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Finger position when reading music??

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ELITE55, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. ELITE55


    Oct 22, 2011
    For those of you who read music on a five string bass, which hand position on the fretboard do you typically stay with when your reading on let's say a swing or big band piece. It seems to me the most ideal positions are either the first(index on F) or fifth position(index on A) due to the fact that you have access to the most frequently used notes when reading. - I personally have become more comfortable using the fifth position and im getting better with the low B string for the E,F,F#,and G. But, should I work on staying in the first pos. or is it common / better to stay in the fifth(given that all the notes in the song work for either position). - I know many will say go with whatever is better for you but I want advice on people who have experience on which one they prefer and think is more convenient? Sorry if this question is confusing
  2. In all honesty, the answer to this question depends entirely on the context of the music that you're playing. Ideally, you want your fingerboard/fretboard hand in a position to execute the bassline cleanly, with good tone and a minimum of shifting (although there are times when you may want to introduce a shift that you might otherwise not have to play). Tone might be another consideration; many 5-strings have a difference in tone from notes played on the E-string to notes played on the B-string; if you're going to be camping out in the lower range of your bass for a while, you may find it preferrable to stay in the first position.

    I know you said that you want advice on which one might be more convenient, but it really does depend on the music. As a practice method, why not learn the line in both positions?
  3. ELITE55


    Oct 22, 2011
    Hey thanks- I think i will focus on getting just as comfortable with the first position. Your right about the tone issue being that it can sound a little duller on the B string. I've just had an issue with getting use to using the open strings as it throws me off but that's just something I will have to get over and practice until it isn't an issue. In the next few months I'll be attempting to audition for a show band gig on a cruise line so until then I'm putting everything I have into sight reading. Thanks again for the advice
  4. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    I agree: context is everything. The first thing I'll do when a new piece of music is handed to me is scan it for key changes, meter changes, road map issues (repeats, D.S. markers, codas, etc.) and for instances where shifts might be necessary (usually easy to identify by scanning the chart for anything that is written with ledger lines above the staff).

    Assuming that all or most of the chart is written in the staff, then I tend to set my default position based on the key. Because I use a Simandl-style 124 fingering on the lower frets, what the OP calls first position is better for songs that are in keys like F, Bb, and Eb, while what the OP would call second position is better for songs that are in C, G, D, A and E. Other keys will tend to require shifts between those positions so there is no clear default.
  5. Hi ELITE55, +1 to scaning over the whole piece looking for key changes and shifts you will have to make. I do quite a bit of theater work and those scores often have notes that fall out of the normal scale paterns, if I can offer something that really helps me and that is to learn the major scales starting from the pinky possition and not only the normal middle finger starting patern, may take a while before it feels natural but it is a usefull tool to have.
    If playing in Bb for example I would have my pinky on the Bb 6th fret E string, the low F (5th) is directly above on the B string, the Eb (4th) will be one down on the A string and also under the middle finger on B string (octave lower). Under my first finger would be D, B string (low 3rd), G, E string (nat minor), C, A string (2nd) F, D string (5th, oct up from B string) Bb, G string (octave) and C (9th) under middle finger, on D string it would be G (6th) on A string D (3rd) and E string A ( maj 7) under middle finger. The only scale tone I would have to stretch for with my index finger is the A on G string. You will see that a lot of scale tones and chromatics are under my fingers.
    I hope I was able to put this in a way that will help you.
  6. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    I was often confused about fingering until I really got into the Todd Johnson instruction books. His system is a few different scale patterns with one finger per fret and chromatic over or under notes outside the normal scale and then return to the home position.
    Even that I found confusing at first as, of course, his exercises all worked in that system, but real songs with key shifts didn't. But if you practice Todd's exercises enough you get a sense of what notes are where and can shift as necessary to a new home position and then back. It's helped me a lot in expanding what fingers are comfortable doing work, so I'm less likely to rely on the 'strong' fingers when shifts are necessary, so I don't end up boxing myself into an awkward fingering that needs a big shift to recover.

    That probably makes more sense to soem than others. I play a five string specifically so I can learn the most consistent finger patterns possible, without open strings. I figure that will come easier later.
  7. placedesjardins


    May 7, 2012
    As a 4-string bass player, it depends on the key of the song. If the song is in the key of A, I will either keep my index finger in 1st, 4th, 5th, 11th, 12th, 14th, or 15th position.
    1st position when the bottom A as the open A string. 4th position or 5th position when playing the bottom A on the low end of the E string. 11th or 12th when the bottom A is the 12th fret of the A string. 14th or 15th position when the bottom A is the 15th fret of the A string. I'm mainly a guitarist so I think in terms of playing A major scale where the bottom A is the beginning of the scale. And I think in terms of starting the major scale on either the E or A string and in terms of starting the major scale with my index finger on the A or my middle finger on the A; so the scale pattern is a bit different too. I'll play A on the 5th fret of the E string with my index finger or middle finger depending on the song. If it requires a lot of walking or playing more than just I, IV, V, I'll play it with my middle finger. If there's not a lot of walking, I'll play it with my index finger.
    When playing A minor, the pinky or index finger (because I mentally think of the same A minor scale played in different fingering patterns) is on the bottom A so I would also play in a song in A minor in 1st, 5th, 12th and 15th position.
  8. ELITE55


    Oct 22, 2011
    Hey thanks guys for the advice! I'll try some of your methods but I'm sure ultimately it will come with much practice and patients to get comfortable with where I am on the board.
  9. Big +1 for key / key changes.
  10. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    You can't lock yourself in one position and read music. You will often have to shift to attaint some notes.

    +1 to scanning to piece to see where you will have to shift. Also with practice you will be better at figuring what would be the most efficiant way ( for you ) to play it, or you will find a fingering maybe not the most efficiant but easier for you.

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