Left hand finger placement advice

I am noticing two strange things that my fretting hand has been up to lately, and I’m trying to figure out if it’s a bad habit I need to jump on ASAP, or if it really doesn’t matter that much.

The first: I’m finding quite a bit of “finger jumping” lately, i.e., one play through I’ll use the pinky on note X, then the next play through I’ll be using the ring on that same X note. For example, I’ll play a line on the A string that covers the 4th, 5th, and 7th frets. One playthrough I’ll hit those notes with index, middle, and pinky. Next playthrough I’ll hit it with index, middle, and ring. (I suspect the issue may be coming from my constant changing between a 20-fret and a 24-fret bass, both 34 inch.)

The second: If the first note is third fret of A string, and the subsequent note is third fret of E string, sometimes I “jump up” and fret the note using the same finger, whilst other times I will use a completely different finger. For example, I play second fret of A with index, followed by third fret of A with middle, then the next note (third on E) might be played with the ring finger. I suspect this is just me being lazy and wanting to leave the A string ringing so there is no slight pause in the tunes as my finger makes the jump (sometimes I do the finger roll, though I’m no pro at that yet).

In your opinion: am I doing myself a disservice by allowing my hands to play the way they want unchecked? Or are these not a huge issue?

1 Like

IMO, this is normal, at least for me.
I find that when I’m learning something my hands are working out which way to play, like yours are. I do both things as well.

Sure, there are techniques, but they aren’t hard and fast rules for playing, they are ways of learning, and experimenting with ways of playing something is good form (on purpose or involuntarily). I think you’ll find as you learn tricky stuff you’ll do these “experiments” on purpose as much as they happen on their own.

What matters I find is - what comes next, and is/are your hand/fingers in a good spot to hit the next thing.

1 Like

Unlikely. The frets are the same size. The fingerboard is simply longer on the 24-fret. Scale length is from the bridge to the nut, the length of the fingerboard can vary. However, the fret placement relative to the bridge and nut never changes no matter how many frets you have.

1 Like

I would agree with @John_E - there are no strict rules; you should experiment and let your body find out what works best.

What is really important - and John alluded to that as well - is that you have to always see any fingering in the context of what comes before and after. E.g., using two different fingers when going from 3rd fret A to 3rd fret E might totally “block” you for the note you need to fret next; or, it might be the best choice. Is the next note to go back to 3rd fret A? Is it 5th fret E? Is it 1st fret E? All these might warrant different fingerings for the initial jump you described!

Regarding your other example, getting consistency (either ring or pinky) should be your goal (after you are done experimenting), but, as @howard said, the issue is likely not because of the number of frets. (Different number of frets AND different scale lengths can indeed be a bit disorienting when switching basses).

1 Like

This is actually a valid point. With my basses, I find there is a geometric difference in my arm angles when I fret necks of different frets/lengths (20- & 24-fret, as well as 34-inch & 30-inch).

As a result, I find that alternate fret fingerings are helpful/necessary to play the same line on different instruments.

Just fret however feels most comfortable to you. As long as the line is played cleanly and in time, regardless of fretting fingers used, you’re good to go.

1 Like

It’s pretty normal, especially when you’re learning something new, to experiment with different fingerings on the fretting hand. I usually try a few different ways until I find whatever allows me to play what I’m trying to with the least amount of effort possible.

Once you’ve found a comfortable fingering, my advice would be to stick to it and try not to change midway through. Playing the same pattern over and over again will allow you to become consistent without having to think about what finger to use. If you’re changing fingering halfway through a song you’ll probably get tripped up and have a hard time resetting at the top of the riff. Especially when you’re playing something at speed, you really don’t want to have to think about your hands!

1 Like

You know, I never actually noticed this before you mentioned this. I actually went and measured the fret sizes just to double ckeck!! Can’t believe it took me so long to pick up on it. Before I picked up bass, I’d actually neglect my 24 fret guitar in favor of the 21 and 22’s because they felt like they had more “room” - now I suspect it was just my fingers noticing that ever so slight difference in the fret sizes across my different guitars (jumbo vs. narrow, etc.)

1 Like

This is a really good point. I think if I know the fingers will overlap and get in each other’s way, I’ll be more conscious to try and use a finger roll or similar. When there is a micro shift coming up, I tend to let these things happen.

Thank you to all for your replies so far!! They are very appreciated!!

1 Like

I think most people have the same confusion there, don’t worry, it’s not just you :slight_smile:

@MikeC made a good point though. While the actual fret positions and sizes do not vary between basses of the same scale, their offset to the left or right does, as the bass hangs on your body. This is also not a difference due to the number of frets, but rather that the entire bridge-nut span can move to the left or right depending on bridge placement on the bass. I have owned basses that I was sure I would love, but actually didn’t at all, because they just felt weird.

Warwick Streamers were that way for me. I love everything about them on paper, but I just hated the way both of mine felt. To me they felt like everything was about 3cm to the left of where it should be.

Bumping an old topic as this is near and dear to me right now.

I love my Corvette $$! I like the woods, I like the design, I like the look, I like the feel, I like the sound, I like the hardware, etc.

But this shift to the left has me wondering if I want to keep it long term or find another #1. :frowning: It was enough of a difference that I definitely found myself reaching in the lower positions. I even posted about struggling with this, as it wound up causing me some wrist pain the way I was playing it.

I think a lot has to do with where the strap button on the horn aligns with the fretboard. Rather than lining up with the 12th fret, it lines up more at the 14th or so. (The Thumb is even worse.) People have gone so far as to fab up horn extensions… not sure I want to go there.

I’ve improved the situation by changing how I hold/wear the bass. That was a much needed improvement anyway, and now my J-style bass feels absolutely perfect when I play it that way, LOL. The Warwick is still a little off - I had to lengthen the strap a bit and play it lower in the back and more tilted up than I want to.

So… yeah. sigh

1 Like

It really bummed me out, I wanted to gel with the Warwicks really bad, but that just bugged me.


Funnily enough I’ve found this an issue with my acoustic, but not with my left, fretting hand rather my right, plucking hand.

The bridge on the acoustic is quite some way further to the left as compared to my electric. I don’t find this a problem with my left hand, possibly because they’re both 32" so even shifted left it’s all still reachable. However, my plucking hand on the acoustic keeps ending up really close to the bridge and to get any volume it has to be plucked over the sound hole, and that feels uncomfortably too far to the left.


Same here

1 Like

This is same thing on Spector basses right?

For the Euro LX I would assume so

1 Like

I see what you mean. It’s close enough for me that I could just wing it. I don’t usually look at the fretboard when I play anyways so it doesn’t make a big difference to me. If I need to go up to a specific fret I usually look at the side dot.

It’s a small price to pay for an epic horn, lol. I wish all my Warwicks comes with inlays but only the Katana has an epic one.

1 Like

It’s not so much where it is visually. It’s that it makes the neck stick out that much more to the left which makes it a slightly uncomfortable reach to play in first position vs feeling like it’s in a perfectly comfortable spot.

This isn’t an issue at all if sitting with the bass balanced on my right knee. Just when hanging from the strap. But I usually stand up, or sit so it hangs from the strap.

I keep going back and forth and as of now I’m on the play it and see if I can get used to it train.