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1st position, 2nd position etc

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Lullaby, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. Lullaby


    Jan 24, 2014
    Hi everyone,

    I'm using the Bass Method books to teach myself at the moment which i'm really enjoying.

    One problem i have though is that that unless the exercises indicate which finger position i should be using - 1st, 2nd or 3rd on the fret - i'm completely clueless.

    I've found that i end up using any combination of fingers that feel comfortable. Are there any hard and fast rules with this?
  2. dcb504


    Jul 27, 2013
    I'm seeking clarification on this as well.
  3. Mikhail1


    Apr 8, 2008
    Ok, I'll take a swing at this. Before I do so. let me state that all my formal musical training was in wind instruments and bass and guitar were all self taught so... I have always been told that first position was utilizing notes in the first four to five frets and uses a lot of open notes, i.e. strings that are not fretted. Second position utilizes notes in the upper frets and does not uses any open strings. In other words, a first position low A would be the open A sting. In second position, it would be the E string fretted at the fifth fret. I've heard that some teachers stress the second position as it is usually easier to control note duration. Again that's my take on it and I may be completely wrong so use at your own discretion!
  4. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    I am not clear on your question, is it asking which finger is numbered what? or as Mikhail answered, are you referring to hand 'position' ??

    if its fingers, depends if it is teaching 'one finger per fret method (4 fingers), or if it is teaching pointer, middle, and ring/pinkie together (3 fingers), etc ... IF you are capable, it is beneficial to use as much of an open hand as possible, but that will also depend on 'where' you are on the fretboard ... in the first (hand) position as Mikhail describes, many will move the hand to cover the first four frets, but after that they can use 'one finger per fret' ... if that is your question, pointer is #1, middle is #2, ring is #3, pinky is #4 ... if you have more fingers than that, just keep adding #'s .. ;)

    ... often times I will use hand position on the neck in my cheat notes, and as Mikhail I also assign the first four frets the 1st position, next four 2nd position, next four 3rd, and 12th fret + is the 4th position ... no idea if technically correct, but works for me and that is also what I show those that I help ...

    I may not have answered any of your question, but hopefully it helps ... BTW, welcome to TB .. ;)
  5. f.c.geil


    May 12, 2011
    "Position" indicates the fret the pointer finger is on. Thus, third position is with the pointer on the "G" of the "E" string.
  6. Lullaby


    Jan 24, 2014
    Thanks for the response so far guys. Yep, to be clear, i meant hand position. I'm using the 1,2,4 finger position but i'm finding that with hand position, i'm so far using any combination of the above.

    As mentioned, moving your hand to cover the first four frets makes sense.
  7. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    Hmmm I don't like talking of "first position" "second position" and all that stuff as I feel it creates a rigid, "box" sort of thinking for the left hand. There are a few main positions that tend to be favoured for certain keys but most music is dynamic in such a way that your hand might need to be constantly on the move, so I like to think of it as one big continuous thing if that makes sense.

    However what I do encourage is learning your scales in different fingerings, so for example you could play a C major and D minor without moving your hand by starting the C major with your middle finger and then D with your pinky. I find this far more beneficial than thinking in "positions" in my playing - if I know all my different fingering options then the "position" is easy to find, or I can pick my own position depending on the fingering choices.

    I guess that isn't really a cut & dry answer but the tl;dr version is if you learn your entire fretboard along with all the different ways to play your scales then fingering choices become intuitive
  8. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    no hard fast rules dawg. however, there r fingerings that make things a little easier. -d
  9. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    +1. There are several position patterns and then several ways of using them. Here is a cut and paste of what I use, help yourself to whatever you think you can use. If I would be playing from standard notation I would gather my notes from 1st position (the first 4 frets), however, if I'll be playing from lead sheet or fake chord and composing my bass line myself I use one of the other positions. Read on.....

    Have fun.
  10. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    From what I've read on the upright bass forums, the idea of strict numbering of positions has kinda fallen by the wayside, perhaps in part because it wasn't ever standardized in the first place.

    A note with a fingering number over it is more useful than trying to number the positions, in my view.
  11. Short answer : position usually pertains to the fret where your index or pointing finger is located; the start of any scale;

    Say play the F on the first position pertains to the 1st fret of the E string using your index finger;
  12. White Beard

    White Beard

    Feb 12, 2013
    Every time I've heard anyone, myself included, use the term "position" when describing left hand fingering on a bass guitar, it has been the same as double bass positions.

    This is the first time I've ever heard of position being the same as the fret number that your index finger is on.

    I'm not judging or telling anyone that they're wrong, but I would like to know where you learned this; or better, if you can point me in the direction of a .edu website or a published book that describes this method. I'm a little curious if this is used with the one finger per fret way of playing bass.
  13. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
  14. f.c.geil


    May 12, 2011
    IIRC, the entire Hal Leonard collection (primarily written by Ed Friedland) teaches the pointer finger and fret determines the position name.
  15. White Beard

    White Beard

    Feb 12, 2013
    Is it one finger per fret?
  16. f.c.geil


    May 12, 2011
    Not always. They show both.
  17. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    I thought it was parallel to violin playing (fretless) and upright bass (fretless, also), whereas first position is with the index finger 'fretting' first 'fret' from nut, second position with index 'fretting' second 'fret', etc.
    But not everyone drives on the same side of the road even tho the vehicles and roads look similar,
    some instruments have the E on the opposite side of the fingerboard,
    and some have 'fourths/fifths' reversed from one side to the other.
    When there are no standards (sometimes even when there are) confusion results.
  18. dcb504


    Jul 27, 2013
    Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. Very comprehensive and concise
  19. fakeneckplate'65

    fakeneckplate'65 Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2014
    Columbus, OH
    I recently bought an electric bass book called "Serious Electric Bass" by Joel di Bartolo. It has an entire chapter dedicated to positions. It seems that " positions " correspond with the degree of each scale, with the half steps counting as one position. There's 7-1, 2, 3-4, 5, & 6. The 7-1 & 3-4 position are only separated by a half step or one fret for a total of 5 positions.

    I believe that playing an F major scale starting with the low string would equal a 7-1 position, were as starting on the low E in the Key of A would equal the 5 position.

    I took about 3 guitar lessons a couple of years ago where the instructor referred to positions. When I later asked him about it, it seemed a bit hazy on his part.