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Fretting technique question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by SbassmanSpiff, Oct 19, 2013.


  1. I have been learning Bass Guitar on my own for about a year now, using Hal Leonard's 3 in 1 book/cd. I have been using the 1 finger per fret method almost from the start. But I have never been able to reach the 4th fret with my pinky finger without having to move my entire hand over. As far as I can tell, I have average size hands.

    Well I recently found a bass teacher and had my first lesson with him last week. One of the first things he had me do was play the chromatic scale from first position. As I played through the scale, he noticed me moving my whole hand over to reach that fourth fret with my pinky. He then asked if I was able to place all four fingers on each fret at the same time. No, I could not. If I grabbed my pinky with my other hand and pulled it over, I could just barely get it past the 3rd fret.

    He demonstrated for me and he was able to comfortably keep each finger positioned over each fret. As he played through the scale his fingers looked like they barely moved.

    My question is: Is this something that can be developed? Is it normal for beginners to have this problem? Or is it something I am just going to have to live with?
     
  2. There can be certain limitations for hands due both to size of the hand , length of fingers and how flexible the hand is. I have the same problem and find I have to move my hand slightly to get to the 4th fret. With practice I have found the situation to have improved but not completly resolved itself. My son , who has longer fingers than I do does not have this problem at all. He can play rings around me but this is more due to his dedication and amount of training than the size of his hands. (He went to an art school for 4 years and received 3 hours of music instruction a day) I on the other hand play in a couple bar bands , have other interests , and don't work at perfecting my skills as much. I also know a couple bassists in my area , both who have hands much smaller than mine (one is a girl barely 5'5") that can also play rings around me so it's more a matter of dedication and practice than being able to reach all 4 frets without moving your hand. Some of the problem can be resolved by the proper positioning of the hand and some of the problem if it's due to size can not be addressed. Keep practicing with whatever technique works for you and learn to play rings around me through dedication and skill. Good luck.
     
  3. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    It is something you develop, your teacher has this in mind as your ultimate goal. You have to trust your teacher, as he is who you are paying, but i personally never let new players practice in any position under the 7th fret till they have, what i consider, a strong technique developed to allow them to do so with ease.
    Bear in mind you teacher has a developed technique so do not make comparisons with it to your own abilities. :)

    Check out the link at about 6.56 where it is touched upon.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zrsRYliYOQo
     
  4. I'm looking at my hands and my left (fretting ) hand's fingers naturally spread a teeny bit further than my right hand's. So I'm guessing the spread is something that is developed by constant repeated playing. The body adapts to what it needs to do. If you run or lift weights consistently enough, the body gets good at those activities. Based on what I'm seeing in my own hands, the body adapts to consistent bass playing too.
     
  5. Green1

    Green1

    Sep 23, 2010
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Check out Todd Johnsons technique builders dvd/book. theres some very specific exercises that will really strengthen your hand and help dexterity.....etc
     
  6. You can help develop that hand position and technique by pushing your bass slightly to your right (assuming you're right handed) to bring the low frets closer to your body.

    Work on keeping your left (fretting) hand perpendicular to the neck as much as possible.

    Play exercises like chromatic patterns and scales slowly on the lower frets, striving for smoothness and accuracy.

    Increase metronome speed in small increments.

    Every so often relax and shake out your left hand. Stretch occasionally - gently.

    The idea is to work up slowly - keep playing at a set tempo until it's smooth and relaxed, then move up by no more than 4 bpm at a time.

    It's a slow process but if you stick with it you will develop the span to comfortably reach 4 frets near the low end of the neck.
     
  7. Lownote38

    Lownote38

    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Your pinky finger naturally doesn't have good independence from your other fingers, so it's hard to get it to go where you want it to. If you have to move it with your other hand at first, and then see how long you can keep your hand in that position. That will stretch the tendon in your pinky and the more you use your pinky finger, the more independence you'll gain.
     
  8. Shardik

    Shardik

    May 24, 2011
    Halden, Norway
    My first thought was: "What a show-off".

    But like everyone else says, these things can be developed. But still, reaching over frets 1 to 4 on a 34" scale is quite a stretch for many people, even with development. And even if you barely make that stretch, getting enough power on that pinky in such an extreme position is also close to impossible for some.

    What I am saying is that different people use different techiques because they have different abilities. Try to push your limits, but if it does not work, focus on what you can do rather than what you can't. If moving the hand is what it takes, get good at moving that hand.
     
  9. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    This is definitely developed, if your hands are so small that you cannot achieve this, you should look at a smaller scale bass. Very few people actually require a smaller scale bass, mostly children and small women. Plenty of folks prefer them for various reasons. You could also use the Carol Kaye method and only use three fingers.

    Are you focusing on using one finger per fret on the higher frets? This should be very do-able in the 3rd position if not the 2nd. Just be sure to focus on your technique and the ability to reach will come naturally. Avoid getting into bad habits.
     
  10. Shardik

    Shardik

    May 24, 2011
    Halden, Norway
    Hand size is not the only limitation. People do have differing dexterity and strength. What about people missing a finger? Should they not play bass due to some definition of "bad habits"?
    What if you're covering frets 2 to 5, and need that tone in fret 1 or 6? At some point that hand needs to move.
     
  11. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Nothing wrong with rolling your hand to get more range. Keyboard players do it.

    What I did years ago to improve left hand span was to curl my fingertips as if fretting notes (i.e. don't lock your finger joints) and then open the hand as much as possible while still keeping the tips curled. The span between index and pinky should naturally get wider as you do this. As with all stretching exercises, don't go to the absolute limit. Go about 80%. Don't go further than what feels natural.

    Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor or health expert of any kind but this worked for me.
     
  12. lyla1953

    lyla1953

    Jul 18, 2012
    This subject came up the other day while at a session with my instructor...Bottom line it's a developed skill in his opinion...
    He held up his hands palm to palm with fingers spread fully - His left hand pinky had at least 3/4" more spread than his right pinky.
    The combination of practice and exercise as noted above is the key.
     

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