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Left Hand Flexibility for Bassists

Left Hand Flexibility for Bassists

When playing the bass, flexibility is far more important than strength. In fact, if body mechanics and gravity are used intelligently it takes surprisingly little strength to play our instrument. Flexibility, however, is paramount to many of the things we must do well. In the left hand (or fingering hand for the lefties!) it is especially important. Lack of flexibility can have an adverse effect on intonation, can limit fingering choices and can even cause pain and damage to our bodies over time.

There are a great number of stretches and exercises we can do away from our instrument to help maintain or improve flexibility. These are valuable, but playing a few exercises at the instrument itself is also essential if we are to take our flexibility and apply it directly to our playing. The following exercises can be helpful in this regard.

Some notes on the exercises:

  1. Always use minimum effort, use weight over muscle whenever possible. Concentrate on ease of motion. Keep the fingers light on the string.
  2. Release into the extensions and stretches: never force it.
  3. Keep the thumb loose, flexible and only lightly touching the neck when not in thumb position.
  4. Widen at the base joints of your hand (the ones closest to your palms).
  5. If you can’t make the complete extension as notated, don’t worry. Stop when you reach your limit and contract.
  6. Don’t push too far too quickly. Take your time and look for gains over weeks and months. A few minutes a day is sufficient.
  7. If it hurts, stop.
  8. Slide between every pitch. Hear every microtone as you extend and contract your fingers.

Lower note stable – Ex. 1:

Lower note stable - Ex. 1

Lower note stable – Ex. 2:

Lower note stable - Ex. 2

*Apply this concept to every possible finger combination an all sets of adjacent strings in both neck position and thumb position..

Upper note stable – Ex. 1:

Upper note stable - Ex. 1

Upper note stable – Ex. 2:

Upper note stable - Ex. 2

*Apply this concept to every possible finger combination an all sets of adjacent strings in both neck position and thumb position.

Let me know how it goes!

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at www.donovanstokes.com and check out the Bass Coalition at www.basscoalition.com.

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