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Left Hand Archives - Page 3

Three Exercises for Releasing and Relaxing the Left Hand Thumb
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Three Exercises for Releasing and Relaxing the Left Hand Thumb

Keeping the thumb of our left hand flexible is a key component in achieving an agile fingering hand. Ideally, any pressure exerted by the thumb against the neck should be minimal. Below are a few exercises that should help you keep your thumb relaxed and your left hand injury free. 1. Thumb independence Pick a note, pick a finger (perhaps...

Beginning Exercise for Improving Left Hand Finger Independence
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Beginning Exercise for Improving Left Hand Finger Independence

The four movements of the left hand fingers necessary for string playing (to paraphrase the great violin pedagogue Demetrius Constantine Dounis) are: Lifting: Raising a finger from the fingerboard/string Dropping: Lowering a finger/Pressing a string to the fingerboard Sliding: Moving a finger along the string so the pitch rises or lowers accordingly Holding: leaving a finger down on the string...

Finger Independence for Bassists: A Preparatory Double Trill Exercise
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Finger Independence for Bassists: A Preparatory Double Trill Exercise

Complete independence of the left hand fingers is a laudable goal for every serious bassist, guitarist and string player. Below is a short beginning exercise designed to prepare us for playing double trills, (trills on two notes simultaneously). Strictly speaking, there are no double trills in the exercise below. However, it is a necessary step we must take if we...

The “Bloody Thumb” Exercise for Thumb Position Playing
The Lowdown with Dr. D

The “Bloody Thumb” Exercise for Thumb Position Playing

Thumb position is an essential technique for upright bass. Players like Steve Bailey and Brian Bromberg have even adapted it for use on the electric bass. However, when people first start using their left hand thumb to stop a note (i.e. play in thumb position) they often experience discomfort. This is sometimes due to their inexperience with the new hand...

Finger Stamina Exercises for Bassists
The Lowdown with Dr. D

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 Play a fast trill between two fingers (i.e. 1-2) as quickly as you can....

Left Hand Thumb Independence for Bassists
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Left Hand Thumb Independence for Bassists

Last time, we talked about left hand “pivoting” and its potential to make difficult passages more accessible. In order to execute a pivot with ease, however, we must have a supple thumb. In fact, for masterful left hand technique of any sort we must have a thumb that is light, flexible, and easily moveable. It should be independent of the...

Left Hand Technique: Pivoting
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Left Hand Technique: Pivoting

Although I advocate a traditional left hand foundation (i.e. 1-2-4 fingering system), any bassist who plays long enough will come across passages that don’t lie well using this fingering system. “Pivoting” can be an attractive solution for such passages. Often, especially when playing two consecutive notes on the same string more than a step apart (for example: A-C on the...

Left Hand Flexibility for Bassists
The Lowdown with Dr. D

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...

More Forked Fingering Techniques: Using the Thumb
The Lowdown with Dr. D

More Forked Fingering Techniques: Using the Thumb

Last time we talked about playing fourths across strings using two adjacent fingers, a concept sometimes called “forked fingering.” For example: We can, of course, use the same exact concept in the upper registers of the bass, or thumb position. For example: As mentioned before, this can be easier to execute effectively in the upper registers than in the lower...

Forked Fingering: A Guide to Comfortable Double Stops for Bassists
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Forked Fingering: A Guide to Comfortable Double Stops for Bassists

Playing fourths across strings on the upright bass can be fraught with problems, especially when we are playing double stops. Sometimes it is appropriate to “bar” the notes using the same finger like this: However, this can create a clamping of the hand and needless tension, which in turn limits our facility and ability to adjust quickly. Intonation can also...

Playing in One Position: A Workout Guide for Bass Players
Ask Damian Erskine

Playing in One Position: A Workout Guide for Bass Players

Q: Do you have any exercises that might help with playing in one position on the fretboard? I have a hard time getting away from reorienting myself from root to root. A: I would suggest starting with exercises you’re already familiar with, and adapt them to a single position. I frequently have my students do this, and have them force...

Left Hand Dexterity Drills on Three and Four Strings
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Left Hand Dexterity Drills on Three and Four Strings

After mastering the exercises on one and two strings, you will be ready to challenge yourself with some three-string exercise, like the ones below. Some Notes: These exercises can be done pizzicato or arco. If done pizzicato, I suggest beginning each pattern using the second finger of your right hand, followed by the first (i.e. 2-1) and alternating without exception....