Are there any fretting hand excersises that can effectively build up my finger strength

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Sean775, Dec 28, 2017.

  1. Sean775


    Mar 19, 2015
    New Jersey, USA
    I have thinner than average fingers for a man, which is great for guitar and piano, but not so much for bass. I always just pushed myself past discomfort on the bass, but I figured it would be best to try to find some effective strengthening excercices. Besides walking up and down the neck on each string with every finger and using one of those Planet Waves grip/squeeze excercise things, does anyone know some other techniques to try?
  2. James Collins

    James Collins Guest

    Mar 25, 2017
    I think most of the best exercises will walk up the neck in some fashion, but play different patterns or with different techniques.

    For the exercise, keep each finger fretted as you fret the next note.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1

    1, 4, 3, 4, 2, 4, 3, 4

    Those are the most common I practice.

    I feel it a whole lot more when I do my ligado (hammer on and pull off) practice. The one I use is like this:

    1-3, 1-3, 2-4, 2-4

    3-1, 3-1, 4-2, 4-2

    Just make sure with the descending ligado (pull off) you are basically plucking the string with your left hand and not just lifting off.

    It should make your hand tied to go up the neck like that. If it doesn't, your hand is strong enough.
    Bassbeater likes this.
  3. James Collins

    James Collins Guest

    Mar 25, 2017
    Also, I would point out, no one has muscles in their fingers. Strength comes from your palms and forearms. So don't worry about your skinny fingers.
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  4. ba55i5t


    May 24, 2006
    You need to get your bass set up properly if you're going beyond comfort and have guitar and piano experience.
  5. Sean775


    Mar 19, 2015
    New Jersey, USA
    It is set up; in fact I went to a very good tech today and he told me it was set up fully and the action is considered very low. Maybe I exaggerated when I said I was uncomfortable, but I feel like there certainly could be improvements in comfort. He's just making some minor saddle adjustments and putting in a better nut, so I'm hoping that might help a little.
  6. Wfrance3

    Wfrance3 Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    for my 2 cents, don't get one of those spring deals that you squeeze. I think (and stress the I) that they could do some good, but have never owned one and it really seems that working with your actual bass is where it's at... Get it set up, if it isn't. Low action is much easier on you to play. I like mine just a little above where the string would buzz against the frets if i really dug in.
    HolmeBass likes this.
  7. gebass6

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

    How long have you been playing bass?
    The discomfort will go away when you build endurance.
    Schlyder likes this.
  8. We see this post quite often. Our fingers are strong enough like they are to play bass. It's the other stuff you need to work on.

    If you fret the string with the pad of your finger, not the tip, this may pull everything into line and eliminate some of the pain/discomfort. Using the pad lets the wrist hang naturally, thus eliminating some of the pain that develops. Plus using the pad the rest of the fretting finger tend to mute the lower strings and helps with fret buzz, etc.

    I learned the four finger four fret box when I played 6 string guitar. I brought this over to the bass. Now days I still start with the four finger four fret, however I now use the pad of my finger to fret the string and I let the fingers decide which one gets the note, i.e. I no longer hold my fingers to certain strings or frets. Yes I do slide my index more than normal on getting the root.

    Not saying this is the correct way, just something to think about.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2017
    LeftyD likes this.
  9. make sure bass is set up good, and then just play. The strength comes from putting in the hours. Work on songs, and dexterity exercises. Forget the hand squeezer thingy crap. those won't work your playing muscles, and may actually do you harm in the long run.
    Just play a lot, and strength will come in time.
    gebass6 likes this.
  10. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Just play the bass.
  11. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006

    OP, you have enough strength in the fingers to fret a note cleanly. This has been with you from a very young age. What IS required is agility and achieved by regular playing. No need (IMO) to push past discomfort. Practice for small amounts of time (up to an hour at a time...then take a break), but do it regularly.
  12. James Collins

    James Collins Guest

    Mar 25, 2017
    While I agree that playing is the most important part, there are plenty of techniques that require intrinsic hand strength and improve finger independence. Conscientiously practicing isolated vibrato, slur, double slap, etc can be important to make it easier to perform those specific tasks. And to agree with what everyone has said, these activities require ounces of strength, not pounds.
  13. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    IMO: there is no easy way! practice, practice, practice. and couple that with patience, patience, patience. when you've learned to be patient; practice some more!

    good luck! :thumbsup:
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  14. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Playing, with proper technique, will build strength. I always run through some scales to warm up, and make sure I am using all fingers to fret. I also keep a squeeze ball in the car, so when I am sitting (not actively driving), I can do something, especially when I am not playing as much.
  15. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    One thing to do, and apologies if you've already done something like this, is to make sure you truly realize how little finger pressure is required to fret a note on a well-set-up bass. My first teacher had me practice playing without my left thumb touching the back of the neck. I pretty much instantly realized that I was squeezing way harder then was necessary. I still do this exercise every now and then if I catch myself squeezing too hard.
    HolmeBass likes this.
  16. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Agreed -- with emphasis on "proper technique." If you're experiencing fatigue and/or discomfort when playing bass, it might be worth taking a close look at your basic left- and right-hand technique, starting with how you position the bass, the position and angle of your fretting-hand thumb behind the neck, and so forth. For example, nothing will sap your energy and dexterity, and increase the risk of injury, more than plucking and/or fretting with severely bent wrists.
  17. devnulljp

    devnulljp Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    Spider exercises
    And dump the planet waves thing -- get a squash ball instead. Carry it in your pocket and use it like a fidget spinner. Strengthens your hands without giving you RSI.
    Bassbeater likes this.
  18. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    People keep mentioning ...strength... when IMO they mean stamina and agility...quite a different kettle of fish ( think weight lifter and gymnast). In order to see how much (or little..) strength is required to fret a string, try gently and slowly lowering a finger onto a string until the note rings clear. This is the strength required to fret a note.

    Don't take my word for it. Here is what Gary Willis has to say on the subject.

    ba55i5t and Bassbeater like this.
  19. Pratice on an accoustic bass, which will most likely have higher action and make you work a little harder.
  20. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    From a bass playing aspect, avoid grip gadgets like the plague. The hands should be relaxed when impossible task when you are gripping.