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Fretting Exercises

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by woot, Feb 27, 2003.

  1. woot


    Nov 16, 2002
    Hey everyone.
    I'm a relatively new bass player, I've owned a bass for over a year but only started seriously playing it since about half a year ago, after a friend of mine got me listening to a lot of different types of music.

    I've noticed that I make a lot of fundamental technical mistakes when I play. When I fret anything above the third or fourth fret, my left (i'm right handed) wrist tends to really twist into uncomfortable positions. I've watched many bass players and they don't seem to have that problem.

    Also, my ring finger is pretty much unused on my fretting hand, and a lot of the times the fingers that I'm not using (mostly the pinky and ring finger) tend to just...stick out into the air while I'm playing.

    Any tips as to technique improvement by way of finger exercises or anything?
  2. First up, your left wrist shouldn't really be twisting into uncomfortable positions at all! If its uncomfortable, don't do it! You said that you've seen other bass players - then what you need to do is try to replicate bass players who have good technique. Keep your wrist and hand relaxed, straight and try to use your fingers, not your thumb, to be forcing the pressure.

    The best exercise to increase the ability of your pinky and ring fingers is simply playing a simple chromatic scales up and down the fretboard, as well as changing strings. For example:

    Where I = index, M = middle, R = ring and P = pinky

    E 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
    I M R P I M R P I M R P

    Once that is comfortable, you then can move on to chaning strings:

    D 0 1 2
    A 0 1 2 3 4
    E 0 1 2 3 4
    I M R P I M R P I M

    If you're teaching yourself how to play, then get a mirror and watch yourself while you play through the chromatics so that you can see where you go wrong. Play it really slowly until you have your technique comfortable and painless (and hopefully similar to the other bass players you've seen). It is going to be awkward using your pinky at first, but it will make life a lot easier in the long run.

    Obviously, variations of this that you can make up for yourself will help further with dexterity once you've mastered these.

    Hope this helps.


    Edit: make sure that your bass isn't strapped too low either! If its a struggle to reach, then lift it up. No point looking 'cool', with arthritis and being unable to play a single song!
  3. woot


    Nov 16, 2002
    Hey, thanks for the tips. I'll try them out the next time I pick up my bass. I think I'll still have the most problem with my wrist, but hopefully I can do something about it.

    Yeah, I've noticed that it's a lot easier to play while sitting down rather than standing up. Perhaps my strap is let down a bit long after all.

    How do people play with the basses banging their knees? Sheesus.
  4. Most of the time, they do so poorly! If you compare the stereotypical punk bass players (please don't offense) to professional bassists then you can easily see why, purely based on their technique and positioning, they're not as good. In saying that, anyone who plays a type of music in which 'coolness' is required to be a popular band, you do need to lower that strap while performing. Keep the strap up high until you've learnt the songs correctly then try to lower it and see how it goes. Thats how I try to do it anyways.
  5. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    There are some things you should know that are extermly important for bass guitar technique no matter what genre you're into.

    The first thing is placing your left hand thumb on the middle of the neck in a natural position. There should be as little strain as possible in the hand and thumb.

    Second, keep your left hand fingers in a "claw" formation. That means avoiding keeping them flat against the fingerboard and pressing down with the pad of the finger and instead use the fingertip which will give a more precise and clear attack and tone.

    As far as the ring finger goes ... I think we've all been there at one point of our bass playing career. The key is practice, practice, and some more practice. Work slowly and focus on one thing at a time. Good luck...

  6. How high (or low) do you wear your bass? That could be one reason your hand is all messed up.
  7. woot


    Nov 16, 2002
    Actually, I think that I figured out my wrist problem. When I play higher up on the neck, I need to just move my elbow outwards too, instead of having it stuck next to my body as a pivoting point. I can't say whether or not I 'look cool' while doing it, but it seems to keep my wrist straight.

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