teeny fingers!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Syrinx 026, Mar 11, 2002.

  1. i started playing about 2 or 3 months ago (wow its already been 3 months..) and i'm beginning to notice that my hands are really small! all the other bass players i know have huge hands that can cover the neck, no sweat. but i just have normal girl hands...is this going to affect how well i can play? i hope not...:eek: :D getting the frets is a little tough, and pressing the strings all the way down is tricky too. i guess i just have to buff up my hands?

    do you have any tips or tricks of the trade as to how i can make these petite little girl hands play the bass like a man?

    well maybe thats not the best way to put it...:D
  2. Don't sweat it. I'm a guy and I have hands the size of the average girl... a 15 year old girl, that is. I have only one thing to say about that and that is: It doesn't matter. Not in the long run anyway. As you practise your fingers will become more agile and stronger, you may have to do a few more position shifts than the next player but that's not a problem.

    On building up finger strength and agility, I saw the following exercise in a post a few days ago, I can't remember who posted it but it's a good one. Play all the notes on frets one to four on all the strings, and then go back.

    In tab :p: E|-1-2-3-4-| repeat for A, D and G. (Plus whatever strings you may have in addition to those)

    Then start the same sequence on the second fret. The problem is I can't remember when to stop :D, go on for as far as you want I guess, but try to got to at least fret 7. This adds both to your strength and agility. (I'm told, haven't been doing it for so long). Another way to train finger strength is to get a guitar and play some barre chords. I did that before I got my bass and I think it has really helped me.

    Besides, it's great to know how to do that when you go partying. Whenever I get drunk I get it in my head that I'm a guitar player, fetch the nearest guitar and bang out some very badly played tunes before the guitar is taken from me. :D
  3. thanks!

    yeah, i saw that exercise in this book i have called "Bass Fitness"- haha i know it sounds corny but its all about making your fingers stronger. i guess i should just get crackin then.
  4. i started playing about 5-6 months ago and im only 14 and my fingers a small as!! i cant even do 3h5 on the E string! but i have realised that the hand i use for the frets is getting slightly bigger than my other hand!! and i now can almost do 3h5 on E!
  5. ColonelZulu

    ColonelZulu Not Impressed By Those Who Flaunt “Authority” Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Relax, given enought time your fingers will grow just like the rest of ours did.
  6. Intrepid


    Oct 15, 2001
    Just thank god you don't play guitar if you are having problems with hand strength. My guitarist has a noticably bigger left hand then his right and I don't think thats from jerking off. Anyways I think you'll enjoy having the precision of smaller hands after you gain the strength.
  7. What kind of bass(es) are you playing???

    Odds are it's easier to get a smaller bass than it is to get larger hands. Here's a link to an article about small hands and small basses written by a bassist of the fairer sex - http://bunnybass.com/girls01.shtml
  8. The one-finger-per-fret rule is not an absolute, but here are some tips to improve your reach:

    1. Always keep your thumb on the back of the neck. If this means having to shorten your strap and raise your bass so your wrist isn't at an uncomfortable angle while doing this, that's fine. I don't think the whole "phallic extension" thing is as important for females as it is for adolescent males anyway :rolleyes:.

    2. Try this exercise:
    Start with your index finger on the fifth fret of the E string. Play that note (A) then play the seventh fret on the A string. Next, play the sixth fret on the E (Bb) then the eighth fret on the A (F). Then, play the seventh fret on the E (B) then the fifth fret on the A (D). Finally, play the eighth fret on the E (C) then the sixth fret on the A (Eb). Repeat this using the A and D strings as a base, and "jumping up to" the D and G. John Patitucci is the person to whom this exercise is commonly credited; it'll increase your finger independence, reach, and hand strength, and sounds really cool if you're leaping from the low B to the G at 100bpm, playing 16th notes.

    3. Find the Glenn Letsch column in a past Bass Player (from summer 2000, IIRC) where he discusses "bass isokinetics." This exercise, more than anything else, has improved my hand strength, finger independence, reach, and, surprisingly, my sense of time; the latter is due to it requiring the user to play straight quarter notes at 60bpm, which can be surprisingly difficult if one is used to bouncing around and playing eighths at 180.
  9. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Practice practice practice! :D

    Seriously, though... it's how you build up the muscles in your hands. Your fingers will learn to stretch as they need, too.

    If something actually hurts that you're doing (other than the tips of your fingers from the frets) you should try to figure a new way out to do it, though. :)
  10. I've been really buckling down and practicing alot (i mean in the past month or so), and i can feel my fingers getting more flexible and stronger, if not stretching.

    and peter, thanks- that exercise is a bear but i can tell it'll help ;)
  11. People talk about fingers stretching or getting stronger, but I think it's really just a question of developing technique and practice...or maybe we're all saying the same thing. :) My hand's not different, but it plays better.

    I have normal-guy fingers, but have been playing a 35" fretless for about 9 months. At first I had trouble with the stretches above the third fret. Now I'm fine all the way up. It just takes time. The chromatic scale exercise (frets 1-2-3-4 on each string) is a good one.

    Another thing that might help is to think about keeping your pointer-finger straighter, and curling the other fingers more to compensate. That gives maximal length to the hand. You might end up pressing the strings with a bit of the side of the finger, rather than straight down on the pads. This, coupled with the thumb on the back of the neck, gives you more space than if you tried to keep all the fingers parallel. Point up at the headstock and you can almost span 5 frets sometimes!

    You kinda have to rotate your hand to do this: first finger straight, others curled an pointing slightly downwards. Hard to describe, but I could show you in a sec.

    And if this isn't working after a few months, see Carol Kaye. She likes the 1-2-4 method of fingering, which is easier on smaller hands, but requires more shifts.
  12. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    If you want, PM me, and I'll send you a song that works REALLY well for stretching, and exercises. It works nicely for technique, too. It uses a lot of hammer-ons and pull-offs.
  13. I would pm you- I tried- but your box is too full to get anymore.

    time for some spring cleaning!;)
  14. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    I think they keep lowering the limit. I delete a message, and I still can't get anymore.

    Give me a few minutes. :(
  15. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    I should be good, I just deleted every message. :)

    Actually, AIM might be easier. It's up to you, though.
  16. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Syrinx 026,

    Lots of good advice in this thread. All I can say is, yeah, it take some getting used to. My hands are very tiny. (My hand stretched out thumb to pinky is only about 6 inches and my middle finger's length is only 2 1/2 inches :oops: )

    I've been playing for 2 years and I still have a hard time stretching. I've been working on intervallic patterns lately and it's been pretty hard to do stretching, say playing, for ex: a C major scale (2 octaves), using 16th notes at 65bpm, when I get up to the notes on the G string: CDEC, I have a hard time hitting the notes perfectly. <-- By the way, that is a good strengthening exercise.
  17. Scales are great exercises Stephanie, I totally agree.

    Syrinx, the strength will come in time the more you play, just like everyone else said. Something you might do to make playing easier is rely more on open strings and patterns that use them whenever possible. You're kind of limited to certain keys for it to be effective relief for your hand size, but if you're playing in E, A, or D, it could work for you. Try this: play an E minor scale like so, starting with an open low E...

    E string: 0, 2, 3
    A string: 0, 2, 3
    D string: 0
    E string: 12, 14, 15
    A string: 12, 14, 15
    D string: 12, 14
    G string: 11, 12, 14

    There's a big jump in there when you go from the nut up to the 12th fret, but you're playing an open D in there to give you time to make the leap, and the intervals are smaller up there, so it's worth it. You've covered the whole neck, and you only had to span one fret in the nut position. :)
  18. absinthe

    absinthe Guest

    Jan 20, 2002
    Great Britain
    Heya, fellow sufferer! (Or should that be sorority sufferer?)

    I too am female with small hands and &*£"$%^! short fingers! I have, however, resisted the temptation of a smaller scale bass - and in my short time of playing, I can't say I've regretted it 'cos it's forced my hands into becoming stronger and more agile. I think the agility wins out at the end of the day, though. I can almost move like a blur for those position shifts compared to a coupla months ago. ;)

    I do that finger strengthening exercise previously mentioned (the one-finger-per-fret thang) and it does help. Also, I use particularly "stretchy" basslines for warm up practice. For instance "One Step Beyond" really makes me work hard on the pinky and ring finger, both in stretches and fretting strength so I'm using that as a sort of measurement. When I can play that bassline cleanly and quickly using my "weak" fingers, I'll have done something worthwhile. And a few variations of 12 bar blues is also in my warm up for the same reasons. Apart from anything else, it makes for a more interesting finger loosener.

    I was looking at one of those finger strengthener gadgets on E-bay a couple of days ago - but with no more than a passing interest. I've come to the conclusion that just playing is the best way to work out the fingers.

    I have to admit, though, the size of my hands and fingers is making me think twice about my much desired 5 string....although I will give into the fretless urge, depend upon it!

    Good luck
  19. rhythmrod


    Oct 27, 2001
    Austin, Texas
    Ok,here is something that you might want to try. I use this to limber up before I play. With your fretting hand, place your index finger on a fret, any fret. Then stretch and place your pinky on the farthest fret you can reach. It can be on the same string or any other string, at this point we are simply working on the stretch & strengthening. Now, move around the neck using all of your fingers to hit different frets, but maintaining the stretch. We aren't playing scales or anything like that right now, however, since you are new to the bass, this can help you with note recognition. Good Luck!!! OK BYE, BYE,OK BYE!!
  20. Was just reading about her in the March Bass Player mag. She's so short she can't reach her tuners with her bass strapped on, but she's one groovin' chick!

    One of MY stretching exercises is to try to play parallel octaves all over the neck. (i.e. index finger on Bb at 1st fret on A string and pinkie on Bb 3rd fret on G string) That's a stretch for my 8" hand span. Mostly, when doing that, I'll run a scale right up and down the neck without switching strings. Hold the interval with left hand and pluck separately with alternate right 1-2 fingers (which also helps with string skipping) or pluck the two simultaneously using thumb and 1 or 2.
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