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Is it really necessary to fret with the fingertips?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Ziddy, Feb 19, 2006.

  1. Ziddy


    Feb 19, 2006
    When doing so, I get a horrible pain in my fingers, and cannot hold down a fret for long until it becomes almost unbearable. The pads of the fingers don't hurt nearly as much.

    Maybe I'm doing it wrong? Is there a video I could watch to see proper fretting technique?
  2. Volk


    Dec 18, 2005
    South Jersey
    Well first off you should be pulling with your arm, not squeezing your hand over the neck and using your thumb....if you're doing that you shouldn't have any pain. If you find it tough to pull with your arm try shifting the whole bass so the neck is closer to your fretting arm. Also, try fretting softer, it doesn't take much pressure.
  3. Diddlysquat

    Diddlysquat Guest

    Feb 8, 2006
    I don't know - I always use the area about halfway between the "center" of my fingerprint and the edge of my fingernail. Just above the really meaty portion of the pad. Maybe you're fretting too close to the fingernail.

    Regardless, it's going to hurt for awhile until you develop some callouses, be they visible or not.

    Hope this helps.
  4. Ziddy


    Feb 19, 2006
    I've been playing for a couple months, and haven't had much pain until I decided to start using my fingertips. It's enough to make me think it's a bad idea.
  5. If you haven't been using your fingertips until now then you won't have calluses there. If you stick it out, the horrible pain will subside as they form.
  6. Diddlysquat

    Diddlysquat Guest

    Feb 8, 2006
    I think the most important thing is not to let the last knuckles of your fretting fingers squish flat. Imagine yourself always holding an orange in your left hand and keep the fingers naturally curved.

    As always, I stand to be corrected as I am self-taught.
  7. Earthday


    Sep 22, 2005
    New Hampshire
    If you'r playing a fretless bass, fingertips are nearly essential, but despite what most people will tell you here, it isn't terrible to use your pads on a regular old electric bass (though a happy medium between pads and fingertips is MUCH better than straight out pads) It has a *slightly* different sound and is *slightly* less technically better, but leaves your figners in a position that is much easier to mute strings.

    I try to use as close to the tips as possible usually, but when I'm slapping, I find it beneficial to use a lower area of my fingers to make muting easier.
  8. fingertips? you guys play with your fingertips???!


    that is so wack.
  9. Eric Grossman

    Eric Grossman

    Nov 3, 2004
    St. Louis
    Endorsing Artist: Hipshot Products and SIT Strings
    I assume you're talking about the left hand. You should be playing with the pads of your fingers just below the tips, regardless of the instrument, 4, 5 fretted, fretless, whatever.
  10. Ziddy


    Feb 19, 2006
    Really? That seems quite contrary to what everyone else has posted.
  11. radi8


    Feb 10, 2004

    Volk is correct.
    As a beginner,my biggest battle was weight (pressure) applied to the fret..my teacher convinced me that i didn't need to squeeze the life out of the string to fret it....ease off a bit.
  12. Both are usefull. Learn them both and make up your own mind. You can get different results from each.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This is the big message :


    So - nobody here, can see what anybody else is doing and could spend forever going round and round, in the meantime leading to bad technique that could take much longer to correct or even cause injury :( - but a few minutes with a good bass teacher will identify what's going wrong straight away!
  14. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Sounds like you're letting your first knuckle buckle, which will cause pain. I know because I don't experience pain while playing bass, but as soon as you get me on piano, I do just that, and it hurts like hell.

    Get a teacher, they'll straighten you out technically.
  15. Ziddy


    Feb 19, 2006
    If I let up on the fret whatsoever, then it buzzes like crazy when I sound a note. The problem is more pronounced on my weaker fingers and the lower strings - I almost inevitably get buzz on the E string with my pinky.

    So the trick is to press with the arm, instead of the finger?
  16. Eric Grossman

    Eric Grossman

    Nov 3, 2004
    St. Louis
    Endorsing Artist: Hipshot Products and SIT Strings
    Perhaps my credibility is lacking here. Click on the first link in my signature, to decide if I have the credentials to offer advice.
    Look, if I were to write a book, I wouldn't need to sit down with everyone who buys it, to check their technique, before saying what is correct and what is not. If that's the case, then all books on technique should be banned.
    There is in fact a correct way to start. After you know the basics, you can develop your own thing, but only then. You should be fretting with the pads of your fingers, just below the fingertips. Not exactly on the fingerprint, and not exactly at the tip.
    Please don't read this as the post of someone who is offended. I'm just honestly trying to help, and I really do know what I'm talking about.
    Good luck.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    No - the trick is to book an hour or so with a good bass teacher with a view to getting that person to look at your technique and your bass, to see what you're doing wrong and what you're doing right!

    Without seeing you and your bass - there's no way anybody can advise on what you're asking here !!

    So, for example - it could be your technique or it could be incredibly high action, that could easily be corrected - without seeing, there is no possible way to know!! :meh:
  18. Eric Grossman

    Eric Grossman

    Nov 3, 2004
    St. Louis
    Endorsing Artist: Hipshot Products and SIT Strings
    Bruce is right on about this problem. You need to sit down with somebody who knows. Yiou could put up a video here, too. Maybe somebody could see what the problem is that way. In the long run, however, you just can't go wrong with a good teacher.
    My apologies regarding my minor spaz-out.
  19. Kroy


    Jan 19, 2006
    I have to agree with Bruce as well. Even if you don't sign up for continuous lessons, an hour or so with a good teacher will give you a really good perspective on what's going on with your playing. Doing anything that causes a lot of pain is bad. While you're learning you're hands are gonna ache and cramp a bit as your muscles build, your fingertips will be sore as the callouses develope, and your arm and shoulder may hurt a little this is all fairly normal. Anything that hurt's so badly that you would describe it as 'horrible pain' is almost certainly out of the ordinary.

    The whole 'pulling from the arm thing' is something I'm still working out for myself and I've been playing for a while. So it's not something you're likely to figure out in an afternoon. It's a little counterintuitive, even though it's much better for your joints. It's just a very different method of engaging the strings than most people approach the instrument initially. Pianists and organists have a similar technique where they use the wieght of their entire arm and gravity to depress the keys of the keyboard. That way, there's absolutely no tension in their arms as they play. It's basically the same priciple.
  20. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    It sounds like maybe you're pressing too hard.

    As someone mentioned, the action on your bass may be causing you to have to press harder than should be necessary.

    Is your bass set up well? If so, the strings should lie very close to the fretboard and it should take little pressure to fret a string.

    Also, press on top of the fret - literally! It's the place that requires the least pressure (press only so hard as to keep the string from buzzing - any add'l pressure is wasted energy).

    No, you can't have part of your finger's flesh extend in front of the fret, but a part of your finger should be directly on top of the fret.

    Finally, are you extending your fingers (e.g., pinky) too far from your hand? As a beginner, you should probably keep your fingers relatively close together.

    Be mindful of the pressure between your thumb and the back of the neck. In most situations, the pressure your thumb applies should be so minimal that, if it were applied to the face of a sleeping baby, the baby would not awaken.

    Good luck.