Bass Guitar Fingerstyle Technique: Left And Right Hand Checklist

Trying to remember everything your hands and fingers need to do can be tricky. Use this list to make sure everything is in the correct place. If you play left handed, swap everything round (sorry!).


1.Thumb behind the neck

The thumb provides grip when you fret a note as well as acting as a pivot. Placing the thumb here allows for a very good fretting hand position. It should be roughly in line with the 2nd finger and pointing in a ‘thumbs up’ kind of position.

2.Fingers curled slightly and not ‘collapsed’

This enables the fingertips to fret the note accurately whilst providing the required strength.

3.One finger per fret

This is a very important concept based on - surprisingly - having each finger taking care of a separate fret. Playing fast, accurate phrases relies on this idea. There are many, many times this does not happen when you play but being strict with it from the start means you can break the rules (if such things exist...) later.


1.Thumb anchored

You will have to experiment with this as many players do slightly different things. Start by anchoring on the pickup. When you move to play the A string you can move your thumb to anchor on the E string. This means you are closer to the A string and you are also muting the E string. But, to start just make sure you anchor somewhere.

2. Alternate 1st and 2nd fingers

This is one of the most neglected technical areas when playing the bass. I think this is because most people look at their fretting hand and then ignore the fingers doing the plucking. There really are no rules and you will see so many different right hand techniques (including using 3 fingers and just using the 1st finger) but learning to alternate your 1st and 2nd fingers will set you off on the right track.

3.Fingers very slightly curved

Again, you will find your own way here but the fingers should not be completely straight or very curved. When you play the A, D or G strings pluck the string then come to rest on the thicker string next to it. This is called a ‘rest stroke’. Spend lots of time on this. It does take time to get this all together but once you have it, you don’t think about it anymore. Good technique is your ticket to playing the bass effortlessly.


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Related Lessons

Bass Guitar Technique: Easy But Useful Single String Exercise

Bass Guitar Technique: Slap Exercise

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