Comments on: One Finger One Fret The Blog for Bass Players - Covering all the basses! Thu, 13 Feb 2014 13:03:27 +0000 hourly 1 By: Will Wed, 09 Jan 2013 16:43:31 +0000 I don’t have a problem with it. I just thought it was a good example. I think I play that part with finger 3 covering both the D and the G and the pinky free.
Eye of the Tiger may be another similar one where you can play it with with your fingers ready for frets 1 through 4, but the tab uses the 6th fret on the E string.

By: Wulf Wed, 09 Jan 2013 16:33:32 +0000 If you needed sustain then you could also use the open D and G strings to complete the riff.

That said, you’ve inspired me to listen back to the song in question and the (1971 Deep Purple) recording is much more about punch than sustain. On a standard four string bass, my first six notes of the riff (G D G’) would probably be played with first finger on the third fret of the E string, third finger on the fifth fret of the A string and fourth finger on the fifth fret of the D string. The second half of each line is varied each time round but sounds to me like something that is going to require moving around however many fingers you assign per fret.

If your problem is losing your place on the neck, try practicing in a darkened room. You should be able to keep track of where you are without having to clamp your hand in one position and without having to keep glancing down.

BTW, I’m fairly sure that the A# is in fact a Bb (key of Gm).

By: Will Wed, 09 Jan 2013 16:13:52 +0000 If you did need sustain, the A# on the A string wouldn’t let you do that because you’d have to let go to play the other notes. The A# on the E string can be held while playing the other notes if you wanted.

By: Wulf Wed, 09 Jan 2013 14:31:31 +0000 Surely that kind of rock music is an example of a genre where a bit of shifting is a positive relief? In as much as the tuning is “designed”, it is based on what had become established for double bass where increased scale length and string tension make a three semitone stretch and more shifting a necessity.

Tab is not always a reliable guide but, in this case, I think it is a pretty good path through the notes and one that (based on a fairly substantial amount of playing experience) I think I could sustain comfortably for much longer than the variant you suggest.

By: Will Wed, 09 Jan 2013 13:12:06 +0000 I fully agree with the 1 finger per fret.

For example take the bass tab written on a site of Smoke on the Water, though I do believe this might be how it is played:


This requires you to move your hand. Change the A# to the E string and you don’t have to move your hand. Though there is an E# you have to hit at another time…

That’s just an easy example off of the top of my head. I don’t really find this to be a debate. It is easy to play this way and the tuning is designed this way on purpose. You can also more easily play without looking at your hand.

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By: Bry In Sanford Wed, 15 Jul 2009 11:14:13 +0000 Dave – that’s great that you’re finding ways to cope.
The fingers on my left hand were almost cut off in 1982 in a circular saw accident. I have very stiff joints, and numbness in the tips, so don’t have quite the range of motion needed, and get very little sensory feedback. However, I have adapted and do fairly well considering. The stretches are as challenging for me as anyone else, and then add a little for handicaps with the damaged nerves, and missing flesh. It always encourages me to read about Django or to hear from other players who have physical challenges.

Beaver Felton who owns Bass Central is a classic example:

He’s one “Bass playin beast” in a wheelchair!


By: GC Fri, 19 Jun 2009 13:18:49 +0000 To be able to play relaxed is key. I use my pinky a lot – I essentially kept my Simandl form, but threw out his positions – they just don’t apply to an electric bass like they do on the upright.

My major issue isn’t the one finger/one fret debate, which to me is a matter of taste (even though it looks messy). #1 for me is wrist-bend. I played a 6-string almost exclusively for about 4 years before I blew my wrists out. Keep that wrist straight or you’ll drastically shorten your playing career. It took me 10 years and switching back to a 4-string to get back to where I could play for longer than 10 minutes at a stretch.

Holding the strings down with a 90 degree bend on your wrist places strain where mother nature didn’t intend. Straighten that wrist!

By: Gigantor Alian Fri, 12 Jun 2009 04:43:57 +0000 Also, I will attack earth soon…FYI

By: Gigantor Alian Fri, 12 Jun 2009 04:42:36 +0000 I am a 30 foot tall alien with hands as wide as most men’s chests. My fingers are thin though. I have no need for your puny human tricks as I can play the instrument with great ease.

By: Benjamin Mon, 08 Jun 2009 21:56:52 +0000 Happy playing Dave! Might be worth taking a leaf out of the double bass player’s book and using the thumb as a pivot… I’ll try and write a post to explain what I mean… Please nudge me if I don’t write it in the next week or two!

By: dave_bloke Mon, 08 Jun 2009 18:34:53 +0000 Mike,

Thanks but I have already bought a guitar and it is not short scale. I guess I will have to keep on practising!

By: Mike Farley Sat, 30 May 2009 21:50:25 +0000 How could I forget the very wonderful Hagstrom Vintage HB-4? Incredible sound – far less plinky plonky than most short scale instruments. Not cheap, but not that pricey either, and built like a Stradivarius!

By: Mike Farley Mon, 25 May 2009 19:17:35 +0000 That’s a real nuisance, Dave. Obviously you’re going to have to use 1,2,3 rather than the more common 1,2,4 fingerings. But you’ll have a stretch issue. Partly that may come with practice and thought, like my odd fingerings for guitar chords ;-) But have you thought of a short scale (30″ as opposed to 34″) bass? There’s not a vast choice, but off the top of my head there’s the Fender Mustang and Fender Squier Bronco, the Dean Evo XM, the Epiphone EB-0, the Gibson SG Reissue, The new Flea Bass Junior, Hofner Violin Bass, and a few others. Go to your local guitar shop and try any short scale they have in stock, and if you feels easier, then shop around for the one that sounds best. The Hofner, the Gibson and the Fenders sound totally different, for instance. (There’s always the plink vs growl thing with short scale basses – one reason I don’t like them – but playing fluently on a short scale bass as opposed to stiffly on a long scale has to be better!)

By: dave_bloke Mon, 25 May 2009 16:15:06 +0000 Mike,

Thanks for the reply.

It is the little finger, missing two joints, so quite a small stub, which doesnt reach the frets.

By: Mike Farley Sat, 23 May 2009 20:34:09 +0000 Hi Dave… Which finger is it that’s missing? I’d say work out whatever is the best approximation to 1,4, and practice (initially) pentatonics in different keys up to the octave fret. But let me know which finger, and I’ll see if I can think of anything useful!

By: dave_bloke Thu, 21 May 2009 15:02:55 +0000 I am learning the bass but only have 3 fingers on my left (fret) hand, losy one through arthritis.

Anyone know any tips for covering the neck I listen to metal mainly, but I am trying to learn some early AC/DC and early Iron Maiden.

By: Jack Brooks Thu, 23 Apr 2009 04:37:22 +0000 I was a fretted bass player for 25 yrs and recently had my Fender 5 string Jazz bass made fretless w/ white epoxy fill-in. I also made it like a Mark V (if anyone remember that Fender axe!) by replacing the nut so that it’s strung E A D G C, rather than the low B under E.
I found it very painful to play “1 for 1″ in the 1st or 2nd position-I’m glad I’m validated to use 3rd/pinky for those, rather than the aching 1st finger tendon I am recovering from!
There’s little info on the web about this-even Bunny’s tutorial site doesn’t mention it!
Thanks for the help!!!

By: Wulf Thu, 12 Feb 2009 22:22:02 +0000 It depends which three fingers. A lot of bassists use 1, 2 and 3 (and we’ll discount the thumb waving over the top of the neck). A better way of playing seems to be to keep the left hand relaxed and to find ways to dance over the fretboard without strain.

Which choices are best for a given passage depends on where you’ve been and where you’re going. For example, the common root – fifth – octave type line works well with 1, 3 and 4; playing root – fifth – ninth falls naturally under 1, 2 and 4 for me (although, skipping a string, it could also be done as 2, 4 and 1 as long as you aren’t trying to hold it for too long).

By: Rich Thu, 12 Feb 2009 21:28:07 +0000 Sorry for the long wait. Thanks alot for doing this post Benjamin, I really appreciate it. I had tried using three fingers on and off before but I always felt like I was cheating or had not got “proper form”. Its great to know its an actual technique and not looked down on! :D

I guess the same applies to octaves too? I struggle with the stretch but take it using first and fourth finger for these isn’t too controversial.

By: Benjamin Mon, 09 Feb 2009 19:19:38 +0000 A very good 2 cents it is too! It seems to make sense to think of the bass neck in three areas when it come to fingering, as you say. The lower neck – with its big spacing, the mid area, and then about the 12th fret where access to the fretboard starts to become an issue on many basses.

By: Christopher N Mon, 09 Feb 2009 17:33:14 +0000 I started on double bass and learnt the samandl method. I tried the one finger one fret on the electric bass with some success. but when I play larger scale neck my hands are not comfortable when playing by the head/1st position.

so, I use a little of both

1 – 2 – 4 fingering for frets 1 – 7ish (this is not a hard fast rule as some lines will require other fingering, but it is what is comfortable.)

once into the middle of the neck and up I “morph” to a one finger one fret.

I am similar to Mike Farley,
“…till once I’m above the 12th fret, the 4th finger, which does so much of the work lower down, only comes out on special occasions”

although I think I will still use my fourth a little more. Not playing with my pinky as much comes more from the angle that my wrist will turn when getting up past the 12th fret and closer to my body.

If I am doing multiple string crossings (more then one string distance eg A string to G string) then I will go to a 4 finger to 3 fret fingering, with the first and second finger taking the same fret positions only on different strings, e.g. root 4th, root dominant 7th, root minor 3rd/-10th (above octave).

in the case where I would need to hit the fret below the position I am playing in I would drop/shift my first finger back.


index finger G – 3rd fret,
pinky finger Octave G – fifth fret,
middle finger F – 3rd fret,
pinky finger D – 5th fret,
middle finger C – 3rd fret,
-> shift/stretch back half fret ->
index finger B – second fret,
middle finger G – 3rd fret. –
dom sus to dom 7 sound

this also allows you hold the root for a few milliseconds longer to create a nice sustain of the root notes (or whatever note you want to hold)

my two cents.

By: Benjamin Fri, 06 Feb 2009 11:55:47 +0000 I remember Victor Wooten saying something along the lines of “if you feel tension in your hands, stop playing and relax”. Good point – thank you Wulf.

By: Wulf Fri, 06 Feb 2009 11:49:29 +0000 A relaxed fretting hand is definitely my preference. Stretching is fine for reaching a note but I don’t see any benefit of holding the stretch.

Even moving up to the middle of the neck, I’ll keep my hand relaxed. I’m not straining and I’m also ready to reach across the strings (eg. root -> 10th is much easier with 1 and 4 rather than 1 and 2).


By: Mike Farley Fri, 06 Feb 2009 10:22:19 +0000 Amusing note on fingers – I broke my left 3rd finger badly, right through the joint, years ago, and though it’s fine in terms of strength and agility it set so that it almost overlaps my little finger when I close my hand. Makes little difference with bass, but on some guitar chords I had to work out my own original fingerings! I’d patent them, only they wouldn’t work for anyone else anyway ;-)

You’re right about scale length – I once used to play a short scale EB3, and I felt caught between bass and guitar fingerings. Weird and uncomfortable feeling. That, and the neck dive, and the wildly different pickup outputs, meant I didn’t miss it much… Did sound nice, but I’ve never been tempted by anything less than 34″ since!

By: Benjamin Fri, 06 Feb 2009 09:21:47 +0000 Yes – hard to imagine violin -> bass, but there are second cousins I guess!

Most of my basses at 35 inch scale, and on those the 124, especially when playing octaves, is very very helpful.

On a related note, I notice that lots of the bassists I admire use the 4th finger _a lot_, so I started doing that and noticed the modes I used made for more interesting bass lines – things just seemed to get easier.

By: Mike Farley Fri, 06 Feb 2009 08:50:31 +0000 Interesting and vital post, Benjamin. Good advice from Dave Marks, too.

Having moved from double bass to electric bass to electric guitar and back again (actually I still play guitar, but…) I became very conscious of these things. I find so long as I keep my thumb under control – stop it slipping round to the fingerboard like a guitarist’s will – the rest comes naturally, till once I’m above the 12th fret, the 4th finger, which does so much of the work lower down, only comes out on special occasions. (I did learn about the Simandl thumb work on upright bass – though I doubt if I could remember it now – but I’ve never found a use for it on electric ;-) Maybe my lack of imagination??)

The article you link is fascinating, especially the George Vance reference. Everyone was talking about Suzuki when I was learning, but at that time the method was only thought of in terms of violin, at least so far as I ever heard then.