1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Right handed player with much faster left handed plucks???

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010

    I have been struggling for 5 years to play anything faster than 16th notes at 80 BPM 4/4 time with my index and middle fingers on my right hand. It has been the only thing that I believe limits me technically. I have developed other techniques to get around this, but they don't feel natural, and I'd much prefer to play at quicker speeds with alternating plucking.

    Last night, I looked up some exercises to get faster finger speed. I spent some time at work at my desk doing them, and at one point I was tapping my index and middle fingers on my desk trying to go as fast as I could. For the first time, I thought I'd try doing that with my left hand....

    It was WAY faster!

    I thought this couldn't be right and would wait until I got home, picked up my bass and tested it out. I first played with my right and the same normal 80 BPM or whatever, flipped over the bass, and even though the plucking wasn't as consistent, I was flying at the speeds I've wanted for so long. I was likely going about 120 BPM.

    How the heck can a person who's been playing bass for 5 years, plucking with his right hand the whole time, and working on improving its speed fanatically, suddenly try it with the left hand for the first time and be 50% faster?

    It doesn't make any sense. If it didn't feel super awkward (especially fretting with the right), I'd sell all my basses and buy lefties. The thing too is that my left hand feels so free, where now going back to my right, it feels like it's very stiff. Though, my muscles on my right are a bit sore from all of the exercises I've been doing. I'm going to take a break for a couple of days and see what's up, but I really can't explain this... Maybe I should see an Orthopedic Hand Specialist?

    I took lessons with two different teachers and none of them had any real insight to improve my speed, other than working against a metronome. I'm going to upload a video in a day or two, hopefully someone can evaluate it and see if there's anything up. My finger motions on the right are a lot larger, and the middle isn't nearly as fluid as it is on the left. In fact, my right middle finger downstrokes have a large circular motion to them, that I think are also screwing up my index as well. If I play with only my right index, or my right middle, I can nearly play 80 BPM with each of them, solo, the finger motions are nice and fluid, but when I play them together the middle gets this weird circular motion into it, and my plucking gets choppy. The left middle finger does not do this.

    Anyways, if anyone has any tips that would be great.

    Here are the finger exercises I was doing:

    1) Put my fingers flat on a desk, palm down, and lift each finger up off of the desk, as high as I could 4-5 times each finger.

    2) hold my hands and fingers out straight, and then span them far apart for a couple of seconds, and then relax them but keep them straight.

    3) Then do the opposite, where I squeeze the together for a couple of seconds, then release but keep the straight.

    4) Make a light fist, and then, as fast as I could, flick my fingers outwards until they were straight. I did this 4-5 times

    5) Touch my thumb with each finger 4- 5 times each.

    I did these exercises a lot though, probably too much through out the day. My fingers on the right hand, get particularly sore when I do exercises 3 and 4.
  2. nicopiano

    nicopiano Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2012
    Levis, Quebec, Canada
    I'm piano teacher and speed is all about muscle relaxation and correct motion.

    It's probably almost the same for bass.

    You must never allow yourself to be 'hand tired'. Relax and do small movements with yours fingers.
  3. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    I completely agree. It's just not that easy for my right hand. I don't know why.

    I find it very hard to keep it relaxed if I'm attempting to go fast. And the motion isn't as smooth as it should be.
  4. nicopiano

    nicopiano Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2012
    Levis, Quebec, Canada
    :) be patient!
  5. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    I just don't think it will suddenly come to me at this point. My left hand was bang on right away, and I've been working on the right hand for 5 years. I may have actually taught my right hand technique incorrectly and caused some sort damage to it, and now it's kind of screwed... I don't know... The motion is flawed though.

    It either needs a complete overhaul, or I just say screw it, and play with my other, less preferred, techniques.

    I'll try to post a video this weekend. Thanks for your help.
  6. It's not easy because you know exactly what the motion needs to be, and you'll tense up your muscles attempting to maintain the required precision. But this tension is a killer and you must learn not to do it.
    Your left hand doesn't know anything so it just flies along wily-nily.
    You'll probably find that if you ignore the precision part and relax, you go faster. You must relax, and fix your middle finger form by practising slowly.
    The excersises you are doing may be counter productive.
  7. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Not quite. Do not underestimate what you posted earlier:

    Now, it may be that you are better off as a lefty and you just need to work on things to become more consistent. However, consistency is more important than speed in most applications (unless you simply cannot play a piece at tempo).

    Don't fret about it (ha!); just find out what works best for you and then go with it. Unfortunately, it might cost you a bit to actually make that determination. It is firmly my contention that the most important hand in bass and guitar playing is the rhythmic hand, or the one that plucks/picks/strums the strings. Fingering is left to the less coordinated hand (or maybe you are equally-coordinated in some respects). We're all different, that's for true.
  8. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    LOL, thanks John and dmusic.

    The exercises may be counterproductive, as I haven't done them with my left, and my left doesn't need them to be quick. They aren't sore this morning, it really felt like a soreness associated with going to the gym, which was odd, but I'll stop doing them for now, maybe just do them as a quick warm-up as they seemed good for that.

    And John, I think you're on to something. Last night, I tried flipping things over and once I got the left hand to be more consistent, it did slow down somewhat. It was still quite faster than the right though, but it also wasn't as consistent. So who knows... I'm really not about to sell all of my gear and buy left-handed models. I could tell that it would just not work well. Fretting with the right hand was one of the most awkward things I have ever done... And I've done some very awkward things...

    I think I'm going to do two things. Whenever I play anything casually. I'm ONLY going to do my secondary techniques. This will build these up so that they feel a bit more natural. Then I will only do alternate plucking when I'm working on it. I'll keep it slow, relaxed, and ensure that the proper movement is there. I will likely play slowly for months for five minutes a day to really solidify it and believe that it is now my new motion.

    Thanks guys
  9. ZUR13L


    Feb 29, 2008
    It has stood in the way of my playing for a long time.

    I am a natural lefty and, as such, holding the bass with the headstock to the right feels correct to me. That's how I air-bass. :D

    However (and I don't know if it's from using a computer or just living in a right-handed world), while I use my left to write, eat, use a screwdriver, etc., it seems the dumber of my two hands. On the bass, my RIGHT hand is better at both fretting and plucking; faster, more fluid, and more artistic. :eyebrow:

    My right can pluck a good 3rd faster than my left and is much more even. Furthermore, I can slap and pop with much more facility and groove on my right than my left.

    This has really been a major sticking point for me for years.

    Should I:

    A) Play the way that feels good, comfortable, and natural (Lefty)? (and have a good fretting hand, but lamesauce pluck/slap)

    or B) Play in a way that feels bizarre (like my arms are on backwards) and have a slower, clumsier fretter but a sick, fast striking hand? (Righty)

    I do vaguely recall having a similar aha! moment to yours when I tried to play right just for giggles.

    I am still debating which way to go to this day, so I will check back on this post in case anyone has any input for me (don't mean to threadjack though). ;)
  10. I can relate, I used to play the typical way, wrist bent, anchored on the pickup. I couldn't play longer than an hour before the pain would set in so I started to research alternate right hand techniques.

    I finally decided on learning the Gary Willis 3 finger method because it's a very scientific, detailed oriented approach to how your right hand is used. He says that many people focus on training their left hand so eventually there's a point where your right hand can't catch up or is limiting your playing. That made sense to me which is one of the reasons I decided to give his approach a try.

    It's taken a little over a year of constant practice and refining but I think it's finally working for me now. My technique is completely overhauled and really, best of all I'm pain free and I can play for hours a day (when I have the time lol).

    Here's a link to his instructional vid in case you're interested in learning more. These are what I started with when I was researching etc.

  11. Casting Thunder

    Casting Thunder

    Oct 7, 2012
    And I thought this happened to me because of my CP. I'm right handed but I play southpaw because when I started it was uncomfortable to fret with my left hand. After eight months of playing I discovered all my plucking had loosen up my left hand enough to make fretting a possibility.