Left Hand Technique: Basic Question

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by diamondsea7, Dec 22, 2014.

  1. diamondsea7

    diamondsea7 Guest

    Dec 22, 2014
    Hi, I'm a guitar teacher. The other day, the manager of a school where I work had me sub for an absent teacher for one bass guitar lesson, without providing notice or prep time. (I have never taught bass or played it much at all.) The student was a beginner. I noticed that she had quite a weak, buzzy tone. She was keeping her left hand fingers quite flat when she fretted notes. This is something that beginning guitar students sometimes do and it is an error when they do it: the fingers should be curved at the last knuckle and should be close to perpendicular to the strings when fretting, usually. I told her to do this and her notes did sound clearer. I wonder, though, if maybe this technique could cause strain or tension in the hands, given that bass strings are heavier than guitar strings. Is there some sort of in-between technique or another left hand technique that is used, usually? I looked at a few videos on Youtube and read a few things online and saw conflicting information, generally. Most players on YT seemed to use a left hand technique that was closer to mine than to hers. However, I did see one instructional article online that stated that the first finger should be flat, rather than curved. I was wondering what people think and do. I do not want to lead a student astray!

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    I don't claim to be a definitive expert, but here is a "selfie" of my left hand when I am playing in 2nd position. :)

  3. diamondsea7

    diamondsea7 Guest

    Dec 22, 2014
    Thanks! Those looks slightly flatter than a classical guitarist's fingers (http://www.thisisclassicalguitar.com/left-hand-technique-and-position/) but still closer to what I was doing than to what the student was doing. In this article, the author basically advocates using classical guitarists' left hand technique and avoiding flat fingers (although his first finger still seems a bit flatter than mine would be in the pictures): http://bassmusicianmagazine.com/2008/02/fretting-hand-specifics-2/
  4. I came over from rhythm and electric lead guitar so finger tips came over to the bass also. I don't think about it anymore, but, I think I try for the sweet spot and the tip of the finger. Not sure why the index would be flat, no reason I can think of.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2014
  5. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Here are two clips that should be of help :

  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Adam Nitti has a good reputation and it seems like a good article. I was a little confused until I realized some of the photos were of what not to do!

    Keeping the left-hand fingers flatter helps achieve left-hand muting. If you don't mute with your left hand, then a more arched finger position might be preferable.
    jallenbass likes this.
  7. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    That Adam Nitti article is GOLD...do that!
  8. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    I've always heard the bass side of this described as playing with the pads of your fingers. This way you get the articulate left hand as well as some meat on the string. The danger in describing it as finger "tips" is the player not grabbing the string enough with their left hand (in speaking of beginners, those who say "tips" and play well have obviously progressed beyond needing advice on the subject)

    The "pads" thing may have originally come from my DB background but I can't remember.
  9. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    I've summarized your comment.

    Here is my opinion.
    There are no just FLAT FINGERS OR just CURVED FINGERS.
    It's like, "More/Kind of Flat", or "More/Kind of CURVED".
    Plus, it's CONSTANTLY CHANGING (even within one measure).
    THE BASS GUITAR (4/5/6-strings/plus),
    BASSLINE, BASS pattern,

    P.S. I've noticed that Slap really "flattened" my fingers.

    Anyway, somehow I can recognize from a distance those "AWKWARD BEGINNER FINGERS." Everybody goes throught that stage.

    Pino Paladino playing bass.
    (the camera stays mostly on Pino.)

    Jaco Pastorius 01~Weather Report September 28 1978
    (the one and only.)
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2014