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The Case for Finger per Semi-Tone (Fret)

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by citizenchris099, May 28, 2018.

  1. I'm not sure where exactly I got the notion of playing finger per semi-tone, but none the less I adopted this technique early on in my studies. It is a technique that just made sense to me and felt right.
    Flash forward to me purchasing and subsequently studying on my first unlined fretless and I finally feel justified having practiced and internalized this technique.
    Finger per semi-tone has saved my life when learning to play unlined fretless I have to tell you. Low on the neck its not that tricky to find the semi-tone between the dots. Though once you get past the 9th position dot you now have two semi tones between dots.
    This all might sound like elementary stuff to you guys but I'm just now learning this stuff. Keeping to a finger per semi-tone has saved me so much time and effort. I'm not going to say its "easy" but Its taken a LOT of work out of getting my intonation down. Making jumps is still tricky but its getting better.
    When I consider that the origin of finger per semi-tone technique is probably from classical string players it becomes clear why this is an advantageous way to learn the fingerboard.
    IamGroot, Mili, JimmyM and 4 others like this.
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I doubt if many people will disagree that the "one finger per fret" technique in and of itself is useful. Where they might differ is whether it is safe to use it on frets 1-5. Down there it can be too much of a reach for some and if forced, can lead to injury problems.
  3. One finger per fret is a good thing. It's a great starting point, as you can play a lot of standard pop/rock/blues/funk-tunes right away. BUT: it's also important to work on position shifts etc. up and down the fingerboard. You have to be able to move fast to the right fret when neccessary.
    IamGroot and Marcus Willett like this.
  4. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I take Scott Devine's advice as the final word on the OFPF technique: Use it when you need it; don't when you don't.
    mrcbass, hrodbert696, equill and 18 others like this.
  5. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    cool beans!
  6. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
  7. I like Devine's channel and generally speaking I dig what he has to say.
    That said my I've never found a situation where not using my pinky would have helped me or made playing a thing more convenient.

    I play diagonal and extended scale fingerings so I'm used to shifting.
    IamGroot and gebass6 like this.
  8. In the low positions like you mention I simply make minor shifts to reach the desired semi-tone.
  9. consectaneus


    Sep 23, 2016
    It's pinky, middle, index. It's the ring finger you leave out on the lower frets with the three finger system.
    hrodbert696, red_rhino and fearceol like this.
  10. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    IMO it would be just as easy and beneficial to use the thumb as a pivot to shift the fingers to where they are needed.
  11. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Here is Dave Marks clip about OFPF :

  12. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I started with Simandl method on string bass and transferred this to electric. At some point, I was playing technical music that was more reasonable with 4-finger technique. So I learned a new fingering system for electric.

    My hands are nowhere near large enough to use this technique on string bass. Even on extra long scale fretted instruments the reach is a bit much in lower positions for me to use 4-finger technique. I have a nice vintage Daion that is a bit taxing to play in the key of F minor on the E string despite a nice setup. Also some patterns are very taxing on my standard long scale 6 when playing fast octaves and 5ths or C minor runs on the B string.

    4-finger technique does not translate for me when I play fretless as I do not have the reach to properly intonate over a significant range of the instrument. This is not usually an issue with a long scale fretted instrument as I no longer play with my fingers snugly against the frets at all times. I do sometimes adjust my techique to using microshifts or Simandl fingering if a line cause undue stress to my had.

    I have easily picked up and mastered intonation on a couple of electric uprights using Simandl fingering, but I have always struggled with intonation on a fretless electric. In order to master the fretless electric, I believe I would need to revert to Simandl technique in the low positions and give up the fretted instrument.

    On a related note, whenever I attempted to play both a true string bass and an EUB my intonation goes out the window. Much of intonation requires proper calibration of muscle memory. I believe the brain learns to automatically space the fingers for the proper pitch based on neck position. I can deal with this when I am playing two instruments of drastically different scale length, but when the scale of both instruments is very similar, apparently it is beyond me to make the necessary adjustments.
    IamGroot and lowfreqgeek like this.
  13. You should ALWAYS use the pinky. 3-finger/Simandl keeps the stretch between ring/pinky down by using them together.

    As a mostly fretless player, getting proper intonation between the first and 3rd fret positions on a 34" or 35" scale bass is much easier done with the first and 4th fingers. It's certainly more comfortable on a 3hr gig to be relaxing the fretting hand as much as possible in the lower positions. Otherwise, by the end of that gig, your intonation starts to go out the window if you force the stretch.

    As with many things in life, there's no fixed rule that works 100% for every person in every situation.
    Wasnex likes this.
  14. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    I don't consciously think about fingering techniques these days. I'll freely alternate between Simandl and one finger per fret depending on the music, the bass, and how tired I am. Same goes for the other hand which will automatically shift back and forth between a rest and free stroke with some classical guitar fingerpicking and banjo style playing freely mixed in.

    The only important takeaway is that you get as many different techniques under your belt as possible so you have a number of different resources at your disposal when you need them. Technique is really just anther tool. The more varied and maintained your toolbox the better you can perform your craft.
    IamGroot, kikaida03 and red_rhino like this.
  15. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I used to be pretty much one finger per fret, but always felt doing so in the lower positions of the neck was a bit of a stretch. Later on i took up the upright bass and the proper technique there is to not really use the ring finger until you enter the upper regions of the neck. Now i have carried that method over to electric and feel it is much more appropriate. I still have the ability to do the single string minor third stretch, but only use it when needed. Really i am using some sort of hybrid system.
    Fredrik E. Nilsen likes this.
  16. I must say that the arguments for the 1-2-4 technique when applying to octaves or fifths really does make sense. I did a little practice with this playing some disco octaves and it felt much better.
  17. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    I've said it before.
    And I'll say it again.
    I've always done it.
    I'm not stretching.
    There is no pain.

    I've got a six inch finger spread and I'm gonna use it!
    One finger per fret in the first four frets.
    Last edited: May 28, 2018
    Spin Doctor and Ellery like this.
  18. consectaneus


    Sep 23, 2016
    This is the method advocated by such educators as Carol Kaye and Ed Friedland.
    Seanto likes this.
  19. Looks like you’re straining to me.
  20. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    "Such are promises
    All lies and jest
    Still, a man "sees" what he wants to "see"
    And disregards the rest."

    No strain!
    Snapshot_20180226 (2).JPG
    Ellery likes this.

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