'Lectric bassists, are you to play with your fingertips, or the pads of your fingers?

I’ve been playing for about a year now, and I want to know: are you supposed to play with the tips of your fingers or the pads of your fingers on an electric bass?

This question has been plaguing me for a while and I’d like to know if I’ve been playing it the wrong way. I’m teaching myself.

What feels most natural to you? That’s the right way.

Really? I play with the pads of my fingers. I was expecting this way to be wrong.

It probably doesn’t matter as long as you’re fretting the notes cleanly. I’d think that would be easier with the fingertips - it sure is for guitar - but what do I know.

I use either, depending on the kind of effect I need. Whatever way feels right to you is the right way.

I expect that there may be some folks that’ll show up and tell you that one way, or another, is the only right way. Or that one way, or another, is completely wrong. I am certain that there are absolute right or wrong techniques with some instruments.

The mechanics of the bass kind of dictate how you’ll play in any given situation. If you need a lighter and more delicate sound, your fingers will have to be lighter and more delicate. More speed/faster will require less force.

Whatever feels right and give you the sound you want is the right way.

The thing is, my fingertips are kind of small, and the strings are too wide for me to fret with my fingertips. I do play cleanly using the pads, though.

You might want to try a lighter gauge string. That being said, I’ll cast another vote for playing however you are comfortable. What kind of material are you playing? Your pads will be fine for playing some styles, while it will make life more difficult for others.

I use both, depending on what I am trying to do. If I am sitting on a bunch of quarter notes for an hour, then I will use my “pads”. If I am making an intricate run of some sorts, then I am going to need those fingertips to get me around the neck.

If you keep playing, you will develop both out of neccessity.

Mostly the tips here, sometimes the left side of the finger if I’m playing slow (and have my fingers running parallel to the string), and then sometimes the pads when I’m fingering picking with my thumb.

DarkSideoftheFloyd, perhaps you should clarify whether you’re talking about your fretting hand or your plucking hand.

For me:

Plucking: tips

Fretting: I use the tips or or the pads, depending on what I’m playing. I can’t really define the situations where I use one or the other.

Really, though, there’s no really “wrong” way. Using your fingertips allows cleaner articulation of notes, and makes some techniques, like hammer-ons and pull-offs easier. Using your fingerpads is perhaps better when playing rapid passages - certainly you don’t need to lift your fingers as high when changing notes, and that helps speed things up a bit.

Looking at the callouses on my left fingers, I can see that the callouses on my index and middle fingers are confined mostly to the tips, while the callouses on my ring and pinky fingers cover the tips and part of the pads.

If I look at my left hand, palm up, the callouses from playing bass are roughly from where the pad of the finger begins to roll over to the figertip, to about halfway across the fingertip. If the pad of the finger were a clock face, they’d be at about 1:30 or 2:00 in most cases – in other words, they’re off to the right of the centerline of the finger. I have pretty small hands, and in a lot of cases reaching from (say) the first fret with my index finger to the fourth fret with my little finger is nearly impossible without moving my hand somewhat, so I have no idea whether I’m typical or not.