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Left hand "piling" up

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by JmD, Jan 11, 2006.

  1. subexpression


    Oct 9, 2010
    Classical composer and pianist Robert Schumann attempted to remedy the inherent weakness between the 3rd and 4th fingers by applying a bizarre contraption strapped to his hand. The end result was that he permanently damaged the fine musculature and connective tissue.

    Since both the 3rd and 4th finger tendons attach to a small muscle group, they tend to move together when flexing the muscles (can be easily seen when trying to move your pinkie independently from your ring finger).

    There is no way to overcome this anatomical weakness in human hands. The best we can do is minimize the movements.

    What I mean by this is don't make exaggerated movements. Make smooth, small movements and resist the urge to let your fingers "kick" up and down and dramatic motions. Try to mentally encourage ALL your fingers to remain no more than a half a centimeter above the strings at all times when they aren't fretting notes.

    It seems that "scalar" patterns work best for these two fingers. To gain independence, you'll first need hand strength and I recommend hammer-ons, pull-offs, and the previous patterns posted in this thread. All of these are good.

    An aggressive approach (not recommended) is to play everything you possibly can with your 3rd and 4th fingers as an exercise. Fatigue will set in quickly! But it's definitely good to try for a short duration in each practice session.
  2. BiggerThanPete


    Jul 20, 2013
    I took some upright bass lessons when I was in music school and the bass instructor had me rubber band my 2nd and 3rd fingers together so that my pinky would develop some independence. This messes with the one finger per fret idea on electric, but it worked really well. I was able to take the rubber band off after a few weeks of light practice.
  3. I tried that technique and I noticed a difference after the first time... but I think I overdid it, because I felt something in my wrist go "pop!" I don't know what I did, but it did not feel good. Hopefully it'll be fine by tomorrow though, and I can get right back to it :)

    (also the existence of this thread helped me so much like wow you have no idea)
  4. Ironbar

    Ironbar Inactive

    Aug 24, 2013
    Tigard, Oregon
    Wow! That IS difficult! I've been having the same problem with my playing as the OP. In addition to "piling up", I've been having what I call "flying fingers".

    I'm going to practice the spider every day until I get it down pat! Thanks for this!
  5. Metalbasspro


    Feb 9, 2009
    WA state
    I'd like to see it done too. When I was 16 I came up with an excersize to use all my fingers and later used it in a few songs, either directly or based riffs off of it. I called it the "spider scale" when I saw the hand looked like a spider when playing it. Seen at .14 seconds into video.

    I too have a funny finger habit. I think it's the same fingers as the OP but reversed. My pinky sometimes follows and clamps down on my ring finger. Came about from being a beginner and I never worried about it since it never slowed me down for what I play. It only happens some song and riffs and I am not sure why its not full time and or sometimes.
  6. Rune Bivrin

    Rune Bivrin Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    Huddinge, Sweden
    Here's John Pattitucci showing this exercise. A little search goes a long way...
  7. Daftom


    Jan 26, 2008
    Even more effective than the Spider, imo, for developing finger independence, is the Hazard exercise. Don't overdo it at first or you might damage your hand. And try higher on the fretboard and maybe let go with the index finger etc.

  8. hintz


    Jun 5, 2014
    wahiawa, HI(Oahu)
    nothing wrong with this, its the way upright bassists play in 1st position, and I use it on electric unless I need to play notey passages..
    its actually better for your fretting hand as it lessens the likelihood of injury, especially if your NOT 6 ft 5 with monster paws.... I learned the "4 fingers per fret" technique 1st, but when I started learning upright in college the teacher told me to throw it out the window, even on the electric!!!

    IMO, both approaches have their place, between open and 3rd frets I use upright technique(using my ring finger to support my pinky), if my 1st finger is on 2nd fret or above I use the modern electric technique.... So I guess learn both, but do what's comfortable for you

    wow, I just noticed how old this thread is(hehehe!)
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2015
  9. Frank Higgins

    Frank Higgins

    Jan 28, 2015
  10. JamPlay


    Aug 9, 2012
    JamPlay Berklee
    Having taught bass on the college level for the past 28 years I have witnessed a variety of right and left hand playing styles. The physical independence of each finger is something that takes time as you have to train your hands to do what your mind is telling them to do. This goes for each finger! The exercises mentioned in this thread are wonderful. Realize that this all takes time and repetition to help you personally develop a connection through your brain via nerve endings, sending messages on how specifically to work each finger. Let's realize the goal here. I find that different playing styles help to produce myriad timbres coming from your bass. It's so personal that really a bassist can play just about any bass and get "their" sound. The sound is in your hands!! One's sound or timbre is so special that you want to discover this precious technique so it can manifest in your bass doing the things you hear it doing. So I first recommend slow chromatic exercises that will help you get in touch with how to maneuver each finger. Some players like myself play with the fretting hand bunched together creating a muted sound. So I don't separate my left hand fingers at all. I play with them all bunched together, using the index finger as the determinant of the tonality that my brain is telling it to play. Recommend ear training, and groove playing exercises, aka using a drum machine or metronome as you practice these chromatics. The malady you see with your fingers rolled on top of each other could actually be something you can use for a special instance to create a unique timbre of your own. However, I hear you wanting to get the independence happening and that's cool. Slow and steady is the way to practice. Like at the gym, realize what you are trying to accomplish with each exercise routine, and Go For It!!
    Roadstar likes this.
  11. xxfaux_punkxx


    Mar 18, 2010
    Guitar center sales a finger exerciser for about $20. It's a great little gadget that builds up finger strength and dexterity, as well as building the muscles in your forearm.

    I bought one a few months ago and it's helped my playing enormously. In the first month I had the spring tension maxed out. I've also noticed that my playing is much smoother.

    D'Addario Planet Waves Varigrip Hand Exerciser | GuitarCenter
  12. Menorahman

    Menorahman Inactive

    Aug 13, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    I have a varigrip but I can't figure out how to change the tension.
  13. LameBMX


    Jan 7, 2017
    Necro post! Just start flipping people the ring finger while driving!
    Falsecrack likes this.
  14. MichelD


    May 19, 2014
    I use the URB style. I started playing upright 30 years ago and though I have never had a lesson, I learned about fingering with all fingers down at once, particularly supporting the little finger. I decided to not try to do guitar fingering on bass guitar and URB style on upright but the one style. I shift more, but make it work.
  15. govknoc


    Jun 4, 2019
    Also remember to keep your wrist down. When it's up your fingers will naturally pull together. Not sure if this is an issue with you, but it really helps me on runs and such.
  16. An exercise I do is lay your hand flat, palm down on a table in front of you. Raise and lower one finger at a time without moving any of the other fingers while doing so.

    This develops individual muscle control over your fingers. Once you can do that, move on to raising your first and fourth fingers at the same time, then first and third, then second and fourth, etc. You can practice this any time at any place.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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