Pinkie and thumb will not co-operate :(

Hi all- I just started bass again after a 22 year hiatus…but I’m feeling discouraged. It’s like my left (fretting) hand has just decided to act weirdly and whenever I try anything vaguely challenging/fast (particularly when I’m engaging the pinkie) my thumb ends up in a weird position on the back of the neck (sometimes on the top or bottom of the neck) and my pinkie just makes everything worse; it’s like my pinkie is just way too short to even engage without my thumb coming down and around the bottom of the neck (to kind of wrap around to help the pinkie reach the E string lol). Hopefully that makes some sense… I’m not sure what is going on and I’ve tried several different positions etc. but it’s just like my thumb and pinkie have decided not to engage and it’s driving me mad! I am worried as I’ve just invested in a new bass and amp now and I think I’m freaking out!!! I’m watching as many beginner videos as possible to try and find what I’m doing wrong but to no avail…
Any help/suggestions would be gratefully received!


Hail @canSambass !

I am so sorry for the madness!
My heart, thumbs and pinkies go out to you.

My suggestions without a video to see specifically what’s going on are going to be limited… but also, pretty much what I’d most likely say after seeing a video.

If you’re coming back after such a long time, your body is going to have to relearn its fingerboard coordination.
Go waaaaaaay back.
To try and corral the pinky back into being a productive member of the bass playing team, you may have to take a month or so at real slow tempos and some simple fingering exercises or scales.

I imagine if you take things very slowly you will:

  1. Build up more endurance, coordination and cooperation with the fretting hand
  2. Be able to see more clearly what/when/why the thumb-pinky connection is going weird on you.

Very slow, very basic fingering exercises would be my prescription.
If you want to send some videos, you can do that too.

Give it more time, and hopefully it will come 'round.
Good luck!


Aw, thank you so much for your lovely reply. I really appreciate it. Yeah, I think my only hope is like you say to relearn everything… It’s super frustrating cos I’ve come back and I’m like “hang on, I’ve not had this problem before?!” and I’m just purplexed and confused with myself! I guess I just need to be more patient… (Not really a quality I possess!). I’m wondering if maybe I need to angle the neck up and away from myself more or I’m just getting cramped up in some other way… My thumb seems to want to hold on to the back of the neck which is also annoying when I’m telling myself “relax the thumb, come on, we have a strap and everything” :joy:

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You might want to check out Josh’s video on positioning the fretting hand:

Also you aren’t slinging the bass too low, maybe? If I sling it too low I start finding fetting problems particularly with the pinky (though I have issues with an arthritic pinky anyway!).


Fully understood, and fully guilty.
I wish you luck.

If things persist in being bad, take a little iPhone video or whatever of what’s going on.
If you upload it to YouTube or Vimeo, you can link to it here and we can check it out and offer better suggestions.

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Exactly what Gio said.

You mentioned:

whenever I try anything vaguely challenging/fast (particularly when I’m engaging the pinkie) my thumb ends up in a weird position on the back of the neck (sometimes on the top or bottom of the neck) and my pinkie just makes everything worse

The issue is that you’re trying to play faster and beyond your current ability. Instead, embrace the joys of slowly learning/practicing the most basic fundamentals. They are the key to playing any genre or speed.

I’ve literally just watched this! It’s a great video. You’re right, maybe I need to get things a little higher up. I keep looking at my pinkie to see if it’s abnormally short :joy::joy::joy: I’m the kind of person who fixates rather talk easily. Aw, poor you, arthritis sucks! Do you use your pinkie on the E string? I’m not sure if I’m gonna be able to cos it doesn’t want to reach at the moment and it’s tough to fret on such a thick string!

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You can do it. Playing with the little finger, even on the E string, is totally doable. You just have to bend your wrist over the neck to reach it.

Loosen up your fingers, hand and wrist before and during playing. And don’t set high expectations of being able to play fast or even cleanly right now.

Many of us have had previous experience with playing bass in past lives, but today is today, with its own reality and needs. Bottom line: relax, be patient and go slow. Paradoxically, the slower you go, the faster you will notice progress. Good luck.


Thanks so much for your encouragement and advice. Really appreciate it. Perhaps in just a bit too overenthusiastic after getting my shiny new bass yesterday :joy:


Yep, new bass day is a heady time! Soak it in, relax and enjoy!

Also, pop on over to the Introduce Yourself! (2023) thread to tell us about your bass journey. :wink:

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Unfortunately I’ve decided to work on a pinky free fretting style. It’s perfectly possible much of the time, just with rather more micro movements. I’m happy to use it occasionally but if I use consistently in practice for say an hour or two I simply can’t use it again the next day. It’s only going to get worse so I’m working on a style that uses it as little as possible. About the only style I’ve played where I pretty much have to use it is on walking bass lines.

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That’s cool. If it works for you, who cares right :+1: I’ll see how I go but maybe I’ll be going down the same road too :slightly_smiling_face: That’s the beauty of music, we can do everything differently and to suit us, it’s so personal isn’t it. I’m just struggling to find what works :joy:

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There is no problem with this. I use Simandl but with my ring finger simultaneously with pinky myself.


Ooooooooh interesting! I’ll definitely check this out, thank you!

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. I need to slow down and drop expectations. I’m practicing 30 min - 1 hour a day and need to engage the pinkie even though it doesn’t feel right and weak as a kitten :rofl:


I think since you have taken such an extensive break, it’s just a matter of retraining your muscles and brain! Skills that we develop will degrade over time. I wouldn’t abandon your pinky if you can find a way to use it. I use my pinky almost as much as my index finger, it is my most useful finger IMO. - allows me to move large distances at ease, but I remember initially how painful it was to use my pinky. Practice slower and I’m sure it’ll come back to you!

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Thanks so much Ant! I’m sure you’re right. I’ll have to keep at it :joy: