Left hand technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Cygnusx2112, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. Cygnusx2112

    Cygnusx2112 Guest

    Feb 20, 2006
    Hey guys, I was wondering what I could do to improve my left hand technique. In my video that I posted on YouTube (see here.

    Skywalkerla5 noticed something that I have been struggling with myself, particularly with that first song. I cant seem to stretch out my fingers very far on the E and A strings, if I am playing a chord (as seen in the video.) I have been practising scales though and am thinking that that may help me. Does anyone else here have that same problem? What are your guy's (or ladies ;)) suggestions?

    Thank you in advance,
  2. Slax


    Nov 5, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    It looks like you're pressing really hard down on the fret board. You may not be, but it looks that way from the video.

    Also, you can try some finger exercises, keeping one finger per fret and working your way up the neck.

    Ex: (1 = index, 2 = middle, 3 = ring, 4 = pinky)
    ...and so on.

    After you master on a single string, start combining the combinations stretching over multiple strings. It's a pain when you're learning to do it, but the pay off is well worth it.

    Best of luck!
  3. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    To further "Slax" comments there is a great book called "Bass Fitness" and it really takes his suggestions to the next level and can be very good in helping you keep thosefingers spreed out!
  4. Marcury

    Marcury High and Low

    Aug 19, 2007
    Mid Hudson Valley, NY
    First of all get your thumb off of the top of the fingerboard, and learn how to relax your hand so it is parallel to the fingerboard. The highest your thumb should go is the center of the neck and it should be placed behind the middle or ring finger. Relax your hand so that your pinky isn't curled under or below the fingerboard see this for a picture. Read the whole thread that I linked to it has some good suggestions. This will help you whether you want to use classical 124 technique or the above mentioned one finger per fret technique. Getting your pinky up and your hand parallel to the fingerboard will make a huge difference.
  5. gre107


    Dec 25, 2005
    I agree that it looks like your playing with a death grip but more importantly you seem to be playing consistantly with only one finger?

    You need to start playing with 1 finger per fret and stretch with the index or pinky and stay in a single position when possible.

    When you "bounce" around on the finger board playing every note as if it is the "first" position of a shift the groove suffers. It doesn't flow.

    Fretboard Harmony by Gary Willis is probably one of the best left hand books out there.

    Check it out.

    And yes your playing sounds good! You just need to relax a little and take more advantage of the "economy of motion".

    Peace and all the best,

  6. Cygnusx2112

    Cygnusx2112 Guest

    Feb 20, 2006
    I'm a bit confused, but thank you all for the great info!

    What I am confused about is the one finger-per-fret thing. Should my wrist be slightly bent when I'm doing that? Because it seems I can't do it any other way, and my fingers turn to the right a bit, on the board, if that makes any sense.

    Also, while doing that, my thumb is not perpendicular to the back of the fret...its pointing up mostly, not sideways. Bad thing?
  7. JeffSki

    JeffSki Guest

    Apr 18, 2007
    I wouldn't say the angle of your thumb is as important as keeping the meat of your thumb between the tip and first knuckle on the neck comfortably. This gives you a nice pivot point for when you're crossing strings.
  8. Cygnusx2112

    Cygnusx2112 Guest

    Feb 20, 2006
    My Geddy neck has knuckles?:eyebrow: That's confusing. I am also under the impression now that if my thumb EVER goes over my neck, that that's a BIG no-no. Is this true or am I just sort of over thinking it too much or something?
  9. Marcury

    Marcury High and Low

    Aug 19, 2007
    Mid Hudson Valley, NY
    I wouldn't worry about one finger per fret right now, take care of your grip first.

    Your thumb should be parallel to the frets. If your holding it perpendicular that's a large part of your problem. Try to hold your thumb and your fingers parallel to the frets and your palm parallel to the fingerboard. The straighter your wrist the better, but you may need to change the way you hold the bass to achieve this. And yes thumb over the neck is a big no-no, it limits your range of motion, makes it very hard to relax your hand and actually weakens your hand. Look at the link that I posted before it shows an example of good hand position.

    If you learn how to do it properly your fingers should be strong enough to play without even having your thumb on the neck at all.
  10. gkbass13

    gkbass13 Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2006
    Southern Vermont
    just relax.
  11. Cygnusx2112

    Cygnusx2112 Guest

    Feb 20, 2006
    My hand hurts if I try to make my wrist bend that way though and I find it very comfortable to have my thumb over the neck, but not necessarily wrapped around it. Is that such a bad thing? Oddly enough, I've seen Geddy play (I was in Denver CO, front row center, rockin' out..was wicked, got two guitar pics, smiles from Ged and Alex, it was INSANE!!) and Ged's thumb is never strictly behind the board at all times. I have also noticed that on the R30/Rio/ASOH/ESL/GUP DVD's too.

    Also, check out this Ox video, John has his thumb over the neck the majority of the time it seems:
  12. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Right on. Well spotted, I agree completely that the OP's thumb is causing a lot of his problem. I have an excercise I do with all my students to start them getting their thumb into the correct position. First start on B on your A string (2nd fret) with your index finger. Now before you put your thumb down, place your pinky on D (5th fret) while still fretting B with your index. Now let your thumb rest where it is most comfortable, this should be in between the two fingers. Don't apply any pressure to your thumb just let it sit there. Now release your index and pinky and leave your thumb in place, once again don't press down. Now play C major using only one finger per fret in that position.

    So play middle, pinky on the A string
    index middle pinky on the D string
    index ring pinky on the G string
    and descend

    Your thumb should have stayed in the one spot.

    The other thing I noticed was that you are curling your pinky under the fingerboard when you play and turning your hand sideways. Get your pinky back above the fingerboard and that will solve a lot of your problems too. Turning your hand is sometimes necessary, if you are playing an arpeggio or something like that, but for now I would practice getting your thumb into the right position as a pivot point.
  13. Cygnusx2112

    Cygnusx2112 Guest

    Feb 20, 2006
    Man, I see what you're getting at but that's quite discomforting (index on 2nd and pinky on 5th fret on A string.) not to mention the excessive amount of fret buzz I get from my pinky on the 5th fret.

    As far as the pinky ting goes when I am curling it, it is very comfy. I can't seem to find...it just seems weird to be playing the begining of Combat Baby with my pinky in the way, you know what I mean? I'm under the assumption that my hand is not supposed to hurt while doing this, right?

    What did you think of my previous post? I think (and am not the only one) that Entwistle was one of the best rock bassist out there. Was his thumb getting in the way of his sound, do you think, just out of curiosity?
  14. Cygnusx2112

    Cygnusx2112 Guest

    Feb 20, 2006
    Also, keep in mind that when I play bass, I have to sit. Having cerebral palsy, and standing playing bass doesn't mix at all, obviously. Edit: I Doubt that that has anything to do with it though.

    I just noticed someone else doing the same thing (thumb over the fretboard) Chris Wolstenholme from Muse does that a lot too.

    Geddy Lee
    John Entwistle
    Chris Wolstenholme
    John Paul Jones

    What am I doing differently than these professional, big bucks musicians are doing? Not much, it seems.
  15. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    I wouldn't recommend looking to Entwistle as a guide for good technical practices. Not to undermine what he did, it worked and it worked well for him. On the other hand I can tell you after watching what you were doing that the technique you were using is a big factor in you not being able to play as efficiently as you might want. The amount of movement you have to do with your hand is making a lot of difference to how many notes you can play and how much work you have to do.

    Now, I am not a medical expert so I can't say how much of a factor your cerebral palsy is on your fine motor skills and how you coordinate your hands, but I will stay under the assumption that other than whether you are standing or sitting is the only real factor for now, unless you tell me otherwise.

    I tend to sit down to play a lot, If I am doing a session or teaching I sit. If I am practicing, I sit. If I am rehearsing with a band, I will mostly sit unless I have to sing and play in which case I will probably lean/sit on one of those nice tall stools when I can. The only time I really tend to stand is when I gig. So, with that said sitting is not the issue. I still apply the same technique to playing either way.

    As for your hand hurting, and once again without factoring the effects of cerebral palsy into it, I will tell you this; The things you are doing for comfort now are actually making more work for you in the big picture. While doing these exercises is uncomfortable at first they are key to building strength and good technique in the long term. The fret buzz is coming from the fact that your pinky is weak at the moment. Over time if you keep exercising your fingers they will gain strength and the discomfort will disappear until you feel completely natural using all your fingers. The only thing you need to be aware of is not to overextend your wrist as this can lead to carpal tunnel and repetitive stress injuries. Keep your wrist in a nice relaxed position and angle your hand, elbow and shoulder instead.

    I used to have a lot of the same habits I see you with and believe me it's worth a little effort to iron some of them out even if it's uncomfortable at first.
  16. peaveyuser

    peaveyuser Inactive

    Oct 18, 2006
    At least King Crimson has a bassist who can play.

    My suggestion to stretch fingers is basically play songs that require it thats what I did. Good examples are Cowboys From Hell and Master of Puppets.

    also this is a great exercise

  17. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Oh no, let's not make this battle of the bassplayers. It's not really the point of this thread, is it?
  18. Cygnusx2112

    Cygnusx2112 Guest

    Feb 20, 2006
    I find that I can play octaves (as in Dead Disco) fine. I can also play chords (Combat Baby, albeit a bit haphazardly.)

    What about those other three players that I mentioned? Like I said, I don't sense any discomfort in my hands at all when I play (and I play for at least eight hours every day, unless I am not at home or out..)

    And, thank you so much, peavyuser for contributing to this thread in an excellent way. Jerk.

    Anyways, my point is, I seem to not be experiencing any limitations with the way that my hands are placed, and the minor ones (like that one chord in Combat baby on the E and A strings) I can work on. I find the way I play to be comfortable. Here's a question - and I don't mean to be rude by any stretch - if I had given you guys just the audio, would you have noticed a difference in my playing, not knowing how I looked when I played it?
  19. peaveyuser

    peaveyuser Inactive

    Oct 18, 2006
    look at my edit buddy;) Trust me I might make an @$$hole comment in a thread, but i don't come in only for that.

    oh hammer-on's help a lot too
  20. Cygnusx2112

    Cygnusx2112 Guest

    Feb 20, 2006
    Sorry about that Peavey. I can pull off that exercise that you posted slowly (because I've only just begun to play scales), but I can pull it off! :)