I've recently started playing the bass after 3 years of playing the guitar now and then. I think it's great fun, but I'm finding it tricky to get used to how far apart everything is compared to guitar. My question is: which fingers do you use for which frets when playing bass?

At the moment I can manage playing something like --2--5--2--5-- on some string using my 1st and 4th fingers, but it's a stretch. Does anyone leave there 1st finger in place when playing something like that? Or would you take it off slightly and hop on to the 5th fret? If you were going to make that jump, could you use your 3rd finger instead? And would you use your 4th finger for say E--1--3--1--3-- instead of 1st and 3rd?

I don't think I have small hands at all, but I'm worried I'm just making learning bass more difficult or risking wrist injury by trying to stretch too far.
I wouldn't stretch to keep my hand on the second fret, to use your example. That does hurt if you can't reach it properly. If you can reach it with out over-extending your hand, and it doesn't hurt your wrist, then I don't see why not. Over time, the stretches get easier. I use one finger per fret, and very rarely stray from that. So no, I would use my third finger for the third fret, and first for first.

someone will come by and give way better advice than me, so sit tight
if theres one fret in between I just keep one finger in between, taking 2-5 with your index and pinky just seems... wrong :s it might feel easier for you at the time being but in the long run, you'll regret doing it that way. just take it with your index and third finger (ring-finger? dunno what they call it in english) and search for some finger stretching exercises, I used to have problems with too many frets in between but now I use my pinky only for stuff like: 1-4 and 1-5 (so three or four frets in between)

just don't continue what you're doing, you'll regret it later on

ps: don't overdo the stretching, do some exercises on it but when it hurts: stop! put it away and try again in a few more hours

edit: make sure your hand is positioned the right way as well, it makes a huge difference to the you have on your fingers

Stop highlighting my signature!!

Last edited by numinis at Jul 7, 2009,
I didn't read all your original post, so forgive me if I go over something that has already been covered.

I generally stick to a one finger per fret rule. If I'm playing say the 12th fret D string, and I went to play the 15th fret, I play it with my pinky (sometimes with my ring finger, but I'll just use my pinky in this example as it applies to frets that are lower as well), if I was to play the 14th fret I'd use my ring finger and the 13th my index.

I read that you had only just started out, so don't be alarmed if you find you're fingers aren't very stretchy or you're finding it hard to reach frets at a distance. Your fingers wouldn't be used to the strain of playing so would have to adapt to the task. It will get easier with time, but if you're worried about, try doing some finger exercises or buy one of those hand pump thingies. I hope that helped.
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Thanks for the advice so far!

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If the stretch is too much, try playing the note on a different string. Using your example, the 5 on the E could be played as an open A.

Of course; I guess I should have used --1--4--1--4-- as an example really.

I always keep one finger per fret when playing a regular guitar, and I can manage --1--3--5-- pretty comfortably as well. I guess the problem is that on bass I'm not sure whether to just keep my hand in one place and stretch, or hop and stretch a little less.

Quote by numinis
edit: make sure your hand is positioned the right way as well, it makes a huge difference to the you have on your fingers

I can never get the palm of my hand onto the back of the neck and still comfortably fret things - I have my thumb on the neck, and so my wrist bends quite a bit. It's not that comfortable, but I don't really see what else I can do.
I use my pinky on 1-3. I can use my ring, but its just so less comfortable
As long as you keep playing it will get better (to an extent.....I dont think ill ever get 1-8). I have some small hands, and after a lot of work, I was able to get 1-4 on the e (just ever so barely lol). I found playing a song that almost requires you to stretch that far works well for warming up (for ex. Down with the sickness you play 1-4 on top string.)
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Stretching takes time. I can manage a 1 - 5 stretch now after playing for a few years.

Here's the trick. Spider scales. Start them at the 5th or 6th fret and work them into your daily practice routine. Over time you can move them towards the lower frets, but only when you feel comfortable doing so. And keep to the one finger per fret. I have met very few bass players over the age of 8 years that can't manage the one finger per fret method. It just takes some time and good hand position to do so.