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Exercises to improve finger technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by S. Byrnes, Apr 14, 2005.

  1. I find myself doing a ton of fast playing, but in a lot of the songs my band does, the singer/song writer wants to hear super fast open dropped E-string licks and slapping in the same song, so a pick isnt an option. I can play pretty fast but when I need to go to warp speed my technique goes down the drain and I get a lot string clicking on the fretboard. Raising the string hieght is only a bandaid solution, so I was wondering if anyone could recommend some exercises I could do everyday to get my speed up with out all the slop. Thanks
  2. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
  3. buddahbass


    Dec 22, 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA
    yeah, that
  4. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Practice, but more specifically practice playing slowly and very cleanly with a metronome. Gradually increase speed.

    As Steve Manes posted in The Bottom Line some years ago:

    ".. once you've gone through the boring parts of looking and experimenting
    to see what works, you are armed with enough knowledge to take it faster.
    Without solving your barriers at a slower speed you just make the same
    mistakes at a higher one. It has been said many times: first do it RIGHT,
    then add the speed... your practice sessions should focus on being smooth;
    speed will come on its own.... everyone has ten dollars to spend; if you
    spend eight dollars of it struggling with barriers and problems you
    should have corrected at a less demanding tempo, you're going to wind up
    with a two-dollar performance... and a bad memory of an ambulance's roof

    A Twist Of The Wrist
    The Motorcycle Road Racers Handbook
    by Keith Code
  5. troll


    Aug 31, 2000
    Chicago area
    HEheh, interesting cross reference, as it comes up constantly on my sportbike forums I run :)

  6. bonscottvocals


    Feb 10, 2005
    Upstate NY
    There are some great exercises.

    1. Just play 1-2-3-4 from the bottom string to the top, then move to the 2nd fret up and down, then the 3rd fret, etc... So, in other words, it would be tabbed E-1234, A-1234, D-1234, G-1234, G-4321, D-4321, A-4321, E-4321, E-2345, A-2345...

    2. Then, another is an exercise that works on finger independence. E-1-3, A-2-4, D-1-3, G-2-4, G-3-1, D-4-2,A-3-1, E-4-2, (move index finger to 2nd fret, then) E-2-4, A-3-5...

    3. A great finger strength exercise is one that will have you screaming for mercy! You will play every note on the fretboard for as many frets as you can. This one is literally like running a marathon and never do it if you want to play anything else. With only 2 fingers at a time (e.g. index and middle), play from bottom to top, E-1-2, A-1-2, D-1-2, G-1-2, G-2-3, D-2-3, A-2-3, E-2-3, E-3-4, A-3-4, D-3-4... And when you get up the neck, then use your other two fingers (ring-pinky) and do the same thing. Your fingers will be burning like a runner's legs in a 4 minute mile! :eek:

    4. Also do string skipping, where instead of playing the patterns on E to A to D to G, go E to D to A to G. Then try E to G to A to G to D to G and G to E to G to A to G to D. It will improve your fret-hand reach and your plucking (or picking) technique.

    Try to do at least one of these daily as part of your regime. You will improve more quickly than you can imagine.

    Now, get down and give me 20. :hyper: :bassist: :)
  7. aquablue


    Apr 12, 2005
    Miami, Florida
    After 13 years of not playing the bass guitar, I am building up my chops (again) using this book .

    No pain, no gain.
  8. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    I was just thinking of the autoracer's mantra: slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
  9. Yeah thanks, I have to play these 32nd note @ 110 beats per minute quintuplets along with the double kick drum for the verse in one of my band's songs. I'm probably going to have to play it through sloppily a few time with my fingers and then play the verse with a pick and have the studio tech copy and paste it in. I'll see if I can work it up by friday though!
  10. troll


    Aug 31, 2000
    Chicago area
    What's interesting, is I was sitting around with bass in lap in front of the TV last night (common :) and I just started doing a few of the suggested exercises from above, and while after a few it hurt like hell, every time I went back to do it again a few minutes later, it got easier and easier. Even in the same session.

    I think I need to do this stuff daily as I have really poor finger control other than index to any other. Especially going down from pinky.

    I have a feeling that I would improve greatly just in doing so once a day or several days a week instead of just plinking around like normal, based on results of one hour of doing it already.

  11. tifa

    tifa Padawan Bassist

    Mar 8, 2005
    Blackburn, UK
    I've just got that too - not tried it yet but it looks good, and I've heard very good things about it.

    I'm just going to try and work through doing about 10-15 mins each day, hopefully that will help build up my strength.
  12. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    You don't need more strength. You've already got all the strength you need to play bass. Relax, and practice slowly. It will come.
  13. Matt Morgan

    Matt Morgan Fellow Conspirator Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2001
    Plano, TX
    Another thumbs up for the Bass Fitness book. I've played it cover to cover several times and I've always found the exercises to be very beneficial for my left hand dexterity.
    It always sits on my practice stand and I try and play through one page at some point during my practicing.
    Just my thoughts. Best of luck!
  14. adisu

    adisu I admit it, I'm a "user"

    Apr 8, 2005
    Sometimes we have the tendency to practise the easy stuff and the patterns that we can do easily, i think that you should find patterns that hard for you to play and play them slowly when you do it good play it faster and faster, focus on the hard bass lines that you can't do and not on the easy ones (but do it slow ) challenge your fingers for complex patterns and you'll do other stuff easily.

    I would also recommend you to practise your left hand's ring and pinkie fingers and isolate them to move alone, some of the speed we loose is because those two fingers are weak and therefor slower than the index and middle fingers ,
    They also usually move together and it's better for speed to practise them to move alone that way you save time when playing.
  15. troll


    Aug 31, 2000
    Chicago area
    You can say that 10 times... Ugh those two fingers... Now that I've been conscious of these things, these two are like... well they don't get along at all. I've always known this but trying to even work on it is difficult. Imediately my hand hurts, and moments later my pinky. Overall pinky strength is the best it's ever been as of late.

    I think it has a lot to do with the fact that my pinky is by far my shortest finger. It only comes to the last joint of my ring finger. The relationship of the two next to each other while fretting makes me have to invert that joint of my ring finger to past straight and knuckle way up, just for the pinky to fret. All this takes a lot of time relatively, and almost locks that finger into position. This make any sense?

    Anyone else have this problem?
  16. adisu

    adisu I admit it, I'm a "user"

    Apr 8, 2005
    What i do in order to strengthen my fingers is using a hard jelly ball that i squeeze by my fingers one after the other (especially using ring and pinkie).
    I do it when i watch T.V. or read a book so i don't even pay attention and at the same time i strenghten my fingers muscles.
    Of course i combine it with training on the fretboard , otherwise it would all be for nothing.

    Anyway it works and my ring and pinkie spped had progressed a lot since i started to train them with this jelly ball.

    Try it I promise you won't regret. ;)
  17. Well...this thread started off with some good suggestions. But things are getting a little sidetracked. All you finger fitness people read Pacman's post again, he is 100% correct.

    Here's my two cents:
    - The original post mentioned string clicking on the fretboard when playing fast. Maybe try to analyze where is the click coming from, right hand/left hand/combination of both?

    Things that could be happening:
    a) Plucking harder as you play faster
    b) Snapping your fretting fingers down on the strings
    c) Plucking the string just before it is fretted
    d) You are FiEldy

    To figure this out, try playing slowly with a bright setting on your amp. For example, start with F on the E string then go chromatically up and down. If you don't hear the squeaks and fret noise, record yourself, then you will ;)
    Now that you know the noises you make playing slow, fix these first. Play as slowly as it takes to make no extra noise when you fret a note. You may find that holding down the string behind the note you're playing and only lifting your fingers enough to clear the string helps alot. When you figure out what works, try to apply this to your playing all the time.

    - Back to the tune you were working on. After you have the part down at a sloooow tempo, work on it at a speed that lets you get it most of the time. Don't waste your time trying to learn it at the speed where your technique starts to fall apart.

    - Work on some chord stuff. It will get your fingers used to working efficiently.

    - If your practicing your technique, you can still work in a musical context. No need to mechanically play every combination of notes on the fretboard. Why not work on actual songs, or some scales you want to get more familiar with.

    Hope this helps :)
  18. God I hope its not d) :spit: These are some good suggestions though, def more helpful then "just practice it." I don't really have any problems with my fretting hand, of course it's not flawless, but I can play quick stuff and do hammer-on/pull-off stuff with all four fingers no problem. Thanks for your suggestions.
  19. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    What do you guys think of playing closer to the bridge as a possible solution to the string clanking thing? I find my speed improves dramatically when I move my right hand down there. I also like the jaco-esque tone.
  20. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I couldn't agree more!

    I firmly believe that any type anxiety, creates a barrier to acheiving your goals. I use Mozart as one of the tools for relaxing the mind.

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