Importance of Plucking Pattern

Hey everyone,

I often find myself putting alot of thought into left hand (fretting) technique, vastly more than right hand (plucking) technique.

I usually find that I can kind of glide by with alternating almost through any song. However on occasion it definitely feels like a plucking pattern would be helpful in certain songs.

Should I be concerned with always establishing a plucking pattern for a song going forward?

Thanks in advance,



Straight alternating plucking works in many bass lines, but certain string jumping lines can greatly benefit from starting with the index or middle finger. Also, position shifts up/down the neck can often be best played by repeating the use of a finger, instead of continuing to alternate pluck.

So, yes, it is valuable to plan out your plucking in order to play a line efficiently. The key is to strive for economy of motion, to play smoothly.


Thanks for the reply, I’ve definitely experienced a few songs/lessons where especially when string jumping/crossing there were errors that a pattern would fix.

Between that, keeping rhythm and fretting I feel like it’s alot to think about at once.

I’m assuming it’s best to break apart the song and learn things one by one like how Josh does in his lessons? What do you typically do?


Absolutely! I break a line or song into one single measure, and plan out how I need to fret and pluck in order to play it smoothly, with both hands. Then I work on the next measure the same way. When the second measure is under my fingers, I add it to the first measure and play them together. Continuing this process, my goal is to play an entire phrase, e.g., four measures, smoothly, from start to finish. Then I proceed like this through the rest of the measures/phrases.

I find it most beneficial to go slow, note by note, if necessary. Again, the goal is to play smoothly and cleanly. Once I can play a chunk of a line that way, I repeat it many, many times before speeding it up incrementally.

A great benefit of this process is that I end up memorizing measures, phrases, entire pieces, including what each hand needs to do. Like everything else, this requires practice. But the entire process speeds up the more you use it, resulting in reliable techniques you can apply to other lines. Go slow, get smooth.


This is super useful Mike. Thank you.

I often tense up when I play and can’t thank Josh enough when he reminds us to breathe during lessons.

Concentration is sometimes an issue (the mind idles/is lazy) so I’ll definitely try to do things one measure at a time as that sounds super reasonable.


This is what I usually do on songs that would give me problems.


You’re very welcome.

Going intentionally slow often seems counter-productive to beginners, because a natural assumption is that learning/practicing slowly means that you’ll never be able to play at a faster tempo. That’s not true. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what is happening in your brain and hands: they are gradually learning what they need to do, and when, to play the notes.

Think of it this way: If a beginner bricklayer is tasked to build a wall, he/she would be better off working slowly and cleanly, cleaning up any mistakes as they occur. To try to rush the process would almost certainly result in doing a shoddy job - and end up with a truly crappy product in the end.

Maintaining concentration when working out how to play/learn a line is challenging to beginners, because they usually, mistakenly assume something along the lines of “I own a bass…I should be able to play this song like [enter killer player’s name here].”

Going slow requires embracing the concept that you’re placing one brick on top of another with great care and worksmanship, taking pride in the precision and appreciating the result. It’s a Zen thing.

Try this process with one measure. Evaluate what your hands need to do, then practice it note by note. Devote some time to it, then do something else. Come back to it later and repeat the process until you can nail it. No rush, no hurry. The point is: Enjoy small victories, because they inevitably add up.


Thanks again Mike. The input is incredible. I’ll do my best to do exactly this. I’m approaching module 10 so I think I’ll also practice scales this way too to prepare for the diatonic chord stuff.

I’m currently on Roxanne by the Police (super fun to play imo).

Can I ask you how you deal with songs that have repeating patterns but that differ subtly? Using the same slower measure by measure technique would probably work I suppose eh?


Yes, this process works with any line. Just get the repeating pattern down cold, so you can play it without thinking, it’s securely in the vault, and you can call it up at will.

Then work through the other repeating part (that varies from the first pattern), using the first pattern as your foundation. Practice the second part in the same manner until you can slowly play through the first pattern and add the second.

Remember, you are free to isolate any measure, phrase, chord change, string jump, position shift, slide, hammer on, pull off, etc. until you have it under your fingers. Your brain is totally capable of storing whatever you want as long as you give it time to process. So isolate what you want to work on and go slow when you learn/practice it. It all truly adds up in surprising ways. Learning an instrument is a marathon, not a sprint. But you will get where you want to go, one step at a time.


Some excellent advice given here, @MikeC .
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.