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I'm looking to improve my fingerstyle technique on the bass guitar. I'd like to develop good habits, especially regarding alternating my fingers, as I currently tend to overuse my index finger and rake the strings too much. Likewise, I'm trying to get out of the habit of anchoring my thumb on the E string. Are there any exercises or lessons that would help with this? I'm especially interesting in learning to alternate my fingers and mute with my thumb properly when skipping strings or playing complex rhythms.

Note: I asked a related question about the specifics of how to alternate between fingers.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can't go wrong practicing scales, so I'd definitely start there. But for string skipping and thumb muting, here's an exercise I like, called "the spider". You can do this anywhere on the neck that's comfortable, but I'm illustrating it on frets 1-4 for clarity (can we write tab here for non-six-string stringed instruments?):

$A 1 $D 3 $A 2 $D 4 $A 3 $D 1 $A 4 $D 2 | $A 1 $D 3 $A 2 $D 4 $A 3 $D 1 $A 4 $D 2

Then you expand the string spacing:

$A 1 $G 3 $A 2 $G 4 $A 3 $G 1 $A 4 $G 2 | $A 1 $G 3 $A 2 $G 4 $A 3 $G 1 $A 4 $G 2

and finally:

$E 1 $G 3 $E 2 $G 4 $E 3 $G 1 $E 4 $G 2 | $E 1 $G 3 $E 2 $G 4 $E 3 $G 1 $E 4 $G 2

This is a nice exercise for alternating your plucking fingers, since each finger is isolated on its own string. As always, practice with a metronome!

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Thank you! With all of the octaves and fifths that looks like a very practical exercise! –  Bradd Szonye May 17 at 23:03
Oh and I'm finding that it's helpful to reverse the pattern so that I'm not always using the same finger for the higher/lower string. –  Bradd Szonye May 17 at 23:26
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