Playing bass like you’re using a pick (even though you’re not)

A very cool bass-playing innovation

By Jon Liebman
Week of June 14, 2021

I love learning new stuff on the bass!

Have you ever seen a live performance of something you’ve heard on a recording, then get blown away by seeing it played completely different than you’d imagined?

This has happened to me time and again over the years, involving everything from two-handed tapping, to thumb muting, to a bunch of other stuff.

And now it’s happened again. 

Last week, I was watching some videos in preparation for my conversation with Joey Vera of Armored Saint, published as this week’s FBPO interview. Joey was playing some really cool passages where I actually thought he was using a pick. 

But he wasn’t!

Beyond intrigued, I asked him about it. “What’s that thing you’re doing?” I wondered. “It’s not quite double-thumbing, but it’s not using a pick either!”

“Sometimes,” Joey says, “you kind of place your thumb and your forefinger together as if you’re holding a pick. But there’s no pick there.”

So I tried it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t quite as awkward as I expected. It’s kind of like playing with a pick. Only it’s not.

“So, it’s an invisible pick,” says Joey. “You’re using your fingers as a pick, but there’s no pick there.”

It feels weird. But it’s fun!

“That way,” he says, “you can strum the string up and down, but the thumb catches the string on the downstroke, and the forefinger catches it on the way back up.”

It’s amazing how people are constantly coming up with new techniques and innovative ways to play bass. Try the “pickless” technique and see how you like it.

When it comes to the subject of whether or not bass players should use a pick, there’s plenty of spirited debate on the topic. Who knows? Maybe Joey’s technique will satisfy both sides.

How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Joey here.

Comments on Playing bass like you’re using a pick (even though you’re not)

  1. John Alston says:

    Bernard Edward’s used to use this technique often……called it “chucking”

  2. Ted White says:

    Regardless of how you were taught it is always
    Informative seeing how the “gurus” accomplish
    the same skills.

  3. J Foster says:

    Since I don’t use a pick all the time, I have constantly resorted to this technique, because I can’t keep track of my (thumb) picks. LOL! Always kept it on the down low, because I didn’t want anybody to know I was “faking” it. I Didn’t know it was a real “Thang!”

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