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How to Position Your Right Hand on a Bass Guitar for Finger-Style Playing

The name finger-style refers to your striking the strings on your bass guitar with the index and middle fingers of your right hand. You can hear this style in country, rock, jazz, and funk — and just about any other type of music. Jaco Pastorius, James Jamerson, and Francis Rocco Prestia are only three of the multitude of bassists who use this technique.

Take the following steps to set up your hand properly.

1

Bring your right arm up, as though you're pointing to something in the distance, while keeping your wrist, hand, and fingers relaxed.

Keep your wrist at a 45-degree angle (approximately), keep your thumb facing your index finger, and keep your fingers gently curved, with your fingertips pointing to the floor.

2

Start bending your elbow slowly

Keep your elbow just slightly away from your rib cage.

3

Let your hand approach the instrument until your thumb settles onto thethumb rest (a small plastic or wood bar for resting your thumb on) or the edge of thepickup(the magnetic bars that pick up the string vibration).

Keep your elbow next to your body, not behind it.

4

Settle the weight of your arm onto your thumb.

This position may take some time getting used to, but it keeps your hand and shoulder in their most relaxed state. The thumb acts as a measuring device for your fingers and the individual strings. In this position, you can feel which string you're playing instead of having to look to see where you are.

5

Reach for your high string (the one closest to your feet) with your index or middle finger.

Your thumb has to bend a little, and your hand must pivot out on it to reach the highest string.

The terms high string and low string refer to the sound of the strings, not the position of your hand. Your high string is actually the string closest to your feet, whereas your low string is closest to your head.

6

Reach for your low string (the one closest to your head).

Your thumb is now straighter.

7

Your hand pivots on the resting thumb toward your body, and your palm is closer to the body of the bass.

Congrats, you’re ready to start playing.

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