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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bully, Feb 20, 2003.

  1. bully


    Feb 18, 2003
    as a new bass player ive read the books and dvd that are on the market,i find it inpossible to extend my fingers to reach 4 frets,does all decent bass players use this technique or do they use there own finger coordination?my hero is jean jacques from the stranglers,any other jj fans? thanks
  2. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    Hello and welcome. I want to understand your question. Do you mean it's "impossible" for you to play 1st fret then 2nd fret then 3rd then 4th using index finger, then middle, then ring finger then pinky? or Are you saying that you find it impossible to to place your index at the first fret and stretch your pinky to the fourth fret. (with finger still on 1st)
    The first thing is important and anyone can work up the dexterity regardless of hand size.
    The second thing is not as important, especially when you're just getting started, although most people can get there with some stretching exercises - IMO stretching is something that should be taught be a good instructor because it's not the most important thing and could likely cause injury if done improperly.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    This is why books and DVDs are nowhere as good as having an actual teacher. A good teacher could clear this up for you in about 30 seconds in person, whereas a book or a DVD can't react to any personal questions you might have.

    To answer your question, most people CAN reach a 4 fret span by extending their fingers higher up on the neck, but very few can do it comfortably down in first position. Even though my hands are on the large side, I don't believe this kind of stretching is healthy technique. IMO, it's much better to let your thumb act as a pivot on the back of the neck, which allows you to reach for notes to be played with the 3rd and 4th fingers with a single turn of the wrist. This allows you to remain relaxed while playing, and puts the responsibility of providing the force for fretting on a large muscle group (bicep) rather than on a small one (forearm/hand). If you get really good at this transference of power to the larger muscle groups, you'll also be able to play using higher action and/or heavier strings (if you're into that sound) without breaking much of a sweat.
  4. eVersi0n


    Dec 30, 2002
    Canada, Alberta
    My hands are small, and its possible to reach 1234(index,middle,ring,pinky), but when i get down to say 12,13,14,15, its almost impossable to reach with my pinky finger, but after playing guitar for 2 years without the use of my pinky totaly(just becuase i'v never used it, no reason) I'm able to work around it, i just kinda use whatever feels the most comfortable. I really just use index,middle and ring, for B E A, then i'll use my pinky on D and G.
  5. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I'd be interested in hearing what others say about this, but IMO - eventually you'll want to be able to cover 5 frets using 4 fingers. This is how I was taught to play minor scales / keys.
  6. My hands are pretty small and I can reach 1234 on the E by pivoting by thumb just a bit as Chris said. It just takes some getting used to. After a while it becomes a natural move on the neck.
  7. bully


    Feb 18, 2003
    sorry i meant from 1st fret to 4th fret with fingers on each
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    See? See?? It can be done!


    FWIW, in spite of my wingspan (10th to an 11th on piano), the two most serious injuries I've ever gotten from playing music are from attempting to stretch with the fingers instead of pivot with the wrist. With my students, this is one of my many obligatory rants. Don't worry about the stretch...it doesn't matter.
  9. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I'd say that you can (and a lot of people do) play some pretty great lines using only three fingers. So to the question of "does all decent bass players use this technique" I'd have to say no.
    I do think that it's important to be able to span four frets and think that most folks should be able to do this. I'd say that if you can not reach, first check your form - make sure you aren't wearing you bass to low and or getting your fretting hand elbow out too far away from your body. (if that elbow comes out as you go up the neck it'll make it harder to get those notes with the pinky)
    Chris and some others described the pivot of the thumb - even though I can span four or five frets with my giant mitts, in practical situations (playing songs) my thumb does pivot. I'd say practice playing with the finger per fret method and concentrate on holding down the last note you played - something like:

    I M R P I M R P I M R P

    ...and so on, up and down the board. So for example, when you play the 2nd note (2nd fret on E string) with your middle finger, you still have the index finger on the first fret, and when you play the 3rd note (3rd fret on E) you still have your middle finger on the second fret, but not necesarily index on first (it's ok to keep it there, but you don't have to)
    Now if your form is fine, and you just have really small hands and can't reach from the 1st to the 4th, and you want to be able to - you can consider going to a 30" scale bass, or if your 'almost reaching' you could look into learning some stretching exercise [If you do any stretching, be aware that tendons in the hands, wrist, and arms can be seriously injured through repetative stress problems like playing bass with poor form - you should receieve proper instruction and and learn exercises from a good instructor with lot's of experience]
    or you could just develop your own personal technique that doesn't involve reaching from the first fret to the fourth.
  10. I don't use my pinky period...it's to weak...I think I might chop it off,and sell it on e-bay for maybe a nice Rex Spector...or Gibson Thunder Bird...yes...T-bird *spaces out*

    oops...sorry,I reccomend Bass Fitness(book) it's a good book.

  11. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I don't think I was able to span 4 frets when I first started playing. I think it takes getting used. Even now, there's still a little strain sometimes on my hands when I do so. I tend to do as DURRL says and pivot my thumb. I don't want to promote more strain by forcing anything.

    And I have very very very tiny hands. :D
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Sorry, it was the best I could do on short notice. :)
  14. bully


    Feb 18, 2003
    just spent 3 hours playin along to my fav albums,now i know after using tabs and a good printer you just get a feel for playin bass,learnt pink floyd us and them from from dark side of the moon. its great when it all comes togther,thanks lads 4 the replys,keep you informed on progress:bassist:

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