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Extremely flat fingers.

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by `Jas, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. `Jas


    Sep 23, 2010
    I've been told by my current bass teacher that my left hand's fingers are much too flat when I play classical repertoire.. Is there any way to fix it? For 3+ years, I was taught by a cellist who did not know much about technique on the db, hence my horrible "flatness". Is this also caused by a lack of strength in small fingers/hands? How could I remedy this and improve my technique without getting lighter/thinner strings?
  2. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    The perils of studying with someone who doesn't know proper technique. We all rail about this on TB and this is exactly why. It's easier to learn correctly in the beginning then to relearn later. Which is exactly what you will have to do. Go get a proper double bass teacher with classical experience and begin the task or relearning to make your hand do what it's suppose to do, curve so that you are playing on the fingertips and not the flats of your fingers. I'm sorry to be the bearer of tough love first thing in the morning but this is what you have to do. Just don't think about it for another moment, don't look for support here or anywhere else for your own way of playing. Don't imagine it's going to be alright or fool yourself for a moment later. Find a teacher that teaches you the correct way to play and get to work. I don't really understand the passive response of your teacher?
  3. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    I had a similar problem for a while, to a certain extent.
    I played in a master class recently, and the teacher recommended pretending like you had a super ball in the palm of your hands- and to curve your fingers/thumb accordingly- approaching the strings/board and coming at it more vertically than flat with the pads of your fingers
    . It might help to visualize that or even actually do it with a ball- that hand curvature is more accurate for bass playing, and has a myriad of positive benefits to left hand position.
  4. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    +1 to this. Learning DB from anyone but a dedicated/qualified bass teacher is just going to hurt you down the line.
  5. If I understood the problem correctly;
    curve your fingers, that's how they are at the strongest. Try using your fingertips more.
  6. It's definitely not caused by lack of strength... it might be why you perceive a lack of strength, though, because your finger muscles have the best mechanical advantage with the right curvature (that's why it's the right curvature, after all).

    It's strange that a 'cello teacher should make that mistake though, the principles are the same between the two instruments, at least for the left hand.

    It's going to take a lot of practice, but I suggest you practice paying lots of attention to the way the geometry of your hands feels, see if you can feel the overloading in the tendons of your hand that will be happening if your finger curvature really is too flat, and see if you can feel what shape makes it go away. That kind of mindful practice will mean the habit goes away quicker, and more importantly will also mean it never comes back.
  7. tjnkoo


    Apr 19, 2011
    Metro Atlanta
    I play with flat fingers because its just what I always did and never noticed it as a problem. I do/did have a teacher who has tried to correct it but after so many years he just stopped and he's been happy with my progress otherwise. If it doesn't interfere with your playing I'd at least gently consider just carrying on with it unless you just feel the need to play 'academically' (which is by no means a bad thing of course!!).
  8. I agree with the approach referred to in the link provided by TonyD in post #6 above. The C shape of the hand and its straight alignment with the forearm give muscles their best chance to do their job.There are a few more suggestions that may help -

    (1) Buy a soft rubber stress ball, wrap your fingers AND thumb around it and compress all your fingers and thumb evenly towards the center in sets of ten. I keep a ball next to my pillow and do at least three sets of ten each night (when I remember to!)
    (2) Make a gentle fist with your LH and bring it up to a playing position, opening it out naturally as you go to put curved fingers on the string and thumb on middle of back of neck. Press down gently then inspect the groove made in the pads by the string. Observe where the string falls on the pad under each finger tip.
    (3) The groove should be back a little from the very top of your finger. Many people have a flat spot between the center of the finger print and the final rounded tip of the finger. I aim to bisect this flat spot with the string groove.

    The "pianist's hand shape" rests this flat spot on the keys. Sit at a table or keyboard and rest your hand on your curved fingers as though you are playing. The finger ends approach the "keys" at something like 45 degrees, definitely not too vertically.
    (4) Think of your curved fingers being hooks not presses. With your fingers bunched up side-by-side hook them over something and pull towards you to feel their strength. Now position them on the string with no thumb contact on the neck and hook the string down to click on the fingerboard. Now place your thumb in position and hook the strings down to your thumb - the neck and strings happen to get in the way!! Repeat clicking the string down onto the fingerboard with your curved fingers like you are doing a gym exercise then repeat as you gradually spread your fingers into note spacings. Try to keep this hooking sensation, not squeezing and flattening/collapsing as you open out.
    (5) Keep your thumb on the back of the neck and raise/lower your fingers by flapping from your big knuckles while maintaining the curved finger shapes. The muscles that cause this action start back as far as your elbow and work through your wrist to your fingers, which is why the alignment of everything is so important.

    The strength of your fingers comes from their arched shape as well as muscles. The actions of raising and lowering them should almost end up feeling dissociated from their hooked strength once you have the knack IMO.

    Is your hand big and wide enough to comfortably open out with curved fingers for correct spacings in lower Positions? Are your fingers long or short, especially your pinkie? IMO you can always compromise for lack of stretch but don't compromise with the arched shape of your fingers if you want speed, clarity of articulation and avoidance of injury.

    Cheers and Happy New Year,

  9. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    Work toward achieving that curvature - after 41 years of playing I am so glad my first orchestra teacher was a DB player who demanded we never played flat and the thumb never came around the neck. Raise your elbow a little a make the curve your friend - it really is the strongest, low-energy way to press strings to fingerboard.
    I agree that it is odd a cellist wouldn't use the same technique..a full size cello is almost a 1/2 bass.:D