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Too many fingers on my right hand

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by JacoNOT, Aug 11, 2012.

  1. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    I'm working my way through the HAL LEONARD BASS METHOD, 3 books and CDs (Ed Friedland is a good teacher).
    So I'm a "new bassist" or maybe a "NOOB ASSist" :D

    I'm learning two-finger fingerstyle, and I notice that my ring finger automatically follows the movement of my fore finger (middle finger). PROBLEM: Lately the ring finger mistakenly touches strings, muting or dampening them.

    I saw a YouTube video a while ago where a TB member was suggesting holding some object in the ring and pinky fingers while practicing, but I don't recall WHY he suggested doing that (had zero experience at the time, so didn't pay enough attention). Now I can't find the video, but even if I could, I don't know if his method is a good idea...

    On the other hand, my favorite bassist is Leland Sklar and it appears that
    he holds all four right-hand fingers in a relaxed semi-straight position.

    SO WHAT DO YOU GUYS DO? Do you intentionally curl fingers 3 and 4 to keep them out of the way?
    So far, that seems to inhibit the movement of fingers 1 and 2 (index and middle)...

    Playing bass always looked so simple...so natural...so organic...back BEFORE I picked one up...:D
  2. TheBasicBassist


    Jan 8, 2009
    Newark, DE
    Endorsing Artist: Rosado Guitars
    For a good lesson right-hand tech, I'd check out either Todd Johnson's "Floating Thumb" series, or Gary Willis' instructional DVD (I can't recall the name.) They're both readily available on Youtube.
  3. miiitch


    Nov 27, 2011
    i do it automatically, as long as i´m not muting strings with them
    didn´t even need to practice that, lucky me o_O
  4. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Just learn to use a 3 fingered technique.

    Stay Brown,
    Rev J
  5. jmbjandfam

    jmbjandfam Supporting Member

    Apr 24, 2011
    Foxfire Village N.C.
    +1 Floating thumb for me!
  6. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    The books are good - you should check out these vids:

    and check out some of the floating thumb and other threads here on TB.
  7. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    THAT'S THE GUY! Thanks. I notice that you too are on The Emerald Isle. You're not Fergie himself, are you? I'm typing this with an American quarter crooked in each little finger :D (actually NOT, but I've been working with a quarter while watching Fergie's vids just now).

    I am working diligently to master (some version of) the Floating Thumb technique. So far, I just try to rest the side of my thumb against the side of the string that is two strings above the string I'm plucking (Adam Nitti suggestion). I would love to be able to plant my thumb somewhere, but can't figure out how Adam Nitti plays so fast using his MOVEABLE ANCHOR technique - he rests the thumb atop a string two strings above (physically) whatever string he's playing at the moment. When crossing strings, I can't begin to coordinate positioning the thumb AND plucking the higher string at the same time (somebody PLEASE tell me how and I'll try it).

    So nobody answered the question yet... Do YOU guys curl fingers 3 & 4 in tightly, or do you leave them relatively straight?
  8. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Hi, no I'm here :)

    A bit of background info for anyone new to this exercise and how it works.
    The hand has two distinct sides, the radial side for dexterity and the ulnar side for power. Each side has its own blood vessels and nerves, muscles and tendons. But the ulnar side fingers use a shared function because they are for power. So in the same way that if you put more thin/smaller stick together they are stronger, so it is when fingers come together. This is why the little and ring finger work together, they share tendons that are intertwined so when one moves the other moves to supports it. The radial side has better individual movement in the finger of the thumb and index finger as they have no intertwining of tendons. The middle finger can work on both sides of the hand if trained to do so.

    Holding the coin in the little finger is just giving the Ulnar side of the hand a task to perform. In having to hold a coin in the little finger the ring finger follows. This, in a manner of speaking, switches off that side of the hand and allows the radial side to work better. The efficiency of the hand is now focused on that radial side, as it does when we do any dexterity task with the hands the little and ring finger curl in towards the palm to allow the radial side better function....it is a natural action of the hand to do so.

    After a period of use you can stop using the coin, as the ulnar side will develop the feeling of "switching of " to leave the radial side better function.
    Holding the coin just helps stretch the intertwining tendons on the ulnar side so they have better dexterity and independence.
    So if you hold the coin in the little finger and the ring finger follows.....let it.
    Do not try and restrain the fingers, just let them go, then move them back.
    You will find over time the ability to hold the coin and keep the ring finger straight and independent will develop, as will the ability to hold the coin and curl in and out the other fingers without dropping the coin.
    If you use a pick instead of a coin you can switch between fingers and pick in an instant, so best of both worlds.

    As for finger straight or curled, it's a personal choice and can be based on many different factors.
    For me, and I link it to body mechanics, curled finger are better and a safer use. When the hand is relaxed the fingers have a natural curl to them, and the tips are almost level.
    This is because the fingers knuckles act as levers to allow the fingertips to come together and be even the closer the come to the palm.
    So that means in that relaxed position the hands are under no active tension from the muscles as such.
    Where as of you have straight fingers you have had to have straightened then so they are under tension but not being used. With the coin the fingers are under tension, but now have a use, they hold the coin, so the fingers do not flay about when plucking.
    That hold on the coin is a relaxed hold, it may not start off that way but it develops in to one as the tendons get looser.

    So for me curled fingers offer the best use for efficiency because the hand is better relaxed and the curl in the fingers brings the tips to a more level position in relation to each other, so sit on the strings more level.none.This idea that because the finger are different lengths then the hand need to tilt or the angle of the bass need to change is a fallacy. The fingers will accommodate the instrument because a hand curl will level out the tips.
    So any player will find their own level and amount of curl if the just curl the fingers in to the palm and stop when the tips are level... This is the ideal amount of curl required. As we all have the same hand design, it is the individual components and make up that bring variation in use and ability. So it is never a good thing to read to much into any players technique or style if it is different to yours as you do not know the parameters that theirs is based on.

    The big pay off is when using a three finger technique gets used. Having a better independence and dexterity in that ring finger by using the coin means you have better control of it, so a better and quicker result when developing three finger techniques ( or any multi-finger technique )

    As a rule exercises are to help promote movement, warm up and down the hands, prevent and lessen injuries, and the big one, undo the day use of the hand to help "remind" it of its full range of movement.
    Fact is many player are not pro, so have day jobs. That job may not be bass friendly, so the hands may be tired or fatigued before the even pick the bass up. So in effect they are putting more stress and use on an already tired pair of hands, so exercises that are used as warm ups can help better prepare the hands for playing.

    One of the movements we do not do enough is straightening out the fingers and spreading them, modern life seems to be about gripping, holding and pushing with the fingers, not about spreading and extending them.
    So exercises that extend and spread the fingers work the opposite muscle groups that have been doing gripping, holing and pushing tasks all day.
    Do not confuse the use of straight finger in playing with the straight fingers of exercise, the function is different because all fingers are straight and extended in the exercise/warm, where as only the ulnar side is straight, if used that way, because the plucking fingers are playing.
    The one big thing no one can see, so therefore account for is how much active tension is being used in a technique. All that means is it is the difference between gripping the neck, holding it or just resting the fingers on it.
    The same applies to the plucking hand it is the difference between stroking the strings smooth and digging in so hard the rattle off the frets or pick-ups.
    We always hear about playing lighter, I prefer to use the term smoother.
    Play light sometimes gives the wrong idea and impression, where as playing smooth implies less tension and more fluidity. Some players I have worked with tell me they cannot play light, but I can get the same results by teaching them to be smoother.
    Some players see " light" as being a wimp????? But smooth is OK.

    In the end, hand use is personal, it is also based on millions of years or evolutional development...and is still going on. Modern life only has about 100 years in shaping our current hand use, evolution never ever accounted for that fast a leap forward in the intensity and frequency of use. For me growing up, the most my hands ever done, outside music, was hold on to my bike. So my childhood and teenage years never involved, mobile phones, keyboards, gaming controllers, remote controls, push button on this, key pads on that etc.. So my hands were stress free in life and able to better handle playing. This is not a luxury many of people I see have to day.

    So the exercises address an area that modern life presents and help players that need this focus as well as address the physical stresses and strains of playing to help make it easier.

    As usual, any questions that this post has raised, post them or PM me and if I can I will answer them.
  9. Supporting Fergie's reply, I hold my fingers neither tightly curled, nor straight. I have mine "loosely" curled (ie: a fairly natural curl) when keeping them clear of the strings, although sometimes they rest upon whatever string my thumb is on.

    They also occasionally rest on other strings, if I need them damped. So I guess they move around a bit, and do whatever is needed.

    When not needed for anything else, they're curled just enough to clear the strings. This positions them about 2 strings above my index and middle fingers, so they're nowhere near the strings I'm plucking.
  10. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    First, thanks Fergie for the in-depth explanation. Despite it all I felt the need to ask a follow-up question, but ran out of time last evening.

    I come back the next morning, and here Riverhead has answered the question like he was reading my mind. :D
    Of course, if you, Fergie, do not share Riverhead's opinion, please add your own perspective.

    Based on Riverhead's comments, it appears the position and deployment of fingers 3 & 4 should be an organic outgrowth of my own playing style, the musical passage at hand, and my own physiology/structure. No right or wrong way...as is so often the case.

    That's a good thing and at the same time, a troubling thing; I like the creative freedom, but wish there were hard-and-fast rules for some of these frustrating glitches in my learning curve / progress.

    Many thanks, Riverhead, and each of you who's contributed. I appreciate your insights a lot as flounder about...

    And Fergie, I've been carrying around an American quarter (25 cent coin) since yesterday afternoon. Not sure yet how the exercise will affect my playing, but I can already straighten my ring finger (both hands) at will with the quarter crooked in my little finger - something I could not do when I started yesterday. Thanks for the insights. I wish all physical and skills-based training showed such immediate results. Erin Go Bragh, bro.
  11. +1
  12. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I also play a 6 so my technique is a little unique. I use a floating thumb over the B, E, and A strings plucking middle index and ring fingers. The side of my thumb mutes the low strings that I'm not playing and the pinky curls back to mute the strings that are 2 strings below where I'm playing and the rest stroke I use when I'm playing mutes the string below where I'm playing. It's easier to do than explain.

    Stay Brown,
    Rev J
  13. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    Rev J, let us define terms so we can avoid confusion*. I'm responding to the Rev's comments here, but the rest of you guys PLEASE JUMP IN. Are we agreed that the diagram and notations below represent our common understanding of 5-string bass TAB? (the whole thing seems upside down to me, so If I screwed it up, tell me and I'll revise...)

    G ------------------------------------- High pitch / High strings / the "above" strings

    D --------------------------------------

    A ---------------------------------------

    E ===============================

    B ================================ Low pitch / Low strings / the "below" strings

    Rev J, your comments applied to 5-string bass (not your 6) seem to indicate muting the B, E, A strings using the floating thumb as shown below:

    G -------------------------------------

    D --------------------------------------

    A --------------------------------------- Floating Thumb Mute

    E =============================== Floating Thumb Mute

    B ================================ Floating Thumb Mute

    You pluck with INDEX, MIDDLE & RING fingers using a standard upward REST STROKE - so a plucking finger comes to rest on the next lower string (lower in pitch) after plucking the intended string. So when plucking a note on the A string, your plucking finger comes to rest on the E string after sounding the intended note on the A string. Are we still in agreement?

    Rev J wrote: "...the pinky curls back to mute the strings that are 2 strings below where I'm playing..."
    When you say "two strings BELOW where I'm playing", what's the meaning of "BELOW"?

    G --------------------------------------

    D --------------------------------------

    A --------------------------------------- Play a note HERE on the A string

    E ===============================

    B ================================

    When you're playing a note on the A string, what string(s) is that CURLED PINKY muting?

    Thanks, Rev, and anybody else who jumps in.

    *I hope somebody shot the fool who long-ago decided the definition of "low and high" and "above and below" relative to guitar and bass strings. The whole thing seems bass ackwards to me, and totally confuses guitar and bass instruction and tablature. GRRRRRR!
  14. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    "You're not Fergie himself, are you?"

    Lol. You'll know when Mr. Fulton replies. see above! He gives a fuller response than I. I'm just showing you a good place to get your bearings!
  15. Hello,

    Below I have attached two pictures of me playing. The unnatural twist of my wrist is there because I turned the bass pretty far to get a good shot. Your wrist probably shouldn't twist that far when playing.

    However, the two pictures are examples of how I deal with my middle and ring fingers when not in use. These are both assuming rest stroke.

    On the first one, I would be playing a riff - "Schism" by the band Tool. The main riff takes place on only the D and G strings. Because my rest stroke will come through and mute the A string, I place my ring and pinky there since the additional mute will not bother anything.

    The second riff, "Would?" by Alice in Chains is in Eb, and I play it on my low B string. My ring finger is curled up and my pinky extended, resting on the pickup for support.

    If I play classical style using only the P,I, and M fingers (thumb, index and middle) I typically hook the pinky around the back pickup and let the ring finger float harmlessly past the G string. If I use PIMA fingering (adding the ring finger) I allow my pinky to float since much of my hand has to be arched anyways.

    If you are playing a fast across many strings and are not comfortable anchoring your fingers, raise them up. If your plucking fingers were a person walking (they look like it) raise your ring and pinky fingers so that they are the arms (albeit both arms are on the same side of the imagined body).

    Hope this helps!

    Attached Files:

  16. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    Thanks for the pics and information, oniman7. I get what you mean, but if I try to raise fingers 3 & 4 (ring and pinky) up and out of the way, that ring finger jumps toward the strings every time I pluck with the middle finger (tight tendons, or maybe I'm just highly strung in general :D)

    Hey, are the tops of your pickups radiused (instead of flat) to match the radius of the neck?
  17. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    Yeah, he's a font of information, and very generous with it (thanks, Fergie). Thanks to you, PM, for the links. Very helpful.
  18. Clydesauce


    May 12, 2012
    Not sure if this means anything but have you ever watched the old spongebob and they do the fancy fingers? "When in doubt pinky out." Well basically what I do. I keep my pinky and my ring finger up and out. I do notice that my ring finger follows the motion but my pinky moves it away from my other fingers. As well, if you have a thumb rest you can rest on the bass body. Or learn slap
  19. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    My pinky goes wherever it d--n well pleases, usually sticking out kinda like Cliff Burton. Chalk it up to early influence. :p

    My ring finger usually bends at the last joint at a ninety-degree angle, then flops back and forth with the other fingers, but still staying up out of the way.

    EDIT: I have now found this only happens when I "air-bass." :D When I actually play, I tuck the other fingers up, and they're kept there by virtue of the fact that my hand is usually very firmly anchored on the body, above the pickup(s).

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