Just starting out questions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by primemover, Oct 16, 2005.

  1. primemover


    Oct 16, 2005
    Baton Rouge
    Hey guys, finally after many years of being big fans of Geddy Lee and Chris Squire I decided to learn the bass. I went ahead and bought the Fender P bass here...


    And a little amp. I have been practicing for a week now and I have a few questions.

    1.) How long will it be before my fingers quit hurting like hell? It's really stopping me from putting in a lot of practice time b/c I can't hold down the strings good after playing for awhile.

    2.) Can you guys comment on the type of bass I have bought? What can I do to make it sound deeper like Chris Squires bass? Mine sounds like a banjo compared to his. Is there some kind of pedal that will make mine deep like that?

    3. ) On the video that came with the guitar and amp the guy says to use three fingers on the fret board. ( all but the one next to the pinky).
    And then on another video ( Bass basics) The guy says to use all four fingers on the fret board. What gives?

    Thanks in advance for answering my questions.
  2. primemover


    Oct 16, 2005
    Baton Rouge
    Oh I forgot a question. In the video 'bass basics" the guy can cover up to four frets from first to pinky.
    IOW's if I am holding down the first fret on the E string I can only reach the third fret on the same string. Is this noraml for most people or do I need to start training my pinky to reach to the fourth?
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    1. It varies, but you should play every day to speed up the process. Shouldn't be more than a week or two.

    2. Sorry, but Chris Squire had a couple massive amps and a studio full of gear to help him get that sound. Little bass amps just can't get that deep. But no problem. Use the little amp for what it's for and upgrade later on.

    3. People disagree on what's best. I use all 4 fingers, but others think 3 is best. Use your own judgment, but for what it's worth...it stands to reason that 4 fingers can do what 3 can't.

    As for the spread, check your hand position. Thumb behind the neck, fingers as close to parallel with the frets as possible and curved to where the tips touch and not the flat of the finger.
  4. bonscottvocals


    Feb 10, 2005
    Upstate NY
    JimmyM gave you great advice. You want to ensure that you are stretching a little before and after you play. This is the same type of stretching you would do before running a 10k, so make sure you spend a little time moving your fingers around. There are instructional videos/books that include hand stretches such as Essential Bass Technique. The reason it's important to stretch is to loosen up the muscles and prevent injury. Also, don't just sit down and try to play the fastest, most complicated piece of music you know at the very first minute. Try to pace yourself a little and play some scales slowly and in time. Anything that gives the left and right hand time to warm up.

    As JimmyM said, a little amp isn't going to give you that Chris Squire 'boom' that you're looking for. Geddy Lee doesn't even use amps on stage, he goes into the board, so you won't get there from here. In the beginning, worry about learning form and technique. Just as a body-builder can't expect to lift 300 lbs the first day, you have to pace yourself too. The good players make it look and sound easy, but that's because they spent their time in the trenches learning. I have a little practice amp, and I put up with the limitations when I'm playing with a cd, and I know that I have to do things differently with my gigging rig that has over 1000 watts and several speakers more boom. If I'm practicing, I'm worried about notes, technique, and timing. I worry about eq and butt-shaking boom on stage. :bassist:

    Good luck, and don't let the learning process deter you. You'll get better as long as you stick to it.
  5. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    The last two posts gave awesome advice. As bonscottvocals said you have to stretch or you could actually get hurt. I think I had the bass bassics tape. I don't remember really, but I believe he shows you the major scale. If he does use that to warm up, play the scale slow and crisp letting each note sing and that won't put much strain on your fingers and hands and will also be good practice for you.
    The four fingers per four frets rule is kinda based on personal preference. I use it because I have small hands, and if I didn't use it, I would always be rocketing my hand up and down the neck.
    Your fingers must develope callouses and then the pain will go away. Soon you will be able to press down as hard as you want and not feel a thing. My squire is the same one as yours. It's a decent bass for the money! Great to learn on and I've upgraded since getting mine, of course, but I will bust it out every now and then. It has a totally different sound then my '73 p-bass, not a bad sound.. but different :)
  6. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    I once saw an instruction book that gave simple, perfect advice for fingering-hand posture:
    Pick up a book (one that's maybe 2 inches thick) and hold it with your thumb on one side and your other four fingers on the other side. Your thumb should be opposite your middle finger. Curve your fingers and make sure that only your fingertips are touching the book. (Definitely no palm.) Voila!

    Sit down with the bass... then adjust the strap so that it stays at the same height (relative to your body, of course) when you stand up. Then, tilt the neck up so that it's at a roughly 45 degree angle. If it's too close to being parallel with the floor, you'll be inviting painful wrist problems.

    Some people like to use double bass (classical) fingering on the electric, which is the three-finger style (until you get up to around the octave). I'd suggest starting with the four-finger (one-finger-per-fret) guitar fingering, because it gives you more mobility. If you apply the right posture and work up to it, I see no reason why you can't do it that way.

    Warm up slowly, as everyone has said.

    Finally, believe it or not, once you do develop callouses, they'll serve a very important function: you'll be so afraid of losing them that you'll keep practicing and playing!

    Have fun...
  7. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    Good advice in this thread so far - I would add a few things. Regarding this:
    I believe that the thumb should line up between your index and middle fingers. (yes, that was a bit of nit picking)

    Also - If you want to sound "deeper" and think you sound "like a banjo" then I suspect your tone knob is full on - if so roll off some tone and see if you don't like that better. maybe adjusting your EQ on your amp to add some low end might help, maybe try a "scooped" EQ shape - you may find that more pleasing to your ear.

    Your fingers will stop hurting - but don't just try to play through the pain. When you really start to hurt, your body is telling you something. It's telling you to stop. You have to rest to let it heal. Never ever keep playing of your wrist starts to hurt.

    If you can find a teacher it will be the best $15 bucks a week (or whatever it'll cost you) that you'll ever spend.

    edit - definately use all 4 fingers on your fretting hand. And - your not supposed to be able to hold your index finger on the first fret and your pinky on the fourth - your just supposed to be able to fret the 1st fret with you index, then fret the 2nd with your middle - then release the 1st fret and fret the 3rd with your ring, then release the second fret and fret the 4th with your pinky.

    I've got huge mitts, but I can easily cover the first five frets without shifting positions. YMMV

    Welcome to talk bass!
  8. primemover


    Oct 16, 2005
    Baton Rouge
    Cools guys ! thanks for the advise. I look forward to picking up my bass everyday after work. I even cut back on going to the gym ( probabaly shouldn't do that though). But I'm just so excited about it. I kick myself for not learning earlier.

    15 bucks for lessons? Wow I need to check into that.

    Thanks again.
  9. bonscottvocals


    Feb 10, 2005
    Upstate NY
    Yeah, about $18-$20 here in Upstate NY is the going rate for a lesson that would cover your level of playing. Whatever you do, play for at least 1/2 hour a day in the beginning to avoid fatigue and boredome. Move up only when you have developed callouses and your muscles aren't screaming. Just like working out, remember when you couldn't bench 225? Working out for hours on end didn't make you strong. Sooner or later, you're going to be playing for hours at a time and you won't have any real pain. Have fun.
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Agreed, 1 finger per fret/ four finger technique is best. It's by far the most efficient means of playing electric bass. Learn Hey Joe by the Hendrix Experience and I Wish by Stevie Wonder. Also learn to play a twelve bar blues using just the major pentatonic scales of each chord but without moving your hand - stay in one position. There's a full octave under your fingers in every position on electric bass :cool:

    Sher's bass method says the thumb should line up with the index finger on electric and the middle finger on upright, but on leccy I guess anywhere around here is fine as long as it's consistant and doesnt cause you pain.

    One thing I think is important is to avoid the "thumb over neck", or "grip bass" as I've heard it called. Generally, it wont hurt you playing nice fat root notes on the E string, but as soon as you want to move around a bit it might tend to limit your movement.

    The way I teach it is to sit on a upright chair so your thighs are level in front of you and relax your hand on your thigh with the palm up. Totally realx it so the palm is sort of half closed. Your thumb and index finger will probably be oppostive each other and about 2" apart... That's how you hold the neck, totally realxed, wrist straight, thumb level with the index finger both vertically and horizontally.

    Pain, yeah, it hurt, you're using muscles you didnt use before... believe me it's nothing compared to starting out on upright as I am just now :crying: It will settle down, basically just dont push it too much, if it hurts, stop and relax. If you relax the less pain it will cause. YOU MUST STAY RELAXED DAMMIT!!! :D
  11. PTBassMan


    May 11, 2005
    Barberton, OH
    I've been playing for a year now. I practice almost every night (or at least 4 times a week) for 1 to 2 hours. At first my right fingers hurt, and I couldn't even push down a string with my left pinky. Time (and practice) cures all. I like to play oldies music and I find that because that style music has some very fast walking lines, your left arm really gets a workout. I still get cramps in my left thumb muscle though. Word of advice though, any bad habits developed early on when self teaching are very hard to break. Trust me!! I still haven't come up with a good string muting method for my E string though. Jsut another bad habit I have to break. I you subcribe to Netflix or know someone that does, they have several good dvd'd on learning the bass. Good Luck!
  12. Bullet-Bob


    Aug 20, 2005
    Okay, don't want to totally derail, but can you explain this a little more? I think I may follow this, but not sure. Can you move your hand up and down the strings, but just not down the fretboard?