Finger Stamina Exercises for Bassists

In our quest to develop left hand strength, flexibility, speed and stamina, we will discover and create many exercises and finger twisters. Sometimes, however, the simplest exercises are the best. Apply the two practice techniques below to your trills and reap the benefits.

Trills for time

  1. Play a fast trill between two fingers (i.e. 1-2) as quickly as you can.
  2. Try to keep it going for one minute. It may be more challenging than you think. Keep the speed of the trill high.
  3. Aim for a light touch and minimum effort. Don’t get tight in your hand or arm, if you do stop.
  4. Keep the trill clean.
  5. Trill every two-finger combination (1-2, 1-3, 1-4, etc.)
  6. When you can trill quickly for an entire minute without getting tight or having to decrease the speed you are really getting somewhere.

Use an accelerating metronome

  1. Use a drum machine, metronome or app that can speed up over time.
  2. Set your metronome to increase speed from 60 bpm to 160 bpm over ten minutes.
  3. Play a 16th note trill between two fingers. For example:
    Finger Stamina Exercise for Bassists
  4. Keep trilling for the duration of the timer (10 minutes in this case)
  5. Aim for a light touch, minimum effort and accurate 16th notes.
  6. Don’t get tight in your hand or arm, if you do stop.
  7. Keep the trill clean
  8. Trill every two-finger combination (1-2, 1-3, 1-4, etc.)
  9. As the exercise becomes easier, increase the top speed (bpm).

Use minimum effort and avoid excess tension. If you find yourself experiencing discomfort, ease up. If you find yourself experiencing pain, stop. Stay flexible, and stay loose, use minimum effort and enjoy faster, lighter, more flexible fingers.

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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Share your thoughts

  1. Good stuff but just play iron maiden bass tracks to develop speed & stamina.

  2. When you do trill exercises like these it’s a good idea to do triplet ones so that the accent comes on the alternating fingers. I put the MM=60 and do 2 to beat, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc. It gives greater rhythmic discipline to the fingers.

  3. I have found that playing any repetitive riff, in first position, that does not have any open strings, will get the job done. For example, Cheap Sunglasses by ZZ Top

  4. I do read music stuff in english but what is a trill? Haven’t come across that word before

  5. Or you could just play upright.

  6. I dont practise…….A man gives his son an electric bass for his 15th birthday, along with a coupon for four bass lessons. When the son returns from his first lesson, the father asks, “So, what did you learn?” “Well, I learned the first five notes on the E string.” Next week, after the second lesson, the father again asks about the progress, and the son replies, “This time I learned the first five notes on the A string.” One week later, the son comes home far later than expected, smelling of cigarettes and beer. So the father asks: “Hey, what happened in today’s lesson?” “Dad, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to my lesson; I had a gig!”

  7. I wanted to do triplets using 3 fingers but the uneven length of the third one sometimes pauses the trill .. Could you recommend me something??