it but who does their first time…playing bass…like, ever?).

Then, she decides she wants to play the snippet of Money that is shown alongside Fisticuffs. I show her how to read the tab, and veeeerrryyy slowly, she plucks out the measure. I play the bit of Fisticuffs. It’s a huge win for both of us, until we realize that now we have to find our way out of the evil carnival. Or something.

So, thanks for that. :smiling_face: :heart:


That’s so awesome! Tell her I say hi. :slight_smile:


Another great video. @JoshFossgreen, your wacky-goofy-senseofhumor-ness really helps to make the videos very entertaining and fun to watch.

Personally, I have more picks than I care to count (I work closely with Jim Dunlop Manufacturing, their IT guy just sent me a bucketload) but I don’t use them that much. I would like to use them more, but generally speaking I prefer the tone of fingers. Plus, I tend to keep my action pretty low so when I switch to pick, I dive down into fret-buzz land. I’m sure I could work that out though.


Ella says hi back, @JoshFossgreen - I think she was genuinely surprised! Her weekend has totally been made. :smiling_face:


So I finally watched this! Ironically, I started on a “you will better your alternate picking” journey about a month ago. This was for both bass and guitar. Funny thing… since going through B2B about a year ago, I have been finding more enjoyment with fingerstyle on the guitar, when I hadn’t ever, before. It’s true that coming from using a pick on a guitar, picking up the bass and using my fingers was a real trip, and I’m glad you said something about that, Josh. Twelve months or so later, and picking is absolutely overshadowed by fingers. :smiley:

I can fly with downpicks pretty good, but alternating is still tricky when it comes to crossing strings, and your exercise is going to help me immensely.

So, before this video, I made a series of exercises that I actually ended up turning into a song, to help me get faster. I mess with it a little every day, using a pick. You all on the forums can check it out if interested:


Thank you @chordsykat ! I’ve started working on the alternating exercise as well, and using a pick feels…weird (never played with one before). Appreciate you sharing your song!


Thanks for the tune, @chordsykat. Looks very helpful.

I came from guitar, both alternate picking and fingerstyle. But I was always fascinated by the “casual,” seemingly-effortless way that great bass players plucked with their fingers. The curiosity to learn that is what brought me to B2B in the first place.

Bass plucking felt completely foreign to me despite having played guitar fingerstyle, since the guitar fingerstyle depends entirely on the thumb to play bass chord tones. Suddenly, on a bass, the thumb is anchored? What fresh hell is this? LOL

Big, fat strings. Use only two fingers? Don’t use the thumb?!

I’m glad to say that bass finger plucking feels second-nature for me now, but, man, it was rocky going in the early B2B days!

I’m looking forward to digging in with a pick again. That’s exclusively how I used to play bass years ago. With Josh’s updated tutelage and your tune, practicing proper technique should be fun.


OK that was cool! Cool to play something someone on the forum put together, and cool because focusing on playing a new tab kept my brain from complaining about the pick (if that makes any sense).


Well great! Glad you enjoyed it :slight_smile: It’s got a very metal kind of feel, especially when I play it on my 5 string. And I hope nobody thinks I’m checking to make sure you’re keeping up with the 120bpm tempo I apparently left on there. Whoops. :smiley: I personally think it’s functional at all speeds, and gets the job done when you’re just trying to get more nimble!


I’m working on a cover of a song that the original bassist plays with a pick. Found another bass cover of it on YT, and that person played it with their fingers. I think, “OK, you know what, I can practice pick-playing with this song, but really I’m just trying to finish so I can post something, so for sake of ease I’ll record it fingerstyle.”

I then look through the comments because morbid curiosity and find this:
you dont have to

Ease is in the eyes (or fingers) of the beholder. Or something.


Ease is in the eyes (or fingers) of the beholder. Or something.

I can bang out the Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop no problemo with my fingers and even do some of the faster covers of that song that other bands have done. Using a pick? All downstrokes? Holy mother of god that is hard.


Yup, totally different technical skill! I can’t do it either honestly. Can only downpick fast as a stunt.


Yeah - I’d alternate that one.

I did do Disorder here with all downstrokes though, 168BPM 8th notes.



that’s a great video as always ! I’m glad you did it, hopefully it will help a lot of bass players to dive into the wonderful pick rabbit hole



Me too!

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A triplet is 3 notes played in the time that 2 would normally take.