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The Bass Debate: Pick vs Fingers

Picks vs. Fingers

Q: I prefer playing the bass using my fingers, but I see a lot of bassists these days using a pick. What’s your take on that?

A: As with all things that come down to taste and music, I say: “follow your ears!”

If you don’t like the sound of a pick, or it just doesn’t feel right, don’t bother with it unless there’s a specific reason. It can’t be “everyone else is doing it”.

I will argue to the death that one is no better than the other. Pick haters only need check out Bobby Vega, Steve Swallow or Carles Benevante to hear that a pick can be used creatively and make beautiful (non hard edged) music.

I’ve always been a finger player, but I’ve actually started using a pick on about half of the songs I perform with the pop band, Echo Helstrom. I’ve recently joined the band, and I just felt like I should be using a pick on some of the tunes with pulsing 8th note grooves.

I wanted to hear that click with the notes, so I bought a handful of different picks and experimented until I found one that felt right and sounded right to me.

Is it a bit awkward? Sure, at first, but I’m getting used to it and it actually makes me play differently, which is a good thing, I think.

I like to keep myself open to whatever the song may need. If that means a pick, cool. Why not?

So, in short, do what will make the song sound better and what will make you feel best about what your playing. Forget any hype or online arguments about what is better. Serve the music!

That said, I’m sure this will open up plenty of discussion here, and I look forward to it.

Readers, what’s your take? Post your thoughts on this subject!

Photos by Robin D and ilcountz