Left Hand Technigue

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ArchBass, Jan 15, 2001.

  1. I am trying to improve my left hand technigue as well as reduce fretting noise. My question(s) has probably been asked before but here it comes again. I have been told and have read that the left hand should be in a cupped postion and a finger to its own fret. Should the fingers rest on the strings as a form of muting or just float above the strings? Also is the finger per fret correct or is it exceptable to hold your fingers close together (in a relaxed position (four fingers covering three frets)) and slide your hand to get to each frets?

    The G & D string seem to be my weakest link right now while trying to keep my hand cupped.

    Again, I am sorry if this has been discussed before. If you can direct me to the old threads, that would be appreciated.
  2. I'm not sure what you mean by "cup", my fingers are flat on the strings. There's no need to go in pain and keeping one finger/fret, you should be able to do it, when required, but something like the double bass techniqne (ring and pinky together, the hand covering three frets) will be easier on your wrist.

    Do not play between frets. Play on them, actually ever so slightly behind, as if you were playing a fretless. This will reduce fret buzz and you'll be more in tune because when playing between frets, you have to apply more pressure, causing the pitch to go up.

    Learn right hand muting. This will reduce fret buzz caused by lifting your finger. Once you get it right, you'll also be able to play faster, more comfortably.

    Finally, check your bass. Maybe the action is simply too low.

  3. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    ArchBass -

    Hi, and welcome to TalkBass.

    This is a pretty involved subject, but I'll try to be brief.

    A good deal of Erick's advice is on the money, particularly the thing about placing your finger directly behind the fret. As Erick mentions, this will make it easier to press the string to the fret and get solid contact, getting the best tone for the least effort. Also, he's correct that playing with one finger per fret isn't mandatory. I generally don't myself, instead using the exact technique that Erick described, borrowed from upright players. But, I also spend a great deal of time PRACTICING with one finger per fret technique, because when you need it, you NEED IT, and if you're not prepared, it'll be tough to pull off. I'd go into the right hand muting stuff, but that's a whole 'nother post, suffice it to say he's right there too, very important (I believe if you do a search, you'll find a thread on that topic).

    As for your over-all left hand technique, well, it starts at your SHOULDER, not your hand. It's easy to get caught up in what your fingers are doing and not pay attention to the whole picture. Make sure you are standing or sitting with good posture: back straight, shoulders back. Hunching over will make it harder to play and could eventually lead to back problems, it will also make you tire quicker.

    The next thing to be aware of is where the bass is when you play. I personally am a STRONG proponent of having the bass moderately high on a strap, and always practicing that way. I have my bass hanging in the middle of my chest, but anywhere ABOVE the waist (meaning the whole bass) is good The main reason for this is to make it easy on your left hand. Another component of this is the angle which you hold it at, which should be approximately 45 degrees from horizontal.

    Here's a couple photos of me playing, to give you an idea of how I hold my bass (it may give you some other pointers as well):
    http://www.sonictonic.com/RMSS_Epcot/GardEpcot1.jpg http://www.sonictonic.com/RMSS_Epcot/DancerGard1.jpg

    Now to your arm. It should be relaxed, upper arm going almost straight down, with a slight seperation from your body, to the elbow. Then just reach up, and place your thumb on the center of the back of the neck, pointing towards the ceiling. Your arm should be almost loose, pivoting between your shoulder and your thumb. As you move across the string, you should gently rock your arm forward as you go to lower strings, or back as you go to higher strings.

    Next to the fingers themselves. Your description of "cupping" is good, you should position your fingers so that the tips of them USUALLY are what make contact with the strings. There are certain times that will call for a different technique, but I'm not going to cover that now.
    But, there is one exception, in my opinion: I don't keep my first finger curved or cupped, instead it's somewhat flatter than the other 3, which allows me to use it to mute the strings under it. I also tend to use the very tip of that finger to mute the string above it at times.

    The thumb, which I already mentioned should be generally in the center of the neck and pointing at the ceiling (remember this is GENERALLY, there are always exceptions to the "rule"). You should have the thumb extended fully, but not be forcing it to be extended, a "relaxed extension" would be a good way to put it, sort of like a "thumbs up" or hitchiker's thumb. DO NOT point the tip of the thumb at the neck. You should have the thumb positioned APPROXIMATELY even with where your second finger is on the fingerboard, or slightly towards the first from that place. As you move across the strings (with your arm moving forward and back from the shoulder), your thumb should roll across it's pad. When you're on your higher strings, it should be near it's tip (but of course never ON it), and when you're on your lower strings, near the first joint of the thumb. This is all going to be accurate for lower positions, I find that as I tend up the neck, my thumb starts to point slightly towards the headstock of the bass.

    Hope this answered a few questions and was helpful. Bet your also hoping the next time that I don't decide to be long winded, eh? :eek: :D

    [Edited by Gard on 01-16-2001 at 09:25 AM]
  4. I checked on my bass yesterday and I see what you mean by "cupping". My hand is basically positioned as Gard described it. The fingertips are making contact with the string but unlike a classical guitar player, I don't try to avoid touching the strings with other parts of the fingers. Do cup but don't force it. I found out why the finger is flat and the others are cupped... you have no choice!!! Espescially with one finger/fret, the index will be in full extension and the others, because they are longer and in the middle (closer), will be bent. The pinky will be fully extented too.
  5. Well, based on what I read from your responses, I am not doing much wrong yet.

    Bass location and arm location, I all ready do. It also sounds like my fingers are in the right position. It just seems to me that when I play the "G" string my fingers are awkward. I guess that could be fixed with more time practicing and getting comfortable playing the "G" string.

    Something that I didn't see in your response was how to deal with that sound that comes when you slide your fingers across the strings trying to get to the next note. (Forgot the terminology) I either pick up fingers to far, which makes the response time to slow, or I don't pick the up high enough and there is that nasty sound.

    The thing that caught me off guard with your responses were playing at the fret rather than between them. I am guessing that I should be playing to the sharp side of each note?

    I appreciate your replys. By the way Gard nice pics. It looked like you were having fun!!

  6. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Arch(ie)Bass -

    I'm not completely certain about your question on sliding your fingers "across" the string. Do you mean sliding along the length of a string, going from one note to another on the same one? If so, string noise is just one of those "things" we have to deal with a bit. You can get less noise by checking how different types or brands of strings respond (for example, flatwounds will be almost silent, but have drawbacks as well). If you're talking about across the strings, as in from one string (say the A) moving to another, (say the D), I'm not really sure where to start to help. I've never run into that particular problem, but let me know and I'll do what I can to help you out.

    As to the fretting the string next to the fret stuff, I would NOT refer to the advice given so far as fretting "sharp". You're fretting directly behind the note/fret you are attempting to play. I'll try to diagram what we're talking (the lowercase "o" will be your fingertip) about starting with the WRONG way first:

    | | o | | (wrong, fingertip in middle of area behind fret)

    | | o| | (right, fingertip immedately behind fret)

    Hope that made some sense and helped to clarify what we were saying.

    Oh yeah, I'm without question having fun in those pictures, although I'm also freezin my tuckus off too :D.
  7. I notice that when I am warmed-up, my fingers get slightly slick (o.k. - greasy). This cuts down on the fret noise and helps to move around on the fingerboard.

  8. I liked the diagram for playing the fret. The only question I have left is the correct position. Is the correct position going to head or to the bridge as I diagramed based on what I proceived form your diagram.
    H(flat)||o ||(sharp)B

    The string noise is when sliding on the same string not switching stings. I may look at getting half round string so I can still get the brightness and reduce string noise.

    Regarding the pictures, if your were cold, what about the dancer in the second picture!?
  9. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Good point, those poor girls (there were 4 altogether) were freezin' their patooties off out there....let's just say all the turkeys were DONE :eek: ;). It was insanely cold to be out playing in, and bizarre to have weather like that in Orlando, particularly at that time of year. Usually NYE here is around 55-60 at nite, it was below 30 that nite. BRRRRRRR!!!! (To give that perspective, it was 85 here yesterday)
  10. Gard thanks for the input. I have noticed some difference in playing closer to the fret already. I am planing to work more on the left hand fretting as well as just knowing the neck better.

    I have another left hand thought. I have been trying to leave the index finger out to help with muting like you stated earlier and have now found out it also helps with keeping my left hand more stationary over the frets where I am playing. Is this a good thing?
  11. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    AB -

    Glad to be helping :). Sounds like you have things moving in the right direction to me, although it's impossible for me to be completely sure. And keeping the left hand stationary over the strings is excellent, much better than flopping around like a fish outta water ;). You should always be doing as much of the "work" as possible by just moving the fingers as opposed to moving the entire hand.