Beginning Bass.....

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Ben Green, Jan 11, 2001.

  1. Ben Green

    Ben Green

    Jan 11, 2001
    I have recently bought a Squire Precision Bass and Watson amp. I've been playing every other day or so for the past two weeks, and I'm at the stage where I'm just trying to learn the notes on the neck by heart, and play these at random. I've also been able to stumble through a couple of Blues bass lines. My problem at present is the size of my fingers..!!!

    Is there a hard and fast rule for finding the various notes?, as I find I am unable to stretch my fingers far enough, which can be a little frustrating. I know this will improve in time, but does anyone know of any exercises that can help with dexterity. Also, if anyone knows of any books or videos available in the UK.

    Finally, I must say that I've waited around 15 years to start playing bass, and at the age of 31 I've finally gotten round to it. I've rarely been so happy!!
  2. Jeffrey A-Bomb

    Jeffrey A-Bomb Drink Coffee & Destroy Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2000
    Silver Spring, MD
    Once you realize the note patterns of the neck and get a good feel for it, it'll become second nature.. Doesn't work for everyone, but I find that learning a few songs you like and playing along to them builds dexterity and finger strength pretty painlessly ;) You get into the music and sort of forget about your finger woes to some extent.. Ok, I'll stop my babbling ;)
  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    If it is any comfort to you, I was nearly forty nine before I ever picked up any musical instrument. I noticed the same thing you did at first about the lack of finger flexibility and agility together with the fact that my little finger just wouldn't stretch far enough and was weak. Well, even for a forty nine year old, my fingers did eventually become far more flexible and "stretchy."

    I played nearly every day and did a lot of work with scales, modes and arpeggios, plus played along to CDS frequently until I was able to get into some bands. From my perspective (I am now 57), I see you as relatively young and I believe that your problem with finger agility and flexibility will improve greatly with dilgence and regular dedicated practice.

    Jason Oldsted
  4. dytakeda


    Jul 18, 2000
    You really shouldn't need to be stretching that much. Are you saying your hands aren't big enough to do a "1 finger per fret" style? Some teachers recommend to play with only the index-middle-pinkie, especially those that come from the upright bass. It's a good style for smaller hands too.

    As far as not having to stretch, in any given position, let's say that the index finger is behind the first fret, the middle finger is behind the second fret and the pinkie is behind the third fret. The thumb should be roughly opposite the middle finger. This will allow you to use the thumb as a "pivot" point. So, instead of moving your arm up the neck to reach that fourth fret, SHIFT the fingers ONLY while keeping the thumb in place.

    And of course, there's always short scale basses. Squire reintroduced one of the old Fender short scales (either the Musicmaster or Mustang). You give up little in sound, but if you're hands are really too small, this may be the ticket.

    (I've started playing in 1978, and I still play every day, at least a little. Not only dexterity exercises, but new technique, new knowledge, etc. It's the learning that makes it fun.)
  5. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Ben - Your fingers may be on the short side, but don't consider that an impediment. I have seen bluegrass music guitarists, (I am definitely NOT a bluegrass fan), who have short fingers but make up for length with strength. Their fingers fret like jackhammers but they are extremely fluid on the fingerboard.

    While my fingers are hardly "shortish" I still use finger weights I bought from Musicians Friend to "pump them up." However, I realize getting anything from the States is quite expensive. Squeezing a tennis ball, say, when you are watching TV, will not only loosen the fingers up, but will also strengthen them quite a bit. (They'll probably be sore at first, like any muscle that you tear down to build up).

    If the problem seems unusual and persistent, compared to others who have fingers about the same size of yours, a shot of cortisone from a hand surgeon/orthopedic can help a lot. It did for me when I had some joint problems.

  6. hey you might want to try this, it help me a lot when i first started playing, it will get your fingers moving up and down the strings, plus it will make your fingers a lot stronger.

    start your index finger on the fist fret on the lowest string, but lowest i mean lowest tone, then place your fingers accordingly, second finger second fret, third on the third and if you can at first get your pinky on the fourth.and what you do is play the first note, hold down your index, play the second and then hold down your second finger, then play the third and then play the fourth, just keep doing that over and over again, it will make all fourth fingers stronger, make sure that your only playing one note at a time, and make sure it flows, and that your not just hitting it, when you can the hang of that, try what i did move it that some pattern up a string until your can run through all four strings without stopping. once you can use to that, you'll find it easiers to move your fingers through the whole neck!

    hope you understood that!!
    Good luck Coz
  7. FuturePrimitive

    FuturePrimitive Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2000
    Rochester, NY
    Try the riff under the guitar solo for Tom sawyer by Rush (check my sig for the tab). That will build some hand strength as well as walking a bass line down four frets and across all four strings. I've been playing for about 3-4 months (not long I know, played guitar before that though) but my hand still kills playing it. Its a fun riff too.
  8. wow- learning Rush basslines may be jumping in at the deep end with the odd time signatures- though I did have a lot of fun learning to play along to The Spirit Of Radio/The Trees/Limelight etc.(a lot of repeated listening to get the riffs right!)

    when I was starting out (learning from playing along to records) I found that playing alternating octaves up and down the neck strengthened my left hand little finger (which was pretty useless to start with) greatly eg. in The Stranglers "Hanging Around" as well as improving right hand string-skipping ability.
  9. dytakeda


    Jul 18, 2000
    Advice for the beginner from me: (FWIW!)

    (Some of it's contrary to what was already posted here, but it's nothing personal)

    1. Don't even think about playing Rush basslines, especially at this point. Killing your hands is not the goal here. Music is not an athletic event, especially bass playing. Let the guitarists and keyboardists worry about that.

    2. Work on developing good time. This goes for all musicians. Nothing kills me more than a drummer who thinks drumming is all about the fills and cymbals. or a bass player who wants to throw fills in as often as possible. Work on the "1", the "2", the "3" and the "4". Any scales or exercises or lines from songs you practice should be done to a metronome or drum machine, if possible. All notes have two dimensions: their pitch and their duration. Don't ignore one or the other. (And think of a rest as a note with no pitch.)

    3. Play your bass as often as possible, that's the A-1 thing to developing the strength you need. You don't need enough strength to crush a tennis ball. If faced with a choice to practice or sit there squeezing a tennis ball, you should practice.

    4. Don't ignore the right hand (assuming you're a righty). Ever wonder why a right handed bassist/guitarist plays with his left hand on the fret board? It's because the TIME is controlled by your primary hand.

    5. Finally, most of this advice will still work for you if you're an intermediate or advanced player.

    (Stepping down off of soapbox).

  10. Ben,

    I know what you mean .. I finally started playing bass at 39, after playing violin for 29 years.

    You're on the right track ... learn the fretboard, where the notes are, by name. Once your ear is trained, you will know what interval you need to play, and where that note is in relation to the note currently played.

    There is good advice on Talkbass .. I lurked here for 6 months before I posted. Just soak it all in, keep that instrument strapped on, play, and have fun.

    If you enjoy the sound of bass, there is no better thing to be than a bass player.

  11. Ben Green

    Ben Green

    Jan 11, 2001
    What can I say, manu thanks for all the replies to my questions..

    Since then, I still haven't had any lessons, but I've been playing quite a lot. My fingers are slowly getting more flexible, and the speed is building up.

    Once again, thanks you guys. I'm not going to mention you all by name, but I'm sure you know who you are.!!