How To Turn MyLittle Finger Into A Big Finger

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Cisco Kid, Sep 27, 2001.

  1. Cisco Kid

    Cisco Kid Guest

    Sep 27, 2001
    ive just started playin bass only 5 days ago, i was just wonderin if ther is anything i can do to strengthen my little finger other than playing? i mean like if im just sitting in class etc?
  2. Welcome to Talkbass and the wonderful, expensive world of bass, Cisco! (Different name considering your stomping grounds).

    Playing bass isn't so much about strength as it is about dexterity and economy of motion. A light touch is what lets you put skid marks on the fretboard.

    Try this little test;

    - Make a fist with either hand. Think of your index finger as "1", your middle finger as "2", next closest finger as "3", and your pinkie/little finger as "4" .

    See if you can lift up these two fingers at the same time without lifting any other fingers (pretend I'm calling these number out quickly;

    -1 & 4
    - 2 & 4
    - 1 & 3
    - 2 & 3

    Well, you get the idea.....just keep picking two random numbers one through four. If you are struggling with some combinations, yes, you can get better at it. You can do it in mid air but if you can put your hand on a desk or something you can work on keeping your hand still, too.

    What you're doing is creating better neural pathways between your fingers and your brain, or so I'm told. The only other way I know to do it is to pay attention to which fingers you are using when you practice, asking yourself, "Am I using the most efficient finger for this note?"

    Bassists I would meet on the road would do this with me as sort of a contest - one person calls and the other has to lift the fingers they call.

    If you are struggling with it, don't sweat it. Practice with your bass is infinitely more valuable than this little game.
  3. 5not4


    Sep 7, 2000
    Flint, MI
  4. Cisco Kid

    Cisco Kid Guest

    Sep 27, 2001
    cool, thats helped alot :) thanks
  5. Now all you have to figure out is how to handle the weird looks you'll be getting as your fingers spaz up and down.
  6. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    I assume you mean your fretting hand little finger.

    Frankly, I find rickbass's exercise of LIFTING fingers of little usefulness -- I think it would be a good idea to use the basic plan but pressing fingertips DOWN onto a surface since that's what you are planning to actually DO with them.

    I would say to develop the 4th finger, you should finger ANY note on the bass with your 3rd (ring) finger. Then play the next higher fret with your pinkie (4th) finger. Just go back and forth from 3rd to 4th finger, plucking each note with your plucking hand. Leave the 3rd finger DOWN throughout this exercise, and only lift the 4th finger enough to let the 3rd finger note ring through -- no need to swing that pinkie through a big arc or anything. This exercise it most easily started on the higer frets -- they're closer together. Playing scales in one position will also force you to use your 4th finger.

    Again, watch that you lift any finger only enough to let the string ring past. Your hand should look AT ALL TIMES like you're loosely gripping a loaf of French bread with all 5 fingers; no finger should ever be flying up into space even if you're not using it. Strive toward relaxation, not stress, although I know that's hard when you first start. Try and see what is the lightest you can press on a string to make the note sound cleanly. You don't have to crush the string into the wood to make a good sound!

    Keeping the lower fingers down on the fingerboard also helps the 4th finger. Try this: After you've done the above little 3-4-3-4-3-4 exercise, try fingering the same note with your 4th finger alone and play 4th-open-4th-open-4th-open. See how much more work it is to use the 4th finger alone? Then try the 3-4-3-4-3-4 exercise again. Lots easier, isn't it?

    If your hands are small, you might choose to use the 1-2-4 or "Simandl" fingering (named after a common old string bass method book). Ask someone in school orchestra who plays string bass and they'll show you what that's all about.

    In any case, be sure the 4th, and ALL fingers, for that matter, stay CURLED -- that is, all knuckles bent -- and play with the finger TIPS, not laying the fingers flat on the fingerboard.

    Like rickbass said, it's not so much about strength. It's about coordination and getting used to using muscles you didn't know you had.

    Stay at it -- it'll come soon enough!
  7. bailstric

    bailstric Guest

    Aug 12, 2001
    Ontario Canada
    ok I have not been playing bass for long and i just read the articel about the 4 finger thing. Is it better? Do I really need to learn this skill?

  8. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    This is a tough one. I hate to sound old and say something like, "Jamerson did it all with ONE FINGER" (which is true -- he called his right-hand index finger "the hook"), because then I sound like all those guys who say, "You don't need 7 strings -- Jaco did it all with four!" (To which my 7-string reponse is -- "Well, he was a master; me, I need all the help I can get.")

    Many people find it more relaxing to play with three or even four or five right-hand fingers, but I'm doing fine with two for single-note lines. I do play chords on occasion, and for that I adopt a classical-guitar like fingerpicking position. If you're going for speed and you plan to do it fingerstyle, you may be well-advised to try more than two fingers.