Finger strength exercises

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by TSbR Bass, Nov 8, 2017.

  1. TSbR Bass

    TSbR Bass

    Jun 29, 2011
    Kampala, Uganda
    I need help with finger exercises. I was featured in a concert for Bassists here in Uganda last Sunday, and I tell you, after not playing on the big stage for years (I rarely play my bass even though it sleeps on my bed ), I could feel my bones, literally. I'm in love with the Bass again.

    Any interesting exercise ideas?

    All I know is the Major and Minor scales. To be honest, I've always played by ear.
  2. Instead of the old, 1-2-3-4. 2-3-4-5. 3-4-5-6 ......

    Here is some "stuff" you can build finger exercises upon. Use as much as you like.

    Scales and modes first.
    • OK you have the major and natural minor down.
    • Take the major and omit the 4 & 7 and you have the major pentatonic.
    • Take the natural minor and omit the 2 & 6 and you have the minor pentatonic.
    • Take the major and flat the 3 and you have the Melodic minor.
    • Take the natural minor and sharp the b7 to a 7 and you have the Harmonic minor.
    • Take the major and you have the notes for Ionian.
    • Take the major and sharp the 4 and you get the notes for Lydian.
    • Take the major and flat the 7 and you get the notes for Mixolydian.
    • Take the natural minor and you have the notes for Aeolian.
    • Take the natural minor and sharp the b6 to a 6 and you have the notes for Dorian.
    • Take the natural minor and flat the 2 and you have Phrygian's notes.
    • Take the natural minor and flat the 2 and 5 and you have Locrian's notes.

    Run those up and down your fretboard a zillion times and your bones should loosen up.

    Chord tones.
    • R-3-5 = a major triad.
    • R-b3-5 = a minor triad.
    • R-b3-b5 = a diminished triad.
    • R-3-5-7 = a major seven chord.
    • R-b3-5-b7 = a minor seven chord.
    • R-b3-b5-b7 = the diminished m7b5 chord.
    • See a chord and your fingers are already going where needed.

    From the above you should be able to put together several finger exercises. My point; kill two birds with one stone, learn some "patterns" that can be used in what you play. As an ear person think of them being licks.

    Here are some chord progressions on some of the songs I'm working on ..... use them as exercises patterns.
    • 6-7-1-5-4-5-1 That's the first line to a chorus.
    • 1-6-3-7-3-6-3-5 That's two lines of another chorus.
    • 1-3-4-1-4-1-2-5 This is also two lines of a chorus.
    Chord progressions as finger exercises would also make good finger strength builders. Think outside of the box, there are all kinds of patterns you could pull together.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
  3. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Think up something you absolutely cannot play. Practice it until you can. (The only bit of advice I managed to pick up from an old John McLaughlin interview - the rest was waaaay over my head). :D
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    You don't need (unless you have an injury) to build strength in the fingers. From a young age we all have ample strength to fret a string and get a clean sound. What you DO need to build is dexterity and stamina. This comes by simply playing the bass on a regular basis. Unless you want to learn some theory, then playing anything (by ear...if you wish) will build up dexterity and stamina. In this regard, it is not so much WHAT you play as how often you play.
  5. twelvetrombones

    twelvetrombones Martian Ambassador Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2017
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  6. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    This. Forget about contraptions such as the "Fender Grip" pictured above. Those things are an utter waste of time and money. Practice; there are no shortcuts.
  7. twelvetrombones

    twelvetrombones Martian Ambassador Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2017
    Well, the OP asked for ideas to strengthen his fingers, and that it will do.
    TSbR Bass likes this.
  8. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    TShaka is it you?! If so it's great to "see" you again!!

    As for strengthening you fingers, regularly practicing again will go a long way to getting things back in shape. But from a purely strength aspect you could benefit from some light weight lifting exercises called "rows" there will be many examples found online at YouTube. Start very light and gradually increase the weight. This will help you improve grip strength as well as in other muscles in your arms. Do a few sets of exercises each day and you should feel improvement after a few weeks.

    Combined with regular practice on the bass will get you back up to speed pretty quick.

    TSbR Bass likes this.
  9. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Those kinds of things might strengthen your grip but that is not going to help the OP's bass playing much (if at all). In fact, it might have the opposite effect, encouraging the OP to exert more pressure on the strings than is necessary.
    TSbR Bass, red_rhino and fearceol like this.
  10. ba55i5t


    May 24, 2006
    Fix your action. :thumbsup:
    TSbR Bass and Bodeanly like this.
  11. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    As I mentioned earlier, we have enough strength from a young age, in order to be able to fret a string. Those gadgets develop grip...the opposite of what's required to play the bass. Many times here on TB the (correct) advice is given to beginners that both hands should be as relaxed as possible. The hands are not relaxed if you have to grip. What's required is to develop the tendons that lift the fingers off of the fret board, and place them where they are required. This is the polar opposite action to that of gripping. From a bass playing aspect, the only place for those gadgets is...the trash can. ;)
    TSbR Bass, lfmn16, red_rhino and 3 others like this.
  12. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    ...which is the last thing we need to play the bass. The hands should be relaxed...not possible when you are gripping.
    TSbR Bass, David Jayne and bass12 like this.
  13. Bodeanly


    Mar 20, 2015
    If you are not able to do it yourself, pay a tech to set up your bass and play along with your favorite jams for a bit each day. Boom. You’re welcome.
    TSbR Bass and ba55i5t like this.
  14. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Relaxation while playing is something that seems to get discussed much more on the DB side of things, but it is equally applicable when it comes to bass guitar.
  15. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    OK step one: PLAY THE DAMN THING!

    Step 2: Get the lightest strings you can with your action set as low as you can without buzzing.

    Step 3: When your strings wear out go up a gauge, and set your action a little higher.

    Step 4: Repeat steps 1 and 3 until you feel like you are comfortable.

    It's kind of like weight training. Personally I'm more from the philosophy that it's more about finesse than strength. I have had tendonitis from trying to play with heavy strings and high action action and it forced me to focus on getting the most done with the least amount of effort and my playing has benefited from it.

    Rev J
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  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I see I don't need to comment, as this says it all. I would highly push the theory part, though. Take lessons from a teacher who uses theory, or get some instructional material that teaches it to you. Teacher is preferable, but there's a lot of good books and online instruction you can also get.
  17. There’s no quick and easy solution. It’s probably going to take a couple of weeks for your hands to get up to speed. Although I am an advocate for grip and forearm training, this does nothing for example for your finger extensors (which raise the fingers upwards). Playing is the only real answer. See if you can get breaks between songs with dancers, comedians etc for now. And very importantly, “warm up”. Warming up for 15+ minutes will reduce your chance for injury and increase dexterity. Practice 4 finger rolling hammer ons and roll offs as soon as you can to gain fluidity.
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  18. tjh


    Mar 22, 2006
    ... except there are no muscles in the fingers ... ;)

    .. any device which requires repetition through the exact same range of motion every time quite often creates either an imbalance, or excessive stress which potentially leads to other issues ... so, not good ... but, yes, you tried ;)
  19. red_rhino

    red_rhino Currently on Double Secret Probation Gold Supporting Member

    It's more about conditioning than it is about strength. As noted above, there are many contraptions and exercises that will develop grip strength, but you will still get fatigued playing bass even if you develop super grip strength or Popeye-sized forearms thru weight training. Playing is an endurance exercise, not a strength exercise.

    So what you really want to concentrate on are repetitive bass patterns played at a tempo that drives you to fatigue. Rest. Repeat. Sometimes the rest period should be a full day depending on how hard you're pushing. Don't play to the point of pain. Don't play thru pain.

    For example, Time The Avenger (Pretenders) is a relentless bass line at a brisk tempo. If you can play it all the way thru along with the studio recording, I'd say your endurance is just fine. I'm sure there are many other examples that folks here can cite that are equally, if not more, challenging.
    Rev J and Kubicki Fan like this.
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