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How to Practice Bass Guitar Finger Permutations

Get ready for one of the best exercises you’ll ever find for bass guitar players: finger permutations. By learning how to practice finger permutations, you can prepare for every possible combination of finger sequences on your left hand. With finger permutations, you can train your left hand for some finger independence.

Take a look at an example of the first line (the first combination) of the left-hand permutations. Notice that for simplicity's sake, the left-hand fingers are numbered for this exercise.

The first line (1 2 3 4) of left-hand permutations.
The first line (1 2 3 4) of left-hand permutations.

Click here to download and print this diagram.

These exercises give your left hand the desired coordination (and strength) so that you can play all those hip bass lines.

  1. Position your hand on the neck of the bass so that your index finger (1) is on low G (the 3rd fret on the E string).

  2. Spread your fingers so that each one covers one fret.

    Cover one fret per finger.
    Cover one fret per finger.
  3. Press the notes that are under your fingers, one finger (fret) at a time, in order: 1 2 3 4 (the right hand strikes the string to sound each note).

  4. Repeat the process on the A string (the next string), the D string, and the G string.

You are now finished with the first combination. Now you are ready to begin the next. The table shows you the complete list of left-hand permutations (all the fingerings starting with 1, and then 2, 3, and 4). Practice one column at a time, and repeat the steps until you do all the combinations (yes, all of them).

Left-Hand Permutations
Index Finger Middle Finger Ring Finger Pinkie
1 2 3 4 2 1 3 4 3 1 2 4 4 1 2 3
1 2 4 3 2 1 4 3 3 1 4 2 4 1 3 2
1 3 2 4 2 3 1 4 3 2 1 4 4 2 1 3
1 3 4 2 2 3 4 1 3 2 4 1 4 2 3 1
1 4 2 3 2 4 1 3 3 4 1 2 4 3 1 2
1 4 3 2 2 4 3 1 3 4 2 1 4 3 2 1

You can try doing these exercises on any area of the neck of the bass.

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