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Fretting hand dexterity

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Spikeh, Apr 27, 2006.

  1. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    I'm sure this has been done to death, but I've done a search and can't find anything specifically relevant to my issue...

    I use two fingers on my plucking hand (sometimes, but rarely, I used three), rest my thumb on my pickup and attack quite hard. I can play quite fast on one string or over all the strings.

    However - I've recently started to notice that my fretting hand is quite slow in comparison. I can use chromatics quite well - I can play some complex shapes / basslines, but when I try to push myself to my limit (I'm going to try to get a video recorded to put up so you can see what I mean) I start to struggle with changing strings. For example, one of my basslines is as follows:

    G ---------------------------------
    D ---------------------------------
    A --5-5-55-5------------5-5-----3--
    E -----------44332211111---1234----
    You can hear a VERY rough version of it here. It's an excerpt from me messing around last night, and I'm at work so I can't record a clean / louder sample. Sorry.

    My problem is that the 4th finger on my fretting hand - after I've done the second chromatic on the E string (1234) I use my 4th finger to get to the C on the A string... but I can't get it all the time!

    I've been playing the song at practice (and practicing on my own too) for about 5 months and it's starting to get annoying.

    Any exercises I can do, any advice etc? I think my fretting hand technique is quite good. I can play the bassline if I DON'T use my pinky to hit the final 4 on the E string... I think it's because the change from the G# to the C to so quick, I haven't time to get my pinky out of the way!
  2. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    My suggestion would be to look into a book like The Bass Grimoire. This is a book with a million scales and modes. What you can do is use this (or a similar) book to get your left hand in shape. I would start with scales that are very low on the fret board (like F, F# if you are using a 4-string). These will probably make your hand hurt a bit at first if you arent used to them.

    Here is a simple F-minor scale. If you play it up and down, it is decent pinky/stretching training.

    (i)(r)(p). . . . . . (i)(m)(p)

    Most likely, you just have certain muscles in your left hand that are a bit weak and this is what's imparing you.
  3. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Practicing arpeggios is very useful. Use all four fingers.
    In the key of C, up:
    C-E-G-B, D-F-A-C, E-G-B-D, F-A-C-E, G-B-G-F, A-C-E-G, B-D-F-A, C-E-G-B
    then down:
    B-G-E-C, A-F-D-B, etc.

    Then you can do all kinds of permutations:
    C-E-G-B, E-G-B-D, D-F-A-C, F-A-C-E, etc.
    E-C-A-F, C-A-F-D, D-B-D-E, B-G-E-C

    C-E-G-B, C-A-F-D, E-G-B-D, E-C-A-F

    You get the idea. Mix it all up.
    Do this kind of thing in every key, using a metronome or drum machine (starting slowly but striving to be smooth and consistent). Not only will this help greatly with dexterity, but it will help with learning the notes on neck.
  4. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    I don't think it's a pinky problem... my pinky is very strong (it's developed quite well)... but it's just when I play that bassline (faster than the recording) my 4th finger just won't move while my pinky is on the 4th fret of the e string.... not fast enough anyway! I can do it slowly...
  5. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    If it's not a strength problem, it seems like it has to be a flexibility and/or coordination problem.
    Practicing will help. (See my bit on arpeggios, above.)
  6. floopy


    Mar 18, 2006
    Hi, just wondering what finger you are using when you play the final 'C' on the A string?

    I just tried playing your bassline and noticed that it was a whole lot easier to hit the final C with my second finger, rather than the third.

    Depends on your hand size (mine are little) and whether you move your whole hand rather than stretching your fingers I guess. But it works for me :)
  7. To get my fretting hand up to speed, I usually do a little practice piece off one of Patittucci's bass videos... the Spider.
    it works finger independence, and works muscles you didnt know you had. BTW, in the beginning, its supposed to hurt. lol
  8. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Two words:

  9. Pierre_Pontroli


    Mar 18, 2006
    Hi there. Hope I'm not being too cheeky here, but would you be able to post this exercise? Sounds like it could be useful!

  10. Pierre_Pontroli


    Mar 18, 2006
    Ignore me! Just got my finger out and did a seach! :D
  11. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Those are evil. I've doing a few minutes of those every 2nd or 3rd practice. If you do these, do them at the end of your practice routine. I know I have to because it wipes my hand out, which is a good thing. Also why I don't do them every day, have to let the exercised muscles get some rest and rebuild before destroying them again.
  12. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    As I originally posted:

    My hands are HUGE so there's no problem with stretching really - it doesn't hurt or anything, I just can't get it! And I did say that I can play it with my 2nd finger or 1st finger, but my point is that I SHOULDN'T play it with those fingers...
  13. floopy


    Mar 18, 2006
    If you can play it using other fingers why do you think you have a problem?

    Are you worried the 'one finger per fret' police will come take your bass away or something? :D

    Seriously though, surely the only 'wrong' fingerings are ones which cause you to strain your hand or prevent you from moving on to the next notes successfully. To me good technique is about hitting the notes in time and getting a good tone, how you get there doesn't matter.
  14. floopy


    Mar 18, 2006
    Spike, please ignore me! I seem to have a total inability to read your posts correctly on this thread :eek:

    (note to self - if he's playing the C with his pinkie, he's not trying to do 1FPF, he's doing 1244)

    . . . goes off to practise reading - sits in dunce's corner with big pointy hat . . .
  15. MichaelScott


    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    Why don't you play it:

    G ---------------------------------
    D --0-0--00-0------------0-0---------
    A -------------------------------3--
    E -----------44332211111----1234----
    and play the C with your ring finger. That requires no shifting.
  16. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    I would like to see your left hand position. My guess is that your fingers/hand/wrist are not properly placed. The location of your bass also makes a difference. Do you wear your bass on a strap? If you do, do you wear it low?

    I am a middle school orchestra director and I run into students all the time that don't like to use their pinky for similar reasons. After we adjust the left arm position and the left elbow, things start work better.

    Is there any way you can post an image for us?

  17. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    Michael - it's still the same chromatic. My pinky isn't the problem, it's the fact that my 4th finger doesn't want to go down to the C on the A string when my pinky's pressed on the G# on the E string....

    Bassist4Life - I'll try to get a video up today if my webcam decides to work ;)
  18. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Now I'm completely confused.
    Aren't your fourth finger and pinky the same finger??
  19. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    Ahhh... no... I was counting my thumb... haha.

    Anyway... here's a video... I start with the slow riff then speed it up to the correct speed. If anyone has any suggestions on my technique I'd be more than happy to take them on board :)

  20. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    And as you can see I keep missing that C when I play it faster ;)

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