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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.
    DaveAceofBass likes this.
  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.
  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.
    Michael F Clef and DaveAceofBass like this.
  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.
    Keith Rawlings and LilyT like this.
  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.
  14. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, D'Addarrio Strings, Aguilar Amplifiers
    FYI, There's a great article by Scott Dixon on 1-3-4 fingering in the new Bass World. Also, Joel Quarrington calls for 1-3-4 in certain situations in his exercise book. I found some of his ideas to be transformative for my playing.
    Phil Rowan likes this.
  15. LaFaro01


    Aug 27, 2018
    Here you find an interesting article about the different approaches to the different fingerings on the double bass, written by Silvio Dalla Torre. He often uses four fingers, but I've learned from one of his friends, that he is switching between 3 and four fingers in the last years at times due to tuning reasons...:)
    ctmullins likes this.
  16. Bflat


    Feb 5, 2008
    In 1964 when I was taking lessons on the double bass to play in the County orchestra the classical technique taught to me was atleast in position 1/2, 1 and 2....the 1st 2nd and 4th fingers were the only proper ones.....also the elbow will be at 90 degrees to the neck and the wrist will be straight. there was no argument about that....it was done that way or you didn't play....I also had to learn the bass right handed, being lefthanded didn't matter.there are many more technique rules, that at that time were not to be questioned..... I can always look at a double bass player and tell if he was classically trained.....:):)
  17. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings

    Aug 3, 2019
    I had no idea the ring finger wasn't supposed to be used. I've always used all four fingers on my left-hand, as well as the index, middle and ring finger for pizz and slap on my right-hand. I've got a lot to learn it seems; and luckily I have finally found a teacher.
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