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flat fingers

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Funkateer, Mar 11, 2003.

  1. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    As a former classical guitar player, one of the most surprising things I've recently learned about left hand technique on a fretted bass, is the value of *not* arching your fingers and fretting with the ball of your fingers. Especially for funk. I am currently working on Bernadette, out of the Standing in the Shadows of Motown book, and flat fingers really help with articulation. Together with a 3 fret hand position, flat fingers make muting the unused strings easy, and the non-fretting fingers can be used to clip the notes short to get a more percussive effect. Those descending 4ths are a lot easier to play as a quasi-bar too. I'll fret a Db and Ab (E and A strings), and instead of just letting the Db ring, I'll roll the finger a little toward the tip, to let the A string off the fret and damp it.

    My 2 cents on technique for today ...
  2. I totally agree with you. By flattening your fingers, you mute the strings a little bit, which therefore helps your articulation. However, I heard that James Jamerson actually did curve his fingers around like a classical guitarist. This is because he came from playing upright bass, and this was considered proper technique.
  3. Yup, Jamerson's upright background helped his technique on BG a lot. He just had that bridge cover and foam mute to mute his strings.
  4. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Quite simply you'll play with far more clearness and dexterity if you keep your fingers curved towards the instrument. Ask any experienced guitarist, pianist, contrabassist, trumpeter...etc.

  5. I think they meant for barring root-5th-octaves and fourths Jamerson played frequently. At least that's what I hope they mean...:meh:
  6. I keep my fingers arched 95% of the time. I might play a couple of root-4th doublestops, but that's it. Arching my fingers also means I get surer intonation on fretless.
  7. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I'm a pianist, guitarist, and trumpeter - and I've found this to be true. Arched fingers seem to work much better.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think you have to learn when these techniques can be used and choose the best for the job.

    So if you are playaing a melodic legato line, then curved fingers will give you greater accuracy and better tone.

    But if you are playing staccato 16th note funk, then this is a good way of muting strings - especially when you are playing near the nut. Flat fingers are good for "percussive" techniques, where "full" tone is not what is required.

    I've seen Jaco do both on videos and lots of other good players - you just choose the appropriate technique for the job.
  9. yoshi


    Jul 12, 2002
    England, London
    A bit off topic, but when arching your ring finger do any of you get an unusual angle at the 3rd joint where it meets the fret board? When fretting mine sometimes 'snaps' into a really unuaual angle, my twin brothers does the same too on guitar. It allows me to archevery finger, but bar 2 strigs with the last segment of my ring.

    Ill have to get a picture, I worry that it messes up my playing potential at times :(
  10. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I'm with Bruce. Different techniques for different situations. The range of techniques that are possible and usable are part of what make the bass an interesting instrument to learn. I am currently practicing a slap funk vamp where I am committing the ultimate classical guitar technique heresy of using my left hand thumb to damp the E string when I slap the A string.
  11. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Hmm. Could this mean your fingers are too tense?
  12. yoshi


    Jul 12, 2002
    England, London
    Come to think of it, the '2nd segment' of my ring finger does seem a bit stiff, and the third joint doesn't bend 'inwards' as much as the others do.

    However, Im not fully sure of what way you mean by tense. It's only the ring finger that does it and it doesn't pose much of a problem, other than with riffs such as;


    (the notes on the A and D strings where I fret with my ring andpinky)

    Ill try to take a photo.

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