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Mykesbass

Looking For Left Hand Technique Exercises Please

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Having played mainly Blues, Blues Rock, Rock & Roll and Americana for the last few years I finally (after lockdown) have the chance to play one of the musical forms I really love - Disco. Problem is, one song in particular has highlighted my sloppy/non-existant left hand technique - Moloko, Sing it Back.

Does anyone have any good exercises to raise my left hand speed and dexterity? And any suggestions on how I should be fretting this particular song would also be appreciated.

Thanks!

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Hi myke, i can’t help with the song but I found these exercises  by Mark to be helpful for me to build up my speed when I struggled a bit with a few tracks, particularly the one about 5.20 🙂

 

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6 hours ago, Reggaebass said:

Hi myke, i can’t help with the song but I found these exercises  by Mark to be helpful for me to build up my speed when I struggled a bit with a few tracks, particularly the one about 5.20 🙂

 

Ah, just watched - wrong hand. Nice exercise and I will use it for the right hand but my main issue is with left hand speed and dexterity (and finger choice). Thanks all the same for posting.

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It's difficult to say without seeing your left hand technique, but keeping a good hand position (whether thats playing one finger per fret or using 1,2,4 fingering),and not allowing your fingers to lift too high off the fingerboard will help with dexterity.

As far as exercises, I like to play 2 octave arpeggios in different positions, and scales in different patterns (I like 3rds and 6ths), and in different groupings. There are tons of ways to increase dexterity with scales and arpeggios. Speed will come with practice.

 

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4 minutes ago, Doddy said:

It's difficult to say without seeing your left hand technique, but keeping a good hand position (whether thats playing one finger per fret or using 1,2,4 fingering),

That's one of the issues I'm seeing - I change between the two as I change position! 

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Speed is just accuracy and economy of motion. Tiny flaws in either get magnified the faster you go. IIRC Sing It Back isn’t a particularly fast song and has a lot of root-5-octave-9 type lines with some hammered-on 16th notes; however the bulk of it is just 8th notes. Are you struggling with the whole line or particular bits? 
One of the best exercises I had was from Gary Willis, which is to practice reducing the pressure on the fretting hand (just practising on one note to start with), until it starts to buzz, then a tiny bit more pressure is actually all you need to fret the notes - and it’s almost guaranteed to be less pressure than you currently use. Less pressure makes everything easier. Piano players are taught to “squeeze” the keys rather than hammer them to improve both tone and dexterity.

Regarding fretting and dexterity, a well setup bass with a reasonable and consistent action is a good starting place. Then as Doddy says, make sure you’re consistent - one finger per fret is the norm but there are caveats with that in the first few frets as you may risk problems with your hands, hence some players use the more upright technique of index, middle, little finger (with ring finger supporting) as it reduces the stretch across the hand and therefore the pressure on the tendons. I’m currently recovering/rehabilitating from cervical radiculopathy, which presents similar symptoms to carpal tunnel syndrome and it makes playing quite difficult, so look after your hands :)

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4 minutes ago, FDC484950 said:

Speed is just accuracy and economy of motion. Tiny flaws in either get magnified the faster you go. IIRC Sing It Back isn’t a particularly fast song and has a lot of root-5-octave-9 type lines with some hammered-on 16th notes; however the bulk of it is just 8th notes. Are you struggling with the whole line or particular bits? 
One of the best exercises I had was from Gary Willis, which is to practice reducing the pressure on the fretting hand (just practising on one note to start with), until it starts to buzz, then a tiny bit more pressure is actually all you need to fret the notes - and it’s almost guaranteed to be less pressure than you currently use. Less pressure makes everything easier. Piano players are taught to “squeeze” the keys rather than hammer them to improve both tone and dexterity.

Regarding fretting and dexterity, a well setup bass with a reasonable and consistent action is a good starting place. Then as Doddy says, make sure you’re consistent - one finger per fret is the norm but there are caveats with that in the first few frets as you may risk problems with your hands, hence some players use the more upright technique of index, middle, little finger (with ring finger supporting) as it reduces the stretch across the hand and therefore the pressure on the tendons. I’m currently recovering/rehabilitating from cervical radiculopathy, which presents similar symptoms to carpal tunnel syndrome and it makes playing quite difficult, so look after your hands :)

Great advice 

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16 minutes ago, Mykesbass said:

That's one of the issues I'm seeing - I change between the two as I change position! 

A lot of people do. I generally use one finger per fret from around the 5th fret, although I don't do it strictly- I always play octaves with my first and little fingers.

The suggestion to reduce pressure is a good one too. A lot of people grip the neck hard and almost squeeze the strings. I look at my thumb as a being a pivot point rather than a grip, and can actually lift my thumb off the neck and keep playing. You don't need to press the strings hard at all, especially with a low action.

Edited by Doddy
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8 minutes ago, FDC484950 said:

 has a lot of root-5-octave-9 type lines with some hammered-on 16th notes; however the bulk of it is just 8th notes. Are you struggling with the whole line or particular bits? 

Thanks for the response.

Most of the song is the root-5-octave-9, with a flat 9 on the V. I'm basically struggling to find the shape consistently across th ethree chords.

I'll definitely work on the light touch. I know (especially on the right hand) that I have always been very physical, and I also know this is wrong!

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Just do permutations progressively more quickly up to a tempo of 220 on each string. One finger per fret, with the index finger on the 5th or 7th fret. Aim to keep the fingers always as close to the fretboard as possible and use the least amount of pressure applied. Always keep the thumb approximately in the centre of the neck, and as with the fingers, apply the least amount of pressure. to the back of the neck. When you're practicing your permutation, try releasing your thumb so that it's not touching the neck to see if you're applying minimal pressure. If you can't, then that's an area for improvement.

Edited by TheLowDown
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On 24/01/2021 at 16:28, Mykesbass said:

That's one of the issues I'm seeing - I change between the two as I change position! 

As @Doddy and others have said, that's a good thing; you can't get around the bass properly with only one left hand fingering system.

On 24/01/2021 at 09:51, Mykesbass said:

Does anyone have any good exercises to raise my left hand speed and dexterity?

Not wanting to dismiss advice that others have given, but I feel the need to pipe up...

I used to waste hours playing through left hand permutation exercises as a warm up and they didn't really get me anywhere; I made it most of the way through the Bass Fitness book and thought that meant that I could really play.

The problem with the 1234 finger exercises and variations thereof are that they aren't remotely musical, so why waste time playing patterns that don't ever come up in music that you're trying to learn?

Practice technique by playing music; if you struggle with a bass part, make that bass part your exercise. Work out the best left hand fingering and play the part really slowly (at least 50% of your goal speed, if not slower), focusing on making every note as clear as possible.

Speed doesn't come from picking a random combination of fingers and cranking the metronome up until you start to develop tendonitis. Speed comes from accuracy and efficiency, which get programmed into your fingers by lots of repetitions at very slow tempos.

 

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I get what you’re saying. However, we are talking about a specific piece of music and how to get around it. If you have something you can’t play you have no choice but to slow it down until you can, then work out the bit that’s actually causing the problem and fix it. It’s usually either because you don’t actually know the line off by heart, or there’s a technical limitation stopping you from playing it.

This is naturally abstracting the problem away from the original piece of music, but when it comes to fingering there are lines that fall in the hand and others that are really awkward (like playing 4ths across all 4 strings, you could just barre across neck, or use index, middle, ring and little finger to fret each note, but both are pretty nasty at any kind of tempo).

So, rather than “meaningless” exercises, which I absolutely agree aren’t really of any musical value, I prefer to think of it as a technical musical challenge. Try a few options and pick the one that feels best slowly, and still feels the best when you speed it up. What you’re doing by repeating things over and over is committing the muscle memory of learning the line into your long-term memory  The beauty of this (like any language) is that once you’ve got that fingering down, it’s ready for you next time you need to play that same line. Many musicians learn the major scale early on - you never just play it up and down on a gig but how often do you use bits of it in bass lines? All the time.


Back to the OP - there are various ways to tackle the song - index, middle, ring and little finger for Root, 5, octave, 9 (and the reverse back down the line) falls under the hand quite nicely but it depends where you are. If Root is Bb on the A string (1st fret) you may want to try something else as the frets are quite far apart; if on the V chord where the 9 is a b9, higher up in the neck index, ring, ring, little finger might well.

Whatever fingering option you choose, start slow with clarity, efficiency and accuracy, and speed should come naturally.

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1 hour ago, FDC484950 said:

Back to the OP - there are various ways to tackle the song - index, middle, ring and little finger for Root, 5, octave, 9 (and the reverse back down the line) falls under the hand quite nicely but it depends where you are. If Root is Bb on the A string (1st fret) you may want to try something else as the frets are quite far apart; if on the V chord where the 9 is a b9, higher up in the neck index, ring, ring, little finger might well.

Whatever fingering option you choose, start slow with clarity, efficiency and accuracy, and speed should come naturally.

Thanks for all the suggestions. It's coming, but what is really odd is what has been suggested by @Doddy and @TKenrick is I am having to use the same fingering otherwise it is messing with my head/muscle memory across the changes! 

 

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A phenomenal exercise for building finger per fret dexterity without being constantly fast is Jethro Tull's version of Bouree, there are plenty of rapid passing notes and good stretches across all fingers and strings, while musically it's plenty interesting enough to keep you engaged.

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This is a nice exercise for one finger per fret. See how fast y0ou can do it, and just play it further up the neck if the first four frets are a bit of a stretch. Can you work out what it is without looking?

 

    Q    H        Q        Q    Q    Q    Q       Q    Q    Q    Q
G|----------------------|----------------------|----------------------|
D|----------------------|----------------------|----------------------|
A|----------------8\----|--1----3----4----3----|--1-------------------|
E|----------------------|----------------------|-------4----3----1----|
 

    Q    Q    Q    Q       Q    H.              Q    Q    Q    Q
G|----------------------|--------------------|----------------------|
D|-----------------1----|--3-----------------|----------------------|
A|--3----4----1---------|--------------------|--1----3----4----3----|
E|----------------------|-------1------------|----------------------| 

    Q    Q    Q    Q       Q    Q    Q    Q       W
G|----------------------|----------------------|-------------------|
D|----------------------|-----------------1----|--3----------------|
A|--1-------------------|--3----4----1---------|-------------------|
E|-------4----3----1----|----------------------|-------------------|
 
    Q    Q    Q    Q       Q    Q    Q    Q       Q    Q    Q    Q
G|----------------------|----------------------|----------------------|
D|----------------------|----------------------|----------------------|
A|--1----3----1----3----|--4---------4---------|--4---------1---------|
E|----------------------|-------4---------4----|-------4---------1----|
 
    Q    Q    Q    Q       H.           Q       H.           Q
G|----------------------|--------------------|--------------------|
D|------------1----3----|--------------------|--------------------|
A|-------4--------------|--1-----------------|--4-----------------|
E|--2-------------------|---------------4----|---------------4----|

     H.           Q       H.           Q       Q    Q    Q    Q
G|--------------------|--------------------|----------------------|
D|--------------------|--------------------|----------------------|
A|--1-----------------|--4-----------------|--1---------4---------|
E|---------------4----|---------------4----|-------4---------4----|
 
    Q    Q    Q    Q       Q    Q    Q    Q       Q    Q    Q    Q
G|----------------------|----------------------|----------------------|
D|----------------------|-----------------1----|--3----3----3----3----|
A|--1---------4---------|--1-------------------|----------------------|
E|-------4---------4----|-------4----2---------|----------------------|

     W                   W                   W                   W
G|-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|
D|-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|
A|--1----------------|--L----------------|--L----------------|--L----------------|
E|-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|

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