Module 8 - Lesson 2 - Higher, but I can't hold on!

This lesson has been giving me fits! Not only is Jackie Wilson quick, but she has exposed some more of my bad fretting habits. In that 2nd measure/bar:

E (5,5,7), A(5), E(7)

I found that I was getting a lot of fret buzz on my way back to the 5th fret, especially when going back to the original bar when you just sit on 5th fret. My index finger is creeping up the neck. I had to slow down carefully watch what was going on, and lo and behold that damned thumb is creeping up again pulling my index finger into a less than perpendicular orientation to the fretboard. So when I finger roll, the index finger walks up the fretboard a bit and Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Argh!

So, I force it down, but I can’t seem to figure out what to do with the thumb. Point it at the head stock, or put it under the neck. Doesn’t seem to matter, because when the thumb is lowered, I can’t seem to put adequate pressure on the index and pinky fingers. They seem to have lost their leverage.

Any ideas?



Here’s what I did:
Practice playing with your fretting hand thumb not touching the neck. Use your plucking hand forearm to keep the bass in check.
At first you’ll think it sucks, and you’ll never get that down.
But you will, and it does wonders for strength and control in your four fretting fingers. It also makes shifting a lot easier.


How about not rolling your finger for now? You can lift and press down again, just playing 2 notes. Your finger will eventually build the strength you need to roll properly.

For instance, playing Billie Jean, I just roll my pinky from the F# on the 4th fret of the “D string to the C# on the 4th fret of the A string when playing this riff, andso on when I move down up to the D and G strings.

I never could have done this properly until my finger built strength; therefore I played it one of 2 ways.
1, Pinky plates the F# and ring finger played the C#.
2, pinky played the F#, lifted and re fretted to play the C#.

I know it is a pain, and I used to get mad that I could not just roll and play both with my pinky staying Down.

Now I can’t do this with all fingers on all frets, YET, BUT AS I play more and more, and get stronger, I find I can do more and more finger rolls successfully.

Hope this made sense, and is relevant to what you are trying to do in anyway, and can help you.


This is interesting; I’ll give it a shot.

I’m finding this to be the case with a lot of things that I am capable of doing with the bass. I’m a little impatient because I want to proceed, but being honest wtih myself, I know I am not ready. I could get past the syncopation, which is the mail goal of the lesson…but this fretting thing must_be_addressed. I’m drawing the line here. I simply need to improve my fretting technique. It’s getting better, but I don’t think Josh has this kind of buzz in mind when he called this site bassbuzz!


It does. Both you and @peterhuppertz are calling for some patience; and I have to remind myself of this.

I’m glad we have the forum because when you are alone with the lesson, it’s very hard because there’s no feedback. You’re thinking “…doing something wrong. But what is it? This shouldn’t be that hard, or am I making it harder than it is, or is there something obvious that someone could see…” etc.

I just try to slow things down and watch carefully. I probably need to do some video, post it, then someone can say, “Right there! There’s where you went wrong.”

Regardless, I am not giving up, and my fretting is getting better. I’ll say this, I am definitely getting my money’s worth out of the course! :laughing: :rofl: :sweat_smile:

One more thought about strength. Josh would comment from time to time about fingers getting tired, but my fingers never got tired. I thought maybe because I am left hand dominant, but I discovered when I started using proper fretting technique my fingers did get tired. Good sign I hope!



Nailed it! Got a fresh start today, and I got it. I tried thumbless, but the my hand kept wanting to grab the neck, so I just planted the my thumb just a bit below the equator ( 3/4 down) and forced it to stick there and slowly worked bar 2. Something interesting came out of it. I noticed that my first and second knuckle and a bit of wrist were making the adjustments while the thumb was planted while fretting. I remembered something about the thumb as a pivot or anchor…and there it was. I could finally finger roll since my index finger very steady. I nailed the slow workout and did a fair job on the medium workout. Fast workout blew me way as my index finger started to get unhinged. But, I started to groove and get the tune. I could work on this some more, but I am moving on now! I’m good with the lesson!

Thanks everyone for your advice and thoughts. It helps me to work things out.


Awesome, great work, and kudos for hangin in there, and being ever so patient?

Thanks! This is a game changer for sure. I just understand for the longest how more experienced players could just creep across the fretboard crossing strings the way they do, but it’s really not all that hard-- though it is subtle.

For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile the pinky, which is so short relative to the other fingers. But, I have discovered that the there’s a little tweak motion you can introduce with the wrist that can extend that pinky to the E string while taking up the slack in the longer fingers by curling them just a bit. This allows all the fingers to remain stationed until they are needed while the thumb is stationary until a shift is required. This also makes it possible to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the fingers in a meaningful way across the frets. When I look at Josh’s index finger often it is very curled during a stretch-- now I understand why.

When I moved on to the next module on arpeggios and chords, I was able to arpeggiate the root, 3, 5 smoothly without fingers flying all over the place. A big step! Hand is bit sore, but it was definitely worth it.


Hey there,

I was also curious about these options to rolling. For me pinky is the hardest to roll up the fret and even harder to roll down. For Billy Jean I read that Josh was suggesting to creep with the ring finger but I find that it is not super applicable to all situations.

When we did the improv lesson on the major scale around 15th fret I challenged my self to move around on the same fret up and down and boy it is the hardest. I guess “smart” players simply wouldn’t create music that way to put themselves into unnecessary self imposed challenges…or do they?


I was struggling in that improv lesson as well. I initually played it on the jazz bass – when I grabbed the Cort PJ later, it turned out to be a lot easier.
The reason: on the jazz, the body shape where the neck attaches to the body starts to obstruct any attempt at decent fingering at the 15th fret, whereas the Cort gives you three frets more unobstructed space, and when it does get in the way, it’s a lot less inconvenient because the Cort’s body is a lot thinner. On the jazz, from the 15th fret up, I have to get my thumb completely out from behind the neck to be able to reach the E-string with my pinky.

I would definitely avoid the jazz if I am playing something that requires me to get up that high.


Good point. I may have to consider Fender alternatives, but do like that Jazz neck. Anyone know of a bass with a similar neck with good access?


What is it that you like about the Jazz neck?

I find that I like the Jazz neck better than the P neck, but I like the thinner necks from Ibanez and my Cort even more.


Agree with Peter here. I strongly prefer the thin, fast necks on modern bass designs.


I guess I’m just so used to it. I’ve tried held a few Ibanez, but they felt so…small in my hands. Not just the neck, but the body as well. Well, ok I’m suck for the iconic Fender Bass look.


That’s great, I am opposite, and it’s whats good about the world. We can all like the same thing differently.

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