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New Bass player question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Akeo, Jul 24, 2005.

  1. Akeo


    Jun 26, 2005
    Hi everyone, I have a question for you long time bassists here. First let me admit that for a guy, i have small hands. I have the hardest time getting my pinkie finger to cover that 4th fret. I'm still working on getting it stretched over there, but i have to say, it's not coming easy. So my question is this: Can a bass player play with 3 fingers and not use the pinkie and become a decent player, or am i just wasting my time? keep in mind that i'm not trying to be the next John Myung, it's just a hobby for me. Thanx for any help you can give. Oh, and i'll keep working on stretching those fingers. ;)
  2. AuG


    May 22, 2005
    Fort Collins, CO
    Sure, you can become a decent player with just 3 fingers. I'd keep working on getting my pinkie over to that 4th fret though, you'll have use your pinkie more than once in most songs. If you're not that serious about bass playing, then don't worry about it. Practice, practice, practice. :)
  3. jadesmar


    Feb 17, 2003
    Ottawa, ON
    A small shift of the thumb toward the fret in question should allow you to reach this. There is no reason for the thumb to be completely anchored.

    Even if playing a classical fretless instrument (cello or viola) where it is recommended that the fingers are played concurrently (i.e. finger 1, fingers 1-2 for 2nd fret, fingers 1-2-3 for the third fret, fingers 1-2-3-4 for the fourth fret) a slight movement of the thumb will extend the reach.

    Clasical first position on bass plays the first finger on 2nd fret<?> (well, no frets), the 2nd finger on the 3rd fret<?> and the 4th finger on the third fret<?>. Shifts are required to reach the 1st fret<?> and the 5th. I'd say that there are some fairly good bassists with this technique.

    Failing that, a 5 string with low B could also allow you to compensate for the lack of reach. 1-4 stretch would translate into a 6-9 stretch which should be much easier. (This we call being a slacker :)).
  4. Akeo


    Jun 26, 2005
    Thanks so much for the replies. I tried that thumb shift and it works pretty good. I was kinda anchoring my thumb a bit i noticed. As Oogenstein said, Practice, Practice, Practice !!
  5. Zebra


    Jun 26, 2005
    I have small ahnds too, and I can barely reach the fourth fret with my pinky when really trying, let alone on the go. I've adapted to moving my thumb around a lot, and it's no problem. Hand size in no way affects your ability to play bass. I also use my pinky all the time on a lot of whole step intervals too.
  6. bassbully43


    Jul 1, 2005
    Throw out the rules! There is no right and wrong way to play develop your style and practice it. I dont use my pinky much if ever and it really never hurt me. Flea said he hardly never uses his pinky and last i looked hes doing well. There are too many cats who use the golden rules of bass ...you know you must do this and that or your not a bassist POOOOOOOOOO do what you know and rock out. :bassist:
  7. Biggums


    Jul 25, 2005
    My mate doesnt use his pinkie atall and is still a very competant bass player. I, like you, did have small hands and used to move my hands all ove the place to get my pinkie on to that 4th fret, but after a while, it sort of goes away. Just kep practicin and it'll come. :bassist:
  8. el_Kabong


    Jul 11, 2005
    You'll don't say how long you've been playing Akeo, but I guess it's not long. Don't worry, your hand's ability to stretch will develop over the years. Did you see the issue of Bassplayer magazine with Rhonda Smith (bassist for Prince) on the cover? A 4 string jazz neck looks huge in her hands. Small hands haven't stopped her.
  9. WhiteRyder


    Jul 25, 2005
    Richmond VA
    I'm a new player too (just had my third lesson last week), and have fairly small hands. My teacher asked me to work on scales this week, using four frets with a different finger on each fret. Since up to now I'd avoided using my pinky, this means a lot of new stretching. I can tell my pinky is already getting stronger, BUT after just a couple of times through the exercise, my left hand cramps up pretty painfully and I have to stop and shake it out. (At first I tried to keep playing, a la "no pain no gain" philosophy, but then it just took longer to recover.)

    So what I need to figure out is this:
    Should I keep working at the exercise just as my teacher suggested, with thumb mostly in the same position for the whole scale, and assume the cramping will go away once I've been doing it for a while?
    OR... should I conclude that for my size hands and my size bass, I need to figure out a different technique that doesn't cause the cramping?

    I was even wondering if I need to get a smaller bass, but maybe that's just cheating. ;)

  10. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    You might be tensing up since you're trying to stretch so far. Do your best to relax. If you feel yourself tensing up, shake it out, lighten up and try again.

    Oh, in the realm of bass playing that hand/wrist pain stuff will turn into RSI if you try to keep 'playing through the pain'. Very bad stuff.
  11. I have medium sized hands and play 35" scale basses. My pinkie does not always reach. Your pinkie needs to be able to function period. No matter how you use it. Even if you don't use it much. Some folks have already said to throw out what tradition says and do what's best for you. I would suggest using "tradition" as a good guideline. It's tradition for a reason. It works for most people. When you have a technique issue. Stop! Look at what is causing the problem? Length of your pinkie? Thumb doesn't move? Maybe if you roll your wrist over slightly it may allow you to reach or get to the next note a little faster. Most of the time you can look at your technique and figure out why you are unable to preform the task correctly. If you can do this, you can then also find what will work best for you. Some of the greatest players (bass and guitar) have marginal if not crappy technique although most of the great players as a whole have great technique. To each their own!
  12. Akeo


    Jun 26, 2005
    Wow thanx for the great responses everyone. You guys have given me alot of hope for developing that pinkie finger. at least now it seems so weird using it (pinkie) and i get alot of fret buzz i'm assuming from not pressing hard enough with it. But i'll keep practicing and getting it and all my fingers strengthened. El Kabong, to answer your question, i have been playing for only about 3 weeks. So i am truly a newbie :( So thanx again everyone for giving me some hope. I'm off now to learn some Queensryche stuff. :bassist:
  13. Make sure you put you finger only slightly behind the fret. And I mean slightly. The further back you place your finger... the harder you have to push to eliminate the buzz.
  14. jadesmar


    Feb 17, 2003
    Ottawa, ON
    It will also make it ever so much easier if you ever decide to switch to fretless.