The Two Finger Rest Stroke

The basic two plucking hand options open to the beginning bassist are to either use finger(s) or a pick. Whether using the fingers or a pick the beginning bassist must strive to develop a strong, even tone. The picking/plucking hand is the foundation for every bass player's sound.

On this page we're going to look at developing fingerstyle playing. The majority of bass players with their index and middle fingers and this is the approach we're going to look at here. (NOTE - pick technique and 3 fingered plucking techniques will be looked at on other pages. Simply return to Bass Techniques and follow the links there).

The Thumb Position

The first consideration when playing fingerstyle on the bass is the position of the thumb. The thumb acts as an anchor for the plucking hand and needs to be lightly - but firmly - grounded.

The two natural resting points for the thumb for general playing are either the bridge pick up or the neck pick up.

Basic Thumb Position (This of course assumes you have a 2 pick up bass - when I came to take photos for this lesson I realised that my 2 pick up Steinberger was being repaired and I had to use my Line 6 Variax bass - which has no pick ups!, fortunately the Variax has a nice wooden ledge for the thumb!)

As well as being the anchor for the left hand, the thumb also helps mute strings that aren't being played. When playing on the E string the basic position on the top of the pick up is perfect (see picture above - please use artistic license and imagine the Variax's thumb ledge is the top of a pick up!)

E String Position When playing the A string, the thumb should still rest against the pick up but the thumb should move down so that it rests on the E string. This prevents any unwanted sound occuring from the E string whilst playing the A string.


A String Position When playing on the D string the thumb should now move to the A string, but also still rests against the E string. This prevents any unwanted sounds from the E or A strings whilst playing the D string.


A String Position When playing on the G string, the position with the thumb anchored on the A string works fine, any unwanted noise from the D string will be dealt with by the rest stroke...

The Rest Stroke

Once the thumb is in position - lightly but firmly - the fingers can do their thang!

Start with the E string, rest the thumb on the top of your pick up of choice and place the fleshy pad of your finger ready to play (see photos above).

Sound the E string, alternating between index and middle fingers. You should use enough force so that the fingers come to rest against the pad of your thumb once you've sounded the string. Try not to play too hard or you will get a weak, distorted tone.

Repeat this until it feels comfortable then drop your thumb to the top of the E string and play the A string - again alternating your index and middle fingers. This time your fingers should come to rest against the E string.

Next up drop the thumb to the A string and play the D string with alternating index and middle fingers. This time the fingers should come to rest against the A string.

Finally the G string. Leave the thumb on the A string and play the G string with alternating index and middle fingers. This time the fingers should come to rest against the D string - preventing any unwanted string noise from the D string.

And that's a brief explanation of the two finger rest stroke. A more detailed look at the two finger rest stroke is available as a lesson in PDF form. Either left click to open the PDF in a new window or right click to download to your hard drive. Included with the PDF are 6 exercises for you to print out to help you get started mastering your two fingered rest stroke!


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