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One finger per fret, is 3 finger possible?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Bassman boris, Dec 20, 2018.

  1. Bassman boris

    Bassman boris

    Nov 29, 2018
    Sorry if this question has been asked before.
    I'm in my 50's and just started playing and after years of wanting I recently decided to give it ago.
    My hands aren't over small but I'm struggling to achieve one finger per fret. The problem is my 3rd and little finger don't want to work independently of each other and the span between the 4 frets is quite hard to reach, specially the top two strings.
    I can just about reach on the bottom to strings after hours of trying but it's not pretty and have to really concentrate to do it.
    My 3rd finger works fine if I eliminate my little finger. I've have no intentions of playing in a band and just want to play reasonably well in my living room or play along to my favourite records so the question is, is it possible to play reasonably well using just the 3 fingers, and/or will using the 4 creep up on me with hours of playing and enjoyment? Thanks.
  2. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Read Simandl...
    Seanto, Fergie Fulton, MDBass and 6 others like this.
  3. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    There is absolutely no reason that you need to use one finger per fret. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but those of us raised on Simandl have gotten by quite well without it. You DO have to learn to shift smoothly though.
  4. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    You can cover 4 frets quite easily using Simandl 1-2-3/4 (combined) fingering coupled with shift, pivot, and break-out to 1-2-3-4 when warranted. It's efficient (conservation of energy) and reduces strain on the fretting hand.

    rwkeating, Tony G, zon6c-f and 4 others like this.
  5. ba55i5t


    May 24, 2006
    Just in case you don't know about Simandl, the idea is to use your index, middle, and pinky finger.

    I do this on the lower register of the bass (frets 1-5) and then do one finger per fret for the rest of the bass.
  6. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Your fingers will never move completely independently, but independent movement improved with months of practice.

    As others have said, one finger per fret is not something you have to do. The other thing that could contribute to your difficulty is poor playing position.
  7. Ekulati

    Ekulati Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    I studied classical guitar in college, then got serious as a bass player right after. So I was very used to one per fret. But on bass, I dont even really think much about it. The musical context dictates what I do. If I need 1,2,3,4 for a passage, I use them. If I need fewer fingers, or to skip the ring finger, I do that.
    Hambone70, Gyver, FugaziBomb and 4 others like this.
  8. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    I have small hands and sort of naturally did the 1,2,3/4 thing, going to one per fret as I went up the fretboard and the frets got closer together, shifting positions by thumb so I could shift the tonic or the key.

    When I started playing fretless, the technique made intonation much easier because my fingers fell a fret apart naturally with the 3/4 fingers being a fret in width.

    When I started playing cello, it was what they told me to do.
    Element Zero likes this.
  9. Bassman boris

    Bassman boris

    Nov 29, 2018
    Thanks everybody. I find it easier to use ring finger than little finger. I'll look up simandl. My playing position could be a big part as I'm sat with it on my knee.
    Fergie Fulton likes this.
  10. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    A small minority of bassists use "one finger per fret." If you would like to become one of those bassists, then there are exercises that can help you get there, safely and gradually over the course of many months. But don't rush or strain to get there in a hurry!

    Using 3 fingers is perfectly fine. It is what most of us do. I've noticed it comes down to personal preference whether to use 1-2-4 vs 1-2-3. I personally use 1-2-4 as I find my pinky is stronger than my ring finger. We all have slightly different bodies and physical comfort zones.
    zZippy, Frankie Fender and Tony G like this.
  11. Bassman boris

    Bassman boris

    Nov 29, 2018
    Thanks everyone, I'll try and work round it and what happens happens, it may come the more I play.
    JPaulGeddy likes this.
  12. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Can you take a picture of your position with it on your knee?
  13. I started with OFPF and after a year or so the fingers started deciding which one would get the next note. I think this is the natural progression. OFPF is great to get your fingers moving on the neck, but, when they take over and make the decision which finger will get the next note - let them decide.

    Most of what I now do is with the index and some sliding. So ----- as long as you can get to the next note before the music goes off and leaves you seems OK to me.

    One, two, three or four, what ever gets the job done.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2018
    Old Blastard likes this.
  14. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Another thng is: you don't HAVE TO always keep your thumb squarely on the center of the back of the neck.

    But DO see that whatever you do, don't get your wrist bent too much. Plus, don't play on the tips of your fingers like a guitarist, but more on the flat part. AND, your fingers don't have to be parallel wirh the frets.

    Relax and enjoy.
    MalcolmAmos, saabfender and B-Mac like this.
  15. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Safety first. Some of us old guys are starting to feel the sins of our youth. :)

    AndyPanda, B-Mac and Lobster11 like this.
  16. devnulljp

    devnulljp Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    Also, go hunt up some spider exercises -- they will dramatically improve your finger independence. Just be careful and don't hurt your hands.
    I first learned a bunch of these when playing classical guitar. There are some good ones in the Pumping Nylon book, but John Patitucci shows some good exercises

    There's a bunch here: The Eight Amazing Spider Exercises for Dexterity
    saabfender likes this.
  17. There's absolutely no need to always play one finger, one fret. If anything it can cause unnecessary strain on the left hand.
  18. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I have been playing for several decades, have a substantially longer reach in my left hand from all those years, and have hands that are big enough that finding gloves is a real problem. I don’t play one finger per fret much, and never down by the nut. I do a lot of octaves and fifths, meaning I’m constantly sliding to cover that technique. One finger per fret would prevent me from doing what I need to do.

    One finger per fret is great for speed demon uber shreddmeister guitarists. You’re a bass player. Do what works on your instrument for what you need to play.
    matante likes this.
  19. Medicine Man

    Medicine Man

    Apr 10, 2015
    One per fret, simandl, or just use all your fingers like a lobster claw, can all get you there, but learning ergonomic techniques from the start is a lot easier than learning flashy techniques. If it gives you less strain to double up fingers, no worries. Your strength and technique will improve in time.
    saabfender likes this.
  20. MotorCityMinion


    Jun 15, 2017

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