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Small hands

Discussion in 'Ask David Overthrow' started by misstrakky, Jul 10, 2010.

  1. misstrakky


    Jul 10, 2010
    Hi there,

    I'm a piano player/singer who has suddenly decided to lear bass! So far, I'm teaching myself out of a book (cos I already have a music degree therefore know all the theory stuff). I know I"ll need a proper teacher eventually but so far I'm just having fun doodling around at home with the book.

    My question is this: as a chick with quite small hands and a small finger span (can only span a maj 7th on the piano), does it matter tremendously if I can't keep my other fingers down when playing with my 4th finger? I simply can't reach the 4th fret (particularly on the E string) with my 1st finger on the first fret.

    Secondly, are there any exercises that you can do to increase your span? I'm sure it will get better with continued stretching during practice but I was wondering if this is a known issue?

    Thanks for you help
  2. Magnus Scott

    Magnus Scott

    Jan 21, 2009
  3. gricko


    Mar 29, 2004

    you can exercise stretching tendons in your fingers as in your limbs. easy, slow, one day at the time. but you can't get your fingers longer.

    and get yourself a short scale bass. [fender mustang, squier bronco, gibson eb3... sx makes a short scale jazz bass...]
  4. Hi Tracy, I would be careful in trying to increase your "fingerspan" with constant stretches and physical exercises for the hand and would focus more on playing with a style that suits your hand size. Having said that, one of my books is called "30 Day Workout" which targets agility and dexterity in both the left and right hands (Plucking-Fretting) through a host of playing exercises.

    I have had the pleasure of playing with Stanley Clarke and had the honor of hanging with Jaco. After shaking the hands of each of these great bass players I found they have large hands. I have also met Victor Wooten, another unbelievable bassist, and he has relatively small hands in comparison. The point here is that you can play amazing stuff regardless of your hand size. I would focus on playing with a style that works for you regardless of the size of your hand and don't be too concerned about physical stretches and exercises for a larger reach.

    Also, type in to any search engine "small scale bass" and you will find a host of quality short scale basses that may better suit your "fingerspan". If you might be interested in an incredibly well crafted custom short scale bass, I endorse Ron Blake Basses and I'll shoot you his contact info. He is an UNBELIEVABLE BUILDER! I have two custom basses coming from him next week and will post pics on my website.

    Hope this helps

  5. msgoodrich


    Jan 23, 2010
    Don't worry about small hands, and you don't need a short scale bass either. Check out Esperanza handling the Fender Jazz bass (she has small hands):
    You have to fast forward to the electric bass part.
  6. travep


    Apr 16, 2010
    Austin, TX
    I was taught by a doubler with relatively small hands who taught me a simandl technique. I have taken lessons from others over the years and some have tried to change that...and I have never gotten a good reason for the change. Basically, you only stretch 3 frets down low & then use one finger per fret once you get to the 9th fret or so. It works well and doesn't slow me down a bit. I'd recommend investigating this technique. Also, if you ever attempt a fretless, you'll find the transition a lot easier.

    Good luck...and welcome!
  7. MK1


    Nov 23, 2009
    Grand Rapids, MI
    I don't think a short scale is a bad idea. So many people will try and talk you out of one, and I listened for 15 years. Finally I said screw it I'm going to try a short scale. Beat decision I have ever made. Short scales or not just for students.
  8. Tracy, I'm not David and only a hobbyist, but a tip from Vic W's bass tech Ant Wellington was to keep the knuckles of your hand parallel to the fret board. This was principally due to my change to a 5 string and needing better muting, but when you play in that position, you get a much better "drape" of fingers across the fretboard.

    If you are holding your hand with the line of your knuckles at the typical 'old skool' 30 to 40 degrees out of parralel with the board edge, then I think this will help tremendously.

    It took some time to get muscularly comfortable with it, to be sure. And you can't physically do this in the 1-5 postion. ( well I cant)
  9. joemagar


    Nov 4, 2008
    Baltimore, MD
    Do not try and stretch out anything. You are begging for injury.
  10. scowboy

    scowboy Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2006
    Sacramento area
    I'm 5'7" and have shorter'ish fingers. The more I play the easier it is. I have had myself all freaked out for years that i need a bass with small nut width or that I should be playing something less than a 34" scale. What I have found is that I just need to PLAY PLAY PLAY. And the basses I play are very normal to larger fingerboard widths (P-bass and Stingray). Nothing against a Jazz or any other small neck instruments my choices are where I have found my bass voice.

    With that said I have tried a number of non-Leo Fender designed or influenced basses that don't work as well for me, some I liked more than others including a 35" scale 5 string. But just have fun it will come to you.
  11. Yup, PLAY PLAY PLAY w/ Knuckles PARALLEL!
  12. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Inactive Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales. Tech 21, NBE Corp, Sonosphere.
    I'm not going to give you specific technique advice, although the Simandl/upright bass stuff is good. Find Carol Kaye's instructional video and book, where she discusses using only three fingers for most runs and playing (the ring finger is rarely used by her). Although her hands look big they are actually small.

    I'm not going to say which way your knuckles should be, as I have found that both ways are necessary. I actually will recommend you go to the local bookstore and skim the two pages in a book called "From Zero to Rock Hero" that discuss hand position for playing "rock" guitar. For scales and solos they actually advocate a diffferent hand positioning, and I find that in many ways that actually works better for bass playing.

    Same for legendary James Jamerson. He had small hands. Like me. He began as an upright player and in the few videos you can find of him you can see him using basically three finger technique. The other interesting thing is that in the most widely available pictures he ALWAYS has the bass neck in as close to upright as can be, even when sitting down, because he still used the upright type of playing.

    My two cents...
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