Improving the finger roll

Amaj sounds better that way than a mini-barre but it was one of my first “how do guitarists even do this?” moments. That’s a lot of fingers going in to that tiny guitar fret.

Trying it as a mini-barre I can never get the E string to ring well :slight_smile:

I dabble in guitar. I just wrote a cool guitar lick, but I can barely play it because of my fat bass fingers and being used to nice giant bass frets!

1 Like

With all honor and respect to both Les Claypool and @kerushlow - careful that when you’re practicing your roll, you’re not barring.
Too Many Puppies is good for a barr(e?) - but Billy Jean is a better example of the finger roll.

The only reason I’m chiming in is because the tendency of folks to barre (trying to play the same fret on two (or more) adjacent strings with one finger) is counter productive to the finger roll. The finger roll keeps the fingers in position for fluid, articulate, independent movement. The barre sticks the hand to the bass, and limits movement.

They’re both absolutely useful, but please make sure that when you’re going for the roll, you’re working to stay loose and limber and flexible, and not allowing the fingers to barre.


Great point. And I find barring to be harder to do because you are pressing two or more big thick strings down instead of primarily one.


I admit to often doing this while finger-rolling. It’s a bad habit.

You are totally right, that was me confusing terminology. A finger roll is a single finger moving from the same fret above or below it, while what I was showing is a barre which you would use for strumming.

So Billy Jean is a good song to practice for a finger roll for sure, and another one would be Smells Like Teen Spirit, where you roll your index finger on the first fret, and then roll your pinky on the 4th.

Thanks for the catch Gio!

One of the non-obvious things about bass is that moving to different strings in the same fret is actually hard :slight_smile:

I just did a bassline where it was actually easier for me to do:

D         7  7  5          
A  2  0              7  5

than the recommended

G        2  2  0
D                 2  0        
A  2  0          

because at 180 BPM, muting that was nope


@howard shouldn’t those 7’s and 5’s be on the D and A strings?


yes, you caught me while editing :slight_smile:

I think with a pick I can see that. Finger style my thumb just mutes the A, or slap bass. The other way would be using the middle finger on the G and d string while the index mutes the A.

Why is any of this important? In this specific context it isn’t at all. If a fill was added at the end, then the context could change. The “finger roll” one has better “economy of motion” than the other one, BUT if the following fill was on the 9th fret of the G string, the 7 5 position would be better, but if there was a fill from the 3rd fret on the E then the finger roll would be better.

Isolated (no fills) the finger roll option provides better economy of motion, but neither is right or wrong.

1 Like

The bassline moves back down to the B again so the second one is easy to resolve there too. (the A-A-G-E-D is the fill :slight_smile: )

Well there you go!

1 Like

OOOhhhh I like that.

1 Like

Thanks! Sorry it isn’t amped up or better production, just grabbed my bass for the example and recorded on phone to show the exercise. Listen to the real song though, it’s really cool (I left out the strumming and later parts). If you practice that though you are learning to play a cool song, but also getting finger autonomy and string crossing while learning NOT to mute (when you don’t want to). I found the song to be helpful as a practice technique.

Crap, even realized I was playing it wrong, it’s actually open A and the fretting is on D (same frets). Been so long since I played it!

@howard pardon my ignorance but how did you format those tabs like that? is there some tab-specific markup out there?

Actually…that is a good question!

@bjams looks like @howard used the [ code ] and [ /code ] tags:

like this

BBcode tags, if I’m not mistaken. Remove the spaces inside the square brackets when using them.


Yep [ code ] tags :slight_smile:


Another great area to practice practice practice. There are some songs where the beat is fast and the move from one string to another can ruin the tone. As an example The Four Tops - Sugar Pie Honey Bunch uses a lot of moves from one string to another (5ths played below) and move from one chord to another with the same move so one finger is constantly moving between notes on the same fret. On that song I use two fingers to get the speed. I play the first note with my index finger and grab the next with my middle. And it sounds really clean.