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124 fingering hurting my fretting hand...need advice

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Cteam, Aug 2, 2017.


  1. Cteam

    Cteam

    Jun 17, 2012
    My current technique to is use 1234 fingering on frets higher than 7, and 124 on lower frets; this is common from what I read. That worked great for many years, but I wasn't playing that much. Now that I'm back in a band (and older), the 124 technique is starting to hurt my hand. From a technical aspect, it's great. You can maintain perpendicular fingers down the neck and not have large finger spacing. From a practical standpoint, most of the music I play (classic rock and blues), uses the index and ring finger the majority of the time. After about 3 hours of rehearsing or a gig, my pinky and hand tendons start to hurt. Question; Should I be using the ring finger to help the pinky? I've already gone to lighter strings.
     
  2. jasonmatthews

    jasonmatthews

    Jul 10, 2016
    Atlanta, GA
    I didn't understand what any of this meant until I played a bit just now and watched what my fingers do.

    Use whatever fingers are comfortable for you. I use my first finger and pinky for a three-fret spread all the way up the neck if that's what feels fine at the time. For a five-fret spread (like 12-14-16 or something) I'll use 1-2-4 for those, which is the technically correct way.

    If you're hurting yourself it's best to adjust before it gets any worse!
     
  3. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    How hard are you pressing the strings down? Even with light gauges we can still be using too much strength.

    I generally do that along with using the 2nd and 1st fingers as well.
     
  4. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    It takes time for your hand tendons to stretch out and loosen up.
     
    MrLenny1 likes this.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    First of all, please feel free to use your 1st and 3rd fingers to play intervals like major 2nds, perfect 5ths, and octaves. It is a perfectly acceptable and acknowledged technique to do so. :)

    I find that the key to fretting hand mastery, for me, was to stop thinking about my fingers. When I am fretting a note with my 4th finger, I don't just move that one finger. You ask, "should I use my ring finger to help the pinky?" In my opinion, the answer is yes, but don't stop at just the ring finger: use all of your fingers, your thumb, your wrist, your arm, your elbow, your shoulder, and even the "core" muscles of your torso! When I am playing a pattern like root-5th-octave, my fingers barely move at all in relation to each other; I use my arm to move my entire relaxed hand.

    Imagine that you are sliding open a kitchen or dresser drawer. Do you primarily use the strength of curling your fingers to open the drawer? Of course not! Rather, you lightly grip the handle with your fingers, and then use the large muscles of your arm, shoulder, and core to pull the drawer toward you. Same on the bass: You can keep your fingers loose and relaxed, and use your large, strong muscles to press the string to the fret. :)

    The usual disclaimers apply: please make sure your bass is properly set up (especially the nut height, which makes a big difference toward left hand fatigue), you are using a comfortable set of strings, your amp is turned up plenty loud, and the bass hangs at a comfortable height and playing position so you can play with good posture.

    (edit) Here is my favorite 1-2-4 player, Paul Jackson. Notice the range of motion of his arm and elbow vs. the economy of motion in his fingers. Notice also that when he deviates from 1-2-4 and incorporates the 3rd finger, his hand movements look wilder and less controlled. I love this instructional video for the relaxation, comfort level, and mastery of both musicians.

     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2017
    mngnt likes this.
  6. HandsFree

    HandsFree

    Dec 23, 2015
    Whether you use 124 or ofpf, the idea is that when you fret with any finger, the lower fingers are also on the string.
    So if you fret with 4, 1,2 and 3 should be down as well.

    To be honest, I don't always do this myself, but if your fingers are hurting you probably should.
     
    tshapiro likes this.
  7. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Oh, heck yeah. The ring and pinky should be used as single component. Should be referred to as 1-2-3/4. This will also enhance the ability to quickly transition to 1-2-3-4 when the need arises. Everything else looks good. Do become more aware of hand shift & pivot for economy of motion.

    Riis
     
  8. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Shift, don't stretch.

    Use whatever finger gets the job done. Don't get buried in some dogma "technique".
     
  9. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Strongly disagree. If you're "out of shape" you might feel fatigue, but you should never feel pain. Pain means you are doing something harmful, and you need to stop before you seriously injure yourself.

    The symptoms you described are exactly what results from fretting (or plucking) with a severely bent wrist. Your description of "maintaining perpendicular fingers down the neck" makes me even more sure that's the problem: In order to do that, I'll bet your wrist is severely bent whenever you are fretting down near the neck (which is when you are using 1-2-4), but it straightens out as you go further up the neck. The problem is the bent wrist and has nothing to do with using 1-2-4. (In fact, it would probably be even worse if you tried to maintain 1234 fingering on the lower frets.)

    Try this: Hold your arm and hand out with your wrist straight, as if pointing to something, and wiggle your index and ring fingers. Now, with your arm in the same position, bend your wrist as far as you can and wiggle your fingers again. You'll be able to feel just how much more difficult it is to move your fingers with a bent wrist, and you'll feel pain in exactly the same places you are feeling it now when you play.
     
    KevH, Mushroo and Sylenthunter like this.
  10. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Not saying this is the thing to do, however, I learned the four fret four finger method like a lot of us did, but, through the years, I now let the fingers decide which one gets whatever is needed. I do not have a set pattern that I stick with, those fingers are on their own and which ever one can get there is fine with me. Yes, I slide if needed.

    I now tend to use the index, middle and little finger - and slide when needed. But, the ring finger does get in there when needed.

    My point; be a little more forgiving about a set pattern.

    And yes, if it hurts stop doing it. This comes from a guy that played rhythm guitar in pain too long and had to have surgery to fix the damage. My problem was the way I strummed. CT was coming on the fretting hand, but, went away when I stopped playing rhythm guitar. The way I fret on the bass does not cause any pain.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
  11. Inara

    Inara Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    Agreed, definitely use 3&4 as a unit. Also, an exercise a teacher once gave me to show me how lightly we need to press with our fretting hands: try playing slowly without your thumb anchored on the back of the neck, and see how lightly you can fret while still cleanly producing the notes. Compare that to how much finger pressure you normally use. I found that I was using far more pressure than I needed. Best wishes!
     
  12. viper4000

    viper4000

    Aug 17, 2010
    Charlotte
    When I use the 124 technique, my ring finger is always moving with the pinky. Cannot remember the anatomy side of this, and can't look it up now, but I remember seeing somewhere that these two fingers share a lot of the mechanics running up through the forearm. They want to work together.

    Merely from what you state, I am in agreement with @Lobster11. May very well be a bent wrist issue.

    Also agree with @Inara, a light touch on both plucking hand and fretting is best. I learned a similar method here on TB, cannot remember who wrote it, but essentially fret with such a light touch that you get fret rattle. Then put an ever-so-slightly amount more pressure, you'll get less rattle. Repeat until you can pluck a clean note. This is your baseline fret hand pressure. I used this to retool my guitar barre chords, and it helped a lot.

    And don't bend your wrist on either hand if you can help it.
     
    Joe Ty and Inara like this.
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    +1 w @Inara and @viper4000.

    Pay close attention to your touch pressure. You will be surprised how little pressure you need to use on a properly set up bass. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was first starting out was "Play with a light touch. You don't ever need to fight the instrument. If it hurts, you either need:(a) a better setup, (b) a different bass - or (c) you're doing it wrong."
     
  14. Fingering is an ... art ...drooldrooldrool
     
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  15. bherman

    bherman Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Grand Junction, CO
    124 fingering derives from Simandl upright (double bass) technique; where the ring finger and pinky are used together. It definitely helps with form and should help reduce fatigue (in my opinion). I use it all the time on upright, and by default in the lower register on electric.

    I do find as I get older (62 now) that a bit of warmup is a good thing - 5/10 minutes of scales/arpeggios loosens me up before a gig.
     
  16. jjmuckluckjr

    jjmuckluckjr

    Mar 24, 2015
    Lotta good replies, Cteam. But I think we're skipping over the 3 hour part. Unless you're playing with a Phish/Greatful Dead/Springsteen cover band, 3 hours are starting to push the outer limits of both band and audience. And if it's practice, take a break. Forget about those stories about playing till your fingers bleed. It's not building calluses, but scar tissue. When I started I would stuff tennis balls between the fingers of my left hand to stretch them. But I was 13 years old and 5'4". Who knew I'd be 6'? I don't think there's any damage (even though my left hand spread is 4" wider than my right).:woot:
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
  17. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    I agree. Ring and pinky are good buddies.

    I first learned on upright, so the ring and pinky fingers were always one unit. I just assumed that's what everyone meant by 1-2-4 in an electric bass context.
     
  18. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Do anything and everything you need to do in order to avoid pain and overuse injuries. It doesn't matter how it looks or whether anyone else considers it to be correct technique.

    In some positions low on the neck I often end up leading with my middle finger, rather than my index, because it is a more comfortable and lower-tension position *for me.*
     
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  19. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    yes, a thousand times.
    so much easier to hold the string down with shoulder muscles than finger muscles.

    probably the biggest misconception about 124 and 1234 fingering is that your palm stays fixed and each finger stays in its fret. That's a recipe for pain.

    whichever finger is being used 1 2 or 4 is just the tip of a whole system of muscles that you are fully allowed to move around in support.

    playing with the pinky? go ahead and plop down all four fingers on the string.
    can't make the stretch? then don't!
    go ahead and slide your palm up, 'mitten' your fingers together right behind your pinky.
    fingers getting fatigued?
    pull against the fret board from your shoulder and torso, use the finger muscles only for shape.

    OP should check out my choices for the holy trinity of safe technique videos
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
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  20. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Thanks for the link. The first of these vids specifically addresses what I think is probably the issue here (as per my previous post): i.e., avoiding a severely bent wrist on your fretting hand.