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Why don't upright players use the ring finger?

Discussion in 'Ask Lynn Seaton' started by bass9454, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. bass9454


    May 20, 2011
    I have never seen an upright in my life but I played bass guitar.
    My first class starts 05. September and I will start learning upright in a musical school, but i don't understand why don't bassist use their 3 finger?
  2. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    Try to play F F# G G# on the E string with all four fingers. It is really hard. Some do (did)..e.g Niels Henning. The ring finger is weak an most players find it more usefull to not use it on the lower positions. I think there is one index, ring, pinky school as well.
  3. pbasswil


    Feb 17, 2008
    In the lower positions of the neck on double bass, the notes are
    quite far apart, compared with a bass guitar. The average hand is able to comfortably span the distance equivalent to 3 frets on electric.
    So: 4 fingers, covering 3 "frets"; one finger needs to be left out. Ring finger won the contest. :)
  4. Please don't cross-post the same question on several boards.
  5. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Using all four fingers in the left hand is rare, but does happen as was pointed out in one of the other posts. Another reason that people don't is the strain on the hand from stretching out the fingers so far apart in the lower positions. Most people that are four finger players rotate or pivot on the thumb (as in the Rabbath 3 finger technique) so the wide stretching of the tendons does not happen.
    Additionally, Neils Henning Orsted Pederson used the ring finger on his right hand as part of a three finger technique to pluck the bass. He was one of the greatest ever so it shows that there are many ways to play the bass.
    The main thing is to play ergonomically so you can have a long career. It is a challenge to be able to press flesh into metal, gut, and wood for a lifetime.
    LM Bass likes this.
  6. Coming from bass guitar myself, I wondered this same thing. As has been pointed out previously, the stretch in lower positions is one reason. What brought it home for me was learning thumb position. The spacing in lower positions doesn't easily facilitate use of the ring finger (due to the stretch). In thumb position, the ring finger is used because the pinky is not used because of the positon of the hand. Three fingers are used in both lower and upper positions. Using the thumb as the open string - use the same fingering as in lower positions, substituting the ring for the pinky.
  7. ZombieKiller09


    Feb 25, 2013
    I use my ring finger when playing upright and guitar...
    Cheez likes this.
  8. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Using electric bass or guitar technique on the upright exclusively can be risky. Just picking up an upright and using the same techniques one already knows from other instruments may seem easier at first, but please consider some study of the classic methods. They were developed over time and are used for good reasons. As the posts above state, it is a challenge to play in tune. One also has to be very careful to avoid injury. The various techniques that established players have studied do continue to evolve, but they are based largely on ergonomically safe uses of the body.
  9. Jeff Henry

    Jeff Henry Commercial User

    Jan 17, 2019
    The ring finger is best used with electric bass, You have to think completely different when on Upright bass. I just discovered using the single finger method on my right hand, Like Ray Brown works best for me.
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    IME, and as I was taught some time back, the 3rd finger sometimes comes in handy when playing certain slow legato passages, I’m thinking around the middle of the neck, that call for a smooth and connected articulation.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
  11. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Aren't there some schools of thought on using all 4 fingers? I thought there was an American "system" and an Italian one, but I can't find them. It may be just old age (on my part!)
  12. CayGee


    Feb 21, 2018
    right now my school of thought,(aside from the snow piling up outside) is that I'm probably developing some bad habits: I like using the ring finger on upright...

    full disclosure: I'm a frustrated EB player... as well.
  13. Proper technique prevents injury. The physiology of the muscles in your hand is a major reason players are taught not to use the ring finger. 2nd good reason way you shape and position your left hand makes a ruler to help guide where to place your fingers.

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