Updated: May 15
As a bassist, you have probably asked yourself whether you should be using a pick or your fingers to play. There are pros and cons to both techniques, and it ultimately comes down to what works best for you. In this guide, we will explore the basics of picking bass and help you decide which method is right for you.
Picks vs. Fingers for playing bass guitar
Pros of playing with a pick
There are pros of playing bass guitar with a pick. Some of the pros of using a pick include:
- You can make louder, crisper tones with a pick
- You will get a different range of tones with a pick
- It can be easier to get a good attack when you're playing with a loud band
Cons of playing with a pick
There are also some cons to playing with a pick. Some of the cons include:
- You can't get as much of a "feel" for the bass when you're playing with a pick
- It can be harder to make softer tones with a pick
- You might not be as agile when you're trying to play
Free Pick Technique Exercises
Why do bass players hate picks?
This is a common misconception. Many bass players don't hate using picks at all. Many, like Carol Kaye, Steve Swallow and John Paul Jones have built incredible careers out of using picks.
However, because fingerstyle playing is much more common, pick playing has been stigmatized in online forums and discussion boards.
The important thing to remember is that if you're ever told "real bass players don't use picks" then this is bad advice that deserves to be ignored.
Do bassists use picks? (The Complete Guide)
The short answer is yes, they do. And many have created some of the greatest bass lines of all time using picks.
As you'll read later on, the reason people think that bassists don't use picks is that pick playing is a much less common technique than two-finger plucking technique which is commonly known as "fingerstyle" or playing with slap bass technique.
This does bring up a split between two techniques though and many bassists feel they should choose one or the other.
But is this really true?
How do the two compare?
Which technique is better?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It ultimately comes down to what works best for you and your own style.
If you are just starting out, I recommend trying both techniques and seeing which one feels more natural to you.
With time and practice, you will develop your own unique style that combines the best of both worlds.
Power & expressiveness
The main difference between playing with a pick and your fingers is the sound that you can produce. When you play with a pick, you will generally get a brighter, crisper tone. This can be helpful if you are trying to cut through a mix or make your bass line heard in a loud band.
However, fingerstyle bass playing allows for a wider range of tones. You can get a much fuller sound by using your fingers, and you will also be able to create softer, subtler sounds. This can be helpful if you are playing in a more delicate or intimate setting.
Which technique you should use largely depends on the bass tones you want to produce.
Using Picks to Play Bass
So, should you be using a pick or your fingers to play? As I mentioned earlier, there are pros and cons to both techniques. Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for you.
If you are just starting out, I recommend trying both techniques and seeing which one feels more natural to you. With time and practice, you will develop your own unique style that combines the best of both worlds.
Pick Technique Video Lesson
Using Fingers to Play Bass
If you are using your fingers to play, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. First of all, fingerstyle technique is bar far the most common way to play.
This fact is what, in my opinion, fuels the "pick vs fingers" debate.
But, because it's so common, you really can't avoid learning finer plucking in the way that many bassists have avoided learning to play with a bass pick.
When playing with your fingers, try to use the tips of your fingers with a natural and relaxed hand position.
This will give you more control over the strings and allow you to create a wider range of tones. Be sure to experiment with different techniques and rhythms and see what works best for you.
Picks versus Fingers: The Eternal Debate
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It ultimately comes down to what works best for you and your playing style. If you are just starting out, we recommend trying both techniques and seeing which one feels more natural to you. With time and practice, you will develop your own unique style that combines the best of both worlds.
So, there you have it! Pick or fingers? The choice is yours. Experiment with both techniques and see what works best for you. And remember, there is no right or wrong answer – only what sounds good to YOU! Thanks for reading!
Now that we've gone over the basics of using picks to play, let's talk about some of the pros and cons of pick bass playing.
Are bass picks and guitar picks the same?
No, bass and guitar picks are not the same. Guitar picks are typically smaller and thinner than bass picks, which is why they work better for guitars. Bass picks are larger and thicker so that they can withstand the greater force of picking a bass string which is much bigger than a guitar string.
What size pick should I use?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on your playing style and what feels comfortable for you. However, most bass players use a pick that is between .75 and .95 inches wide.
Should I use a rounded or pointed pick?
Again, there is no one right answer to this question – it comes down to personal preference. Some players prefer round tips while traditional guitar picks have an option for playing bass guitars, these guitar jacks and bass jacks have three distinct features.
A built-in grip is also included, making this less likely to fall from the player's hands due to its thin string.
Click here to view a complete listing on Amazon.com. This pick has a slightly bigger and triangular shape than most of the other shaped guitar picks and is a good grip. The film is 1.14 mm thick. See the details at Amazon.com.
Advantages of using bass guitar picks
There are a few advantages to using a pick when playing bass:
- You can play faster with a pick than you can with your fingers.
- You can get a brighter, more articulate sound with a pick.
- You have more control over the strings when using a pick.
Disadvantages of using bass guitar picks
However, there are also some disadvantages that you should be aware of:
- You may find it difficult to play very softly with a pick.
- Picks can sometimes slip out of your hand while you're playing.
- You may damage your strings if you hit them too hard with the pick.
Is it OK to use a pick on bass?
Absolutely! Whilst fingerstyle playing is more common on bass guitar, playing with a pick is totally fine. Anyone that says otherwise is just wrong!
And it probably just means they prefer finger plucking.
What kind of pick do you use for a bass?
The best picks for bass guitar tend to be a bit thicker and bigger than the average guitar pick. This helps because bass strings are much bigger than guitar strings so having the extra mass of a bigger pick will give you a bigger sound.
Why don't bassists use picks?
They do! Just look at Paul McCartney, Carol Kaye, or Justin Chancellor! The idea that bassists don't use picks is just a stigma and there's no truth to it. All pros and serious players use them and the best tend to play both with a pick and finger plucking technique.
Which bass players use a pick?
Some notable bassists that use a pick include a certain Mr McCartney, John Paul Jones, Carol Kaye, Bobby Vega and Justin Chancellor to name a few.
Do professional bass players use picks?
Yes. All professional bass players will make sure they can use a pick. It's a vital part of how they earn a living.
Does Paul McCartney play bass with a pick?
Yes. He's one of the most famous bass payers to ever play bass with a pick!
Bassists Who Use Picks
If you want to listen to bassists who use picks then great players to check out are Steve Swallow, Paul McCartney, Chris Squier, Carol Kaye and Bobby Vega to name a few!
Did Paul McCartney Play Bass With A Pick?
Yes, he did. He was one of the best!
Is bass better with a pick?
Not better. Just different. Comparing picking technique to finger plucking on bass guitar is a bit like comparing apples to bannanas. Yes, they're both fruit but that's really where to comparison ends. Which technique you use is a matter of what serves the music you're playing and what you like.
There is no one right answer to whether or not bassists should use a pick when playing the instrument. Some players find that they can play faster and more articulate sounds with a pick, while others find that it is more difficult to play softly with a pick.
Ultimately, it is up to the player to decide what works best for them. However, all professional bassists should be able to use a pick in order to give themselves the most options when playing.