Conveying Rhythms With Right Hand

author: Steve08 date: 10/21/2009 category: bass lessons
rating: 8.7 / votes: 12 
Today we're going to be going over various patterns on the right hand. This lesson will be for fingers, so pick bassists go get a coffee. Now, a common misconception is that a pick allows you to play faster than with fingers. At first, maybe because it requires somewhat less precision to alternate constantly, but I feel using fingers allows for greater speed (and is more versatile, but that's just my opinion). Another misconception seems to be that by using fingers, you are only using your index and middle fingers, but it's not. Some people do, and some don't. Using just the primary two fingers is a bad idea, I think, because if it's a genre at a fast tempo like thrash or death metal, because if you look carefully, a pick's rhythm is the exact same as using two fingers. (Key: For fingers, I = index, M = middle, For pick, D = downstroke, U = upstroke) Fingerstyle: I M I M I M I M I M, IMI MIM IMI MIM, etc... Pick: D U D U D U D U D U, DUD, UDU, DUD, UDU, etc... Playing triplets (or really fast sixteenth notes) using just these is rather awkward unless you work on it a great deal, but if you really want to use only two, a trick for triplet/sixteenth rhythms is after you play two notes with the index and middle fingers, flick your index and middle back across the string. This is fairly easy to do as it is a natural motion because puts your fingers back in the original position faster than if you were playing it in the standard way. So for using two fingers for a galloping part like in Iron Maiden's The Trooper, it would go like this... (For flicking it back across the string I'll put it as a U)
G|--------------------
D|--------------------
A|-777-777-777-777-777
E|--------------------
   IMU IMU IMU IMU IMU
You'll find it easy to return to the "down" motion on the index as your finger is just going back to what it would normally do. For sixteenth rhythms, you can use the flick technique but use the middle finger also.
G|---------------4567--------------
D|----------3456-------------------
A|-----2345------------------------
E|1234-----------------------------
  IMUU IMUU IMUU IMUU
As a bit of a sidenote, if you use the floating thumb technique for muting it can be a little bit harder to use the flick technique, as I find it a little bit easier to move your wrist back and forth to help the "up" motions for fast stuff, but find what is the most comfortable for you. Next, we're going to talk about using three fingers. Three fingers is arguably the best for triplets as you can just do them IMR IMR IMR without much difficulty. (R = ring finger) I like using IMR for just triplets like in The Trooper as it's easier to "control" it, whereas going RMI RMI RMI is a bit more natural and easier to do for tremolo motions, but either of these works fine. For sixteenth rhythms, in my opinion RMIR MIRM IRMI is better for them or tremolo, as it is easier to do fast, but you just have to work at it until you can get it smooth enough that you can a continuous flow of notes. This is what I prefer. You can also do it using the flick on the index, like IMRU. For things like the chromatic sequence,
G|---------------4567--------------
D|----------3456-------------------
A|-----2345------------------------
E|1234-----------------------------
  RMIR MIRM IRMI RMIR
That method can be used to help get it fast and smooth, but like I said you can use the flick technique for three fingers,
G|---------------4567--------------
D|----------3456-------------------
A|-----2345------------------------
E|1234-----------------------------
  IRMU IRMU IRMU IRMU
You can also play all four notes in a different pattern, like this.
G|---------------4567--------------
D|----------3456-------------------
A|-----2345------------------------
E|1234-----------------------------
  IRMI RIMR IRMI RIMR
This one's a bit easier than the RMIR MIRM IRMI pattern, but is harder to get fast as your right hand just naturally likes to go from left to right in terms of finger movement so the RIMR portion is a bit sluggish. I personally like to use it for just precise bursts, like so,
G|---------------0000--------------
D|----------0000-------------------
A|-----0000------------------------
E|0000-----------------------------
  IRMI IRMI IRMI IRMI
Also, the flick technique can be used on all three fingers for playing at quite fast tempos (mostly soloing, or tremolo picking). I personally can only do it IRMUUU, my brain gets confused when I try RMIUUU at all.
G|---------------------------------
D|555555777777888888---------------
A|---------------------------------
E|---------------------------------
  IRMUUUIRMUUUIRMUUU
Doing this slowly is a bit weird, but it's not very difficult to make it nice and flowing because the "uP notes fill in the space that would be left if you were just going IRMIRM IRMIRM IRMIRM, etc... Finally, for 32nd notes basically just do the flick technique but go IRMPUUUU. I can only do this if I'm muting the strings with my thumb across them except for the one I'm playing on. The last two "up" notes are physically difficult because the ring and pinky share the same tendon, so they prefer to move at the same time instead of seperately, like the index and middle finger. Also, what's a good idea to remember that it's best to use a mix of these varied techniques as opposed to JUST using two fingers, or JUST three fingers for sixteenths. Hopefully this lesson will help in some way, most likely on the quest for speed. You want your technique to be as effortless and comfortable as possible. Experiment with this, give feedback, etc., and most importantly, have fun.
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