Learn Left Hand Techniques on Bass Guitar
In this video lesson, I’ll teach you the best and most efficient techniques for your left hand on the bass. I’ll explain the one finger per fret technique and how you can extend the range even further by changing how you use your left hand index finger.
Use the most efficient left hand technique possible
For me practicing techniques is all about learning to play in the most efficient way possible. Whether I’m working on my left or right hand technique, I’m always trying to find the simplest way to play the notes that involves the least amount of movement in my hands. As far as I’m concerned all unnecessary movement slows me down.
One finger per fret
For my left hand I like to use the “one finger per fret” system. You can practise and master this technique by using the following exercise.
This is a very common exercise that bass players (and guitar players) have been using for decades. If you add the open strings to this exercise as shown in Example 2 then you can play the chromatic scale from the open E string to the B on the 4th fret of the G string without shifting position. Example 3 shows how to practice the “one finger per fret system” on a single string, and you can practice this way on each string individually. The benefit of this exercise is that it teaches us to shift positions up and down the neck whilst maintaining good technique in our left hand. You can alter this exercise by changing the order of the fingering. For example instead of playing 1st, 2nd, 3rd then 4th finger you could try 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 4th as in Example 4, or any other pattern you can come up with. Scales and arpeggios played using one finger per fret
Spend some time working on the above examples until you get used to the “one finger per fret” system. Once you get used to the system, use it to practice some scales and arpeggios. They’re great for mastering left hand techniques. The following examples are just a few scales and arpeggios you can use.
Take your left hand technique a step further
If you want to take your left hand technique a step further then there is another thing you can do. As you get further up the neck of the bass the frets get closer together. Which means that the stretches needed to play “one finger per fret” get smaller.
It occurred to me that I shouldn’t restrict myself to “one finger per fret” in areas of the fingerboard where my finger span could be much greater than 4 frets. So when I get above the 5th fret of the bass I use my 1st finger to cover 2 different frets while my 2nd, 3rd & 4th fingers still play “one finger per fret”. This allows me to cover 5 frets in a single position. Which gives me access to the entire chromatic scale without having to change position.
Example 9 demonstrates how I play a Eb major scale starting on the 6th fret of the A string. In this case my 1st finger can play the 6th or 7th frets. My 2nd finger plays the 8th fret, my 3rd finger the 9th fret and my 4th finger the 10th fret.
If you’d like to improve your right hand technique as well then check out this video lesson. Improve Your Right Hand Technique on Bass Guitar.
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