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Seriously Disheartened about left hand

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Inverse Kinetix, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. Inverse Kinetix

    Inverse Kinetix

    Jul 12, 2012
    Hi everyone,

    I want so much to be able to play properly and am doing my utmost to learn properly. I've watched so many videos and read so many articles on left hand technique, but I just cannot do it.

    Trying to hold my hand with the 4 fingers to 4 frets positioning causes a lot of tension and pain in the tendons in the back of my hand. This is after literally 30 seconds.

    Similarly, my ring finger just will not sit parallel to my other fingers, it curls inwards so much that the tip almost touches the tip of my middle finger.

    This is really driving me nuts. I see in the videos that player's fingers are almost parallel, mine aren't they're all over the place!

    Does anyone have any ideas of help they can offer. I just bought an "expensive" bass as I was so motivated to do this right, now I'm losing motivation due to not being able to do the most basic of things, i.e hold the damn instrument.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    You sound like me when I first started to fret with my pinky for the first time while learning scales. I have a feeling you haven't given it more than a couple attempts in a couple days.
  3. Inverse Kinetix

    Inverse Kinetix

    Jul 12, 2012

    I have been doing it every day for a almost a week, several times a day but only for 5 mins each time (due to it hurting). It doesn't seem to be improving at all.

    I'm still dealing with right hand issues too, I see some places telling me to keep my wrist as straight as possible, then I see top players with their wrists at 90 degrees! When I plucked, I would get annoying fret buzz, now I "stroke" and don't get it but still the wrist problem........

    I wish I could get a teacher !

    I know I could get to a high intermediate level with crappy technique (like most things I do) but I really want to do this bass thang right.

    Anyway, back to your comment. Did it get better? How long did it take?
  4. Portphilia


    Jun 8, 2012
    If you've only been playing a short time, I recommend using a 1-2-4 fingering system, by using your pinky and ring finger together on one fret. I started out using this method, and slowly as I started to progress I naturally was able to spread my fingers out more and switch to a 1-2-3-4 left hand fingering system. Furthermore, refining such things as your left hand technique can be a PAINFULLY slow process if your hands are just not cooperating. All I can tell you is to persevere, persevere, persevere. My right hand technique used to be atrocious. I just for the life of me could not figure out what right hand picking technique was comfortable for me. Two fingers with the pinky and ring tucked in was what I thought was proper, but this actually puts a lot of tension in those two fingers. I finally concluded that the best right hand technique is one where the hand is completely relaxed; 4 fingers straight, with the ring and pinky fingers resting on certain strings for muting (think Jaco). But to switch to that technique of picking style and have my hand relaxed literally took me years. I had to play all the exercises I knew at the slowest tempo possible, while completely concentrating on my right hand. If my fingers got out of line, I stopped the exercise and started over. So hey, if I can do it, anybody can. Good luck!
  5. mbelue


    Dec 11, 2010
    Fret hand position at least for me is largely a product of elbow position. Next time you sit down to play, try different bass neck angles and elbow positions till you find one that does not hurt and still allows you to reach almost 4 frets. As you play more slowly move towards proper form just a few steps at a time.
    I play with my bass neck 35°-40° above horizontal and my elbow away from my body. Started that way, but over time I have varied my elbow position for better technique and comfort. Good technique is important but removing the pain is paramount.
  6. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Why can't you?
  7. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Holding the fingers with one on each fret (known as "one finger per fret" ) on frets 1-5, is a big stretch for a lot of seasoned players, let alone someone new to bass.

    A lot of people only use this technique above the fifth fret. On the lower frets, use the thumb as a pivot. When playing the third fret, use the pinkie, backed up by the ring finger.

    As for the R/H :

    It is generally agreed that it is best to have both wrists as straight as posible in order to avoid hand/wrist iinjuries at a later stage.

    You are correct in that some players use a bent R/H wrist technique with no problems, while others experience pain doing this. You might like to check out the "Floating Thumb" technique (see link). It has two advantages. 1. The wrist is straight. 2. It helps in muting unwanted sounds from unplayed strings.

    Below are some clips that you may find useful.

  8. AuntieBeeb


    Dec 12, 2010
    How long ago did you start? If it's any reassurance, it took me years to build up the necessary strength in my fourth finger - for a long time I was playing with just my first three. It's very useful to get the hang of it, but you can get a fair way without. (I presume the other fingers aren't causing you the same problems?)
  9. Portphilia


    Jun 8, 2012
    He lives in Japan. He said so in another thread.
  11. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    There are a number of teachers who offer lessons via Skype.
  12. sadasar


    Jan 21, 2012
    Dallas Texas.
    endorsing artist hard luck king guitars and knuckle head strings
    This is basically how it started fur me as well to this day i still like to use my pink more than my ring finger due to similar issues of pain like the op mentioned.

    To the op it took me several months to almost a year to become comfortable with proper 4 finger technique keep at it if its something you really want to have down pat as it can help with speed and other parts of playing but ultimately remember to have fun playing that new bass.
  13. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    If you base your technique abilities on someone else's you aspire to, you will always feel inadequate. First of base your technique on your own abilities then once you understand them and have found their limits, weaknesses,, strengths etc, then and only then, look to see the similarities......it may surprise you how close they are at that particular stage of development.

    Left hand use has many many different facets to it, but they can be viewed as three things;

    Size of hand to neck thickness
    Length of fingers to wrist angle
    Length of reach to length of fretboard.

    Many will tell you of various things to do or try, but they will fall in to one or more of these categories.

    A quick example, if I use my short scale bass,
    My hand to neck thickness ratios are large, if I use my 5 string they are reduced.
    Fingers to wrist angle, if my bass is slung high they are reduces
    D, if my bass is slung low they are increased.
    Length of reach to fretboards, If I again use my short scale my reach is shorter so easier, if I use my long scale my reach is longer so harder to not use strain my wrist, shoulder and fingers.

    So base your own technique on your own abilities first, them adapt what you develop.

    If you need any advice or help check out my video page on my web site at www.fergiefulton.co.uk and those of many other great teachers here on TB.
    If you have any questions, post them and if I can help you find your fit to start playing I will help.
    I will point out that I do help lots of players find what is best for them, based on them, not in the others they aspire to be.

    Many do accept this, many do not. The difference between the two, again, is one is based on an idea and one is based on the reality of the situation.....those that are serious take the advice, those that don't just carry on regardless trying to find a way to keep their beliefs and play the way others do.:)
  14. Portphilia


    Jun 8, 2012
    I PMd him about it.
  15. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    I'm no professional by any means, but my advice is learn to play however it's comfortable for you at first. Don't worry so much about developing bad habits, those are secondary to learning how to play the instrument. They can be corrected eventually.

    Although as a completely self-taught bass/guitar player, this could be terrible advice. I feel like if you can't identify the cause of your pain, and can't find anyone who can, just forget it and do what makes you comfortable, since hand pain is never a good sign.
  16. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    First. If it hurts to play a certain way, stop and don't do that. Playing bass should not be painful. If it is, there's something wrong.

    Second, re-examine your arm and elbow position, angle and position of the bass itself etc.... Ask someone to compare pictures of "proper" technique and position to looking at how you are doing it. What's different? Are you physically smaller, larger? (I'm overweight and having a large belly changes the angle of the bass, which translates to a different left wrist angle)

    Third, if you still have trouble you can have a doctor examine your hand to see if there are any unusual physical limitations there or if you have carpal-tunnel type issues going on.

    Finally remember that "proper technique" is a somewhat subjective term and that many bassists reach success with imperfect techniques. Every punk and metal bassist who plays with his bass slung low with his thumb over the top of the neck is doing it wrong. But who can argue with the fact that their records sell and people come to their gigs?

    I can point you to videos of bassists with one hand and a stump of an arm who can manage to play pretty good. I've seen one-man band guys who can play basslines using only their toes. So the bottom line is to do whatever works for you and consider "proper technique" a theoretical guideline that you work toward, but never at the expense of pain.
  17. 1. Keep working at it within reason (don't over work your hand)... persevere.
    2. Learn 1-2-4 technique for the riffs you need the pinky as an interim method (I use 1-2-4 when my pinky gets tired or over worked today after 39 years of playing bass)
    3. Realize that this will take some time and pace yourself for the long haul. It WILL get easier as time passes.
    4. I love a quote from Frank Zappa; (I may be paraphrasing) "The first rule is don't stop playing, second rule is keep on playing". This was probably intended as a performance requirement but applies to learning and practice as well... keep it fun and you will improve. You can't force it :bassist:
  18. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    A little stretching is necessary for a beginner, but it should never be painful or uncomfortable.

    Understand the mechnics of you arm/hand. Watch Havic5 on developing safe left hand technique

    Be aware of how little pressure you can get away with. Watch Gary willis on left hand finger pressure

    And what seems to be the most overlooked 'secret' about left hand technique:
    You are allowed to move your hand to reach a note.
    Use the 'thumb pivot' as advocated by Carol Kaye:

    I'm playing a 4 fret pattern, my thumb usually sits behind fret 1 or 2. if reaching that fourth fret requires a little shift, I don't sweat it.
  19. Inverse Kinetix

    Inverse Kinetix

    Jul 12, 2012
    Thanks for the great advice so far.

    I kind of feel now that I am trying to emulate something that might not actually work for me. I have big hands and can comfortably cover 4 frets on the E string, right from the 3rd fret upwards, the first and second fret are still a bit of a stretch.

    There is a lot of information in this thread so far, so it's going to take me some time to sift through and absorb it all, but a couple of things jumped out at me already, I think I need a bit of "clarification".

    It is generally agreed that it is best to have both wrists as straight as posible in order to avoid hand/wrist iinjuries at a later stage.

    Is it ok to have the left wrist straight?

    I ask because, the straighter I keep my left wrist (about 20 degrees is optimum) the easier I can fret the lower notes (with less finger pressure) and less all round pain. I realize the obvious answer is YES (as to avoid the pain) but will it be detrimental later on?

    The picture posted by Mambo4

    My hand looks like this higher up the neck, but towards the nut, my thumb is more or less behind my middle finger. Is this what is meant by pivoting?

    Similarly, from about the 4th - 5th fret, all my fingers will sit parallel to the frets, however lower than this and my fingers start angle away, ending up at 45 degrees to the frets (my finger tips still hit the frets almost right though). Is this normal? I'm trying to use a little motion as possible in getting to all the notes, I can do it at this angle, but some sources seem to suggest this is "wrong".

    Another thing about position, I find that wearing my bass almost like a neck tie works well for me. It seems the lower I sling it, the "worse" my technique becomes.

    Some additional basic facts about me/my history.

    I played bass for about one month when I was 16, that's 2 decades ago. I took it up again about 3 months ago and really got into it, but with no direction. A couple of weeks ago, I decided I would work at it and do it properly so bought a proper bass and gear.

    I have no music training at all, but I can read music (slowly), understand a lot of terms (but not in depth, i.e I know what a 3rd, crotchet, circle of 5ths etc is). I absolutely love music and have a monstrous collection ranging from Seeselberg to Zappa to Enca to Disney attraction music to Magma to pretty much anything you can imagine and then Basil Kirchin to boot.

    I mess around with Ableton/Maschine and have a mini home studio with which I just fool around making electronic-ish music hopefully adding some live bass soon. This, however, is pretty unrewarding as it doesn't come close to the kind of music I want to be able to make.

    So my aim in all this is to become accomplished enough in both theory and performance as to be able to make the music in my head come out of someone's speakers.

    I'm really self conscious so playing live is out of the question (jamming with people would be cool though).

    I love the Zappa quote ""The first rule is don't stop playing, second rule is keep on playing" and Sadasa, I do have fun playing my new bass! Thanks"! the most fun so far is using my B3 with an expression pedal and just "creaming/crooning" on the scale I know best......much to the annoyance of my neighbors!

    Thanks again for all the advice everyone!

    This place is awesome!

  20. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Almost a whole week, eh? Wow, within my first week, I could play like Marcus Miller and Jeff Berlin.


    Give yourself time to master stuff, dude. It takes way longer than a week to master ANYTHING on the bass. And if you can get some lessons from someone who knows good safe technique, do so.