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Fretting technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by theben, May 1, 2010.

  1. theben


    May 1, 2010
    Just had a quick scan... not really found any other threads mentioning this so here goes...

    I've been playing for maybe 8 years or so. Consider myself average to good... can get some alright speed moving around the fretboard but there's a few habits that I've always had that I've never seemed to be able to knock in the head and I'm worried its stopping me progressing any further.

    Firstly, I'm not fretting with my little finger. I get away with it a lot of the time but occasionally I'll find something that requires a bit more reach so I'm moving around more than I should and tiring myself out quickly when I could save a lot more energy if I could use my little finger. Just can't seem to get the dexterity in my little finger to coordinate it towards fretting anything... and it kinda hurts when I do try.

    Also I'm not sure if my thumb placement is right... which might explain why my little finger is pretty useless. I had lessons for the first year or so and my tutor told me that when fretting the thumb should be in line with your index finger but I think this is the reason my little finger seems to be curling under, making it near impossible to use, despite my lack of strength and dexterity in that finger anyway. I recently talked to a friend of mine who is a session bassist and he said he plays with his thumb parallel to the neck of the bass and it gives him better reach, which made me wonder if the placement of my thumb is a little off.

    It's going to be a pain in the arse to iron out these habits after playing for so long with them but can anyone suggest some basic exercises I could try to give my little finger a bit of a workout so I can start to use it more? And maybe some exercises/advice to adjust my thumb placement if that's a little off too.

  2. Cannabassist


    Apr 1, 2010
    As a general rule I've found its best to keep my thumb opposite my middle finger. I feel this keeps my whole hand more in line which will become more important if you start using a fourth finger. I also keep my thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, to get a better reach. But if you find your method more comfortable, stick with it!

    A good exercise to get yourself used to the fourth finger could be simply a 1,2,3,4 exercise (where 1 is your index, 2 your middle finger, etc). Or you could practice scales in 1 position. A bit of advice - doing the 1234 exercise could be a strain considering you're not used to this, so start doing it higher up the neck, say the 7th fret, and work your way up to the 1st slowly (over a course of days). You may not need to do this at all though, depending on your hand size.

    When you feel you've got it down, maybe have a go at 'Money' by Pink Floyd using your 4th finger.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    +1 to all the above.

    Finger permutation exercises are a great way to strengthen all the fingers. See the link below. As Cannabassist says, play it higher on the neck, 5th fret or above, and take it easy until your fingers get used to it. It is generally a good idea to use the ring and pinkie together when fretting below the 5th fret anyway.


    While there is no "correct" technique, there are tried and trusted ways of playing with economy of motion. Here is a link to a good lesson on L/H technique.


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