Small hands need help!

So I have a four string bass and my hands seem to always touch the bottom of the bass when I begin to play. I start playing in this positions and then bam! My palm is no bueno. How can I pay attention to this without loosing concentration on the notes I’m playing.



Any chance you can start to notice when/where the “Bam!” happens? Going for certain notes? Certain strings? Certain fingers? Certain changes between string and fingers?
Maybe a few more details would lead to more detailed pointers… but in the meantime - I’ll add this longer post for those who care to read a neat way to conceptualize developing any new technique - in anything*

As any technique develops, it moves through the 4 stages of learning:

1.) Unconscious incompetence
2.) Conscious incompetence (now you can actually start to address the problem!)
3.) Conscious competence (the long period of working & practicing)
4.) Unconscious competence (the part where your attention and focus can finally move on without backsliding / losing the progress you’ve made)

So as any technique is in this spectrum, just remember that it will take a long time before you’re able to do it without thinking about it. BUT! You will get there… and once you do, you’ll be able to focus much more closely on whatever new thing needs work.

The idea that your body is doing strange things without your permission is firmly in stage 2. “AWARENESS CURES!” as my college bass professor would allllllways say.

So as your familiarity with the instrument develops, as your right hand becomes more comfortable, as the material becomes more comfortable, there will be more and more focus for you to apply to the technique problem in the Left Hand.
Then - you’re at stage 3 - willing and watching yourself to make sure you’re correcting the technique and working it out correctly each time.
Then… over time - it moves into step 4, and you’re shredding with your LH.

Holy Cow.
And all of this after I deleted 2 other sections…
If anyone wants really long answers to things - hit me up!!!

*music lesson – life lesson. Bonus.


I like your 4 stages of learning. I went through that with the drums. I catch what I’m doing wrong at the same time my instructor does. I’m getting to the concious competence now. Yay!


Thanks - I can’t take any credit for them. A student found them and posted them on the lesson room wall. I love 'em!
Looks like (according to google) it was a fella named Martin Broadwell, back in 1969 who came up with it for a teaching model he designed. Nice work, Martin!


Wow you really helped me more than you’ll ever know because I’m easy to quit on things because of the fear of not being good enough. I’m hopeful and im not going to be too hard on myself. I love this forum and everything about Josh and his vision for us beginners to learn together. Thanks again for all your help. :slight_smile:


Don’t be hard on yourself. Nobody was born knowing how to play the bass. I always look at things I’m learning as: Well, it can’t kill me and it can’t eat me, so I’ll just keep working at it. Have fun!


Hey Cecilia! That’s a great attitude. And I second what @asantora said,

So all we can do is keep progressing. And your hand actually doesn’t look bad in the photo. So I’m curious about the same things @Gio asked, any specific moments where the palm thing happens?

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So I practiced tonight and I found that my psalm wants to touch the bottom of the neck when I’m going down the neck to another lower fret. When I realize it I lose my note. I just wanted to tell you what it actually was. No worries though cause I wasn’t born with a bass in my hand, right?! BAM! Moving & progressing.


One thing I’m curious about from you sharing that is if your strap is holding enough weight? Are you playing sitting or standing? Are you wearing a strap?

I sometimes find that students who practice sitting down (which is fine, I do it often) don’t have their straps tight enough, so they aren’t holding the bass stable the way they should, and then our hands tend to compensate by gripping the bass in various ways. So not sure if this is what’s happen for you, just an idea.


Good call, Captain Josh! Very, very important!


thanks for asking your question. the whole conversation that ensued was helpful to me and probably to others. no more quitting for you :grin:


Hey Hey everyone, I’m back and I have breaking news on my BAM hands!! So I checked myself and when I’m sitting down, which is mostly my practice position, my strap is just kinda dangling enough so I don’t drop My Beauty. So you are saying I should tighten it where it doesn’t move so much.

you can’t really see it in here. But where on my chest should my bass always be located. Thanks for all of you guys help


Yeah, like it should hold your bass stable enough that even if you take your hands/arms off the instrument, you can move your torso around and still not have the bass move much. That stability allows your hands to do as little work as possible, which is crucial for good technique.

There’s not an exact spot that works for everyone, as far as I’m concerned, should just feel comfortable and stable. You’re definitely in the right ballpark.


Watching Josh play he can reach from fret 1 to 6 or more it seems like and not even look like he’s stretching… Alien I’m sure! :stuck_out_tongue:
I don’t have small hands but I do have short fingers and having broken all of them over the years some are even shorter than they used to be I can’t reach very far without my palm touching a string and then when I move it makes that string ring.
My motivation has been to watch others with small hands play and see what they do and try to emulate it. Josh goes over moving the hand instead of stretching but to see someone like Yonit do it is pretty awesome.


Ha! Yeah - never watch Josh’s fingers and try and do the same thing. He is an anatomical anomaly designed to shred bass above and beyond the ken of most mortals.
Moving the hand is clutch - keeping the hand loose is very important! Loose but strong!
Yes - move hands, don’t stretch fingers. If you’re used to placing your Left Thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, it is an excellent pivot. You can rock around from that to get all kinds of groovy reaches.
Best of luck!


Some inspiration from superstars with normal to relatively small hands :slight_smile:

Combine with “good music Friday” :



F-Chopper Koga:

Peter Hook:




If you heard anything you liked there, here’s some background for those artists since many people don’t follow JRock or post-punk. Despite living here a decade I am still getting in to JRock myself.

Unlike JPop, JRock trends bass-heavy and hard so it’s a fertile ground for kickass bass players.

Kiyoshi is the bass player for Marty Friedman’s (of Megadeth fame) band. She is also full time in at least two other bands and has a solo career with three albums (so far) of just her and a drummer. She’s my favorite recent discovery and definitely worth looking in to - I would say she is the best of the bunch for originality and (except maybe Boh) technical skill. That video is just of her practicing form, like we all do, but much faster.

Boh, in addition to his own stuff, is the bass player for BABYMETAL. If you have written off BABYMETAL as a gimmick idol band, don’t - the producer that formed them had the brilliant vision to back them with a really tight metal band and they are a huge act now.

F Chopper Koga is the bass player for the band Gacharic Spin. They and their side project Doll$boxx are kind of quirky slap-bass-heavy hard pop/rock - and they are all solid musicians.

Peter Hook is the bass player from the original post-punk band Joy Division and subsequently the '80s genre-defining band New Order, my favorite bands and my favorite bassist. He’s cited as an influence by many indie and alternative rock bassists primarily because he pioneered a unique style.

Misa is the bass player for the theme-metal band Band Maid. There’s a story behind this one but the basic gist is a maid cafe waitress got fed up and convinced a bunch of extremely talented music school grads to form a very aggressive rock/metal band - while still dressing as maids as a theme for contrast and irony (and presumably ticket sales).

Reita is the bass player for The Gazette. They run the gamut from (very) hard rock through metal to punk. While Reita’s hands pretty much look normal size to me, he can do superhuman stretches with them.

And none of them have large hands :slight_smile:


This thread is an inspiration for me. I don’t think I have “small” hands (I wear size medium glove), but I was getting frustrated watching Josh spanning 5 or 6 frets effortlessly, and thinking this is the way I’m supposed to do it. I tried, and it’s physically impossible for me to span more than 3 frets, and even that’s a stretch. I was ready to give up bass playing.
Now that I’ve seen videos of great bassists sliding their left hand around the fret board like I’ve been doing, I’m stoked.
I’ve been focused on spending a couple hours a day doing intense fretting drills and working on accurately and quietly sliding on the fret board.
Wax on…wax off. Wax on…wax off



Here’s a couple more :slight_smile:


@Pampurrs, I really don’t have small hands, but finger span can be a thing for even shovel-handed people. My fingers don’t look like a bunch of bananas (they’re closer to a fistful of sausages) but they’re not long & flexible so I find anything more than 4 fret spread hard at the low end of the neck (headstock end) and it slows down my scales and long arpeggios, so I was interested to see how some good players manage, and you’ve hit the nail on the head in spotting the amount of left hand movement.

I still struggle to keep the left thumb lightly touching the neck so the idea of drifting the hand up and down the neck baffled me and I kept ending up trying to span, which led to rolling my wrist around to get any pressure on the frets with my little finger.

I guess we all have to find a way around our limitations, and ways to extend those limits, so that we can play our beloved instruments. When you sit down and watch dozens of players you’ll soon see techniques that teachers will tell you to avoid at all costs, or that look impossible to us, but these players have found what works for them. A classic example is Tommy Ioni who lost the tip of a finger at work (well before Black Sabbath) yet he’s now considered one of the best rock guitarists out there.