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My fingers move too slow

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bassmatt4792, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. I've been playing bass for about 6 years or so and I'm pretty much entirely self taught. I did go to about 5 lessons during my last semester in college bit my job got in the way of that. In lessons, my teacher would say to use all 4 fingers obviously and use then in order on the fretboard. This was new to me as I used (and still do out of habit) whatever fingers I felt like, and I usually slide around instead of using 4 and shifting.

    Fast for war to now, and I'm trying to learn some Rush, etc. I feel like I have a fast right hand - I can play the Run to the Hills gallops with either 2 or 3 fingers- but I'm having trouble moving my left hand fingers quick enough to play the Spirit of Radio intro runs. Not only am I having trouble moving them that fast, I'm having lots of trouble moving them in time with my right hand doing the plucking. Are there any good tips or exercises that can help?

    This also is affecting my interest in learning guitar as well. I see these guys shredding it up and I can't fathom moving that fast.
    Thanks for your help

  2. It's been said before - practice something you want to play fast by first playing it slowly. Increase the speed until you can play it fast. Metronome. Rinse and repeat.
  3. My advice is to practice legato. Get a metronome as well
  4. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007

    The run in TSoR is pretty quick...it would be very hard to just get it after a time or two at full speed.
  5. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Bassist for Michael "Epic Mic" Rowe

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Yes, dissect the parts and then speed it up from there, I'd say that's a good habit on any instrument that you pick up.

    Going to have to use an unorthodox example here, but in many ways your left hand is sort of like learning a dance. You have to mind your footwork so that you don't get thrown off balance doing the moves and transitioning positions. Finding the most efficient way to play the part is fundamental in learning a song correctly. Sometimes people will differ on the best way to tackle a given song though...I'll use the example of Schism by Tool:

    The main riff everyone knows from the song goes roughly like this...

    a--------------------------------------------| x8

    I play the hammer-on part with my index finger hitting the 10 on the D string and my ring finger hitting the 12 on the D string. At that shift from 10 on the G to 9 on the G, I usually slide my index finger down so I can hit the 12 on the G with my ring or pinky finger. My current teacher insists I should do the hammer-on with my middle and pinky. I happen to think that's getting too anal with hand position, seeing as how the shift is pretty minimal. You don't want to split hairs like that, but hand position can be very important. Keep that in mind when you are learning a song, especially if you are a "muscle memory" guy like myself.
  6. Have you tried playing along using slow down software ? You can literally isolate parts by the note, hearing them slowly and in pitch.
  7. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
  8. Thank you all for the responses, I'll definitely try slowing down the riffs and speeding them up when I get to my bass next.

    I guess to expand on my original post, it almost feels like playing with cold hands to me. My finger joints seem too lock up and I just *can't* move them that fast. I do play in a well heated environment though.

    Now that I'm thinking about it, my hands always seem a little tense. I'm typing on my iPhone right now and it's stressful on my hands to hold it and type with my thumbs. It's pretty warm too. I have had shows where I can't play some quick fills because it's so dang cold, but I can live with that. This is just annoying haha. Thank you all, hope to hear more input. :)
  9. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Playing slow always works because speed is in the head, not in the fingers. IF you know where you want to go, your fingers will follow.
  10. nashman


    Feb 11, 2011
    +1 on all the above advise. Think of a professional baseball pitcher. They learned to throw the ball first, then over time learned how to throw it fast and/or with different action.

    There are Hal Leonard books for bass that have the notation, tab for various songs - and a CD with/without the bass track for each song - plus software called "the amazing slowdowner" which allows you to learn songs at slower/faster speeds.
  11. Swerve


    Nov 22, 2002
    Portland, OR

    I recently installed a software called "Transcribe!" and it works perfectly for slowing songs down so that you can figure out faster or more complicated lines without changing the pitch.

    I used it yesterday for some King Crimson stuff and it was very helpful. Though at half speed or less their music sounds like its coming from the pits of hell. :D
  12. It seems to me like you should have done what your tutor tried to teach you. Use all your fingers and practice. Your fingers are probably always feeling cold and stiff because you haven't trained them to work, you took the easy road & slide around. Now they can't do something that requires them to move faster. Not really surprising. Also, if your fingers aren't in sync, sounds like you aren't putting enough practice time in.
    I would suggest you go back to basics, try the one finger per fret idea and practice, a lot. Think of your hand/fingers as a sprint athlete. If they decided they couldn't be bother practicing to sprint and just skipped to the finish line & never really put any time into this either, they wouldn't win. Same idea. Also, in your hand there are muscles, tendons etc, they need to be trained to work the way you want, stretched as well etc.
    Watch most great bass players, do they slide around to get to notes, or do they have a good spread in their fingers/technique?

    My advice, go back to basics and get in the shed and stay there until your hands do what you want them to.
  13. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv

    There are no shortcuts to great playing.
  14. I agree with the above. The OP never bothered to learn even the most basic fretting technique because it was "new", (which is pretty much the point of having a teacher in the first place) and is now wondering why it's not working... Slow practice of incorrect technique is just going to reinforce that incorrect technique.

    I've said it a thousand times. Taking a shortcut is the longest cut of all. Just learn to use all your fingers the right way. But you already knew that answer before you posted...
  15. I agree with going back and learning proper techniques such as OFPF and 124. Then, if you make an educated decision to not use some or all of those techniques, don't.

    All that said, don't forget economy of motion. Usually if it seems like my hands need to move faster, I just figure out how to move them less. This goes with fingering choices for notes as well as technique such as how hard you fret, how far you lift your fingers off the string when shifting, etc. All of these things should be under scrutiny for continuing improvement.
  16. Tennisers


    Feb 10, 2014
    I didn't read closely enough, so when you said "my teacher told me to use all 4 fingers" I thought he meant all 4 fingers of the right hand for plucking, and I thought " that's kind of unessecary". Silly me.
    As for your concerns, I've just started really trying to figure out a more systematic technique, and everything that people have said is spot on.
    To paraphrase some things, and add some others,
    There are an enormous amount of ways to play a given sequence of notes. however, many patterns repeat themselves across genres of music, and it will be very helpful to figure out those patterns and find the way to play them so it's most comfortable and consistent for you. What's most comfortable and consistent is usually what keeps you from jumping around.
    Have a picture of what you want to do in your head.
    Set specific goals for each practice and as an end goal, and maintain good technique once you learn it.
    You started off talking about the left hand, but don't forget about the right hand, practice working both in tandem with a metronome, at first slowly, focusing on what's comfortable and consistent.
  17. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    You might also get a copy of Bass Fitness and use its exercises.
  18. mrbell321


    Mar 26, 2012
    N. Colorado
    From the title, I was going to say "me too", but my problem is my right hand. I've been doing nearly all the practicing routines that everyone has mentioned(and some more that were clearly not effective). I've been doing the double-it-up excercise from Scott's bass lessons for a few months. I've gotten marginally quicker, but I still can't keep up w/ his 16th notes. Even if I just stick w/ one note, I can't move that fast(I can fret that fast, oddly). There just seems to be a limit to which my right hand fingers want to move back and forth. And it doesn't seem to be about timing(although I know I need work there). It's not that I"m inconsistent. I'm very consistently slow. :)

    As with most things, I expect this to come in fits and starts. At some point, I'll probably suddenly be able to play 32nds to that video. But for now I'm just trudging through the mud.

    BTW, I use to be able to type around 140 words per minute. Now I'm probably down to around 100. I would think this would be a somewhat transferable skill. Perhaps I'm just getting old.
  19. Tony Gray

    Tony Gray

    Mar 6, 2006
    You've gotten some good advice so far, slow down, metronome, instruction...
    I think all of that is essential. I'd like to add one thing. Relax. I've never seen you play, but I can guarantee you are playing with a lot of tension. Relax your whole body and see how little force it takes to play.
  20. Appreciate all the great responses all. I guess I'll have to do the inevitable and basically re-teach myself bass. I've been trying to learn more walking lines to use the dancing approach and not fumble over my other fingers. This forum really is amazing, and I love hearing and learning from more experienced players than myself