Proper Hand Position

Teaching your fingers to properly fret each note
leads to greater cleanliness and accuracy.

Many of my students, whether beginners or advanced, have had one problem in common: proper fretting hand position. In this lesson, I will address the most common problem, which is where the finger meets the fret.

The next time you pick up your bass, take a look at where your fingers meet the neck. Watch other bassists when they play. Many players place their finger in the middle of the fret, and this can lead to serious problems if not corrected.

The proper place to put the fretting finger is at the very front of the fret, actually touching the fret wire. This pinches the string between your finger and the wire. This in turn means that the string will only vibrate in front of the wire, not behind it. This ensures that the note sounds out clearly and distinctly.

The other reason to fret in this manner is that in so doing you are teaching your fingers accuracy. Think about it for a minute: If you are fretting in the middle and you fall short, you could end up with a buzzed-out indistinct note. If you fret as described and fall short a touch, you still have a clear note. This may not matter when you’re playing at a slow tempo, but when you are flying through notes at light speed, it can mean the difference between a cool-sounding riff and a train wreck.

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To master this technique, start at Square One. Choose a scale or riff and play at a very slow tempo, paying attention to where your finger connects with the string. Do not increase tempo until you can play your chosen pattern at least ten times in a row with perfect accuracy. At that point you can speed up a notch or two. Make note of the fastest accurate tempo for the day and write into your practice log. The next time you practice this, start two notches below your fastest previous tempo and continue working on building speed while maintaining perfect accuracy.

Most of my intermediate and advanced students only need a few hours of focused time to change their fretting habits. It becomes second nature very quickly for most people. And spending the time to teach your muscles the right way to fret a note is repaid many times over when you play with others.

Aim High – Play Low!


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©2004, by Lane Baldwin – All Rights Reserved. Permission to republish on the web is hereby granted, provided the copyright notice and following statement immediately follows the article:

With more than forty years on the bass guitar, and three decades of professional experience, Lane Baldwin (known in the music world as Lane on Bass) has a sound and style that’s all his own. A gifted teacher, Lane has helped hundreds of students learn to navigate the deep end with authority. If you’re ready to learn how to be “rock solid and pocket wise,” visit

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