Fretting Technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by benny.bizzle, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. benny.bizzle

    benny.bizzle Guest

    Jan 14, 2009
    Hey. I've been playing bass for around about 8 years (I'm 21 now) and I had lessons for probably the first two years... but the guy wasn't graded or anything. He just taught me the serious basics and would teach me how to play certain bass lines. Nothing to do with theory.

    He noticed a bad habit I got myself into and I never managed to get myself out of it, now its 8 years down the line and I'm still stuck with it and its starting to irrtate me.

    I have serious trouble fretting with my little finger. I only fret with my index, middle and ring fingers. It can sometimes actually hurt when I try to fret with my little finger, as if its too weak to put the right amount of pressure on the string to make a good sound. Also, it tends to lock a little bit at the first joint in my little finger (the first bend from the tip end of my finger), and always ends up curled up behind the fret board.

    I realise how ridiculously hard its going to be to get myself out of this bad habit that I've kept for so long but I was wondering if there are any people out there who maybe have had the same problem and gotten over it who could help me develop my fretting technique, because I've really started to notice how inefficient my left hand motion is because I'm using one less finger than I should be.

    Reponses appreciated.
  2. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Like any other 'bad habit' you're going to have to force yourself to do the right thing until it feels good.

    Technically, make sure your bass is set up properly so your pinky doesn't have to work any harder than it needs to.

    Also, if you are pinching a nerve in your pinky, get to a doctor, one that specialises in hand problem and see what they have to say.

    Keep at.... you really do need four fingers, if you have them.
  3. 4bpauly

    4bpauly Guest

    Jan 23, 2008
    Toronto, ON Canada
    just do some excercises that focus on all four fingers

    do them everydya for a month and i bet you will be way more comfortable.

    contact me if you need some excercises, i would be glad to help.
  4. benny.bizzle

    benny.bizzle Guest

    Jan 14, 2009
    Thanks for the responses, guys.

    4bpauly, any tips on different exercises would be a huge help.

    Thanks again.
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    There are more details to consider before accurate advice can be given: Are you using 1234 (aka one finger per fret)fingering or 124 (aka URB) fingering? is your setup good? are you keeping your Left Hand wrist straight and curling your fingers? do you have small hands? is your bass strap slung low?

    I fret 1-2-4 unless I'm getting above the 7th or 9th fret. when I fret with my pinky, I always have the other 3 fingers on the neck right behind it for backup support. Also, I do not slavishly keep my fingers spread out uncomfortably to span a 4 fret range: I move my left hand to reach as needed, keeping my thumb anchored so I can slide back to my original spot. IMHO it is more important to get your fingers where they need to go in a comfortable way than to not move your hand at all.

    Also, keep in mind that you may be fretting much harder than needed: It does not require much strength to fret a note on a decent instrument. The weakness may have more to do with the reach, wrist angle and strap length.

    Don't get me wrong: being able to make the stretch a good exercise, but in practice what matters is keeping your wrist straight and your fingers comfortable, not making the stretch.
  6. benny.bizzle

    benny.bizzle Guest

    Jan 14, 2009
    Its not so much the stretch that bothers me, its the actual ability to even fret with my little finger, not matter how big or little the stretch.

    The body of my bass probably hangs at about belly/stomach level and my wrist and such aren't skewed to a completely awkward and unnatural angle. I think the position of my wrist and such are quite good. I've never had a problem with that and I've played in front of countless people, even well established bass players, and none have commented on any bad technique other than my inability to fret with my little finger.
  7. Also avoid psyching yourself out. It's not going to be ridiculously hard to break that habit. It's only going to be hard to play with your pinky unless you start doing exercises to learn how to use your pinky.

    It's just practice and it just takes being consistent. Set aside a small amount of time every night - even just a 1/2 hour and do your 1 finger per fret exercises on scales, 'spiders' and arpeggios, and before you know it you'll be using that pinky.

    [EDIT: I just saw your last post]
    Regarding others not commenting on you having bad technique; It's not all that often people will just walk up to you and say, "dude, you've got bad technique" - so it's not a surprise that no ones has offered such critique.

    And I'd like to echo what others have said about having your instrument properly set up. If your action is high (your strings riding high over the fretboard), you could have a difficult time coaxing a weak finger to fret properly. So if you have not taken you bass to a tech and had it set up properly, all your practice could be doing you more harm than good and you could give yourself a nice case of tendinitis.

    So definitely make sure your bass' action is reasonable. Then check around TB and other places for 1 finger/fret dexterity exercises and get to practicing. If you do it nightly, with a metronome for one month, I guarantee you you'll overcome your issue. Maybe sooner depending on how much and how well you practice each night/week.
  8. Kaneesel

    Kaneesel Guest

    Aug 18, 2008
    Detroit, Michigan
    I had the same problem. Been playing for 10 years (now 21 years old) and didnt use my pinky until recently when i found it difficult to jam well without it.

    I would try just doing scales in a different set up that requires the pinky. such as a minor scale as such...


    Keep your index finger at the 5 , middle for the 7 and then 9 with the pinky. Use the pink everytime. It will get more comfortable the more you use it. It worked for me. I still dont use my pinky as much as i should, but i can use it when i need it.
  9. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    wrist straight, very tips of the fingers, curvature in the fingers. Try to not use the rest of your left hand to clinch the deal for a little bit. If you're a "thumb in the back of the neck" guy, let your thumb off the back of the neck, touch just the strings and use leverage with your right forearm fret the note. This isn't a playing style, but it will let you lighten up on your fretting hand and help you learn to invoke other (bigger) muscles to help get the job done. Kick out that left elbow a bit when you're using the pinky.

    A good setup and a lighter touch with the left hand will help a lot.