Playing bass with a pick can seem quite tricky if you’ve spent your whole life playing bass fingerstyle.So this week I’m going to give you a crash course in bass picking technique from the basics of holding the plectrum to palm muting.

The Pick

First, let’s look at the pick. There’s a whole bunch of different styles and thicknesses and it’s worth trying out a few just to find the tone and feel that’s right for you.

In terms of holding the pick, you generally hold them between the thumb and index finger and there are two main ways of doing this.

First of all, just hold a very loose fist with the fingers bent at the middle knuckle and rest the thumb up against the side of the index finger.  Next, just place the pick in there between the thumb and index finger. It should be pointing out at a right angle to the thumb. You don’t want to see much of the pick, it should just stick out there a little and the amount varies from player to player.

So, that’s what I’d call a tight grip on the pick. It’s fairly tense but you can make a looser grip by relaxing that fist a little more so the index finger isn’t curled round as much. The pick points out more from the end of that finger.

The two grips are pretty much governed by that clenching of the hand. The loose grip is certainly better for playing chords and can be a good all-round way of picking for most styles. The tighter grip is better when building up speed and works well with faster rock and metal playing or palm muting.

Holding The Bass

In terms of positioning on the bass, you can play anywhere along the string. This is determined by the tone you’re looking for. Back at the bridge, you get a tighter tone. As you move towards the neck it’s a lot rounder. Just as when fingerpicking.

I tend to hold back at the bridge a lot of the time (for that bright tone) and you really want to be back there for palm muting.

Here are 5 riffs that should help with practicing your picking technique:

Riff #1

This riff is great for developing your basic technique and approach to consecutive 16th notes.

Practice Track:

Riff #2

This simple riff provides focus on the upstroke, highlighted at the end of each phrase.

Practice Track:

Riff #3

This riff is great practice for repeated notes and choking of the unused strings with the heel of the picking hand.

Practice Track:

Riff #4

Octaves are great practice for string skipping and developing a sense of distance when crossing string.

Practice Track:

Riff #5

This final riff should be played with palm muting throughout. Use the heel of the fretting hand to push lightly on the strings around the bridge area to create that cool muted tone.

Practice Track:

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