Ouchie, Newbie Needs Finger Fretting Tips

Hi Bass Friends,

I’m just over 30 days into the course, practicing about 4-5 days each week. My question is about WHERE on the finger to press down on the strings? I’m noticing that the tips of fingers 1 and 2 are literally tender and numb some days, too ouchie to practice. Is that normal? (I searched the forum and didn’t find the exact answers I was seeking)

I found this picture to help articulate my issue.

I have been pressing on fingers 1 and 2 using A and B, but that results in the numbness. Should I be doing more of C? My finger 3 is chill doing C and finger 4 is mostly C but more on its side due to reach position from having smaller hands. I am also noticing that my position changes drastically depending on which string and fret I’m on. Is some of this stuff like “whatever works, babe”?

How do you do it? :slight_smile: :guitar: :star_struck:


Three immediate things come to mind:

  1. this is normal! You will develop callouses and long periods of practicising will cause some soreness or numbness etc. - it will get better :grinning:
  2. for me: I try to fret in position B as this seems to give me most control/consistency and minimized effort/force
  3. about force or pressure: Josh has a video somewhere (and I am sure Eric @eric.kiser can help retrieve this) where he talks about finding the least amount of pressure necessary to correctly fret the note and without getting any buzzing. You may be fretting too hard at the moment!?



You need those callouses!
They are your friends, let them come.
If you over do it though, and they start to hurt, back off practice until gone.
Pain/numbness always mean problem, either too much or an ergo issue.

I tend to fret in the B/C range FYI


Thank you @joergkutter

  1. whew, seriously.
  2. ok, good to know. I’m probably pressing too hard…
  3. that’s probably partly why–pressing harder makes cleaner sound but I have not experimented with backing off from there, so yes please to @eric.kiser if you could find that video I would be most appreciative

Thanks @John_E . I will strive to become one with the callouses (which are making typing feel strange, lol) I appreciate your advice and knowing the B/C range method. Cheers!


Yep, totally normal. Callouses take some time to develop and even afterwards, a heavy play-schedule can still bring on blisters.

@joergkutter is spot-on, here. When I was a baby guitar player, I was absolutely strangling the neck. And despite having some guitar chops when I came to the bass, the same thing happened thanks to going from tiny little guitar strings to the bass’ telephone wires. :slight_smile: Lightening up your touch is something that’ll come with time, but right now, you might experiment with loosening your grip until the strings become muted. Right between there and where you can make them sing is the sweet spot.

Sounds like you’re otherwise doing great – a lot of people have come here with the problem of plucking fingers being too sore to play, and that shouldn’t be the case. Freeting hand blisters are absolutely common – Soon enough, you’ll get to popping and then your other hand can be sore. :laughing:


That helped so much and also made me laugh (strangling the neck, telephone wires). Totally going to give “lightening up my touch” a try today! Thank you @chordsykat


This is also usually when I throw in the gauntlet… as it were :grin:

This usually gets you some ridicule, but it is just because these people don’t have the guts to play with a glove :wink:

I use it mainly because of arthritis related issues, but it can also alleviate “abuse” of your fretting fingers, while not completely avoiding the build up of callouses.

Also, just to make this clear: aides such as these shouldn’t really replace good technique, but we are all different and struggle with different issues, and whatever helps you enjoy playing bass and getting better at it is fair game in my book!


First thing I would recommend is making sure you have a good setup - several threads on that already. This is critical.

If you have a good setup and a reasonable action height, you will be surprised how little pressure it actually takes to properly fret a note. As Joerg mentioned, Josh mentioned this in one of his technique videos.

One useful exercise to try is at the start of a practice session, try fretting notes to see how light you can fret them. Fret a note normally, start plucking notes, and slowly release the pressure until it just starts to buzz. Now push a little harder until the note is ringing clearly again.

If your bass is properly set up, you will notice you don’t have to push very hard at all to get a proper note tone.

Ahh, the Death grip, we were just discussing this in another topic. Useful exercise here too - repeat this light fretting exercise, but without your thumb on the back of the neck. Apply a little counterpressure on the bass body with your right arm and fret with your left index finger, lightly, without using your thumb, until the note rings clearly. You’ll find you can still easily fret notes, despite not using any real squeezing action with your fretting hand. It doesn’t take very much pressure at all, assuming a good setup.


I also use this stuff, Fast Fret
Not really to go ripping up and down the fretboard, but to keep strings clean and it provides some moisture to your fingers.
It’s essentially mineral oil.

Yes the calouses will feel odd @Sue in everything else you do, but only for a while, then they will be normal. Think of it as stages of progress to badassery levels not before known!


I also use Fast Fret, and got so used to it that I slide it on the strings everytime before playing…

Makes me play smoother…


Good question here!!

Just give some time to heal, but not too much because you want to form the calluses on the fingers and with a little time you’ll stop having pain in your fingertips…

Using less pressure is also a good idea, and this will come with time…

I can never get used to playing in A position, and my automatic is going through B and C


I believe you are taking about this video. Whole video is a must watch for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but the advice about pressure comes in around the 17 minute mark during the level 5 discussion.


Yessir! Thank you, @BassFaceDisgrace - and I agree, it’s a must-watch video, as well as a can’t-harm-to-rewatch video!!


Hi @Sue ,
I agree with comments from Joerg and John,
it takes time to build the callouses and i generally play between the B & C positions,
Cheers Brian


That game changed my world. I was fretting way too hard.

I think I used A more when I first started because I was stronger in that position before regularly practicing. B is more common for me now. C may show up out of necessity for muting. I just pushed my fingers down against my thumb in A, B and C to check out how the muscle use changes. Quite a bit really.

This may also be useful …

Thanks for putting that graphic up! It’s a difficult conversation to have with words.


@Sue There is so much good advice in this thread. Great job everybody.

I try to stick with C and most examples of ‘proper’ technique shows C.
Sometimes, when using B, I hit a nerve that is really painful.
I use A when trying to play chords but I think that has more to do with having not worked on that technique enough. It always ends in pain.

@howard talked about doing or getting a setup done. Yes! It makes all the difference. I highly recommend learning to do it for yourself also. Twice, I’ve paid for a setup and neither time was I happy with the work done. If you need more resources for this, just ask. We have plenty to share.

Here is the BassBuzz link for the 5 Levels video…
5 Levels of Bass Finger Exercise (Beginner to Advanced)
Josh always includes more information when he posts the video link here in the forum than the one he posts on YouTube.

That Adam Neeley video @DaveT posted is excellent. It really helped me with playing on the higher frets.

I also recommend reading this thread where both Josh and Gio post pictures of their hands and what to do with them.
Eek, Flying Fingers! (and what you can do about them right now)

Also, this topic has some great information…
Death Grip


Thanks @TNKA36 for your 2 cents and for sharing the B/C position. :sunflower:

1 Like

That was a sweetly compassionately reply. I watch Scott too and learned he wears the gloves to deal with a nervous system disorder that causes hand tremors. What I didn’t know is that it can also help with ‘fret abuse’. What is your take on these thingies that I just learned exist?



@howard The symbolism of your social icon. :heartbeat: matches your kindness.

Totally going to try this today and I think maybe my setup needs adjusting.

Oh, that sounds even more challenging. Thank you for that clear description. Will give that a try too!

XXXOOO Everybody. I wish IRL were as kind and generous as you all.