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Help me with my left hand technique.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by BusyFingers, Jan 2, 2017.


  1. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
    First, if you have any good video tutorials, I'd love to check them out. If you're up for diagnosing my needs, read on...

    January 7, 2017 UPDATE
    What I've found is there are a lot of conflicting ideas about left hand bass technique. Why this is is because of ergonomics. Everyone is unique and different. There are, however, some general guidelines people should look into related to left hand technique to develop the technique that suits your needs ergonomically and musically.

    The truth about left-hand technique is that it is not reasonable, or wise, to presume you must maintain a strict, rigid form. Or even to presume there is a one-size-fits-all standard technique for everyone.

    In fact, attempting to force a strict form may well open you up to pain and eventual injury. I know I was experiencing pain very quickly upon applying some of the strict guideliness noted in some of the tutorials noted in this very thread.

    Really, your left hand should adjust depending on position to avoid excessive wrist bend or unnatural finger/thumb forms (again, this is different for everyone and depends upon ergonomics) as you go up and down the neck. That includes allowing for rolling your thumb over the top of the fretboard if you're fingering above the 12th fret. To do otherwise would place almost anyone, regardless of ergonomics, in a position that is quite awkward unless they have their bass under their chin.

    So... because of ergonomics there is no standard rule of "thumb," pardon the pun, outside of the general rule of giving enough support for fluid fretting which sounds the note well. And that support should not require a high level of resistance. Depending on the size of one's hand, the thumb should be placed foremost in a comfortable position, and secondarily a position that affords whatever support is necessary in that allows for fingering that is efficient and makes for clear, clean sounding of a particular note.

    In other words, kind of like Fergie proved, the thumb position is not as important as people think, and should be adjusted to suit the particular player ergonomically and musically (ergonomics being foremost to avoid injury).

    In short, the only bad left hand technique is a technique that leads to injury, causes poor tone, and leads to inefficiency of movement.

    In consideration of this, I have decided to develop a technique that suits me ergonomically that best helps me to avoid those three issues. And my advice to everyone else is to do the same unless you find a particular tutorial suits you ergonomically and musically, which is entirely possible.

    I do not presume to charge anyone pushing a particular form in any of the videos or tutorials in this thread to be in error for their own ergonomics, but that they are in error presuming everyone needs to do exactly as they are doing to meet their own personal needs.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  2. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
    Saw some dude demoing a Fender bass on their site and he had every single finger lined up perfectly the whole time, and never really moved them far off the fingerboard when he wasn't using them. Kinda weird, but it looked to be super efficient.
     
  3. fingerguy

    fingerguy Banned

    Aug 2, 2016
    CT
    1 2 3 4 4 3 2 1 up and down the strings. Hit every note just right. You stumble, mess-up, start at the beginning.

    DO NOT focus on speed, just proper technique. Do this about 15-minutes a day up to at least the 12th fret and then work your way back.



    Flee covers this too but skip all the TRULY basic stuff.
     
  4. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
    Sure, but how? I've been practicing the chromatic thing for a few months focusing on my floating thumb. It's gone pretty well, but since I'm just doing whatever seems comfortable to my left hand, and getting some noise, I thought I'd ask exactly what makes for good left hand technique.
     
  5. fingerguy

    fingerguy Banned

    Aug 2, 2016
    CT
    Mess with the frets, get close, get further, SOMETIMES it's the guitar and there is something wrong with that. If find that might be the case after try different positions on the frets, then take it to a guitar tech to make sure it's not you.

    That is the best info/advice I can give since I am not physically at your bass.
     
  6. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
    Here is that video:

     
    ErikP.Bass, Maureen M and salcott like this.
  7. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
    I appreciate your help, but what I'm really after are the standard approaches to fingering for the left hand. I've been doing the whatever seems comfortable, and now that I've got solid right hand technique I'm looking for some more detailed left hand practices that make for good technique.
     
  8. fingerguy

    fingerguy Banned

    Aug 2, 2016
    CT
    Then watch that Flea video. He demonstrates it.
     
    karl_em_all likes this.
  9. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
    While Flea may be an exceptional bassist, he's not a great teacher.
     
  10. fingerguy

    fingerguy Banned

    Aug 2, 2016
    CT
    Seriously dude you are asking for help on a forum which we have limited ways of doing and then you are complaining left and right. Well he demonstrates it quite well. You don't like it find a YouTube video that you do like. I'm out!
     
    SuperTwin, mrb327, SLO Surfer and 7 others like this.
  11. consectaneus

    consectaneus

    Sep 23, 2016
    I'm learning to incorporate a couple of different approaches. The first is to use fingers 1-2-4 (you will see it referred to as 1-2-4 in discussions). With this technique, those three fingers cover three frets in any one position up to around the seventh fret when the frets are closer together. After that, the third (ring finger) can come more comfortably into play.

    The main concept is for the 1-2-4 fingers to do the bulk of the grooving in any case (the root, 3rd and 5th/octave) with these fingers, and use 3rd finger for lighter work (passing tones, scalar and solo passages). This is advocated by studio legend Carol Kaye, and is also taught by educator Ed Friedland to name two and is a carryover from double bass technique.

    The other technique is called "one finger per fret" (OFPF). This is pretty much done how is sounds. It is helpful when using universal fingering scale pattern---that is, movable patterns which cover four frets per position. I think the important thing with this technique is not to hold your hand like a claw with fingers spread. For example, don't hold the index in place and stretch to reach another note with the pinky. Let go with the unused finger and use the wrist to pivot to the higher note.

    1-2-4 and OFPF are not mutually exclusive techniques. They can be mixed and matched. Just avoid straining.

    The player in that Fender P video seems less like a OFPF example than an example of muting in the style of Rocco Prestia who would keep all of his fingers in light contact with the string and press when needed to fret. Great for staccato, syncopated lines.
     
    Sartori, red_rhino, Buszkock and 2 others like this.
  12. AMp'D.2play

    AMp'D.2play Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    NJ
    Sounds like you're trying to control "flying fingers". Check out this video by Scott Devine:

    How to stop "Flying Fingers"! (L#105) - Online Bass Lesson

    The Lesson Map section of Mark's website, TalkingBass.Net, has some instructional videos geared to left hand technique, too!

    Free Online Bass Lessons - Talkingbass.net - Lesson Map
     
    Joebone and Josh Kneisel like this.
  13. I love the part at 23 minutes in where he starts to discuss pick technique!
     
  14. You're right, but it's still worth watching him try!
     
  15. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
  16. JoeWPgh

    JoeWPgh

    Dec 21, 2012
    You rushed right past the answer in a way. You started by describing your unique fingers, then went looking for a one size fits all technique. The truth is that different people use different approaches, which I presume has something to do with the size of their hand/fingers.

    How high you wear your bass is the first place to start. I prefer mine high, so that my wrist has just a slight bend to it. From there, try to stay on your fingertips as much as possible. And try to keep your unused fingers as close to the fretboard as possible. These two things will make it easier to jump to your next note. I keep my thumb in the general position behind by first or 2nd finger. I find this helps me pivot around on the fretboard.

    You might find it easier to use a 1 2 4 fingering scheme. Upright players use their 3rd and 4th fingers as one. They have been doing this for centuries. So there's nothing inherently wrong with it. If your pinky has a hard time hold a string down cleanly, try that. Me? I tend to use 1234 above the 5th fret and 124 below it. I do this because it's the most comfortable for my hand and seems to require the least amount of effort. But if your fingers are short, you might want to switch schemes at the 7th fret.

    It really boils down to how you can get around with the least amount of physical effort. The less physical effort used, the easier it is to play cleanly. And this comes back to your unique hand.
     
  17. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
    Thanks for explaining this.
     
  18. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
  19. BusyFingers

    BusyFingers

    Nov 26, 2016
    Thanks. I am not sure if my thumb position is proper at all. My thumb parallel with the back of the neck, not across it, like I see most players suggest. I don't know if this is merely a matter of my hands being shorter than your average bassist, or because of how I have played guitar most of my life, but it seems to be the natural way I am inclined.

    If I make a C with my hand, and measure the inside of it from the tip of my middle finger (the longest) to the tip of my thumb, it's approximately 8 1/4 inches. This is not very long in my estimation, and may be why I'm cranking my thumb parallel to the board to get more purchase when fretting, especially when I'm playing the D and G strings or higher up the fretboard.
     
  20. JoeWPgh

    JoeWPgh

    Dec 21, 2012
    If I'm reading you correctly, your thumb is not directly behind your fingers. If so, this is going to create all kinds of difficulty for you - from dexterity to the strength to finger a note cleanly.
    Try this. Tap your thumb tip to your fingertips and quickly as you can. My guess is that your thumb is hitting your middle finger, or the first and second. Now imagine your bass neck between your thumb and fingers as you do this. This is about where you want your thumb when playing.
     

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