Bass Pick vs Fingers – Which Is the Better Technique?
There is no right or wrong, better or worse when it comes to the topic of bass pick vs fingers. Both techniques have advantages and disadvantages. Playing with your fingers gives more of a thumping, bassy vibe and is good for runs and scales while playing with a pick provides more speed and attack.
Disregarding the vicious joke and rumor that only finger bass players are TRUE bass players, playing with a pick also has advantages. This is something that most bass players stumble upon by accident and just stick with it as time goes on. However, knowing the pros and cons of both techniques might save you some time in choosing the right one for you.
Let’s take a look at the advantages, disadvantages, similarities, and differences between playing with a pick and playing with fingers, along with a few related questions on the topic.
Bass Pick vs. Fingers
I’ll break down what each technique is good for or better than the other regarding sound, technique, speed, power, ease of use, and muting.
The first and most important thing to distinguish is the sound that a bass pick and fingers produce on the bass. While I personally like the finger-style sound better, the pick sound does have advantages and better suits some styles over the fingers.
Playing with fingers gives you more of a thumping, bass vibe that sounds more full, well-rounded, and vibrating. With a pick, the sound is more emphasized as the attack is different and harsher (striking), but the overall sound is more in the forefront which suits rock, metal, and similar genres more (usually).
The techniques are very different from one another. With the fingers, you have more range and motion to play along the fretboard, assuming you already have some experience. With a pick, it’s kind of “harder” to move along the fretboard since you are stuck playing one string, assuming you don’t incorporate your pinky for pull-offs.
The bottom line is, fingers provide more space to play around with and overall better technique as well as knowledge of your instrument.
When it comes to speed, playing with a pick is by far better, assuming of course you’re not a flamenco guitarist that switched to bass and has lightning-fast fingers. With a pick, you can do up and down strokes in a very fast manner that just provides better speed than you would with fingers, which also require more effort to produce speed.
In terms of power, the pick has the advantage again. With a pick, you have more control over the striking force, therefore, more power. Some genres are better suited for a more striking bass so if you’re using a pick, the sound will be more appropriate, in a way, for metal, rock, and similar genres.
Ease of use
While this may be more of a personal preference, the fact of the matter is, playing with a pick is “easier” in most cases. This is not to say that playing with your fingers is “hard”. However, being a bass player who plays both frequently, the pick is easier to some extent, only because playing with your fingers puts more of a strain on your hand.
When it comes to muting, obviously, the fingers have the advantage. Since there is no pick to get in the way of a successful mute, you can even use your whole hand, as with a pick, it can be harder to retract it and hide it for a good mute effect.
|Easy of use||✔||✘|
Which technique should you learn first?
My advice would be to learn to play with your fingers first. Not only will this be more beneficial to your playing but it will also be easier to incorporate the pick down the line if necessary. Consequently, learning with a pick and then switching to fingers is way harder, trust me!
What type of picks should you use for bass?
Not every guitar pick is “suitable” for bass. While any pick CAN be used, it is not necessarily good to use just any pick. Firstly, there are pick shapes that just suit your playing better, and those are the regular teardrop pick, the rounded teardrop, and the triangle pick.
The regular teardrop is your all-rounder in terms of sound and use. The rounded teardrop provides a more warm and subtle sound, whereas the triangle pick allows for more power and attack. Whichever one your choose is your preference.
Secondly, the material of the pick is also important. You want something that feels natural to you, despite all the “rules”. Flexibility also plays a huge part here, as well as what sound you’re ultimately after.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, is the pick’s durability. The thickness of the bass pick (usually around 1.17 mm) is what sets it apart from a regular guitar pick since bass has thicker strings and requires power. You may even consider a polished tip.
The everlasting topic of bass pick vs fingers boils down to personal preference. While both techniques have their advantages and disadvantages, it just revolves around what kind of sound you’re after, ease of use, speed, power, etc. Whatever the case, I’d advise beginner bass players to start learning with their fingers first before incorporating the pick down the line.