Newbie needs advice on fretting

I am brand new to bass. I am coming from a guitar/mandolin bluegrass world, and have questions about the fretting hand and how to use it. For mandolin and guitar I have always used the very tip of my finger to press down on the string. This helps keep me from inadvertently muting an adjacent string and I get a good clean note. But on the bass you sometimes WANT to mute that adjacent string. In watching the Bad Ass bass players I notice that they very often use the pads of their fingers to press down on the string, almost as if they are playing a barre chord. Is this just poor technique or is it intentionally done to mute adjacent strings, or am I missing something?


I use just past the tip of the finger, so side of the tip, not the middle of the “pad”. But that’s me.


I don’t use the tip of the fingers at all. I lay fingers across the higher strings and fret with the underside of the finger (to mute the high strings), and only lift if the next note is lower down the neck. So, yes it’s fundamentally different to fretting a guitar.


I use different parts of the finger. Longer notes whole or half even quarter notes I use the ball of the finger for a meaty tone. The faster and shorter the notes I move more towards the tip as well as adjusting my grip for better articulation and speed.


Guitar I find I need to fret almost perpendicular to the fretboard, straight in. Bass I can be much more loose with it.


Feel free to post a video of any fingering technique you’re curious about.
My fretting hand will do all sorts of different things depending on what I’m playing. The extremely precise, fingertip-only approach is - for me - used mainly in more precise, quick, solo/melody/esque phrases.

Most of my playing of standard bass lines will look much more flat.
I’m still using the tips of my fingers as precisely as in the melodic passages, but I’m keeping my hand flat to control the ringing of strings, stay relaxed, and stay in position.

I imagine that is what you’re seeing, if you’re watching an experienced player and wondering what’s up with their postion/technique. But I won’t be sure unless there’s a video.
Hope that helps.


After switching to playing mostly through headphones - which really make any excess/unwanted string noise noticeable - I found myself switching to flatter fingers for fretting allowing fingers on the rest of the hand to more easily mute (maybe because my hands are small that flatter positioning made it easier?) I did that without any thought though - I didn’t plan it at all - just evolved on it’s own.

I’ve also noticed that the more familiar a song is, the “looser” and more relaxed my fretting is. I’ve also noticed that trying to watch pro bass players - sometimes it can be really hard to see what they’re actually fretting because it looks like their whole hand is across the strings and you can’t easily see where they are fretting vs muting - here’s Nick Campbell playing with Pomplamoose - for fast stuff you can tell, but when he’s just grooving you can see how flat his fingers are (it also looks like his action must by measured in microns it’s so low):

(and for those bass ID detectives out there - Nick’s Musicmaster is a frankenbass monster and he won’t say what the pickups are.)
*Every time I watch this I pick up something new - check out how Nick is changing location for this right hand in order to alter tone on the fly in the 1:45-2:10 range.


Hi Jim,

there is also “finger rolling” which is a technique to switch between strings quickly. You put the pad of your finger over two strings and first press down on one, then the other. Most people do that for fourths, as they are stacked on top of each other, i.e. 3rd fret A-string to 3rd fred D-string.

(I’m leaving in my now favorite typo “3rd fred”) :smile:


Yes, I know the finger roll. It is used on the six string as well. It’s just that it’s so much easier to do on a six string. The strings aren’t yards apart. I’m still getting used to the new dimensions and that I’m dealing with.

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