Strengthening the hand

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by barmycarmy, May 24, 2005.

  1. This is my first post so hey all! :)

    I've been playing bass for about two months now, and whilst i think i'm getting some bits, i'm struggling on others.

    I have mainly noticed where i place my fingers on certain frets. I usually use my index finger and pinkie, sometimes my middle finger.

    Now i'm sure this will come with practice, but the book i've been loosely learning from says that there should be a finger on each fret, but i just can't seem to stretch my fingers that far. It starts to really hurt, so i end up sliding my hand to reach frets instead of the "finger on each fret" method and i know i'm only making things harder for myself!
    I do have little hands, so i'm wondering if thats a problem at all?

    Now i can play fairly simple stuff the way i'm playing now, but now i'm finding stuff to play thats abit more difficult simply because i can't stretch my fingers that far.

    Does anyone have any suggestions how i can strengthen my hand?
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You mean to tell me you can't play perfectly after two whole months? Geez, you might as well give up!

    Seriously, it's not something you can get in just two months. Just practice and practice and it will come with time. Play a lot of scales slowly and steadily, then build up speed as you get better. Also, take a few lessons with a good teacher. Could be there's something in your technique causing your problems and a teacher could spot them. I have the smallest hands of any adult male I've ever seen and I have no problem reaching the 4 fret span.

    But the main thing is to keep practicing and forcing yourself to get better and more limber. At the end of two months, I could wipe the drool off my bass and play a couple easy lines, but that's about it. Now 30 years later I make a pretty decent living playing it professionally and I still don't know everything, and neither does anyone else.
  3. lopsy_lu


    Feb 15, 2005
    Scotland, UK.
    To strengthen my fretting hand I regularly use a fingering exercise that Victor Wooten shows on his Bass Day DVD. Its based around the major and minor scales :





    Try to do these by having your index finger on the 1st fret and using your pinky to fret the 4th fret of the E string. But move the scales up a half step each time, so once you've done it staring on fret 1, move the pattern onto fret 2, and then fret 3 etc etc.

    Once you get as high as possible, start from the highest point possible on the A String and apply the same patterns and work your way back down fret by fret.

    I've been doing this for the past 2 weeks and it's really strengthened my left hand, particularly the pinky.

    Hope these are of some use and happy playing :bassist:

  4. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Sliding up or down to a different hand position can be a very effective technique, so don't discount it. In terms of the "one finger per fret approach", consider there's an alternative I've seen some classical and jazz players employ. It's an approach where you minimize fretting action with your ring finger, combining it with either your middle or pinkie finger. The theory behind it is the ring finger is the weakest finger on the hand.
  5. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    Welcome to TB! I noticed that the title of your post is "Strengthening the hand". I believe that your post is primarily about left hand position and finger placement. I know that there are people that will not agree with this, but I do not think your left hand needs to be "strong" if your instrument is setup properly. If anything, your left hand needs to be limber and coordinated.

    Check out this link. There is one called "Bass for Beginners". It has an image of the left hand in a 4-fret stretch and a 3-fret stretch. I think that the word stretch should be replaced with "span". You're not really "stretching" with a 3-fret span. The link is worth checking out. There are enough free lessons on there to keep you busy. For advanced players, there are a couple of Jaco lessons! :) .

    My last piece of advice; and probably the most important, find a good teacher.

    Good luck! Let me know how the link works out for you.

  6. Well I've been playing for nine months and still sometimes have this trouble. Practise scales, the C major one like this

    E----------------------------------------and vice versa
    m p i m p m r p

    Soft fingers, thats the trick. Nice and relaxed.

    Hope this helps
  7. bodom_bass398


    Dec 8, 2002
    nj usa
    I'm surprized no one has brought up the fact that there are different scale forms. Try this scale form. You might find it hard at first but give it some time and you'll have no trouble stretching out your fingers. Also if your fingers start to hurt (and they will) take a break. It's just like doing any other physical activity, you'll get tired.


    That's in A major but you can change the root to any note on the E string to change the key. When you play it try to keep your hand as steady as possible and just use your fingers. It takes practice.
  8. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
  9. Pay very close attention to that last link. Also make sure that you don't tilt your fingerboard so that you can see its surface. That will mess up your reach or create a sharper wrist angle. You'll also learn to play without looking more quickly.