the string is a relatively new technique, for in classical music,
as you know, the bow is used almost constantly. You only have to
watch the elegant way classical bassist pluck the string
with one finger, to realize that plucking is completely underdeveloped
in classical music. In jazz, new techniques are developing all the
time, and if you search the internet, youll find a lot of
different solutions presented by my colleagues.
In the last century, amplification was a serious problem, so most
bassist were mainly interested in making as much noise as possible.
To achieve this, they usually hit the strings as hard as possible
with two fingers at the same time. Some romantic, orthodox jazz
bass players still think this is the only way to play the bass,
and they believe that everybody who plays differently does not really
understand the nature of the instrument. I totally disagree with
this viewpoint: Im very glad that we bass players dont
have to play this way anymore, now the biggest amplification issues
have been resolved, and we can choose for a more musical approach
to the instrument.
Most bassists develop their own plucking technique. Thats
probably not such a bad idea, considering all the nonsense that
is being broadcast about this subject. It took me years to discover
that its better not to listen to the following advice: after
plucking the string, you should let your finger come to rest against
the next string. Chances are you play this way, for this method
is very, very popular, though I dont really know why
maybe because in the beginning, it seems easy. If you play this
way and like it, thats great, but please realize that you
may be holding yourself back terribly.
1. The less resistance you encounter when plucking, the more relaxed,
easily and fast you can play. Touching the next string means that
you encounter resistance. This costs time and strength. Not touching
it means your finger can complete its swing much easier and
faster and initiate a new movement more quickly. Its very
important that you learn to move your fingers as relaxed and freely
as possible. Of course, it will take some time to change your technique,
but oh boy, youll reap enormous benefits!
2. You make a sound when you touch the next string. Its difficult
to hear that this is so, but I can assure you this is true. This
has an effect on your sound: you sound less clear. If you dont
mind that, go on playing the way you do, but if you want to sound
as clear as possible (I do), its time to change your technique.
Youll be surprised how much better you sound when youve
Some bass players believe that its only possible to have a
powerful sound if you pluck in the traditional way. This is utter
nonsense. Youre tone will definitely get more powerful when
you dont touch the next string.
The way I play you cant really call plucking. My fingers swing
over the strings, only just touching them. My tone is getting more
powerful and more full by the day, its really a very big difference,
compared to my playing with the traditional technique. My acoustic
bass, which really is not a superb instrument, sounds like a very
good bass nowadays. And I can play at least five times as fast as
before, which is a very nice result!