Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by knash2112, Jan 3, 2001.

  1. knash2112


    Dec 12, 2000
    Hey folks,

    Got a quick question about fingering positions. Now, from what I have been able to dig up in books and on the internet, a 'position' appears to basically be any four fret span where your hand would be located (one finger per fret) at any given time.
    Does this 'position' allows for the possibility that one might have to stretch to a fret adjacent to this four fret span in either direction? Or would this be considered moving 'out of position', thereby moving one to a different position?
    Also, I have seen a few references to positions up and down the neck relative to a specific scale or key. Do these positions then change for every key, giving you a total of 12 'sets' of positions? Or do some/many/most of these positions overlap each other or are similar to each other?

    I understand the need for position changes while playing but, as you can most likely tell, I am having a little trouble wrapping my brain around the 'position' concept and, therefore, am unsure on how to effectively apply position shifts.

    Thanks for any and all replys.
  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    You've opened up a can of worms. Adherents to the idea that a bass is a guitar, and those who come to the bass from classical guitar, usually will divide the neck into 19-24 overlapping positions--one for each fret--identified by roman numerals, eg. I, II, III etc. Each position in this system covers four frets, but as you mention, certain scales will necessitate stretches (extensions, rolls or pivots) beyond those four frets. In spite of these stretches, you will still be considerd "in position" so long as your thumb stays in place along the axis of the neck.

    Adherents to the idea that the bass is a descendant of the contrabass or double bass will apply a variety of idiosyncratic methods to identify positions. In general, fingering systems for double bass are far less standardized than those for other stringed instruments. The relatively common Simandl method identifies positions according to whether the pinky or middle finger rests on a whole note or an accidental of the G string. To add another wrinkle, you generally don't use more than three fingers per Simandl position up to the 7th position: either index, middle and pinky, or index, middle or ring. What you wind up with is 1/2 position (pinky on Bb of the G string), 1st position (pinky on B), 2nd position (pinky on C) etc. And as with the guitar positions, extensions, rolls and pivots to reach notes out of position are common with double bass fingerings; in fact, more so.

    Bottom line: stick to the "guitar" method of identifying positions if you can. :)
  3. Rickbcnu


    Sep 10, 2007
    Anyone know why there is such a difference of opinons of where the positions are?
    Can someone tell me where the accepted positions are up to the 4th?
    l ll lll lv

  4. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Well from playing guitar and bass on both I was taught the position is determined by the fret the index finger is on. DB positions vary a bit according to the method you study but they have basic positions and half positions of each.

    To the OP many work of of positions and when they need to go up or down momentatly they Pivot off the thumb, that makes it easy to return to the position because the thumb didn't move. For example you are playing in 4th position (index finger on 4th fret.) Your thumb should be in middle of back of the neck behind your middle finger which is on the 5th fret. Let say your play in key of A and need to play a E on the G-string, which is on the 9th fret. You keeping your thumb in place you pivot off it and move your finger up so your little finger can play the E note. As the bass line comes down you pivot on the thumb and slide your finger back down to the 4th position.

    Once you get used to pivoting off your thumb you can cover quite a bit of neck without having to look at the neck. You know what position your in and the notes available if you pivot up or down. That why you only need to look at the neck when you change positions.

    Now to change thing up some. Some bass player especially ones with small hands use DB type fingering when low on the neck. So instead of one-finger-per-fret they use index, middle, and pinky only to cover three frets at a time. The ring finger works with the pinky to give it a little extra strength.

    That should give you some things to try out.
  5. Johnny StingRay

    Johnny StingRay

    Nov 24, 2006
    You want to be careful with the one finger per fret "rule". If you use the ring finger too much you risk developing carpal tunnel syndrone. This is especially true when playing around the first five frets from the head. Closer to the 12th fret isn't as much of a problem. If I'm playing a blues with just 7th arpeggios I like to play the root with my index finger, the fifth with my pinky, the 7th with my index and upper root my pinky again, all within three frets. I can drop down to the major or minor third with my index finger or reach up with my pinky for those same thirds. Of course I don't do that all the time, it depends on the chordal progression, where I'm at on the fretboard, etc. It was just an example.
    I suggest you go to www.carolkaye.com and order her bass course. She explains fingering on the electric bass as it should be taught so you don't cripple up your hand. Remember, electric bass is a whole different animal than a 6-string electric guitar or an upright acoustic.
  6. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    It's all about economy of motion. It's what makes the difference between a "good" shift and a "bad" shift. Your goal in choosing fingerings for a song is to minimize the number of shifts you need to make.
  7. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I would disagree Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or repetitive stress disorder can come from any fingering method. If you are using bad wrist position/angle, too much pressure, and most important ignoring when your body is telling you something is wrong via pain and swelling you can develop problem. As an example people who get CTS often are computer users, in general they are all using the same fingerings, but some don't get it. Why it is all in wrist angle and not giving your hands a rest now and then. DB is a very physical instrument and many especially in the beginning are told to take ever fouth day off from practice or do light practice.

    it's all about proper posture and listening to your body.
  8. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    I will second that.

    I start with teaching one finger per fret positioning as part of my introduction to the Major scale and its modes. The first obstacle you will come across is when you play Dorian. There is no way to play Dorian on a 4 string bass using one finger per fret unless you use more than three strings which means you have to start on the E string every time. This may not always be convienient or practical.

    Also when you are playing other scales where you might have, for example, clusters like {1,b2,b3,b4} in Superlocrian (7th mode Melodic Minor), where it is more practical to play those notes on one string.

    There are a variety of different methods like "inchworming" and stretching that can be used to minimise movement and maximise efficiency in this case. [edit] As DocBop said in post #4 it all comes down to thumb position and pivoting.
  9. Johnny StingRay

    Johnny StingRay

    Nov 24, 2006
    Thank you for the information. I never thought about it that way. I'll have to rethink my fingering patterns.
    Thanks again, Johnny