" /> Google Analytics Alternative
Submit to UsFind out how to be a guest or contributing writer for SBG

SBG Lesson: Right Hand Technique

You’re a few weeks into playing bass guitar and you’re still thinking to yourself the same thing Will Farrell was as Ricky Bobby, “I’m not sure what to do with my hands.”

Bass guitar is a much more, for lack of a better word, physical instrument than guitar or keyboard. Playing with your fingers on your right hand is considered a standard way of playing the instrument and in most cases, even the most devout pick-player can play with his or her fingers.

It’s just the bass player way.

So to compliment the first video of the new Smart Bass Guitar lesson series on left hand technique, this week’s video addresses the likely follow up: the right hand. Specifically:

  • 2 ways to position your right hand to play the bass when sitting down
  • 4 different techniques to play bass with including anchored thumb, thumb, moving thumb and pizzicato technique and
  • 1 big overarching moral and theme: do what works for you. Experiment with the instrument as much as possible as often as possible to determine what does and doesn’t work for you, what feels comfortable and what doesn’t.

So check out the February Smart Bass Guitar lesson: right hand techniques for bass guitar:


  • There are different ways to position the bass guitar when you’re sitting down to play. The two most common you’ll likely encounter are arching the wrist over the butt of the bass or extending the elbow outwards. Each have their own advantages, disadvantages and situations to be used in.
  • The anchored thumb technique is a great starting point to get into finger style playing. To do so, simply plant your thumb on top of the pickup and play. One difficulty that might be encounter is straining your hand to reach the G string and C string if you’re on a 5 string.
  • Thumb technique is simply playing with your thumb. Playing with your thumb is also a great introduction into finger style playing because you’re only moving one finger to play. Plus the thumb gives you a very round, fat sound that can’t be matched by your other fingers. The downside is that the thumb isn’t so good when it comes to fast, intricate lines.
  • Moving thumb technique. Similar to the anchor thumb technique, but now instead of planting your thumb, you would be moving with the rest of your hand, resting your thumb on the string above the one you’re playing on. Playing like this creates a much more fluid playing experience but it can be challenging early on to sync moving your thumb with the rest of your playing hand.
  • Pizzicato technique. A much more advanced style of playing made popular by solo jazz bassists like Michael Manring and Matt Garrison. The style is characterized by playing with 2-4 fingers, using the thumb to make a bass line or harmony to the melody being made by the index, middle and/or ring finger. Playing like this creates a very rich, sonic experience by being able to create complex chord voicings and melodies but syncing the left and right hand can be difficult early on.
  • Play as much as you can and determine what works for you. Use this lesson as a guide for introducing you to new right hand techniques to try and experiment with.

Happy playing!