Should I forget finger-per-fret?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by JasonFil, Sep 30, 2017.

  1. JasonFil


    Dec 15, 2014

    For primarily financial reasons, I have unfortunately not been able to have formal training, so I'm self-taught. When I began two and a half years ago, I made the conscious choice to disregard the 4 fingers / 3 fret rule in favor of finger-per-fret to improve my finger span. I already had a good enough fingerspan due to classical guitar training and electric guitar fiddling.

    Out of curiosity, I recently tried playing some of my earlier exercises using the suggested 4/3 technique and I was surprised to see that it felt much more natural to my fretting hand. Turns out that the shapes that I would play on the electric guitar (like walking through a major scale) are not similar to the shapes that I had to play for the bass.

    So I have been thinking whether I should be completely changing my entire playing to 4/3, re-learning my favorite tracks. I have partially done as such and of course it has been a thoroughly enriching experience for (re-)learning the fretboard.

    However, my prior formal training on the guitar and personal intuition would dictate that it would be a mistake to completely let go of finger-per-fret, given that it has the distinct advantage of a bigger fingerspan. For example of an advantage of finger-per-fret, the longer fingerspan allows one to avoid all open strings when playing up to the 5th fret.

    In addition, I have identified a slap riff or two where it is advantageous to shift between the fretting techniques. Without doubt, I will see many more.

    I was wondering whether I could have some opinions on this. I have to be very self-critical to improve when I'm self-taught, and I wouldn't want to go on learning more advanced stuff hindered by improper technique.
  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Here's what I think is the definitive word on one-finger-per-fret:

    The bottom line is: Use it when you need it, and don't when you don't.
    J_Bass, Jeff Bonny, mrcbass and 17 others like this.
  3. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    To me, at least, that way lies madness - way overthinking it. Maybe I've just played long enough that I generally don't have to think about it unless I'm figuring out a new riff or part. I work on one finger per fret (and more even sometimes) when practicing scales up the neck, but that's just exercise, not playing musically. The point of the exercising is to give freedom to the playing, I believe?
  4. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Just play however you feel best.
  5. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008

    In 50 years I've never wondered, inquired or researched whether a bass player used OFPF.

    I have practiced many times whether I would use OFPF or not on specific lines. Lots of blues runs lend themselves to OFPF
    Cheez likes this.
  6. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    It all depends on what your goal for playing bass is. If you want to do techniques and play bass like a highly technical player, use one finger per fret. On the other hand, if your goal is to play songs and music, then play with comfort and ease, and drop the one finger per fret idea. Playing comfortable and relaxed will allow you to focus on the music and your sound in the song. And if you're relaxed, you'll be able to play faster without stress.
    MulesRules, jamro217 and bholder like this.
  7. navijaz

    navijaz Guest

    Sep 20, 2016
    I switch as needed. The main thing is to stay relaxed and natural in your posture.
  8. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    He makes a great point about ergonomics in the first 5 frets of the fingerboard. That being said, one could get a shorter scale bass to overcome such an ergonomic disadvantage and use ofpf all over the fretboard.

    That's what I've chosen to do, primarily because my left hand has had so much practice as a former guitarist and because of the availability of medium and short scale options as a bassist.

    I think whatever you chose, whether to commit to the ofpf and get a shorter scale, or commit to 1, 2, 4, or a combination of the two like Scott suggests in the video, just practice until it's second nature and run with it. That's the key, ultimately.
    CalBuzz51 and Stumbo like this.
  9. packhowitzer

    packhowitzer 155mm of pure destruction

    Apr 20, 2011
    you could get one of these and never have to worry about it again:
  10. tlc1976


    Aug 2, 2016
    I'd keep the technique in use, because even though it's a stretch, it really makes it easier IMO. Especially a lot of country which has 8th notes running up and down a scale. Other songs I don't need it and I use 4 fingers for 3 frets.

    I was self taught too. I say just do what works best for what you play. No biggie.
    Stumbo likes this.
  11. There's no law about it. Learn each approach well enough to be comfortable with both then do what works for you. Many a successful musician plays "wrong" and many unsuccessful ones have near-perfect technique. If anybody tells you you're wrong ... agree with them then keep doing it your way.
    EdO. likes this.
  12. I would recommend that you keep both fretting techniques in your arsenal. The key is to be fluent enough with both techniques that they become totally transparent in you playing. The 1-2-4 technique is especially useful in first position, fifths, octaves, etc. However, walking bass lines with chromatic walk ups almost require the OFPF method, especially when crossing two or more strings. The more techniques you master, the better player you will be . . .
    mrcbass, bfields and rwkeating like this.
  13. otp57


    Oct 10, 2016
    I would say play it the way YOU like .
    Get your own feel and use one per fret or two on one fret or just change it around to get your sound.
    Everyone had a way of doing things

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    yes, sometimes.
  15. Bass'd on a true story

    Bass'd on a true story

    Jun 28, 2015
    My recommendation would be to practice as much as you can and to not focus on how many fingers you are using. I think it's far more important to just avoid pain and strain while playing. If you listen to your body it will tell you what's right.

    Hell, after taking some time to learn Danny Mo Morris' left hand muting technique, I use my whole hand for a single note whenever possible. It gives me more control over the tone/volume of each note and something about it feels deeply satisfying.

    When I play the blues or play a walking jazz line, I almost always use OFPF technique. If I'm just playing some funky thing that's rocking back and forth between 1 or 2 roots with a fifth here and there, I'll probably use less fingers and relax a bit more.
    J_Bass likes this.
  16. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    The one technique I usually try to avoid is 1-3 alternation on root - 5 or similar box patterns. The reason for 1-2-4 is that finger 3 is weak and will tire easily with extended playing sessions. 2-4 is a better choice in that regard. I do switch up sometimes though, just for variety and to keep things loose. I'm in the school that says try it all and play what's comfortable, but remain conscious of fatigue and pain on longer sessions and adjust to avoid them.
  17. It’s an odd thing. I, as a guitarist turned bassist, tend to leave my pinky out of things. My friendly neighbourhood guitarist, who switched from bass, uses his pinky all the time. He frets power chords with index and pinky!

    It’s very hard to change habits, but I’m working on using my pinky more over three frets, and as it becomes stronger I’m finding it is improving my speed.
  18. Pedullist


    Oct 31, 2016
    I started playing double bass at 11, so I use 1,2 4 technique up to the 7th and sometimes even 10th fret. Then I switch to OFPF. But when the part requires it, I switch to OFPF for the lower register as well. It's usually just a quick run anyway. Change your approach accordingly, based on ease and how fast you need to be for the part.

    It actually bothers me seeing some players play. When you see them do a lot of stuff with the 3th finger stretched out, 4th pulled away from the fretboard. If they would use the 4th finger, after some training, it would be much easier and faster in my opinion. I also have trouble watching people overstretch playing OFPF for the first 5 frets and playing very simple stuff. It looks like an injury waiting to happen. Just go for 1,2, 4 and give your fingers a break. People tend to forget you can still move your hand really fast. Django Reinhardt had only two functioning fingers, you know. ;)
    Nashrakh likes this.
  19. NOVAX


    Feb 7, 2009
    Are you talking 2 frets for 1 finger? Or 2 fingers on 1 fret?
    Because I do both. My highly bastardized technique is based on quality of tone and longevity of limbs. OFPF shows up when it's convenient. Technique (or lack thereof) is what makes us all individuals. Here's to more chromatic lines!
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  20. Pedullist


    Oct 31, 2016
    That's the only important thing Novax. :)

    I play the F, F# and G on a low E string with 1st, 2nd and 4th finger. The 3th provides extra strength for the pinky. On a bass guitar it's not necessary to play that way (I can play it just as easily with my 3th finger), but it's hard to shake off a technique you learned so early in life.
    NOVAX likes this.
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