Left hand technique on the high end of the fretboard.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Uggelbas, Jun 21, 2020.

  1. Uggelbas


    Jan 27, 2018
    Im practising a lot of scales right now, going up and down the neck covering every part of the fretboard. Some confusion arises though when i reach somewhere about the 15th fret, because my pinky can no longer comfortably reach the E-string. I don't want to practise using a poor technique so therefore i'm asking you how to go about it.

    It's obvious that thumb placement makes a big difference. I can improve my reach by either letting the thumb slide up on top of the neck, or letting it slide down below the neck. Which option do you prefer?

    Is it fine to just stop using the pinky above a certain fret? Or to practise to shift down the A-string rather than using the highest part of the E-string?
  2. eKay


    May 8, 2014
    I was taught to pull my thumb out from behind the neck when I hit the heel. Then it just hangs out next to my index finger until it’s time to come down. It might seem weird at first to not have the leverage of the thumb but you shouldn’t need much leverage. With practice you can make the switch pretty quickly.
  3. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    For me I just nudge up to the heel and push the hand through. I think it is important to maintain as much form and posture as possible.
    IME, the biggest obstacle in most electric bass designs is the lower horn, which frequently prevents maintaining posture as it blocks the back of the hand...
    Les Fret and JRA like this.
  4. Uggelbas


    Jan 27, 2018
    Thanks for the pics! That position just doesn't work for me though. I have to bend my wrist as much as possible to reach with my pinky, and my entire hand feels very strained even without trying to reach far. It doesn't matter if im sitting or standing.

    I'm leaning towards doing as you suggest, eKay. I still have trouble reaching the top frets of the E-string and to an extent the A-string though. Dropping the pinky and only using three fingers feels most natural.
    SteveCS and eKay like this.
  5. In my observations, most pro bassists seem to reposition their thumb and use fingers 1-2-3 (no pinky) once they get up to the higher frets. Similar to "thumb position" technique on the upright double bass.

    Two of the masters of high-register playing are Simon Gallup of The Cure and Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order. I'd suggest watching their concert videos on YouTube to get inspiration for your own technique. :)
    MonetBass likes this.
  6. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    I know it's there, but, do you really need to go beyond the 15th fret? If so slide and figure out what works for you. If I am that high my index with a slide normally does what I need.

    I do not play melody so have no reason for being above the 15th.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
  7. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    In the Simandl method for double bass, the pinky is dropped in favour of ring finger in higher positions for all of the reasons you mention. There is nothing wrong with doing the same with electric bass. IMHO it is better to maintain good general posture than to strain the hand.
    JRA, Low Crow and eKay like this.
  8. eKay


    May 8, 2014
    Yeah I don’t see anything wrong with using 3 fingers up there. Although once you tuck the thumb you can reach the fingers around a little more and the pinky should be able to reach. I still practice this way but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable as SteveCS said.
    SteveCS likes this.
  9. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    You emulate the double bass "thumb position" technique: above the octave, bring your thumb above the fingerboard and use it to fret the strings, together with fingers 1, 2,3 (omit the pinky). Fretting with the side of your thumb can be painful until you have build up some good callosity there, so be patient.
    Thumb position gives a great mobility to the hand and can used to reach very wide intervals. It can be used below the octave as well.
    gebass6 and SteveCS like this.
  10. domplaysbass


    Dec 22, 2015
    Bay Area
    I hold my bass just like steveCS shows in his pictures. I also picked up a trick either from scottsbasslessons or my old teacher I can’t remember who Told me but Iv been doing it for years now. I angle my bass out a bit, Just point your headstock out a few degrees and you won’t have to bend your wrist as much when you’re playing high up on the fretboard. Simple but effective for me. Hope that helps.
    Bermuda Ron and Low Crow like this.
  11. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    The correct answer is going to depend a lot on the instrument you play. My #1 bass is a Yamaha TRB6P. Since it's a 6-string I rarely play much above the 12th fret. But when I do, my thumb must rotate from behind the neck. Depending upon where I am playing, the thumb may fall under the neck or rotate on top of the fretboard similiar to thumb position on upright bass. I also notice at some point it becomes difficult to use the little finger.

    I was playing one of my extended range 4-string a few days ago and it seemed I could play way up the neck without rotating my thumb out of the normal position behind the neck. That particular bass has the bridge closer to the center of its body than normal, which shifts the neck further to the left. So it's not just the shape of the neck, but also the position of the neck in relation to ones body.

    This is not my bass but it looks almost exactly like it.
  12. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Oddly enough the only time I use thumb position these days is in this simple line, which is well below the octave. I play a descending line of normal notes whilst pinging harmonics at the octave with my pinky... The lower part could more easily be played on the 4th string, but I use 3rd for reasons of tone and sustain - those notes on the longer thinner string are much richer and ring longer than the short fat 4th string equivalents, which suits this particular passage much better...
  13. Uggelbas


    Jan 27, 2018
    Thanks for all the awesome responses! I feel like i can keep practising without worrying about doing it wrong. I became a father today by the way!
    tonym, iammr2, 12BitSlab and 2 others like this.
  14. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
  15. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015

    But you're likely to have less time for playing bass in the coming weeks / months / years...
    JRA and SteveCS like this.
  16. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
  17. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    and i guess this was a last-ditch effort to get some advice before your life changes forevermore! :laugh:

    well done, dad! hope you and yours are healthy and well. congratulations on your new technique(s) and your new family! :thumbsup:
  18. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    On my sixers,I try to play chords "up in the ionosphere"

    My fretted Tune TWB has limited cutout access.
    So I have to use thumb position for some chords.
    But my G Style six has a deeper cutout.
    And I don't have to do T/P
    20200608_165609.jpg 20200608_165637.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
  19. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Good points by everyone.
    I found out that playing seated makes reaching the E string with the pinky above the 15th fret or so much easier. When playing standing it is more difficult to have the same hand position in the highest regions, especially on the E and B string. This is because it is harder to have the bass angled when standing and also because the whole bass is moved more to the right when standing I guess That’s why I always prefer sitting. But on gigs that’s not always possible.
  20. jonster


    Nov 12, 2008
    A lot of it will be a function of how the body of your bass is cut. Your hand will tell you -- loud and clear -- what it will permit, and what it won't. Somebody mentioned "thumb" position, which is a possibility, but I'd experiment with moving your wrist in a way that will get the job done.