Left Index finger

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by lark_z, Jun 6, 2020.

  1. lark_z

    lark_z Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2020
    Georgetown, TX
    61 YO Noob here (sort of, played for a few years in my 40s). Seems that my default left index position (shown below) is kind of cocked toward my body, away from the headstock. Seems that surely this is affecting my reach and likely a bad habit. Second image is what I think would be more appropriate, but it's more difficult for me to fret the notes that way.

    I know one comment I'll surely hear is "get a teacher" and I don't disagree with that. Any other advice? Maybe I can practice/work my way out of it? I was able to break my habit of leaving my right-thumb on the pickup all the time, took awhile, but I did it. 20200606_143506.jpg 20200606_143445.jpg
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Have you tried consciously not doing it? Play slowly and deliberately and gradually increase speed.
  3. lark_z

    lark_z Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2020
    Georgetown, TX
    Good point - I think I'll go back to the start of my Hal Leonard book and go back through the early exercises using the mirror to keep an eye on that position.
    LowActionHero likes this.
  4. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    If something works than it works but there are some habits that'll hurt you in the long run. I don't really know if that position is a problem.
    bobba66 likes this.
  5. Your first photo doesn't look that bad to me. In the second photo, it looks like you are stretching farther than you need to. I suspect that the first position sounds better because you are fretting close to the fret (instead of in between frets).

    I bet that if you repositioned your thumb a bit, and/or dropped your elbow down toward the floor, it would help you straighten out your fingers. :)
    stigbeve likes this.
  6. TOOL460002


    Nov 4, 2004
    Santa Cruz
    Do you have the same issue playing higher up the neck?
  7. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I don't think anyone can give you advice based on a couple of snapshots without context. What your hand position should look like depends on what note you're playing at the moment, as well as what came before and where you're going next.
  8. lark_z

    lark_z Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2020
    Georgetown, TX
    It's not as bad higher up the neck. I wasn't really trying to fret in the second image. I'm suspecting that it may be age related.
  9. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    Try tucking your elbow into your side a little more, and position your thumb behind your middle finger. Lift the neck up at more of an angle to allow your wrist to be more straight.
  10. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Watch this and see if it helps:

    lark_z and CatOnTheBass like this.
  11. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    rodsnhawgs, Nashrakh and lark_z like this.
  12. In my opinion, the bassist with the best left-hand technique is Paul Jackson (of Herbie Hancock Headhunters fame). I often find myself returning to his videos for inspiration. He makes it look so relaxed and effortless (and sounds great)!

  13. Cutter8

    Cutter8 Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2018
    Positioning your bass at a slightly steeper angle will make a big difference. Compare my fingers in the first pic below, where I have the bass at an angle similar to your photos, with the second pic where I have it positioned more vertically, which is how I typically play. A minor change in the angle makes a big difference how the fretting hand/fingers lay against the neck. Just something to consider...
    1CC0F94C-CAAB-4490-8201-D31B70DB11D9.jpeg A8545208-8DCC-4639-A4FF-F814E64C595D.jpeg
  14. lark_z

    lark_z Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2020
    Georgetown, TX
    Holy Cow, LOL. The Japanese overdubbing :D is priceless.
    sonojono, teh-slb, Vinny_G and 2 others like this.
  15. warm up:
    Do arm/hand stretches.
    Massage your hand & forearm.
    Mobilise the joint (Use your other hand to passively do circles with each knuckle to free it up).

    Place a wine cork between index and middle finger to increase the range of motion and neutral position of the index finger.
  16. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    More likely it's noob related. It takes time to build up the necessary hand strength and learn the automatic processes that allow you to play with good form and minimal effort.

    Joints have pairs of muscles; one muscle opens the joint and one muscle closes the joint. When you first learn to play there is a tendency to over engage both muscles and clench rather than using just the minimum amount of strength necessary to get a good tone.

    Playing involves a bunch of different fine motor skills that must be integrated in order to develop skill and finesse. When you first start, you work consciously on these each motion, so it requires a lot of mental energy. Over time many of the processes become automatic, so rather than thinking about a bunch of separate processes, you think only about playing a note with the index finger at X fret.

    However, even a master musician will go back and deconstruct the mechanics of their playing from time to time. For example, you might consciously think about the individual fine motor skills required to perform an action such as fretting a note with your index finger. You might also isolate one of those actions so you can focus on improving it. Over time the new way of thinking becomes automatic so there is no longer a need for conscious control. You may need to cycle through remedial training over the years to correct and reinforce various aspects of your technique.
    Nashrakh likes this.
  17. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    If you keep your wrist relatively straight (which is what you want), you'll find your fingers are generally pointing towards your nose. If you wear your bass low, and the neck parallel to the floor, than when you hand it near the nut, your fingers will be slanted w.r.t. the frets.

    That's not necessarily a bad thing, but....most of us who have been playing a while wear our basses a little higher. We do that to make it easy to reach the low strings without having to wrap our wrist around the neck (especially on a 5er). This has the side benefit of reducing the angle the OP is talking about some, but I don't think that angle on in the OP's picture is the compelling reason for the posture I'm taking about.

    The human body doesn't move in straight lines - your arms pivot around several different places - your shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Trying to force your fingers to be lined up with the frets along the whole fretboard is not the goal. Keeping your wrists in neutral positions is what you should focus on - your wrists are the most vulnerable join for repetitive stress issues. If you fingers look a little wonky in certain positions, but your wrists are good, so be it.
  18. devnulljp

    devnulljp Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    Watch where you put your thumb on the back of the neck. I played classical guitar as a kid, so have pretty good thumb placement discipline, but you see a lot fo players' thumb creeping upwards and that draws the fingers into weird contact angles with the fretboard. Thumb should be right in the middle of the neck, no further north than the skunk stripe, hand reaching round in front so the fingers can arc gracefully down onto the strings.
    Funky Phantom likes this.
  19. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Plus 1 for trying different play angles and even changing strap length. But don’t beat yourself up about it if it is something you can’t change without real pain. Technique is important and valuable. But our hands have some constraints so do your best anyway. My dumb advice is if you can straighten the cross angle of that finger without long lasting pain it’s something you can work into your practice. If it causes pain after playing maybe just work with it.

    P.s. is that an AHAMAY bass?
  20. nnnnnn


    Oct 27, 2018
    I would not do this. It's not a naturally relaxed position, it makes the palm of your hand more closed, it makes it harder to stretch your fingers. Behind the index finger is as far as I'd go in that direction.
    Straighter wrist is good advice.
    fearceol and CatOnTheBass like this.