String-crossing fourths on fretless

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by libraquarius, Jun 15, 2021.

  1. I'm unsure if I've developed a bad habit, but:

    Crossing between adjacent strings by a fourth, I find I am rocking a finger from one string to the next instead of using two separate fingers as a fretted player might. I can use two fingertips, but they crowd each other making it difficult to maintain the intonation at the point when the note changes. The method sounds good as long as I can unstop the first string before stopping the second; I've skimmed the Simandl book 1 for advice (the section on fourths gives the fingering I use, but it's arco, not pizz [p.58]), but I now open the question to contemporary opinion.

    Is this a good technique, or a bad habit?
  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I think it's one of several legit techniques, and whether you use it or something else depends on where you're coming from and where you're going. For example, if the two notes are the fifth and octave of a chord, I'll usually instead use my pinky and ring finger so my index is available for the (lower) root.
    jallenbass, equill, MonetBass and 2 others like this.
  3. 5andFretless

    5andFretless Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2007
    Long Island Ny
    Do a search. This was discussed a few months ago. Bottom line - neither is right or wrong - it depends on the player and the circumstances. If one works better for you than the other than it is the right one to use.
    MonetBass and libraquarius like this.
  4. Thank you for the reassurances.

    I noticed it mostly in places like the verse licks in "Cinnamon Girl" (Neil Young); and I think I'll just carry on carrying on with it.
  5. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    This is a good question, and a difficult one, IME.

    I tend to use separate fingers probably 80% of the time, barre with tip and non-tip parts perhaps 15% and rolling the tip from one string to the next the other 5%. But it is not quite that black-and-white. Most of the barre will be with 1st or 4th fingers, and only strings 1 and 2 - almost never the thicker strings or fingers 2 or 3. Separate fingers could be any combination of fingers and strings - P4, m7 and m10 get played any of these ways - depending on what comes next - mainly 2/3 or 1/2 but 1/3, 2/4 and 1/4 also happen. Rolling the tip is probably something I do only with 1st finger and only really between strings 2/3 and 3/4. Unless absolutely necessary I tend to avoid it going from 2 to 1 as it is too easy to fluff and pull it off the edge of the fingerboard.

    Intonation is not a problem, IME, provided you maintain good hand shape and posture. Nicely curved fingers with fingertips more perpendicular to the fingerboard creates plenty of space for getting tips side by side.

    Barre Index on D/G:

    Barre Pinky on D/G:

    Ring and Pinky on D/G:

    Index and Pinky on A and G:

    Index and Ring on A/D:
    AGCurry, equill, gonzkal and 3 others like this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    SteveCS and Kubicki Fan like this.
  7. Thanks for the extended info, Steve.

    "...what comes next..." is certainly the main influence on which finger I use to do my swinging barre on p4 intervals; I may have my 1st and / or 4th fingers ready for the next note. I've yet to find a m7 or m10 I couldn't finger with two tips, but I consider myself a somewhat fresh journeyman on the bass; lots yet to experience and learn.

    I've yet to take a string over the fingerboard edge; my bass is a converted guitar, and I have a narrow (Hofner-like) string spacing over a 30" scale length. I have around 3 mm of leeway each side.
    SteveCS likes this.
  8. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I don't think it would happen to me now but I had a couple of inopportune 'heat of the moment' incidents when I was in my 'unrefined yoof', so I avoided the possibility by adopting a different technique. I like to call it mistake-proofing but it was probably more a case of 'needs must'...
    libraquarius likes this.
  9. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    IMO whatever fingering gets the job done in a way that doesn't impede your playing is fine.
    mmon77, gonzkal and libraquarius like this.
  10. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    It's how I've always done it. Two fingers makes it very hard to play in tune, like you said. Frets let you cheat a little by using a second finger, but that also means you are instantly out of position upon crossing, so i don't see the advantage.
    libraquarius likes this.
  11. gonzkal

    gonzkal Supporting Member

    Jul 18, 2015
    Zurich, Switzerland
    Interestingly (at least for me!), I tend to do the opposite to what the OP mentions: barre on fretted bass (generally easier for my fretting hand) but separate fingers on fretless for better control of intonation.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2021
    libraquarius and SteveCS like this.
  12. This highlights a missing element in my bass experience. I should try playing a fretted bass so I can compare it with what I know from my time with the fretless; I've tried thought-experiments on how it would feel, but I'm sure only the real feel will give me what I need. Perhaps one of Thomann's inexpensive 'Harley Benton' instruments.
    gonzkal likes this.
  13. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    The very first response is a great one. For me, it depends on where I'm coming from, and where I'm going. There may be times when using the index finger for both (your method) is advantageous. Other time, my index finger may he tied up directly before or after those two note. In that case, I gotta figure out another way to make it happen. Of course, I don't consciously think about it, unless my fingers trip over each other. Then I stop and practice that passage until I figure it out....same for any other fingerings technique.

    Short version: Use your default until/unless it becomes a problem playing a passage you wish to play.
    Lobster11 and libraquarius like this.
  14. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    As an 80/20 fretless/fretted player I really don't play that differently between the two. Initially I found muting a little more tricky with fretted as the extraneous noises are 'nastier' in character and there are more opportunities for creating them them. On the plus side, I think having to work a bit harder developing good muting has been beneficial to my fretless playing because I started hearing and dealing with things that previously I may have not really noticed or chose to ignore.
    libraquarius likes this.
  15. This reinforces my view that both bass types are useful; I'm missing out by not having a fretted bass available to me. I can as yet only imagine the buzzes and rattles made by an inexpertly played bass fitted with frets, and that can only instil a fresh discipline.
    SteveCS likes this.
  16. mmon77

    mmon77 Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2008
    Southern MN
    I do this on fretless as well. It is just easier for me to maintain intonation than using separate fingers.

    As far as is it right/correct/allowed/etc, that depends who you ask. Personally, I believe all the pedagogies are basically starting points to get you on the right track. Everyone has different physical capabilities and talents. While Simandl might have thought some technique is the best way to do something, that doesn't mean that it applies to everyone. Forcing yourself to play like someone else is not necessarily the best route to go.

    I'm not discounting that these pedagogies work, but I believe you should never feel that you need to be bound by them. They are tools, and there is no one tool that is best for everything. As long as whatever you're doing works for you, sounds good, and isn't causing physical damage, then keep doing what you're doing.
    libraquarius likes this.
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