Fretting Hand Technique

Hey everyone!

I was wondering if anyone had any advice on fretting hand technique, I feel like this is a huge hurdle impeding progress. I’ve gotten some suggestions from SBL (Scott’s Bass Lessons) however these haven’t made much difference in posture from the fretting hand.

Being taught One finger per fret (roughly) to be able to maximize reach has taken a toll on my wrist, I often find my hand is over-stretched and the wrist is at a steep angle. Secondly, even though I try not to put much pressure on the back of the neck with the thumb, my whole fretting hand ends up feeling tense when positioning the thumb directly below/under the index/middle finger as taught.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

I’ll try to attach a few pictures from a vimeo video to shed some light on the form when trying to accomplish one finger per fret. I feel as though simandl would be much easier on the wrist?


Microshifting. It saved me so much pain and sorrow.

You are still one finger per fretting, but you are moving your hand slightly to accomplish it vs forcing your poor fingers before they are ready. I could not, say, cover a 2, 3, 4, 5 span when I started, but I just checked for funsies and I can basically do it. I say that, because I don’t do anything special. I just play the bass and it builds up over time.

So say:

fret 1, index finger.
fret 2, middle finger.
fret 3, move a little and ring finger
fret 4, move a little and pinky finger. Feel free to support the weaker finger with the ring finger if you have to while the pinky gets stronger.

Or do what a teenager friend did and duct tape tennis balls between your fingers and go to sleep. Prepare for agony the next day, but it improved his stretch literally over night :rofl:

(please don’t actually do this)

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Thanks for the advice! I’ll try to incorporate microshifting a bit more and in doing so could probably let the thumb out slightly to alleviate wrist pressure/angle (not as much as with simandl technique but maybe just under index?).

Try not to plant the thumb. My thumb has taken on a sort of sideways/angled position at times, maybe because I micro-shift so much? it slides and moves a lot easier with less pressure and contact. I did used to clench/hold tighter, and I would notice my hand getting tired and more prone to cramping or threatening to. Relaxing helped accuracy, speed, dexterity, and stamina.

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This is a myth and you do not need to do this. It can cause great pain. Works for some, not all.
Check this out, best one out there…

You can also look into Smandl technique (which I use a ton, comes from upright bassists) vs. 1FPF.
Also look to adjust bass height, neck angle in relation to ground, and neck angle in relation to you (should be out front a bit maybe even up to 45 degrees out.

Net/net, play what’s comfortable, while watching bad habits.
Bad habits - this is a minefiled of myths.

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It’s too short, but bet it’s from TikTok. Mina from the band Girlfriend has small, the bassist on the right can do one finger per fret, and you can see the difference. But wish it were longer

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Oh yeah, regarding thumb, mine is sometimes not behind any fingers :eyes:

This came from not “gripping” the neck so much as just guiding. My thumb is simply a guide

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Fretting should take very little effort. You should be able to fret notes with little effort without your thumb touching the back of the neck at all. It’s useful to practice this, especially if you have tension or sore hands from gripping too hard - for a few minutes at the start of the session, try playing a little with keeping your thumb off the neck and sort of resting along your hand, applying counterpressure with your plucking hand forearm on the body of the bass as you fret notes.

If you have trouble fretting notes like this, it’s possible your action is set up too high.

Also, the Adam Neely video John posted almost assuredly saved me from an RSI a couple years ago. Really recommend watching it. Your wrist should be as straight as possible.

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Thanks everyone!

I like the video with Adam and his explanation, and the comparison video between the two techniques (although short) is also great to see!

I’ll try to use my thumb less as well, and have it more out to the side like simandl technique!

Thanks everyone!

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Whether you use one finger per fret or simandl should have little impact on your wrist. Watch Scott when he plays… when he uses OFPF, he shifts his hand and never stretches much to reach any notes. They’re both useful techniques at different times. The One Finger Per Fret System & When You SHOULDN'T Use It! /// Scott's Bass Lessons - YouTube

I get a sore wrist just seeing that :grimacing: a bent wrist like that is going to lead to tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. The tendons from your forearm pass through your wrist to your fingers; if you bend you fingers while your wrist is bent, it’s like pulling a rope across a rock over and over…

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Yeah definitely not ideal, I’ll be changing the thumb position during practice tonight to something a little less strenuous (more like simandl). This postural issue with the hand was the reason I took a break in the past after trying to pick up the bass for the first attempt!

I’ll be trying the above mentioned suggestions to find myself a correction!

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Wonderful video by the way!

Maybe it would be beneficial to switch between the two styles when playing up by the headstock! My goal is to keep the wrist as neutral as possible so I’ll be sure to give it a go!

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Looks like your wrist is too far into flexion (palm closer to forearm) and is putting strain on your wrist. Try to angle the neck and your forearm to where it is all in a straight line and you only have to close your fingers to touch the strings. You’ll have to flex a little to reach the top strings but you won’t be in a state of tension at rest. Might even help your fretting speed and stretching distance

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Welcome to the B2B forum. Enjoy the ride.

One thing not mentioned is the height of your bass on your body.
Too low and you may have problems.
Also neck angle.

The video @John_E posted is about the best reference I have seen for this issue and also @JoshFossgreen covers this right at the beginning of the B2B course, which I hope you are taking :+1: :+1:

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My 2 cents (I mean tips).

  1. Cancel Scotts bass lessons (you can almost buy a pack of bass strings every month from the subscription savings).

  2. Don’t bend your wrist excessively for anything over a few seconds at a time. You could damage your wrist to the point where you can’t play bass without surgery.

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For some reason I could never play Pink Floyd’s “Money” without bracing my pinky with my middle finger.

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Have you watched the SBL lesson “BASS GUITAR FOUNDATIONS (BEGINNER STEP 2)”?

It covers:

  • How to set your strap height
  • warming up
  • plucking hand technique
  • fretting hand technique

and a whole lot more!

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Ugh. That wrist position looks painful from here. I Can’t say, But id almost think that would actually inhibit my ability to play-And at my skill level that would be awful.

As for s.b.l. (and become a bassist) i looked into this. It really seemed like something i had the desire for…until i got just a couple videos in and realized i was definitively not schooled enough as a player to keep up.

There’s a great deal of information there-if you can sort it and use it all, that’s awesome. Me? I was pretty much left at the starting line. End result is I’m glad i was hesitant on spending the money. Fact is, I’ve been playing for almost a year now and i still don’t think i could keep up.

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And Welcome @chrisstl ! Glad you are here!

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I don’t doubt SBL has something to offer some players, but it seems to be a personal preference. I found Scott’s approach to be an acquired taste I never quite acquired.

For me, it wasn’t a lack of level-of-playerness requirement issue as much as it was a lack of student-teacher connection. I found Scott an affable enough dude, but his uber-chatty preambles and asides before getting to the meat of a lesson left me cold.

No offense intended or implied to Scott or to anyone who digs his approach/style. It’s just my subjective opinion.

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