Ask Damian Erskine: Finger Plucking Techniques

Q: how do you decide when to use your three-finger plucking technique or only play with two fingers (old school style. huh?). I mean, do you usually use three finger’s style for basic riffs and play solos with two (addin’ thumb only for triplets, for example)? I’m trying to learn that your technique now, so I’m curious if I’m right trying to play EVERYTHING using a thumb.

A: Good question! I honestly don’t think about it… Certain grooves & lines feel better when I’m leading with my thumb (typically, these seem to be very percussive and rhythmic grooves) and certain lines lay better under my fingers playing with the typical two finger technique. My hands have always just kind of done what came naturally and seem to know what to do and when to do it.

I CAN tell you that I spent a good amount of time inventing patterns and licks that challenged my hands in very specific ways and would drill those patterns/lines until they felt second nature. I think that it’s THAT kind of practicing that got me to this point of unconscious shifts in plucking styles.

For example: Come up with a silly (or not, but it doesn’t HAVE to be ultra cool.. exercises are for results, not performance!) line that forces you to move across multiple strings (maybe skipping a string here and there?).

Now start playing that line slowly until you don’t have to think about it TOO much and start to gradually speed it up until you can play it fast AND cleanly (that’s very important… don’t practice being sloppy!). Now you’ve just evolved one more step in that direction.

Do that a LOT and always try and challenge yourself. Constantly think of combinations finger movements that you haven’t ever tried before! You can only grow doing that…

Best of luck with it!!

Have a question for Damian? Ask him!

Check out more Ask Damian Erskine columns

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

Get daily bass updates.

Get the latest news, videos, lessons, and more in your inbox every morning.

Share your thoughts