Continuing with the theme from the last article, this time we’ll talk about left hand technique, again assuming the player is right handed.
Here are some positioning examples:
The classic ‘proper’ technique is to keep the left thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, between where the first to fourth fingers will be on the fretboard, creating a sort of triangle between them. The thumb should also be placed at or just below the middle of the neck to create an anchor around which the rest of the hand will move as necessary. This will keep the pinky down, keep the wrist fairly straight, and will activate muscles only as the other fingers are being used. Keep your fingers spaced one per fret and keep the palm off the neck. Keep hands and arms relaxed, and if it hurts stop and reassess technique.
Another option players will use is a circular type technique, placing little emphasis on thumb placement but concentrating on keeping the left hand in a ‘c’ curved shape like a claw and extending that ‘c’ shape to the whole arm. This keeps the shoulder relaxed, the elbow acts as a counter balance, and it makes it easier to get around the fretboard. If you keep your fingertips curved while playing in this style your fingers won’t flatten out as you fret, you won’t pinch the string and the hand won’t be in a state of hyperflexion for long because its position will be ever changing.
Arch your fingers when playing because this allows the strength generated by the forearm muscles to pass efficiently to the fingertips without being impeded.
If the bass is worn very low, a la punk rock style, it will put the hand in too much flexion or extension causing cramping and pain.
When fretting press down on one fret with one finger at a time and keep them there until changing position. Be mindful of economy of motion and don’t let the fingers fly off of the neck.
Repetitively pressing down with the left hand on the fretboard puts pressure on the finger flexor muscles due to the constant activity and the thick strings. Try not pressing so hard, experiment with louder amp or instrument volume, or lower the action to reduce unnecessary exertion.
See you next time, as always feel free to contact me and keep enjoying this wonderful instrument of ours.
I am always open to ideas for future columns or to address questions on anything related to this subject matter that you might have. Drop me a line…