Finger independence: can't do it = hell !!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Rockin John, Jan 27, 2004.

  1. The biggest threat - if that's the right word - to my development as a bassist is the problem of finger independence. No matter how I try, I cannot practice myself out of the habit where my brain tell me to use the same finger to pluck as is used to stop the note.

    What I decided to aim for was a walking pattern with the plucking (right) hand where one finger follows the next: using 3 fingers as I currently do anyway, and building to use all 4 eventually. That scheme would operate which ever finger is stopping the note.

    But I just can't do it. If the fingers required to be used are different when a note change is required the whole thing falls apart. It does have to be said, though, that I can just about manage this independence what playing really slowly, but it's a genuine struggle.

    Having spent quite some months on this with little improvement as far as I can see, I now wonder whether I should continue with it, or find a way around the playing problems that are caused by it.

    Wisdom appreciated as always.


  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Play using ONLY your right hand index finger.

    Once you can do THAT, try alternating index and middle finger (all that 99% of fingerstyle bassists do).

    Once that is mastered you can worry about trying to use 3 or 4 fingers.

    You might ask what about the left hand? Start with OPEN STRINGS (no left hand needed!). Then play scales or ANY simple bass pattern that you can play without thinking about (so you can focus on your right hand).
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm not sure I understand the problem? Are you saying that you automatically feel compelled to use the same finger that is fretting the note in your left hand, on your right - plucking hand?

    So, for example - if you are using your index finger on your left hand, you feel compelled to use the index finger on your right hand?

    "my brain tell me to use the same finger to pluck as is used to stop the note."
  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999's been a long while since I owned that malady.

    (Don't believe that's what RJ is talkin' about, Bruce).
  5. :eek: JimK.............

    Bruce said
    That's exactly the situation, Bruce. [Better English on my part originally would have helped, I guess.....] The instinct to play this way is very strong. In it's basic sense it means I can't use my fingers how I want: I regard "want" as being the most finger-use economical, and effective way of playing music, X.

    The worst situation is where a change of L/H finger coinsides with a change to a DIFFERENT plucking (R/H) finger: say, 1st on L/H to 3rd on R/H.

    All sorts of other wierd things happen. I use all 4 on the L/H in the 'classical' fashion and strive to keep the fingers as close to the board as I can - the crawling spider thing. But when the stop / pluck mixup happens the L/H pinky makes a huge arc to get to the next stop. Really strange... I can correct by concentrating on not doing it but I can't concentrate on too many things at once.

    Hopefully that makes more sense....?

  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I must say I can't remember suffering from that... :meh: Although I've never tried using my little finger for plucking!

    But I think the best answer - given that your worst problem is with your little finger - is to concentrate on getting a "rock solid", right-hand, two-finger technique on plucking. (as Brian Rost said)

    Some of the players with the best technique - like Jaco - only really used their first two plucking fingers - even for the most difficult-sounding stuff!
  7. Good morning, Bruce. How are you? Are you snowed in yet? Nottingham's very patchy at present.

    No. My fault again. I didn't mean to say my pinky is at fault. All fingers suffer equally. That is, the bit of my brain that controls all this seems not to distinguish about the finger in use when making things more difficult for me!! Naturally my plucking pinky is very weak, but weakness does not = the problem of the original post.

    This situation is not about a drastic change. Rather, it's a gradual shifting of approach to modify to improve my technique so that, eventually, there's no (or very much reduced) physical barrier to playing. IOW, much less frequently, I'd like to be able to say, 'Sorry mate, can't play that bit cos my fingers won't, sync properly / move that fast / move that far / etc.

    Interestingly, Bruce, 2 finger plucking does not affect the L/H fingering so much: I seem to be able to work that scheme more easily.

    Wonder whether that makes sense?

  8. FRST


    Jan 27, 2004
    based in Athens, GA
    When I get frustrated trying to teach my fingers something that they don't want to learn...I think about the movie 'The Red Violin.' When the kid (Kasper something, I think) was learning the music piece and technique, he used a metronome and played the piece super slow. Everyday he went a little faster. In two weeks, he had it down.
    I know this doesn't directly help, but it runs through my mind when I practice because my fingers are stubborn and don't always want to listen to my brain. So, I play superslow and bore my fingers into submission.