Can one play EB using OFPF and be pain free?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ErikP.Bass, Aug 12, 2018.

  1. Yes

    16 vote(s)
  2. No

    3 vote(s)
  1. ErikP.Bass

    ErikP.Bass Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    I realize that this topic comes up relatively frequently in various forms here on TB but I’m curious to get peoples thoughts on this in a straightforward yes/no poll.

    I know that folks can play OFPF on electric bass down to first position, but I wonder how many have been able to do it pain free. Personally when I do this, especially in the lower register, the rotator cuff muscles of my left shoulder get all out of sorts. Admittedly I could do some work to strengthen the stability there but it seems that this type of issue is not uncommon.

    There are so many professionals that seem to play this way (Jeff Berlin, Jim Stinnett, Anthony Wellington etc.) but we don’t often hear about their experiences with resulting health issues. Part of what got me thinking about this was listening to the Wellington clinic and hearing him mention how Randy Kertz helped him. What are your experiences, what do you think?
  2. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I used to try to play with “perfect” technique in my early days and didn’t always find it ergonomic or comfortable to do so. Over the years, I have developed my own style that probably wouldn’t pass muster with Jeff Berlin, but it gets the job done. My advice is to use as many fingers per fret as you want. YMMV, EMMV.
    Russell L, jamro217, craigie and 2 others like this.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    This. All of this.
    jamro217 and ErikP.Bass like this.
  4. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Yes, one can -- but no, one needn't.

    I'm with Scott Devine regarding OFPF: Use it when you need to; don't when you don't.
    jamro217 likes this.
  5. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    The pain comes from how you use your wrist, not ofpf. If you have a straight wrist there should be no pain. Best way to do this IMO, is to fret with the pad of the finger not the tip.

    Fretting with the pad tends to straighten the wrist and also deaden the strings below the targeted note. This helps with muting. Kills two birds with one stone,
  6. BassChuck

    BassChuck Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Unless you're also playing DB, I can't see a reason not to use ofpf. I watched the Scott Devine video and it seems more like opinion that anything else. Currently I'm playing "Jesus Christ Superstar" and that 39 Lashes lick comes up in 4 places (five now that the BL wants it as bow music) and 3 different keys. It would be insane to try that lick at the tempo needed and get the b9 in there without ofpf.
    My feeling is that using the same fingering for the whole neck has the added plus of fingerings being like a solfege method. The intervals are always the same fingering.
    Drummers will argue about matched or conventional grip. Same thing. It's hard enough to play music, why do something that is unnatural to you. Use what you need.
  7. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    You can certainly use OFPF pain-free in the lower register. You just need to wear your bass high enough, which is apparently something only few people consider doing. The others are too cool for ergonomics, I guess.
    Clef_de_fa likes this.
  8. bloobass


    Jul 10, 2012
    Louisville, KY
    I answered yes, although there's rarely a need for it, especially in that position. I firmly believe that if a certain technique cause you pain, then it is not perfect, regardless who says what. Aside from developing your calluses, there shouldn't be any pain associated with playing bass, unless of course you have some sort of medical condition (bad back, carpal tunnel, etc.).
    I have big hands and can do a 1-4 fret stretch in any position, but unless I'm walking or playing complex lines, my fretting hand is in a very comfortable position: if I'm pumping 8th's on the roots, my index usually frets the first bar and I'll use the pinky to fret the 5th and the pad on the first knuckle of my index the fret the 4th. It's very relaxed and comfortable for me. FWIW, I wear my bass so the heel is right around my belt buckle, so super high, or laying on the ground.
  9. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i voted "yes" but i don't do it...never have! my vote allows for anyone else as the "one" to whom the poll refers.

    OFPF on the lowest notes = why? :D

    i'm not an academic with regard to "proper technique".....i'm a soldier: i do battles and wars and gigs.
    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  10. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Yes, some can. But also yes, some can't. I think folks with a smaller "handspan" or wrist injury could benefit from a 3 finger system in the lower register. IMO. It's up to each player to determine what feels most comfortable for their body type.I personally have a left wrist injury and seem to benefit from less stretching in the fingers below the 9th or 12 fret depending on my mood and musical need for the stretch.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018
  11. ErikP.Bass

    ErikP.Bass Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Thanks for the replies everyone! It seems I’m the only one who voted no....LOL. Personally I have struggled with this question on and off during my bass playing lifetime, and I keep coming back to not using it if it isn’t necessary....and using the thumb pivot to keep my place and cover a wider range of frets. I guess sometimes I feel like I’m not a proficient player, or that I’m missing something if I can’t handle the OFPF approach. When I give it a go though it always winds up causing me problems. I guess I fall into Einstein’s definition of insanity...and should just leave well enough alone.
  12. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    My ofpf has evolved over the years. I for years used only ofpf then the fingers started deciding which finger would get what note; I let them, and had no problems.

    Today my middle finger, with a slide, has taken over; I let it, and have no problems.

    So, I still say learn ofpf first, but, don't beat yourself up over this -- if you can get to the note in time, that's the main thing.
    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  13. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    My hand has very limited grip strength due to physical deformity of the musculature/nerves. I have to make due with what I’ve got. I was originally taught OFPF but that kicks my butt in the lower registers. A compact hand is much less stressful, no matter how I position my bass.

    I suggest do what works for you. Try both. Try changing it up from time to time to see if something works better.

    How can you play saw her standing there without OFPF? On the other hand “dreams” by fleetwood mac, why bother?
  14. I'm 58 and have being playing one finger per fret since day one. I'm currently gigging on a 35" scale 5 string bass. Not the one in the pic, which is only 33". I've been in performing bands since about 6 months after I started playing so I've effectively never not been in a gigging band. I've never had any problems with rotator cuff, hands, fingers, wrists or anything ever. Knock on wood...

    Now, before I play anything, I do light calisthenics and I always stretch in ways designed to help the parts of my body I plan to use. I can easily practice non-stop for 6 plus hours. With normal breaks for bathroom, etc.

    So, you can take all that for whatever it's worth. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of people do finger per fret in a pretty idiotic fashion and play as though their fingers have to be welded to all the frets at all time. Yeah, that's gonna be a problem, I guess. If you really don't know what you're doing, you tend to hurt yourself. All you have to do is pay attention to basic physiology.

    OFPF simply means you assign a finger to a fret in a group. It do NOT mean tie all the fingers down at one time. It's a simple concept made difficult for whatever reason...
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
    Mechanical likes this.
  15. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I wouldn't call it "idiotic," but I've often noticed something that might be related to your observation: It seems that a lot of folks who adhere to OFPF also adhere to the "rule" that the thumb should be (a) behind the second fretting finger and (b) perpendicular to the neck. This invariably leads to awkward positions in which the elbow is sticking way out from the body and/or the wrist is severely bent, and there's a ton of tension in the arm/wrist/hand/fingers.

    This video -- which is posted so often you'd think everyone would have seen it by now -- is IMO the solution to all that. The video isn't about OFPF per se, but I've found that I can comfortably use OFPF all the way down to first position by following the principles he describes:

    (Spoiler alert: The secret is to point your thumb toward the headstock -- almost parallel to the neck, rather than perpendicular to it -- and not worry about keeping it behind your fretting fingers.)
    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  16. As I said before... All you have to do is pay attention to basic physiology... People muff it up and try to blame the technique... So yeah, if you constantly do things to hurt yourself, you're an idiot. Nobody said you should blend every technique you ever heard of into one.
  17. Skybone


    Jun 20, 2016
    You could always buy a Short Scale bass.
    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  18. I play OFPF in all positions pain free, but my technique isn’t quite the same in all positions.

    In the higher positions, my thumb is pretty much planted to the left of my index finger and I roll my wrist and elbow up and down as I cross strings. Also, if I’m playing higher notes on the same string, I may fret multiple notes at once.

    In the lower positions though, my thumb is more in line with my index finger, and I use my thumb more as a pivot and roll my whole hand side to side as I play various notes. I also never (or perhaps rarely) fret two notes at the same time in the lower positions. Also, it’s not strict OFPF, as I usually play octaves with my index and pinky. I also try to shift to a higher position on a lower string if it makes sense for the line and doesn’t add too much extra shifting (mainly because I prefer the tone a little higher up the neck on lower strings instead of playing higher strings close to the nut).

    When I started playing bass, I used the 124 method in the lower positions, but when I got my first fretless I found my intonation was better with OFPF with the side to side, hand rolls, so I’ve much stuck with that since.
    ErikP.Bass likes this.
  19. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Ofpf since day one on guitar around 1958 and bass since mid 90s. No problems. I play both 34 and 35" scale instruments. If the stretch bothers me, i shift more using 123

    I use 124 on upright only.

    I learned fretless ofpf as per Jacos method book/video.
  20. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Sure, it can be done pain-free, but that doesn't necessarily make it the best solution at all times. One benefit for OFPF is involving the pinkie - I've seen here on TB that some players ignore that finger, but do so at your own peril, in terms of both finger-strength and technique. It is much stronger than your ring finger which you'll discover if you get into extended playing sessions.
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