Today I am going to broach the subject of using a pick or plectrum to play the bass guitar. While teaching bass guitar in my home town of Berkhamsted or online at Greg’s Bass Shed, I am often asked this question by my pupils; which is better to play bass with, your fingers or a pick? Well the simple answer is neither!
Let me explain why……
First of all I will go back to when I was learning to play bass in the 90’s. My mates and I use to look down on players who used a pick and we were of the opinion that you could only really groove with your fingers. That was mainly because the bassists in the bands we was listening to at the time, like Cream, Stone Roses, Weather Report, etc. did not use a pick. Concurrently there was a glut of awful bands out at the time with bass players who only used picks. So that sealed the fate of plectrums for me at the time! I only played finger-style for years.
Then working professionally in shows and with different artists, I started to need to use a pick to get particular sounds. I had to dedicate serious hours to developing this skill so I was proficient enough to groove and sound good with the pick. For example I currently cover for the regular bass player on the show, Everyone Is Talking About Jamie. The music was written by Dan Gillespie Selles from The Feeling. His style is a mix of pop, rock, and groove for this show and most of the songs require me to use a pick.
The key familiar sound of bands like The Jam, The Police, Yes, The Ramones, Green Day, Pink Floyd, and indeed The Beatles would not be the same without pick bass.
So my advice is to develop playing both finger-style and pick playing. That way you have a choice of either style to use and therefore have a greater flexibility with your sound.
See you in my next blog