Single Position Left Hand Dexterity Drills for Bassists

Single Position Left Hand Dexterity Drills for Bassists

Although scales, arpeggios and repertory are necessary for any musician’s development, etudes and exercises such as the ones below should also be part of any instrumentalist’s diet. Such exercises allow us to focus on a single aspect of technique. Single task left hand drills are essential if we desire to have true dexterity in the left hand fingers.

There are innumerable books out there that elaborate on the exercises presented below. Rest assured there is nothing new under the sun. Such books are worth perusing.

You can also make your own challenges and expand on these drills.

Some keys to success:

  1. Start very slowly, and gradually speed up the tempo
  2. Use a metronome to ensure a steady tempo and to help you mark your progress
  3. Use minimum pressure and minimum muscular effort
  4. Never “play through the pain.” If you get tense, stop.
  5. Gauge your progress in months, not days.

These exercises can be done pizzicato or arco.

Neck Position Drill

Left Hand Dexterity Drills for Bassists: Neck Position Drill

Thumb Position Drill

Left Hand Dexterity Drills for Bassists: Thumb Position Drill

Photo by Dustin Fenstermacher

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

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  1. Opinions about benefits of this for electric bass?

  2. Sharon, he does mention that it should be a part of any instrumentalists diet.

    Is there or should there be a set amount of repetitions for these exercises?

  3. hi….I just purchased an electric upright, and making the switch from bass guitar to upright, what is the neck & thumb positions you just mentioned in your article? I ‘ve always herd of that but never found out….thanks..