How to unlearn a habit? (wild uncontrollable raking!)

Hi, fellow adventurers on the road of bass!

So, at some point when I was trying to learn on my own before following Josh’s course or having a bass teacher I picked up the habit of raking when crossing down to a lower string.
Raking is I guess a good tool to have in the toolbox so I don’t call it a ‘bad’ habit.

Except, it’s become a little road-block for me as it’s really messing up my alternate plucking. Especially if it’s a ‘start on middle finger’ kind of pattern.
When I try to bump up the speed I do it without thinking sometimes (and by sometimes I mean often), where I rake down instead of alternating, which makes me switch fingers, which soon makes me land on the wrong string with the wrong finger… and then I get confused trying to correct and all my fingers fall over each other and everything turns into a mess!

Does anyone have some specific advice or experience trying to unlearn something like that?


I’m not sure that there is a silver bullet, as such. In most cases, slow, deliberate practice is the best bet. That way, but not trying to rush things through at full speed, you can concentrate on using each finger properly. Do that plenty of times and then you can speed up little by little so that the new way becomes habit.

Good luck. :slight_smile:

I forgot to add - welcome!


Great advice there - that’s the advice I got for a similar question and it is helping with my issue too.


Hm, not quite sure I completely understand the issue here… “Raking” is meant to be used when you cross strings “downwards” (i.e., from A to E), whereas alternating is used when staying on a string or going “upwards” (i.e., from A to D). For going down, raking is just much more efficient, in my opinion.

So, perhaps an exercise could be to become equally “strong” or confident with both index and middle finger, such that you can play a pattern no matter whether you start with the index finger or the middle finger!?!

But, yeah, unlearning is super hard and, as @matthew said, starting over with the “correct” technique in a slow and deliberate way may be the only way forward.

Good luck!


Here is a little riff I use in a song I play with the band I am in right now. This is actually a good exercise for string crossing and alternate plucking and raking. Sorry for the hand-written stuff - I hope it is legible and understandable!?

The main point is that because of the raking on the string crossing from the A to the E string, the main riff starts on a different finger the second time around! Not least therefore is it a great exercise, I think, as you’d have to play the riff starting with either finger.

Personally, I find the first string crossing (going from the E to the A string) much more challenging!

Anyway, start slow and then build up speed… :grin:

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when i felt i head an issue, i practised every day for 10 minutes just alternating string crossing up and raking down, just again and again
just practise and it will go autopilot eventually just dont think too much about it

like Billy Sheehan said thinkers are stinkers
when i look at my fingers they also start to become a tangled mess
when i doubt i am doing the right thing i just record my plucking hand and check the video

sometimes i am not alternating, but than when i check it seems more of an economy of movement thing


@howard already quoted this… but it deserved a second thumbs up.

Awareness cures, as my professor used to say.
If you’re aware of it, you can fix it. It just takes an amount of patience and slowness that can break most mortals!


I learned it from you :slight_smile:

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+1 to this! And for the record, I don’t include raking in B2B for the sake of focusing on alternating, but it’s not because raking isn’t a useful technique. So keep the raking in the bag, just get the alternating up to speed too so you can pick the best fingerings in context.


Ah yes, I was afraid the magic solution was going to be something like this!

Ok, Billie Jean and I have booked a couples therapy session with Dr. Metronome. :crazy_face:

I guess everyone has their challenges and there are different challenges at different stages of the learning process. For now this is mine and I guess I just have to meet it head-on. Argh it’s been frustrating though!

Thanks for the advices!


Excellent . . . :slight_smile:

The very best “Billie Jean” comment I’ve seen on the Forums so far . . . :+1:

Cheers, Joe