Left-Hand Technique from Russ Rodgers
So, yesterday I read a thread on Talkbass from a guitarist who has recently started testing the waters with bass. His concern is that he wants to avoid “flying fingers” when he plays, which is basically the condition in which fingers on the fretting hand straighten or stand away from the fingerboard after releasing a note or when other fingers are holding down a fret. Its a technique issue and is usually prominent in pinky fingers, making the bassist (or guitarist) look like he or she is a tea-drinking Englishman.
One of the responses that the new bassist got was a link to a video from Russ Rodgers of FreeBassGuitarVideos.com that demonstrated an exercise similar to the one I spoke about a week ago that I read in a comment from Stephen Houghton on Youtube. The video description says the following:
Left Hand Technique is a free video lesson by Russ Rodgers for beginning bass guitar. This lesson will teach you proper left hand form which will help you become a more efficient player. We will first cover the proper positioning of the hand and fingers and then move on to some exercises that will eliminate excess motion from your fingers.
Eliminating excess motion is a principle of economy of motion, a widespread philosophy made popular by Bruce Lee that basically espouses the conservation of time and energy (or effort) via the elimination of extraneous movement. Its mentioned in almost every bass method that I’ve ever seen. Rodgers speaks about this briefly and takes care to remind us that the quality of our playing will come down to the efficiency of our hands. His video then goes over proper fretting hand placement, both for the thumb and fingers, hand pressure, wrist positioning and things to avoid with the thumb. Then, he gets into the actual exercises, which are designed to keep the fingers very close to the fingerboard via holding them in a position starting on the 9th fret and eventually fretting.
When he moves to lower positions, he shows the thumb pivot that many books speak about and I noticed that he’s not following 1-finger-per-fret, because he says that in those positions, stretching the hand expends too much energy. Instead, he shifts his position to accommodate his reach. He also speaks about relaxing the hand when opportunity presents itself during faster sections of a piece.
The end result is pretty impressive, to me. He plays briefly on the bass and it looks like his fingers aren’t even moving. Its like he moves his hand over the neck, but telekinetically frets the actual strings. The only question I have when watching is how this applies if the fingers are on different strings, but I suppose the exercises can be varied for that by practicing the holding and fretting sequences with fingers spread across multiple strings.