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How to Position Your Right Hand for Pick-style Bass Guitar Playing

Although there are many popular right-hand techniques for bass guitar, it is important to learn how to position your right hand for pick-style playing, which is one of the most popular styles. Many bass players prefer to use a pick to produce a note instead of using their fingers. You can hold the pick in one of two ways: closed or open. For closed pick-style position,

  1. Hold your pick between your index finger and thumb.

  2. Make a light fist and rest your thumb on top of your index finger.

  3. Slide your index finger along the bottom of your thumb until it reaches the first knuckle of your thumb.

    This is where the pick goes, with only the tip of it showing.

    Holding the pick in a closed-hand position.
    Holding the pick in a closed-hand position.

Because the strings on a bass are much heavier than on a guitar, your bass pick needs to be heavier, too.

You can also try playing with an open hand. The pick still goes between your thumb and index finger, but you leave a space between your fingers and your palm. You may like the increased control you get when you rest your ring finger and pinkie against the body of the bass. Both styles require you to make a twisting wrist movement with your picking hand.

A pick in the open-hand style.
A pick in the open-hand style.

With a pick, you can strike the string from either above or below. Some players prefer only downstrokes; others use only upstrokes. Still other players combine the two strokes for an even faster technique. Feel free to experiment and find out which technique suits your musical style.

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