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Fast finger style practice/drills/improvement

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by AcridSaint, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
    Hi Folks,

    Can anyone give me any advice on how to best improve my finger style speed? I can't seem to get past medium tempo 8th notes without getting muddy and/or missing.

    This is something that I've been struggling with for a couple months. So far, I've been working on up-tempo songs until I get tired of them as well as speeding up simple songs that I already know how to play at correct tempo.

    Any help would be appreciated.
  2. papilgee4evaeva


    Dec 5, 2012
    Replying to subscribe. I run into the same issue.
  3. Woodstockz


    Sep 23, 2011
    San Diego, Ca
    Practicing the Cello suites has helped my dexterity.
  4. njo741


    Dec 30, 2012
    I don't know how much this will help because you've probably heard this before, but the best way is to practice what you want to play slowly until you can play it perfectly at that speed, and then speed it up step by step.
  5. just use a metronome and play scales. I like Ionian (major scale) and Mixolydian (major scale with a b7). Minor scales work well, too. They strengthen of the third finger of the fretboard hand. Start slow until you can play cleanly, then up the tempo. Also,make sure you are playing the notes exactly with the click, not rushed or sloppy.
  6. http://www.amazon.com/Bass-Fitness-Exercising-Handbook-Guitar/dp/0793502489


    And just remember it's not a race. Start out slow and make sure each note a) counts b) sounds good c) has a somewhat consistent velocity (unless you _want_ kinda a bouncing dynamic to it....but it's best to learn how to keep it consistent first and then when the song calls for it add the accents and whatnot) d) is clean (again, try to minimize buzz on all your notes and then add buzz in after you know how to play without it and you _want_ to hear it). Don't "cheat" on technique and just say "oh, well that's good enough". The goal is to get better so demand the absolute best from yourself (though don't expect yourself to be perfect overnight). When you cheat at learning technique you're cheating yourself as a player which in turn cheats yourself out of playing gigs and feeling confident when playing.

    When you get past the mechanical stuff, build muscle memory on patterns. This is where going slow and really learning technique helps. Now instead of thinking about making all your notes ring out clear and even on top of playing whatever scale or interval you're learning, you can focus on the notes you're playing instead. You train your fingers to play those intervals and be able to do them fast and without thinking about it. This helps with improv a LOT. The less you have to think about the mechanics of what you're doing and one what notes you're playing the faster and cleaner everything you play will become. I've practiced the major and minor scales (and a couple of the modes) enough that if I accidentally find myself out of my comfort zone when improv'ing I can still run up and down the strings even if I can't tell you why my fingers are going where they are. You just _feel_ that that's what you need to play next without thinking about it (I'm going off on a tangent here, so I'll stop myself :p)
  7. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
    Hi - Thanks for the replies :)

    I have a Pandora as well as a metronome app on my phone that I play to. I also play to tabs in Guitar Pro and use the speed trainer to work my way up. But, I always seem to hit a wall at speed. I'll check out the bass fitness book.

    I should be clear that I'm not missing the fretted notes, I'm missing with my right hand. Either by not striking the note or losing tempo because that hand can't keep up. Although I still need to work on left hand dexterity and technique, my current wall is with my right hand finger style.
  8. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Remember that using a light attack on the string with the right hand
    is essential for speed.
    I play with a heavy attack and recently did some speed drills with a teacher.
    He noticed the action of my strings was quite high and my heavy attack was hindering.
    Made changes to these 2 issues and 6 weeks later my speed was way up and very clean.
    Metronome & scales is what we used. Played thru the cycle of 4th's.
  9. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
    Hi, I do keep my actions low, but I'll try to pay attention to my attack. I may indeed be playing too heavily, especially with the type of music I'm playing.

    Thanks for the suggestions, please keep them coming.
  10. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    The best advice is already given, there really is (unfortunately) no short cut. Metronome, scales, practice, practice, practice. If I could add anything it would be that I've found I typically remember songs based on patterns on the fingerboard that I play through as the song is going (playing for instance D-E-G-A might be a rectangle pattern depending on how I play it); however, don't let yourself rely too heavily on patterns but try to focus on the individual notes themselves, paying special attention to voicing and consistency as you play fast stuff. The difference between quick mud and slop and quick articulate notes is all in focusing on the individual notes themselves, insuring each note gets properly plucked while the other hand is pressing cleanly on the fingerboard even while you are speeding. The only way to get there is as everyone has already said: metronome, start slow and speed up... but as you do don't fall into the easy error of thinking solely in terms of patterns (an easy thing for me to do, anyways), think of individual notes and their proper voicing.
  11. funkybass


    Oct 19, 2006
    I like to practice scale patterns in 8th notes for 3-4 bars, then the same pattern in 2 bars of triplets, then 2 bars 16ths, and repeat. Start slow and work up. Accuracy trumps speed.
  12. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
    Hi, thanks for the additional comments. I have to say that in just the day that I've been doing it, monitoring my attack seems to be quite helpful. I'm getting closer to the speed that I want with less fatigue.

    Today I'll try out Funkybass' suggestion also.

    Rtav, something that I do with every new song that I learn is try to find different places to play it. I never did it as a conscious thing because I was worried about being stuck in a pattern (good point, by the way), I've always just done it to improve my mastery of the fretboard. I want to be able to play any note in any location without having to think about it.

    For what it's worth, I've been playing with people, to music and to a metronome since the day I got my instrument. It was drilled into me by a bassist that I really respect even before I had my bass in hand. I also highly recommend this to anyone starting out or reading this thread, the first few tips I got from him put me months ahead of where everyone "expected" me to be.
  13. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
    Happy new year, by the way, the first year of playing bass sure went by fast.
  14. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    Hi there, happy 2013 for you and everyone reading this.

    Beyond what everyone here has suggested (practice slow and get things faster), and assuming that you are already doing so, there are a few things that in my personal journey have helped me gain speed:

    1) On both hands, try reducing the amount of movement to the minimum. The fingers travelling back and forth add time to your execution that starts counting when you want to play 1000 notes a minute.
    2) When you are, for example, going up the strings (let's say you are going up the strings with a particular scale) try sweeping the last plucking finger up to the next string instead of changing the finger.
    3) I use my thumb/index/mid/ring fingers to play. While this does not given me special speed, it gives my hand a lot of endurance, it seems it is more "ready" to jump between different high-speed chops.
    4) Having a ramp in your bass may increase your overall precision and speed.
    5) The action, string tension and size in your bass may play a role during the time you develop speed. I have found that super-low action, mid-tension and 6 string 35" basses are the ideal combination for me. I see that I am less efficient on other configurations. Make sure you try some possibilities that will encourage you to challenge yourself further.

    A few thoughts I thought I may add. Regards,
  15. Do you stretch?
  16. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    It sounds like you're off to a great start! Lots of good advice here.

    One thing I've found within the past couple of weeks that has GREATLY reduced fatigue in very fast extended sections is the place of my resting thumb.

    I finger pick a 6 string 35" scale bass and was unconsciously positioning my resting thumb (or support thumb) on the B string almost always (unless I needed to play the string, or slap something out, or whatever).

    I made a slight change in that and the dividends are enormous. I started moving my thumb to rest on the string above whatever string I was playing on in very fast sections, minimizing the reach of my plucking hand vertically. For instance, John Myung's speed shred solo in Dream Theater's "Dance of Eternity" begins on the A string 10th fret (G note, reaching up to A). I was resting my thumb on the B, stretching over the E string to grab the G note on the A string. I started moving my resting thumb to the E string for the solo instead of the B string, reducing the amount of stretch I had to do. Resting on E and playing on A is MUCH easier than resting on B and playing on A.

    I keep moving my thumb as needed to rest on the string just above the one I'm playing, and the fatigue has been cut in half at least. I'm not cramping up, I'm not running out of steam, I'm going as fast as I possibly can and it's not as big an issue. I think this is the "floating thumb" technique (someone correct me if I'm wrong), but try to make an effort to keep your plucking hand as close to the string you want to play. It never occurred to me that something like vertical proximity with the plucking hand could make such a difference, but it does.

    If anyone else has any insight on this - please chime in.
  17. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
    Hi - thanks for the additional replies. No, I don't stretch, this is the first I'm hearing of stretching for playing bass.

    I an working on minimizing travel, but I'll say it's still hard to do, especially on the right hand. I'm a bit exaggerated now, but hopefully it's better than six months ago :)

    I've seen other people mention playing with the ring finger. I only use two fingers at the moment. Do you have any suggestions on where to start practicing for three? I find it really awkward and have never put enough effort into it.

    I've also noticed that my thumb position will effect endurance. On fast songs, sometimes I tend to "dig in" to the top of the pickup if I rest there and it really wears out my hand. I've always tried to monitor that action, but I'll also look out and see if I can find a more comfortable position and not just a lighter rest.
  18. Yes, stretching is very important. I can't believe I forgot to mention that. Stretching your fingers and running through some of those exercises from that book I listed will make you sometimes feel instantly faster. I've gone through periods where my practicing was pretty....lazy. I always snap out of that when I do take the time to stretch and do some exercises before playing I end up being able to shred the crap out of my bass without even thinking about it. It's not like I consciously think "I'm going to play really fast now", I just end up throwing in some usually tasteful runs that are faster than anything even the guitars are doing. I look at my fingers as if I'm watching someone else play. I know there's probably a smug look on my face when it happens and I've definitely gotten some "HOLY CRAP!" yelled at me during improvy sections of songs.

    I don't say this to gloat, I say this to prove a point. Put in a good 10 minutes of exercises and stretches before practice and you'll be able to do things you didn't even realize you could. I've had nights where I could play some really tricky stuff and then not even be able to do it at all the next night that I was lazy with warming up first.
  19. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
    Cool, thank you. I'm going to get the kindle edition tonight.