Finger spread

So I have large hands but not extra long fingers. More like hands designed for strength & not dexterity which they have been used for most of my life.
Since starting to play bass from a zero musical experience life, I have had little trouble with the #1 to #2 finger & #2 to #3 stretch onto frets. But now I’m working on #2 to pinky & then it will be #1 to pinky which is a 4 fret spread. Not to mention my pinky is much less coordinated & weaker than the rest.
I’m failing miserably trying to get the fingers right onto the frets with these spreads.
Any helpful suggestions or am I doomed to not being able to ever do this?


Micro-shifts are your friend…


Are you following the B2B course? If so, Josh teaches about micro-shifting and its benefits for those who are uncomfortable with finger stretches.


Like the others said, microshifting for now, but I can tell you the more I play, the easier to stretch and the more proficient I get with the pinky. The pinky strenght actually comes from the forearm, and not the pinky itself. Just keep playing Ernie, and it will come. I think the dexterity it takes to play the bass is not natural and has to be trained into your arms, hands, and fingers. Only comes with time on the instrument.


+1 more for the micro shifts.

Light and loose with the pressure of the fretting hand, and just move to what you need.
The bass - particularly in the lower frets - is too wide for most any human to play with comfortable 1-finger-per-fret technique without lots of micro-shifts.

Hope it works out for you.


This will come in yime thru use.
Micro shift for sure, but as you use your pinky and ring finger more and mire they will both build their own strength and endurance.
Once you get that, you may start to notice your shifts get smaller, and on areas of the neck, go away.
That said
Shifting is just fine, and as you start to play more and more, you may notice that later in your practice session, or later in a set played with others, as you get tired, you may need to go to yhe bigger shifts ttat work for you now while your pinky is still weak.


Thanks everyone for the advice.
It’s mostly my own fault in that the B2B course is one of the best & it’s what gave me the confidence to play bass. But I also was taking lessons in person mostly to learn music theory & of course once you go down that road it’s all about “perfect” technique where micro-shifts are not an option that’s discussed.
So I’m going to play the way that works & feels best for me in order to progress.


“Perfect” technique has nothing to do with being able to do finger stretches. Micro-shifting is perfectly valid.

You must have had the wrong teacher.


Do you hit the right notes? Than your technique is perfect.

It’s what works for you.

James Jameson doesn’t alternate pluck. Heresy I say!

But he’s a bass legend


Thank you for posting this and saving me a lot of typing. I’m struggling with this as well. My instructor (who I’ve complained about in another thread but have yet to replace) repeatedly tells me that if “my spread” doesn’t improve I’ll never be a bass player. In the last few days I’ve been doing finger independence exercises for 15 minutes per day but how many flippin’ years is this going to take?

I’m 62, the clock is ticking. I had way more fun when I didn’t worry so much about technique. However, I have finally mastered “Heartbreak Hotel” which I’m sure you’re all thrilled about.


You are a bass player now. If I tried to address all my shortcomings in technique when I was a beginner, I would have sold my bass a long time ago. After a year I am able to address areas of my playing that need technical improvement, but I wasn’t able to focus on these in the beginning and still get through a song or exercise. Remember, playing bass is not natural for a human :smile:


Yes I realized that it’s not something that I was gifted with but that makes me even more determined to succeed. Learning & playing songs that I like and makes me feel good is the end goal for me regardless of the precision I can attain.

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I’m 61 so we’re in the same boat on that one. I have found ways around the “spread” and have played for family and friends at bbq’s and they say it sounds great. But my theory is that none know anything about bass guitar so they can’t hear my mistakes and limitations. LOL.

In the end it’s about enjoying it and being happy with how you sound to you and not to someone who negatively critiques you or expects you to reach heights that few can reach. Play what you like and play it as well as you can and that’s what it’s about.

BTW there is no such thing as “Mastered”. I don’t believe you can master the bass but rather get as good as possible that you can get at it. Just as I have never mastered martial arts but have achieved quite a bit.


As is true with many other worthwhile pursuits, music and martial arts are lifelong learning opportunities. If we give whatever course of study our best, that is a real achievement worth celebrating, regardless of who else might be better or worse at it than we are.

I’ve known players who most in the world would consider masters, or gods even, due to their ridiculously great technical and musical artistry. They make it look easy because it IS easy…for them. One very kind, world-class guitar maestro once showed me a tune he had written that was truly beautiful but, seemingly to me, impossible.

After he was done, he said, “That’s how you play it.” I just smiled, shook my head, and said, “No, that’s how YOU play it.” To his credit, he looked a bit sad to realize that it was very likely true.

All we can do is work hard and try our best.


Hi Ernie,
I’d like to add two things! First, noticing mistakes takes practice, so if you do, you have improved - good for you! Playing a gig for others you should feel free to forget about your mistakes for the moment.

Secondly, I have glove size L and can’t stretch that far. So, I focus on playing pain-free and accurately, not stretchy. Your teacher might have a much larger stretch, and if you haven’t played as long, or your hands have a different limit, you might not get there. You don’t have to!

Also, I saw Laura Lee from Khruangbin shift around a lot (like d, C# with index and middlefinger to B with your index finger on the A-string). So, you can play funky and fast with microshifts.