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Hand Size

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Caustic Crunch, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. Caustic Crunch

    Caustic Crunch

    Oct 26, 2013
    Sorry if this is a repeat....
    I've been watching the Jaco vid on Youtube - "Modern Electric Bass"

    Amazing. One thing that gets me is the size of his hands.
    I have pretty short, squat fingers and I find some of his exercises to be pretty daunting.
    I'm playing an '86 P Bass.
    I also know that Ray Shulman of Gentle Giant also plays a Precision and his hands are big also, thus making some of his riffs pretty difficult.
    Will practice overcome this? Is there a "small hand" thread out there? Hehe...
    Thanks all.
  2. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    We just did this about a week or so ago.

    Apparently I have relatively small hands. If I didn't know I wouldn't know. So, yes, you can overcome.
  3. portpc


    May 31, 2011
    You can only be yourself so strive to be the best you you can..
    that said..

    I don't have big mitts either, P-Bass is my main instrument.

    You can always adapt exercises/patterns to what works for you.
    I've been doing this forever, Make things practical rather then painful..

    In fact by having to analyze fingerings etc you gain a better knoeledge of the neck..
  4. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    you can play whatever with whatever size of hands ... what will help is having a good technique like not wrapping your thumb around the neck.
  5. pgolliher


    Apr 27, 2010
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Watch Victor Wooten or Steve Bailey. I am 5'6" and those guys are my size or shorter. Small hands is not an obstacle.
    Brother Goose likes this.
  6. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    I have posted this answer before so i will post it again.
    Find a bass to suit you, do not look to develop to suit the bass.

    Would you wear shoes that are three sizes to big?..or buy a suit three sizes bigger etc.

    Bass come in three sizes short scale, medium scale and long, as well as many neck widths and thicknesses (i prefer a 20 fret Bass). If you have the money, then get one made, they are not as expensive as you may think.
    I shot some videos last year for Hofner using the now with with-drawen Galaxie bass, so those basses are great to customize with new hardware, EQ suites Pick-ups etc if you want to, and have a great Jazz style bass...but smaller.

    I have always been amazed at how using Short scale basses is some how frowned upon as it is seen as a 'weakness'?????
    But players can use an even smaller Kala Bass and that is seen as cool????

    Anyway you have to deal will it so put in place what works for you.
    Kamrin and BassHappy like this.
  7. basspedaler

    basspedaler Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2013
    I have small hands as well. I always loved bass and thought it would be a huge obstacle. It was at first, but the reach is coming along after a year of practice. I still get challenged by some stuff with the pinky in particular, but in due time I will get there.

    True story:in the summer of '91, I worked at a hip restaurant and the local jazz station threw some killer shows on the lawn out back. we fed the bands in one our private rooms. this gig was stanley jordan and larry carlton. steve baily was playing w/Larry and I met him and rapped a bit with him. he realised I was a player, and I told him I played trumpet, but wished I could play bass, but my hands were too small. he said "nonsense! show me" he held his hand up asked me to do so. low and behold, almost exactly the same, except he had a longer pinky of course. he said "man, you can do it. get yourself a bass."
    I waited a long time, but I am really glad I finally did!
    jg42 likes this.
  8. kzr750r1


    Aug 12, 2011
    It's a matter of doing and not trippin on it. You learn ways to overcome by doing. I was convincing myself the 35" scale on my Gecko was a drawback for me and now I'm using as primary lately.
  9. Caustic Crunch

    Caustic Crunch

    Oct 26, 2013
    Great stuff, thanks everyone.
  10. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    Wow could you imagine if you where playing upright? Come on guys the stretches are not that bad on electric bass. In my experince technique and strength matters more than hand size.
    elgecko likes this.
  11. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
  12. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013

    Anybodys hands smaller than hers?
    WannabeBassman likes this.
  13. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    I wish I had hands the size of Stanley Clarke.
  14. Ladybirdprecision


    Sep 18, 2014
    Totally on board with this. When I first started playing I automatically thought I would never make the cut with a wider neck instrument, so I avoided the p bass like the plague, even if that was genuinely the sound I wanted to begin with. I love Motown and classic rock. I knew about the strings, etc but was afraid of just not being capable of that stretch. Long story, short I went from. The Hofner Galaxie short scale, got very fast on that...finally I tried a full scale fender P used in a local shop and fell in love.... Not just with the vintage thump but ALSO with the comfortable neck! Never give up on yourself and be intimidated :) for the record, that Galaxie IS a wicked fun little bass
  15. That Jaco vid is interesting, and I suggest you watch all the way to the end, when he's jamming with Scofield and Dennard.

    One thing I noticed on repeat viewing is that, when he's not demonstrating exercises or showing off his signature licks (in other words when he is just being a bass player and laying down a thick groove for his buddies), Jaco actually had a fairly conservative fingering technique and avoided the "one finger per fret" system that seems very popular on the internet these days in favor of the ergononic and time-tested 1-2-4.

    Watch "The Chicken" for example: he plays the signature groove with his 1st finger at the 1st fret ("1st position") and his 4th finger at the 3rd fret. His hand is not stretched or spread out at all, and you don't need big hands to play "The Chicken." He only really does the crazy double-jointed Jaco-stretch when it's necessary for a particular musical line/passage (or when he's soloing and mugging for the camera).
  16. ZenG


    Dec 13, 2013
    Near the fridge
    I have really big hands.......

    Some would think "oh gawd...I wish I had really big hands for bass.....it would be so much easier".

    On a longscale it isn't if everything else in the equation is incorrect.....meaning wrist angle, attack angle, elbow bend, style of playing, and a host of other things that determine basic interfacing with the instrument.

    I can span five frets on the low nut-end of a longscale string........huge advantage right?

    Not really. I can do it, but I dislike doing it when playing.

    It's like walking. I'd rather walk normally all the time than like John Cleese in the Monty Python segment where each leg goes sky-high every step.

    Spanning and actually playing comfortably are two different things. To play comfortably and in some cases "fast" you need to be ergonomically in the least fatiguing mode.

    A large hand span does not necessarily facilitate this. Large spans require a lot of muscle /tendon effort. Which works against playing smoothly and comfortably.

    In the Dave Marks video this issue is addressed pretty well for finger positions on the low end.

    The first rule to toss out is the "one finger per fret" system taught by those who've never played bass.

    You use what works for you as long as it works effectively without limiting your progress.
  17. Redhotbassist


    Oct 19, 2002
    I see myself to have small hands, but over the year's my hand span has increased from playing all this jazz/fusion stuff, and the Jaco exercises have helped, the stretch and area i can cover has increased massively to what it used to be 5 years ago!

  18. Ladybirdprecision


    Sep 18, 2014
    LOL!! That's EXACTLY what it's like!! Great description!
  19. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Stewartsville, NJ
    I have pretty small hands but I honestly don't think it makes a difference. Proper instruction form a great teacher is way more important.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2014