Applying safe left hand technique IRL

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Oleg BassPlayer, Aug 19, 2017.

  1. Oleg BassPlayer

    Oleg BassPlayer

    Feb 4, 2016
    Hi everybody!
    Recently I've run across a video by Adam Neely about left hand technique:

    and realized I've been playing the bass wrong! So I started to learn again. And here I encountered an issue.

    When the hand is relaxed, it's quite natural to keep the left hand the way Adam describes:
    IMG_20170819_171612.jpg IMG_20170819_172957.jpg
    (I used a mirror to take photos, actually I'm right-handed).

    But when I have to stretch and strain the hand, I can't keep the arm straight and get this uncomfortable bend:

    Should it be this way and if not, what am I doing wrong? Is it possible to follow one finger per fret principle without straining the hand as much as I do and getting the hand bowed at wrist?
  2. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    From the position of your arm relative to the neck it looks (to me) like you might have your bass slung too low. Try shortening the strap and see if things improve for you. Ideally you want the neck angle to be approximately 45 degrees from horizontal, and your plucking/picking hand to fall naturally midway between the bottom of the neck and the bridge. At least for starters. Then adjust from there to whatever feels most comfortable for your own physique.

    My hands are very average and neither larger or stronger than usual. I tend to play one note per finger most times, but I will switch to 1-2-4 fingering if I start feeling hand fatigue - or I'm in the first two positions on my 35" scale bass. But that comes naturally to me since I cut my bass teeth playing upright originally. That said, it's not hard to learn the Simandl upright bass fingering techniques. And most bass players probably should learn them even if all they ever plan on playing is the bass guitar. Knowledge is power.

    One other point. You should seriously consider taking at least a few one on one lessons with an actual real live human bass instructor. A good instructor can spot things you're doing wrong and help you correct them before they cause serious injury. Bass players who are completely self taught all tend to develop bad habits that they're often completely unaware of which can be difficult to correct. So do yourself a big favor and try to take a few lessons from someone sometime. Even seasoned and established pros take lessons from time to time. So take a tip from them and take some lessons yourself.

    Luck! :thumbsup:
    Oleg BassPlayer likes this.
  3. I'd just slide a little. Long stretches and I do not do well, so I get there the best way I can and a little slide seems to work for me.

    We are not all the same. My hands are not like yours. IMO - The visual aids are guidelines of how to do it, if you can. If there is pain, or you can just not do it figure another way - works in my book..,

    BTW that is a good video. Do as much of it as you can.
    eJake likes this.
  4. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Never stretch and strain. If you need to play one finger per fret in the lower positions keep the hand in a relaxed position and let it move around a bit to achieve that.
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  5. Oleg BassPlayer

    Oleg BassPlayer

    Feb 4, 2016
    But I can't figure out how I should keep my thump. Adam says it should be directed towards the neck head to keep the hand relaxed. At the same time, Scrott Devine in one of his videos says the oposite: thump must be somewhere between index and middle finger to be able to move fingers independently:
    (can't insert a link to the respective section, it is exactly at 5:00)

    So what is the right way?
  6. The one that feels right for you. With out a teacher being knee to knee with you, seeing what you do and then giving you instant feedback, you are just going to have to see what Scott and the other guys say and then make up your own mind as to what is best for you. I know right now you have no idea what is best for you, so ask away we will try and get you on the right track.

    Thumb for me is on the back side of the neck, I know you want to know where on the back side, in the middle as best as I can keep it. I probably go with it more toward the index finger. Have not given that a lot of thought lately.

    Go get Bass Guitar for Dummies. This book goes into detail with great pictures of how to hold the beast, how to sit, how to stand, how to make noise and how to mute some of the noise. It is a really good get started book. If you go paper, and I do recommend that over the electronic down load version - get the spiral bound version or take it to a print shop and have them put in a spiral back so it will lay flat on your music stand.

    Get Dummies or get with a teacher for four lessons - about $100 to $200 depending on your area. It'll save you a lot of time, and get you started.

    If that is out of the picture, ask here the guys will help.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
    Oleg BassPlayer likes this.
  7. Oleg BassPlayer

    Oleg BassPlayer

    Feb 4, 2016
    I've just found these pictures in an article on positioning, is the man's positioning good enough to use the pics as a reference? That wrist bend - is it acceptable? (I know, it's been asked here 100500 times, I'm sorry)
    left_hand_form_rear_sm_med.jpeg left_hand_form_sm_med.jpeg seated_form_sm_med.jpeg
  8. Yes the only trouble I see is the finger stretch. You want your wrist as normal as you can get it. If it's bent out of shape it's going to hurt. There is no hurt in bass, if so stop doing whatever is causing the pain.

    One thing that kinda pulls everything into the way it should be is to fret the strings more with the pad of your finger, instead of using the finger tip. Guitar guys use their finger tips because they strum several strings all at once. The tip keeps all the strings ringing true.

    We do not strum -- so try using the pad. That picture looks like he is using the pad of his fingers and that keeps his wrist in a natural position.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
  9. Ant Illington

    Ant Illington I'm Anthony but I'm only illin' Inactive

    Read up thoroughly on warming up and stretching your hands before, during and after to prevent injury. Also practice and get good at hand shifting so you can minimize the need to stretch between 4 frets. The ability to shift will also help you to open up your note choices and make you a more interesting player.
  10. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    Just not sure why I've seen so many pictures of players doing this... you don't have to hold more than one finger on each fret. As is... you only need to use 1 finger per note. Not hold all 4 fingers and and only play one note.
    Spin Doctor likes this.
  11. callofcthulhu


    Oct 16, 2012
    shag it.

    It never occurred to me to use my thumb to fret on the low B string until I read a thread on here about how bad it is for you. So of course I sat down and tried it out. Now it's one of my favorite techniques.

    When in doubt, stick your elbow out further from your body. Helps a lot with keeping your wrist straight.
  12. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006

    If your fingers are a little weak, then holding down the other fingers above the fretted note can make things easier for the fretting finger.

    There's also a school of thought that feels you shouldn't be moving any finger unless you actually have to. Like many things in the bass world, sometimes that can be a good technique. And other times less of one. But you certainly don't want to be constantly pumping your fingers up and down unnecessarily when you're playing.

    Your fingers don't just exclusively play notes on bass however…

    There's also those absolutely essential muting techniques every good bass player will need to master.

    Muting can be accomplished in a variety of ways, and you'll find yourself using a combination of several of them eventually. One is the "left hand muting" technique. For that you will be using more than one finger on the same string.

    So multiple fingers down on a string have a variety of uses. And with experience, if what they provide is useful for a particular technique, you'll soon find yourself adopting it.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    There's going to be some small amount of wrist bend when playing in the lower neck positions. Unless it's causing discomfort or strain, it's nothing to worry about. Keeping your fretting hand sholder dropped (don't hunch your shoulder) and the bass angled very slightly out from your collar bone is a good starting posture to adopt.
  14. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    I agree. However, one does not have to be "fretting" more than one note as what appears in OPs pictures.
  15. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I know it's not the thing you were asking about, but I implore you to not imitate this person's right hand technique. It's poison for your hands (numbness, reduced blood flow?) and setting you up for problems with your tendons later on, and still this 90 degree wrist bend is so common (dropped elbow, forearm resting on edge of body) even among players that should know better. I can't imagine why!
    Lobster11, Oleg BassPlayer and Inara like this.
  16. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Point taken. However, it's hard to make a univesal call on that. You could have the lower finger poised for a pull-off note for instance.

    Like so many things in music, it all depends. Which is wgy having a teacher is so valuable. They can explain why they're doing something in each separate situation. The reasons for doing something can vary.
  17. franklindayala


    Feb 8, 2015
    I think this video could also be included here.

    Edit: I think it compliments with the OP
    Jonathan Eliot, Nashrakh and BZadlo like this.
  18. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    I'm not hung up on that. It's a photo. So unless I'm there, I can't tell if he's actually fretting the notes or just resting his fingers on them. If he is pressing down with all four fingers that's fine by me too. It doesn't cause any issues regardless of whether it's necessary or not, so I'm not at all concerned about it.
  19. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It looks to me like one cause of your strain is that your fretting fingers are deeply curved and you are playing with your fingertips as if, like a guitarist playing chords, you are trying to make sure your fingers don't touch any of the other strings they are reaching over. This is not only unnecessary on bass but undesirable: You actually want one or more of your fretting-hand fingers to lay across the higher (pitched) strings that aren't being fretted in order to mute them. Look at Adam Neely's left-hand fingers: They lie almost flat against the strings, and he's fretting with the pads of the fingers more than the fingertips. Doing this will help to straighten out your wrist and relax your entire hand, as well as improve your muting of unplayed strings.
    Aaron Mc likes this.
  20. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    It looks to me like this player has tension in his thumb and wrist. I think you can do better choosing a role model for safe, relaxed technique. :)
    Nashrakh likes this.