Re: Improving My Bass technique?

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Posted by Marc Fortier on April 12, 2000 at 20:45:11:

In Reply to: Re: Improving My Bass technique? posted by El Pájaro on April 10, 2000 at 07:39:02:

: : Ok could anyone please tell me what the proper technique for both left and right hands are for bass, I have heard so many ways. I'm particularly looking for how to keep my fingers, and what hte best way is to hold a pick. Thanks.

: Hey there BBM,
: Well, there is no "proper" fretting hand position as far as I'm concerned. Everybody has his/her own way to do it, but I do think there are some guidelines that may help you out.
: First, I believe the most important thing is to keep the thumb firmly (but not stiff) anchored in the back of the neck, in the exact point where you fretting fingers can come down on the strings naturally and effortlessly. Don't let that thumb come over the fretboard!! This is the most natural way to fret the notes with the less amount of stress on your hand.
: As far as fretting goes, if your fingers are long enough you'll have no problem adapting to the "one finger per fret" technique, which is also the most natural way to fret, especially in the lower positions. When you go higher on the neck, though, you'll feel easier to strech out and cover more than four frets in the same position, but for the lower portions of the neck, one finger per fret works just fine.
: Keep in mind, though, that Steve Bailey (an absolute monster of a player, BTW) advocates an "extended fingering" technique for covering more "territory" in one position, so check that out, too.
: As far as holding the pick goes, that's an even tougher one. Some players just transfer the "guitar" technique, which consists in bending the index finger and holding the plectrum between the thumb and the index. It doesn't work for me, tough. I found it's more comfortable not to bend the index and hold the pick between the thumb and both the index and middle fingers, resting the side of my hand in the bridge. Chris Squire has a different way to do it, one that gives him a particular sound because he hits the strings both with the pick AND the side of the thumb at the same time. So I guess regarding pick holding you just have to experiment and find a way that's comfortable for you.
: Hope it helped,

: El Pájaro

I've got good sized hands and I use both fingering methods that El Pajaro mentioned but I'd also like to add a third that you shouldn't be afraid to use, especially in the lower positions (open through 5th fret). It's similiar to the Simandl fingering sytem for upright bass and it's the technique that Carol Kaye advocates. It's only a three fret stretch with left hand fingers (1,2,4.) The merit of this system is that it keeps your hand relaxed and it's inherently stronger - it also frees up the third finger in case you need it for trickier passages. If I knew what kind of music you listened to I could give examples of bass lines that prove this. This hand positioning also makes it easier to grab perfect fourths from the next string up without trying to bar the note w/ the same finger.
While it's good have a good stretch and reach as many notes as possible it's also good sometimes to keep the hand crunched up so you can grab intervals that you normally couldn't. Here's an example:
Try repeating this tired blues pattern with a one finger per fret method starting on F:

G ---------------------
A -----------------33--
E --11-----------------

Now try using only fingers 1,2,4.

Not convinced yet? Try this hip variation of the line.


If you use the 1,2,4 method than the third finger is available to grab that extra middle note of the triplet on the A string. If you're using a strict one finger per fret method, this one will be tough.

I can think of many more examples to demonstrate this.

The key is to learn as many fingering techniques as you can so that you can use the most effective and least stressful one in any given situation. You'll play better and your hands won't give you trouble in the long run.

Take Care,

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