Fret hand stretch

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MarshallNole, Jan 31, 2014.

  1. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    I've been playing a little over 2 months now. When doing fret hand exercises low on the fretboard, I still get some cramping/discomfort in my palm right under my thumb. It is from applying a lot of pressure to the back of the neck. I know you are supposed to keep your thumb relaxed but I can't make the stretches lower on the fretboard without applying pressure.

    When does this get easier? I do stretching/fret hand exercises daily but it seems to be coming along at a snails pace.
  2. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Some of this will be at a snails pace. You are asking your fingers to do things they never have before. However, when ever there is pain we should back off.

    No pain no gain is for jocks, we're musicians. :cool:

    I just ran a scale to see what I do. I do not put any pressure on the thumb, i.e. I'm not pushing into the back of the neck. My thumb is there in the middle of the neck more of a guide than anything else. However, I did notice I do slide the pattern some in the first few frets of the neck. My thumb is not static in one spot of the pattern.

    Not going to get into this being correct or not, it's just what I do.

    Offered for what it is worth....
  3. Brother Goose

    Brother Goose The Process IS the Reward!

    Dec 4, 2013
    Syracuse NY
    God Is Love
    I have good sized hands and learned to play with a one finger per fret approach with my thumb behind my middle finger- about ten years ago I got hip to the "Brunny Brunel" technique which allows the thumb to rest at the bottom third of the neck and entire hand curves around the fingerboard.

    Almost impossible to explain- but results in almost zero stress in my wrists and frettling strength coming from my forearm muscles.

    This style lends itself to flat or asymmetrical necks but works for me even on my chunky warwick. Also works WAY better with an instrument that sits at a 45 degree angle (check out the carvin BB basses) but I've found moving straps buttons can help.

    Check it out- I wish I hadn't worked so hard with the traditional "kung fu" grip!
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Are you using the "one finger per fret" technique on the lower frets? If so, perhaps this is the problem. You might like to try using the ring and pinkie fingers together.

    Here are some clips that may be of help :

  5. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    Thanks all. I am using one finger per fret... I will check out all of your links.
  6. This - the one-finger-per-fret method has its validity, but it shouldn't come at the expense of pain or injury to yourself.

    Something one of my old teachers had me doing years ago was to take whatever technical exercise I was working on and moving it up the neck to a point where reaching or stretching for notes wasn't an issue. For some exercises this may not be practical (if it's something you have to read and are not comfortable transposing), but for others it's easy. I would start with my first finger on the 9th fret and fourth finger on the 12th, and do finger-independence exercises across the strings, only moving down towards the lower positions when I had the hand strength and flexibility to do so.
  7. Your hands will stretch quite a bit with experience over the years but don't expect every stretch to be within your grasp. It's very much a physical side of music that we're born with. Some people like Allan Holdsworth make insane hand stretches and Rachmaninov had a ridiculous span but most of us will be average. The way to deal with certain physical limitations is to find your own way around them (get creative) or just use simple, common techniques for dealing with extremes.

    One of my videos deals with maximizing the hand stretch you have:

    Basically, keep your fingers flat when trying to get as far as you can and bring the thumb further into the back of the neck. You don't want the thumb sitting there on the E string like you're holding a baseball bat. Bring it round towards the G string enough to get a better stretch but not so much that you hurt or pull your wrist.

    Next, use pivoting with the thumb for when the stretch is too far. The video shows you how to do this.

    Hopefully that'll help.

  8. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    First, quit worrying about stretching and learn to shift. Look up the Simandl method. Second, get a good teacher.
  9. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    It's good you are paying attention to pain. My hand pain tended to be different than yours but never the less I'll share what I found because it's hand pain in general -

    As a point of reference, I play long scales with nut widths of 1.625 to 1.750. Ric & P are 1.625, Alembic is 1.750. Weight between 7.6 and 10.5lbs depending, w/o straps.

    I also switch back and forth between OFPF and 3 finger (1,2,4) on the left hand but always two finger pluck on the right. No pick.

    I tend to rest my right thumb on the top of the p/u or E string.

    Most of my playing is beneath the 7th fret.

    Most of my time is spend practicing on a daily basis. Intentionally, I alternate each day - one day sitting - the next day standing.

    My hand pain was in my left hand palm beneath my pinky. It would occur when doing a repetitious lick (12+ times) on frets 4 or below. I was twisting my wrist to far counter clockwise and the pain would rapidly become severe.

    Three things all but eliminated it;
    1) I lowered the bass (significantly) to where its generally positioned (+/- an inch or two) to where the instrument neck joint meets the main body of the bass is on the same height plane(sp?) as my navel.
    2) The bass rests on my right side. Not behind my right hip - not on top of my navel but generally in between those two points. My right elbow sticks straight out and forearm only slightly rests on the bass.
    3) My left thumb generally rests at the center of the neck or somewhere on the upper half. My hand is never closed around the neck and my fingers are curved over the fret board.

    As time has passed I've found that the bass has lowered quite a bit to get a comfortable
    extended, pain free playing position.
  10. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    GRRRR. I am so tired of being told to get a good teacher. They are hard to find. I am taking lessons right now and getting nothing out of it. I'm about to quit.

    How do you find a good teacher? There is literally nobody that I know who knows of a good bass teacher in my area.
  11. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    Is there a local community college? I was getting bass lessons at mine for $200 per semester (and that was for four months of hour long lessons).
  12. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    Yes there is a local CC here.

    As it stands now I'm paying $20 for 30 minutes.
  13. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006

    You could try skype lessons. Scott Devine is one of the best, and AFAIK he gives lessons through skype.

    He is also a TB'er, so perhaps you could PM him.
  14. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Get with a real live teacher. No need to do any hand exercises or stretching. And there is no absolute way to play the electric bass. Just watch John Patatutti's right hand then watch Gary Willis or Matt Garrison...all different. Same with the left hand. Good luck, -d
  15. +1
  16. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings
    Two months is not a long time. Learning an instrument is like learning a sport. It takes a lot of practice to develop stamina and muscle memory.

    I basically play with one finger per fret when playing between the 3rd and 10th frets. I wrap my thumb around the back of the neck in the first 2 frets and as I get closer to the body.
  17. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    If it was easy everybody would do it. Have you posted to TB asking for a referral for your area? Have you thought about taking lessons via Skype? Have you thought about traveling a little farther out but only taking lessons every two or three weeks to offset the time and cost? Is there a local university or college? Are there no good bass players in your area? Have you gone out to see really good bands with really good bass players?

    Think outside the box. Failures have 100 good reasons why they failed; Successful people keep trying until they succeed.
  18. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    I always take issue with advice from others that sort of says that hand exercises and stretches are not necessary when they are posted without context.

    They are very necessary and very important to keep the hand healthy, and a healthy hand is a responsive hand, a responsive hand lets you play more with greater dexterity and consistency, so play better bass....its like saying you do not need theory to play bass...which you do not...but again its about context....theory helps you be a better bass player as hand exercises and stretches help you be a better bass player. ;)
  19. There's your problem.

    The left-hand technique I teach my students is: Sit at a table or desk. Place your limp left hand on the table in front of you, palm up and totally relaxed. If you are like most people, your fingers will be slightly spread (not touching, but also not stretched out), they will be slightly curved (so that your fingernails are not resting on the tabletop), and your thumb will NOT be crossed over your pointer finger or tucked into your palm.

    That is what my left hand looks like on the bass.

    When I am playing in 1st position (closest to the nut/headstock), my 1st finger is on F at the 1st fret, my 2nd finger is on F# at the 2nd fret, and my 4th finger is on the G at the 3rd fret. (Notice I do not use my 3rd/ring finger, which is anatomically weak in the human hand.) My thumb is on the back of the neck (NOT wrapped over the top of the neck) and it is angled slightly toward the headstock past my 1st finger, NOT crossed over my 1st finger so it is opposite my 2nd finger. The strength to fret the string comes from my arm muscles (NOT the pressure of my thumb on the back of the neck) and my bass is properly set up so very little force is necessary to press the strings down to the fret.

    I hope you find that advice helpful and it works for you. Nothing can substitute for working with a good teacher in person, so I hope you find one. A foolproof method I have found is to support the local music scene, to network with the good players. Personally I would not take lessons from someone who isn't getting lots of gigs (unless they are retired from gigging after a successfuly career to become full-time faculty at a music school). :)
  20. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thats cool if you wanna take issue. I guess from now on I'll just preside every post i make with IMO. Does that work for you Fergie?