# 1-2-4?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Grayson C., Jul 21, 2009.

1. ### Grayson C.

Dec 21, 2008
I tried asking this on that thread back a whle ago that discussed the merits of 1 -2 -4 against one finger per fret, but I never got a satisfactory answer because I don't think man people saw my question.

What exactly is 1 -2 -4? Can I see somne slowly doing it? A video would be helpful if possible.

2. ### mebusdriver

Jun 11, 2001
USA, Warner Robins GA
I use 1-2-4. Adam Nitti taught me that way. It's what he uses, most of the time. I still use the third finger. Only in certain passages though.

3. ### Grayson C.

Dec 21, 2008
I mean I totally don't understand the system at all, but don't you need 4 fingers in order to play a minor scale efficiently? I use 1 3 4, 1 3 4, 1 3 to play a minor scale. If youdon't use the three, how does one play this effectively? (I'm sure it's possible, I'd just like to hear HOW it's done)

4. ### JTEGold Supporting Member

Mar 12, 2008
Central Illinois, USA
Generally 1 2 4 means you use the pinky instead of the ring finger. Some people use the two fingers (3 and 4) together for more strength. My personal feeling is that it's not that important on electric bass where the notes are closer together (the primary reason 1 2 4 is taught for double bass is that the longer scale length puts the notes far enough apart that it can hurt your hand to play say Bb on the A string with your first finger, and then G# on the E string with your pinky all by itself.

jte

5. ### Grayson C.

Dec 21, 2008
Ok, so you can only cover 3 frets with your fingers? What do you do when you need to move to the fourth fret?

6. ### TheBasicBassist

Jan 8, 2009
Newark, DE
just wanted to say, i admire your wealth of knowledge it's truly inspiring.

-- john

7. ### Grayson C.

Dec 21, 2008
Ditto actually. JTE, you've heled me on just about all of my questions and always had the right answer. Thank you!

8. ### timscarey

Jul 22, 2009
I would think of 1-2-4 as a way to finger 2 whole steps in a row on one string I always call it "stretch 2" as you strech your 2nd finger a whole step.

9. ### Hookus

Oct 2, 2005
Austin, TX
On an electric bass, you should be able to reach the fourth fret by shifting the fingers without moving your thumb.

I have large hands, and prefer one finger per fret. I don't think there is a best way, just a best way for you. Some basic principles still apply, for example, I would recommend to everyone that they need to get used to playing in position, i.e. not moving your hand up and down the neck, but, rather, move it up and down the strings, thus creating only like a half dozen spots your thumb will ever rest.

But, whether you use one finger per, or 1-2-3, or 1-2-4, well, whatever suits your hand, really.

10. ### Jordan MInactive

May 10, 2009
1-2-4 Is the typical fingering pattern used in double bass (unless you follow Billé). It tends to be simpler for some converts, not changing the style a whole lot...

11. ### Grayson C.

Dec 21, 2008

Yes get this, but WHICH finger? I understand that the hand i large enough, but if the pinky is already playing the THIRD fret, whatplays the foruth? Does the pinky play TWO noteswhile the index and middle play 1 each?

Just in case I'm not clear - playing a minor scale, the first note is played with the first finger, the 2nd note is played with the third finger, and the third note is played with the 4th finger (in general). Well, when playing 1 2 4, the first note would be played by the first finger, the second by the fourth, but then what would the third note be played by?

12. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
Strictly speaking, yes.

I think a common misunderstanding about 1-2-4 is the idea that you're stuck with the fret under your finger.The fact is that my hand can move enough to reach that 4th fret with my pinky (of course supported by 3 other fingers) when ever it's needed. A side effect of this is that you can't describe a scale pattern too accurately by simply saying which finger plays which note. If I were to be totalitarian about my 1-2-4 fingering a minor scale would be played 1-4-4 /1-4-4 /1-4
with the 4th finger (again, actually all 4 fingers down for support) doing double duty on the 2nd/min3rd,and 5th/min6th.

In reality I tend to use 1-2-4 when playing below the 5th fret, but on an electric bass guitar I will usually finger a minor scale in more like 1-2-3-4 anyway. But honestly, when playing i am only thinking about 2 things:
What NOTE am I playing?
Is my left hand comfortable?
I could care less what finger it takes.

being a monster in a four fret box may have its uses, but efficiency of motion is only one ingredient of technique, You could finger your notes in any number of "wrong" ways and not hurt the music. Just Google Django Rhienhart if you don't believe me.

13. ### Erick Lam

You do the same thing you do when you're covering 4 frets and need to get to a fifth fret and move your hand. Music isn't scales. You rarely have to cover 4 frets all the time so there's no point keeping it stretched. It's not one or the other, it's both at the same time, or more accuratly, switching between both seamlessly.

14. ### Grayson C.

Dec 21, 2008
Music may not be scales, but forgive me if I find myself needing all 5 frets frequently.

I'm not criticising the system, I'd like to know how it works. I come from a solely OFPF background and I felt the need to broaden my knowledege, that's why I asked.

15. ### DogbertdayCommercial User

Jul 10, 2007
SE Wisconsin
Blaine Music LLC
On DB, I would finger a minor scale like so (using 1-2-4)
R--1
2--2
3--4
4--1
5--2
6--4
7--1
R--4

Or depending on the scale I would play an F# natural minor scale like this

F#--1
G#--4
A---0
B---1
C#-4
D---0
E---1
F#--4

Personally I don't use either fingering system exclusively on BG. I probably use 1-2-4 more in the low register unless I'm sight reading and I need to keep my reaction time down. It's all a matter of what passage I'm paying at that moment/beat/where I'm going

16. ### Happynoj

Dec 5, 2006
UK
I like turtles.
I'm sure this is true for some people, but for many people, that stretch is simply not possible - certainly not in my case.

I am primarily a double bass player, who took up bass guitar as a second instrument. As such, I just moved my fingering system straight over from the upright, so I just use the '1-2-4' system. However, even if I was not a double bassist first, I might well have ended up using this system as I have relatively small hands and I can't do the '1-finger 1-fret' thing below the 5th fret, and even above the 5th it's uncomfortable.

As far as a harmonic minor scale goes, my fingering pattern would be this: 1-2-4-1-2-4-1-2

Start one the one, then move up a fret to do the 2 and 4, then up a string and back a fret for the 1 again, then up a fret for the 2 and 4, then straight across for 1 and 2. Back down the same way.

17. ### JimmyMSupporting Member

Apr 11, 2005
Apopka, FL
Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
That's really odd, because I do the 1-finger 1-fret thing, and sometimes I even do a 5 fret reach, and I have the smallest hands of any male I've ever met (and no, the myth isn't true, ladies ). Between proper positioning and pivoting slightly with your thumb, I believe anyone can do it.

18. ### Happynoj

Dec 5, 2006
UK
I like turtles.
Can you stretch from the first fret to the 5th fret? Because I just tried and there is no way that I can do it, no matter what position my hand/wrist/arm/anything is in.

19. ### PilgrimSupporting Member

I started on upright bass in the 60's, and at that time we definitely learned to use all 4 fingers. I still use all 4 when needed, although I admit that I get lazy and use 1-2-4 much of the time. 1-2-3-4 never hurt me on the upright, so it darn sure won't hurt me on the electric bass. After playing upright, it's possible to span all four of the bottom frets with one hand, and that provides one finger per fret.

Perhaps the upright teaching technique has changed and 1-2-4 is common now. I grant that pressing the string with the 3rd finger on an upright requires a fair amount of hand strength.

The average hand cannot stretch enough to span from frets 1 to 5, but it can span frets 2 to 5 - just move up one fret.

20. ### JimmyMSupporting Member

Apr 11, 2005
Apopka, FL
Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
I can't hold it a long time, but I can do a 5-fret span in 1st position. When I use it while I play, I will often pivot just a tad with my thumb to keep it from being stressed, but my hand can make the reach no problem.