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Looking at the fretboard?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by thefruitfarmer, Mar 14, 2006.

  1. thefruitfarmer


    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    or rather how to not look at the fretboard when playing the bass.....

    I am trying to develop the discipline of playing and keeping my eyes on the music, rather than keeping a bad habit of memorising the bassline and then looking to find the position for the note.

    I am starting to just "know" some positions but would appreciate any pointers here.

    Do people learn the feel for a certain point on the neck or find the note by ear?

    For example when going from the 2nd fret on the A string to the 10th fret I am starting to play a slide (as indicated in the music) and finding the note by ear and feel.

    What does everyone think?
  2. kenlacam


    Nov 8, 2005
    akron, ohio
    I learned by patterns, and also the relationships of one note as it relates to another, so it is easier to find what key the song is in. I don't wish to play without looking at the fretboard, because I find it easier to be creative if I can see where I'm going on the fretboard. Also training your ear is an excellent idea ( I can't read music-shame on me).
    I got a couple of bass books that teaches learning by patterns, and I found it most helpful.
  3. theshadow2001


    Jun 17, 2004
    Its just a matter of keep on playing and you will eventually be able to play without looking. There are things you can do to sped this up like practicing in the dark or whilst looking in a mirror.

    Its like a car people don't look down at the gear stick to see which gear they want to change into they are just used to doing it an know which position to put it in with out looking.Granted doing it on bass is a bit harder but it will come with experience.

    Although if you constantly look at the fretboard I wouldn't expect to be able to do it any time soon. Look up when you can and it will come eventually.
  4. I've heard that looking at a mirror while you play will let you feel the positions and notes while practicing. I would recommend this. I never tried this, I just played and practiced so much that knowing where the notes were on the fingerboard was never an issue.
  5. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    If you have to read charts while performing, rehearsing or jamming, you very quickly learn how to play without looking, because otherwise you lose your place in the music!
    Other than that, why worry about it? :cool:
    (And please don't say it looks cooler.)
  6. thefruitfarmer


    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    It definately looks cooler to play without looking at the fretboard ;) and is better for eyeing up the women in the audience too :D

    From what everyone is saying so far it seems like it is just a matter of practice, discipline and there is no magical trick...

    Just a combination of feel and hearing the notes.

    Anyone care to expand on the practicing while looking in a mirror thing?
  7. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    But to be less flippant about it...
    When you study double bass, or any other unfretted stringed instrument, you study positions and the principle of shifting from one to another. It doesn't involve looking, but rather measuring and feeling the distances with your hand.
    For example, try putting your hand on the fingerboard so that your index finger is on the 1st fret of the E string (F) and your little finger is on the 3rd fret (G). Now, maintain the shape of your hand and smoothly shift so that your index finger is on the 5th fret (A) and your little finger is on the 7th fret (B). On the way, you should feel your hand move through the "G to A space" which is tiny bit smaller than the "F to G space" but a tiny bit larger than the "A to B space." (I used double bass fingering for this example, because that was my training.)
    It's all about keeping consistent posture with your hand and measuring and feeling the distances this way. And yes, "hearing" the notes before you reach for them is important, too.
    You could buy Simandl's bass method (the double bass "Bible") and learn the fingerings and work through the exercises, or just employ guitar one-finger-per-fret fingering while keep the shifting principle in mind.
  8. It's easier to get a feel for the notes because you watch what you're playing without looking down. The more you practice like this the better your "feel" for the fingerboard becomes and the less you rely on watching your fingers.
  9. thefruitfarmer


    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    That's the mirror practice trick yeah?
  10. thefruitfarmer


    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    Thanks for that dougjwray.
  11. tkozal


    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    Well, since this aint DB, and one finger per fret is the way to go (positions? ya mean like missionary?),;) I would recommend an exercize I have done for years, and has been written up in various places: "Target Practice".

    first finger, first fret, then jump with your pinky to the 12 fret, then 1, then the 10th etc., do a scale, or you can move in half steps. You can start on the third fret, or any fret actually. You can also do it in reverse. The point is to get a feel for how much movement you need. You can do this on one string, which is the easiest, or cross strings. You can do it with the same finger, or different fingers.

    This helps give you muscle memory for these "jumps", and will cut down on your need to look.
  12. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Actually, double bass fingering on electric isn't unheard of. Carol Kaye, for one, feels that one-finger-per-fret is too much of a strain on the hand and she discourages it.
  13. I like to practice songs with my eyes closed. That helps. Or blindfold yourself. Do it with songs that you already know by heart, then try practicing/improvising something new AND REMEMBERING IT when you can't actually see what you're doing. That's what I do and it works.
  14. Shiveringbass


    Aug 21, 2005
    I never look my fingerboard and have never done it because I just can't. I'm near blind (can only see contrasted shape or sorces of light, broad shapes...).
    Just wanted to say that it is possible to play without watching your fb. Things only get a little more complicated when you need for instance to tape an harmonic at the twelve fret... you cannot go there with a slide... it is realy hard to work cause it means a great muscles memory precision but hey ! I'm working on Portrait of Tracy from Jaco at the moment.
    It will probably take me a little more time than anybody who could see where exactly he lays his finger but I like to work.

  15. Positions apply on the electric as well.
  16. tkozal


    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    :rollno: Don't you guys like "take a joke"...geezzz...
  17. BassDerek


    Aug 15, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    Muscle memory.

    If you do it enough times without looking, you don't even need to "feel" the frets, you just know how far to go because of repetetive practicing.
  18. thefruitfarmer


    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    So no short cuts then.....

    Just practice and more practice.

    I notice it getting better every day as it goes.
  19. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    All good advice. And add to this try to be consistant when you hold the bass. Whether you stand or sit do it the same way everytime. Using a strap is a very good way to check this. And (I know this is real basic) don't support any of the neck weight with your fretting hand, let the strap or your posture do that. That way your hand is free to move as it needs to and you muscle memory will remember the positions and not what if feels like to hold the neck up.
  20. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Play in the dark.

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