Proper technique is an often overlooked, but very important component when playing bass. Recently I have been experiencing some discomfort in the middle finger on my left hand and am not sure if it is from playing bass or from something I am doing at work. This got me thinking about how I play my bass as I know that I don’t have the best technique and am now concerned that this may be starting to causing me physical problems.
In the last few days, when practicing, I have really been trying to focus on my technique. First and foremost I have been paying close attention to both my right & left wrists, making sure that they are not at extreme angles, and that my left hand is in a comfortable position. I am finding, for me, that it is more comfortable for me to employ the 1-2-4 method when in the first position as opposed to the 1-2-3-4 method. My hands are not that big so spanning the first 4 frets is a stretch for me. 1-2-3-4 works for me starting at the 5th fret, but anything above that puts my hand in an odd position. From frets 1 thru 5, just using 1-2-4 is much more natural.
My thumb also tends to be a problem as I sometimes have the bad habit of letting it ride up over the top of the neck. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory of putting my thumb behind my middle finger either as this does not feel right to me. I realize this is what almost everyone teaches, but it does not feel comfortable for me. More often than not I find that my thumb is pointing toward the headstock, which just feels more natural. For these reasons I have been completely re-evaluating my technique, going back to the beginning lessons of Teach Me Bass Guitar as well as doing research online.
Another factor that may be at play here is that I have been playing thinner necked basses lately and feel that my technique has actually gotten worse as a result. I learned on a P bass and played mainly P Basses for years, but lately I have been mostly playing basses with Jazz width necks. In light of this revelation I have started playing my P again to see if I am any better with the wider neck.
The real problem here is that I have never had any proper training in this area and it is not something I ever focused on. Of course now I feel I need to. Breaking old habits is going to be tough so I am taking it slow, hoping correct some of my bad habits. Even if my hand pain isn’t from poor technique, I know this is an area I need to improve in. If my discomfort does not subside soon, I plan to see my Doctor, this is not something that I want to leave unchecked.