# right hand fingers

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by wishface, Jul 22, 2012.

1. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012
I have acquired the bad habit over the years of favouring one picking finger over the other, the middle finger. I suppose because it's the longer finger on the hand or something. Leading with the index finger is markedly slower. This causes problems because I find myself somehow switching lead fingers during a line or a passage which can lead to errors. The middle finger seeks to dominate. Are there any good exercises to correct this?

Thanks.

2. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
Understand this view point.

If you pluck with two fingers then as sure as the middle finger follows the fore finger the fore finger follows the middle finger, so the middle finger follows fore finger...so why does it matter which one leads?
How can you be slower starting on a different alternating finger if the always follow each other?......the physical order is the same once the movement is flowing.

What is happening is your brain is justifying where the strong beat is used by associating it with a given finger. So if you address your time keeping skills, in particular how you sub-divide beats you will learn that any finger must be able to take on the task of "leading" as not all music time signature and notes are based on 4/4 using four equal notes.
Add to this rests, string changing double stops etc, then the need for any finger to just take its turn and play becomes a great advantage to a player that learns it.

First off split you practice into working in 3s. Simple first lesson is to play triads using a strictly alternating technique. The very fact that they are three note based means any finger that leads playing the first triad, must then be the following finger on the next triad etc..
So the fore and middle finger learn to follow and learn to lead.
Do triads over many 12 keys just using two strings, major and minor, then once you get used to that do them over three strings. Then learn there inversions..again in all 12 keys.

This is a simple basic exercise and is done slow and deliberate.
Speed is not the issue, the issue is doing them correct.
Count the plucking hand off to 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3 and see how the 1 changes between the fore and middle finger, and use your ears to hear the correct order of the fretting hand. This is why it is important that you learn them in 12 keys and learn there inversions so you do not learn to associate them with any one finger leading.

Over time you will lose the 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3 etc then learn that in time signatures twos and threes can be seen as the same thing......if you play them for long enough ( how times does 3 go into 4 or 4 goes into 3, is not such an issue of we look at how many time they go into 12) or understand how to get into them from the start. So it is again about learning to sub-divide and have your fingers follow the music not nessesarlly any strong beat that may be present to a certain finger.

Then you can move onto other ideas and exercises once you have basic control of your fingers.

3. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012

I have found a copy of a book I brought years ago (I have quite a few actually, never really knew what to do with them all) called Funk Fusion Bass by Jon Liebman. In it he emphasis practicing strict alternation leading with the 2 finger (middle). However when he gets to some exercises on string crossing (basic octaves going up and down), he says to reverse this. That seems confused.

What I had been doing recently, upon getting back into trying to play properly, is to go through scales intervallically (if that's even a word) in 2nds, 3rds, 5ths and 6ths as well as by triads. Starting at a low tempo then working up to as far as I can take it, going through each exercise at least twice, once leading with each finger. Unfortunately I think this is doing my left arm no good. I don't know how else to develop technique though. Initially I also wanted to practise in triplets, even other odd times, but it's just too much to work on. I have no problem practicing for x hours a day as I have the time, but not at the expense of my arm!

4. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
Read into any lesson a players preference, then read into it the function.
The function works regardless of any players preference.
As I said with strict alternation it makes no difference what finger is used to start because the fingers always follow each other. The fact of the matters is that if you start with the fore finger you are one sequence out from starting with the middle, and of you start with the middle finger you are still one sequence out.

So the only true variant is where the player hears the strong beat and how they would need to adjust their plucking to accommodate.
So if a player is playing straight 4s then the beats fall on 1&3 for the leading finger and 2&4 for the following finger.
Add a one beat rest, so in fact the removal of a note, does not mean that the order of alternation changes, it is the emphasis of where the 1 falls...after the rest the 1 is now on the other finger but the alternation has not changed.

So if it is fore finger on the 1 (F1) and the middle finger on the 2 (M2) then it follows that the sequence has to be,
F1-M2-F3-M4/F1-M2-F3-M4 etc.

The addition of that rest on say beat 4 means that the bar plays,
F1-M2-F1-4/M1-F2-M1-F2/M1-F2- etc
until a rest or a sub division is added to change it back.

Remember it is sub division of the beats to be divided by two ( the number of plucking fingers uses) that is the issue, not the S.A. So this needs the brain to understand not to assign a finger or have a preference to the strong beat.
If it does then you will skip, double hit or rake to keep the preferred finger leading.

Try this exercise.
1-2-3-4 is a played note, X is to be played as a mute note.
Start on any finger it makes no difference, but you must S.A.

1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4

X-2-3-4- X-2-3-4-X-2-3-4-X-2-3-4

1-X-3-4-1-X-3-4-1-X-3-4-1-X-3-4

1-2-X-4-1-2-X-4-1-2-X-4-1-2-X-4

1-2-3-X-1-2-3-X-1-2-3-X-1-2-3-X

1-2-X-4-1-2-X-4-1-2-X-4-1-2-X-4

1-X-3-4-1-X-3-4-1-X-3-4-1-X-3-4

X-2-3-4- X-2-3-4-X-2-3-4-X-2-3-4

1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4

This exercise will teach you to not only pluck and fret notes that have a change of emphasis, but to stay on a S.A.pattern, so you change the freting not the plucking. You can after you learn it change the X to a rest rather than a mute, so you still count it but do not pluck it.

This type of simple exercise is about firstly connecting the brain to the physical task of the plucking hand, then letting the brain sub divide the freting hand fingerings without changing ( sub-dividing to define that strong beat on a certain finger) the plucking hand.

Being able to do the exercise in your head makes it so much easier to perform because the brain gets involved then gets out the way.
Classic example is learning to tie your shoe laces....once you get it, you no longer need to think about it....until you have to tie someone else's.

And like those tasks do the exercise slow and deliberate so you control every action....then if you want speed it up.
These actions need to get the brain involved to think and work through them slow and steady, then once learned the they become automatic so there is no real thinking just understanding of what needs to be done.

5. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012
what advice do you give for building up the tempo?

I operate under the assumption that this is a major part of the practice. Not just playing it slowly (important, obviously), but to get it so that you know it well enough to play it fast and that you then have developed speed/dexterity to be able to play at a given speed as required.

6. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
Tempo is not an issue, as surely as you develop your playing skills you build speed in to it as you go.
Exercises of this nature bring tempo in to it as a matter of learning the exercise and being familier with it.
Fast or speed is not a priority in learning, learning it correct is.

There will be many things that can happen to a player to affect his tempo, that's why it is never an issue when practicing.
The same as if you make a mistake do not stop just keep playing.
The lesson is to know you made a mistake not stop and correct it.
The next time you do the exercise you will know where you went wrong and correct it.....after all in a live situation if anybody stopped because they made a mistake the song may never get finished, you just learn to play on but realise your error.
The same thing applies to practice, many people feel they have to play perfect one exercise before they move on to the next..nothing could be further from the truth.
When you are learning many of the skills are replicated in new exercises you may do, so do not hold yourself back because of a misunderstanding of what you are doing.
The object of the exercise I posted is an example of what to learn and in-grain, it is not the actual notes, the technique, the speed, the tempo etc.. it is about learning play in that style....all my exercise is....is an application of it.

For example, mute all the numbers and only play where the X occurs.
Same exercise, same skills same issues to get over...but a different application.
I did not have to re-write a whole new exercise, I just changed one small detail of the original one.
The two exercises deal with the same issues but in different ways.....as will other variation on it will deal with new ideas, new issues, and slightly more complicated ideas.....but they will just variations on what you already have learned, yes harder to play, but still only variations.

7. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012
How long should one spend, let's say per day (assuming a daily practice schedule), working on that - or indeed any exercise. If the function of practice isn't to play through a part (eg a scale) at tempo x and then to increase to the next tempo (which is what ive been doing) then we go back to the other question I asked: how do you practice properly? How do you build a practice schedule?

8. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
Well practice needs to be that practice.
Again why play for say one hour solid....I never play a song that requires me to play for one hour solid.
Why practice till you are tired, then practice more.
Where does that idea come from?
Who actually makes themselves physically tired and believes it is a benefit?
The idea of practice is to play short periods, rest then play again and rest etc.
The best way to do this is study an idea or technique then practice it for a up to half an hour, then review and read for half an hour( this acts as a rest and allows the hands to recover, allows you to drink fluids and have some food) then practice again for half an hour and so on.

The idea of practice is regular practice....not long practice.

As someone new the ratio of what you think and what you can play is vast.
You can read about how to play chord tones, but you will never be able to play it.....yet.
So for you playing bass and practice is all physical because you cannot play whet you hear and what you read.
Then as you improves it becomes 10% mental 90% physical.
You can now play some of what you want to.
Then it becomes 40% mental 60% physical and so on until *you can play what you think about and read. It may even end up 90% mental 10 % physical.
The reason the mental side rises is because you understand more, the reason the physical side becomes easier is because you hands are better toned and can be co-ordinated to have better dexterity and stamina to play.

Now you have to change the mental side, learn something new, something you do not understand and cannot play, learn it and understand it, then it goes back something that is all physical because you know what you want to do, but cannot till you develop the physical skills.

The mental side should always lead the physical side in development.
Technique and physically led skills lead to a rut because it is still the same mental application and leaves players feeling like they are not improving or learning. This is true, all they are doing is "moving the furniture around" not doing any thing new.
See it like this, if you learn to sing and play a song, you learn something new.
Changing its key is not new because you know how to play it.
You can change the key or change the instrument, change the language it is sung, but you are not learning anything new about the song of how to play it...soon you will become bored because it is still the same song.

You will find in practice that there are lots of advice and ideas out there but many do the same job, even though they seem different ( like that song you know, but changing does not teach you anything new about it) so you feel you are moving forward, but really you are moving furniture again.

"The Internet is full of advice and opinions, so read every question, and question everything you read.."-Abraham Lincoln

9. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012
If i play leading with the 2nd finger, which does feel more natural (possibly because that's what i've become used to over the years), should I play octave/string skipping parts leading with the first finger?

That is what the exercises from the Jon Liebman book teach, presumably there's a reason he chose that though surely it would lead to problems.

10. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
As I said it makes no difference.......Jon probley advocates this ( as other teachers do) because he sees the the middle finger as longer, so has a better reach to play octaves comfortably.

11. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012
What would be the most one should practice during the day, and not even all at once.

I have the time, because I don't have a job. So in that regard I have the opportunity to develop my playing. (Just not the funds to buy a decent bass or recording equipment).

That aside. I have practiced for 2 half hour blocks today. I have dedicated that time to the right hand.

Some people advocate working on one thing each day, so today I might work on the r/h. Tomorrow I might do scales. Is this a good thing? If not then how to best divide time between all the things you want to work on - and this is part of the reason for focussing on technique. There are SO many things to work on, and within each of them, one can conceive a ton of exercises and get subsequently lost in the details. Those two sessions I've undertaken today were different exercises. I didn't go back to the same thing and pick up, more or less, where I left off. Perhaps I should.

Again there is next to no concrete advice on this. Everyone has a different opinion - and the internet is full of people with opinions. In fact I bet every professional teacher has a different approach. How do you maintain skills if you change what you practice every day/session?

Sep 19, 2011

13. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
You set a goal, reach it then set another...reach it set another......

In this you have a constructive reason to practise, because you will have a physical application to use it for.
If all you are going to do is wander aimlessly from one idea to another you will just get dis-heartened and give up.

14. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012
If I don't ask the questions, I don't learn.

Sorry, but the questions ain't going to stop!

15. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012
then i devote all my time to sorting out my right hand. That could take a while! In the meantime what about maintaining my other skills - maintaining scale practice/intervals etc?

16. ### Yogen

Jul 15, 2012
Seems like a really good read, will definetely read it again once I get my bass. I have the same problem on guitar, sometimes I just have to pick down, even though an upwards pick would be better, gonna try those exercises.

17. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
No.... you set goals that develop both hands, it is not an ether or either choice.
The simple solution is the best.
Most players have a dominant and non-dominant hand, all this means it that one has a different or better aptitude than the other. We see this is handedness..people are either right or left handed.
So they target the non-dominant hand to bring it up to speed with the dominant hand, rather than bring the dominant hand down to the level of the non-dominant...that is the simple solution.
The non- dominant hand cannot bring itself up to the performance and level of the dominant hand, but the dominant hand can certainly come down to the level of the non dominant hand. In this both hands move forward at the same pace and find new levels together.
So see this as a backwards move, but the reality is it is a syncing move, the syncing of the hands is a slow process, ( remember we practice certain ideas slow to learn and internalise them ) but once done progress can be so fast that the player never really notices it because the hands are working together rather than against each other.

Part of the problem you will encounter is to focus on your goals and stem the flow of excess information interfering in your learning.
I come from an era where I only learned what I was taught.
There was no videos, internet, YouTube, self help learning books etc,
So the only information I got was controlled and ordered so focus was easy. Sure, I experimented and jammed and went off on tangents, but I was always brought back to the focus of my learning because my teachers and tutors had expectations of where I should be and I was expected to reach those levels in specified times.

This is the problem a student without a teacher or tutor has...they can set and change there goals, they can justify to themselves to skip a practice or not practice, they can even sometimes decide what matter and what does not.....these are decisions they are not qualified to make because they do not have the experience to back up why they matter.

18. ### JimK

Dec 12, 1999
FYI-
Jon Liebman is a TBer (jonster)...go to the source.
http://www.talkbass.com/forum/member.php?find=lastposter&t=902162

19. ### wishface

Jan 27, 2012
My fingers are starting to get confused now. Is this a normal side effect of practicing? Or am I just starting to realise how much I've sucked at bass all these years. I don't know which is more depressing but sometimes I feel like I'm stepping backwards, not forwards.

Thanks for the link, I sent him a PM. Hopefully he doesn't mind unsolicited messages. If he does, oh well!

20. ### Fergie Fulton

Nov 22, 2008
Braintree
Retrovibe Artist rota
Don't worry, it is your brain sorting out whats what, remember your fingers only do what you think at this stage. the idea is to practice so they become a sub- concious reaction in the same way you tie your shoe laces or do up a tie.

You are far far to early to be judging any inprovment, in fact do not even look for improvement. I always say that the first year of anything new is about doing it and concentrating on doing it correct..that is all. so speed, quality, technique etc, matter than getting it correct. When you have it correct then everything else falls into place.
If you are having a particular problem, let me know what it is and then it can be judged whether it needs attention.