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New student deformed pinkies.

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by stefaniw80401, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    I have a new student, an older lady in her 70's who worked as a secretary when she was younger and banged on manual typewriters all day. Both of her pinkies are therefore deformed inwards...sorta like the pinkie toes of our wives' feet from being crammed into pointy shoes for decades.

    She got a 1/2-sized bass last year, it fits her good, but she cannot comfortably make a whole-step between 1-4 fingers. Consequently is reaching out of position with her 3rd finger. I don't think my classical/jazz left hand teaching is going to work for her.

    A few years ago I came across, now since forgotten, a bluegrass bass book where the LH technique was largely collapsed into the palm and otherwise "bad" compared to traditional classical/jazz LH.

    Can anybody help me rediscover this book?

    Can anybody offer ideas on how I can proceed with this student?

    - Mark
  2. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    If she can make the stretch with her 3rd finger why can't she make it with the 4th?

    I have watched a number of those bluegrass players who use the collapsed "baseball bat" grip, and although I am not an expert, it looks to me like they cover about a half step from 1 to 4 - they do a tremendous amount of shifting. It doesn't really matter if half the notes you play are open and you are mostly playing roots and fifths. If your student wants to learn double bass to play this type of music, maybe that kind of left hand technique is fine. If she wants to play the full range of bass music, I can't imagine how she could do it with the bluegrass collapsed hand.

    Maybe you and she should figure out how much she can actually span between 1 and 4 and then go for a bass with an appropriate string length based on that.

    And just to be clear, I play a lot of bluegrass and I love the music. But I also play other kinds of music on the bass, so I decided to learn standard technique. On the other hand, my hands are pretty much normal.
  3. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    Her pinky comes down on the string way on the outside of the finger tip joint. Even my biggest callus is on the pinky, and is somewhat off center towards the outside (posterior) of the pad. I bet everyone's pinky callus is also off-center...and then you hit bone if your pinky twists too much.

    Watching her play, in just our first lesson, looks like her using her pinky is painful, or misalinged, and seems to get in the way of her using her 3rd finger. She utilizes a little pivot to make a whole-step between 1-3 fingers.

    I will try to post a close-up video of her left hand.
  4. Blues56


    Oct 27, 2012
  5. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    Yeah! That's it! Thanks B.
  6. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Until I get to the fifth stop up the neck, I have to use a "shivot"(shift plus pivot) to encompass two whole steps, so i don't see why the lady using a pivot should be frowned upon. Since it's a half size bass, maybe begin lessons at fifth position where the note span is not so great, and work her a bit in incremental stages in both directions from there? Maybe some of the pinkie issues can work themselves out by the time she needs that big stretch.
  7. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    Ha! The "shivot" -- love that...but you meant two half-steps (equals 1 whole-step) right? The Rabbath pivot is meant for on a half-step up or down. Any more than that, and you'll have to shift.

    Currently, I have my student doing a "shivot" to make a whole-step between 1-4, and understanding the difference between a shift (the thumb moves) and a pivot (the thumb stays).

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