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How many of you have big, strong hands?


Magpel

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;) Okay, so the question is on the table. I searched for back threads but wasn't sure what terms to use.

 

I've now been playing bass seriously for about a year, after 20+ years as an active guitarist/composer/recordist type. I must say, the Yamaha BB1100s I'm playing (with roundwounds) is beating the scat out of my poor little hands.I get a lot of flubs because of poor fret coverage and reach, and this strikes me as a far more serious sin on bass than on guitar. I also get tendonitis pretty easily.

 

It is getting better for me with practice, of course, but the experience has me thinking about the whole subject of anatomical predisposition.

 

I'm a tad over 6' tall but my hands are a little small, my fingers a little slender. How many of you have real bass mitts? Hands that just call out for the wide frets and thick strings?

 

I wanna know.

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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Playing bass does not have to be like swinging a wood axe, one can just as easily approach it like a Samurai wielding a katana.

 

Thing yogic - with relaxation comes flexibility and surprising speed. Let the fingers play the music - and the amp make it loud.

 

To answer your question, I'd say my hands are probably a medium/large, leaning more towards medium. My fingers are quite slender, certainly not bass mitts. I have a wide handspan due to playing bass for years, and my hands are strong enough to cope with bass playing, if I treat them right. But one has to avoid being foolhardly - if you pull on those strings too hard, you can hurt yourself permanently.

 

There are some really amazing bass players out there with small hands, like Rocco, Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten. And others with huge hands like Stanley Clarke and Jaco.

 

If you try and beat a bass like you can beat a guitar, then you'll have problems - the strings are much higher tension and don't 'give' as much, so when you hit them hard they push back more and you get hurt.

 

Alex

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it's never about the size, Magpel. i'm 5'11, and i was told by the guy from the counter of a jewellry store as my now-wife and i were 'shopping' for engagement rings that i had the average-size fingers for a woman. after enduring the 'ladyfingers' monicker i imposed upon myself, life carried on.

i'm not saying i don't hit bum notes. i play everyday, and some of the mistakes i make are so terrible it's almost funny. i believe there is no 'real bass mitts' unless you make it so. i consider myself to have bass hands because i am a bass player and i practice. having big hands is not an unfair advantage; it's just there.

 

i know at least two people who have small hands that play bass. one has short, stubby hands who can play 32-note pulses like a walk in the park. the other has short, delicate fingers (and i just realized my description of that was very detalied, a different story altogether :D ) and is one of the best groovers and slappers i've ever come across.

 

check out MTD's website. there's a kid who's testing one of his basses, and he sure can play. if you have the passion for it, then you have bass-hands. good day!

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I'm 5'7, but I have big hands and feet (I wear size 10 1/2 or 11 kicks.)

 

Bass has been my main instrument for the past 15 years, but I started on guitar. My hands still get fatigued sometimes during really long sessions, but I'd say my hands are pretty damn strong at this point. In fact, the muscle below my thumb on my fretting hand is noticeably bigger than on my plucking hand.

 

I don't think genetics has a damn thing to do with it, honestly. Play your bass a lot and your hands will get stronger.

 

Glenn Letsch has a great exercise to build up your hands called "Bass Isometrics" which he describes here:

 

http://www.glennletsch.com/warmups.html

 

Do that every day for five minutes without fail and you'll soon have a 'grip of death.'

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I'm relative little (1m67, which amounts to about 5'4 - 5'5) and my hands aren't exactly the biggest. Plus I have somewhat short, stubby fingers. But I play a 5 string with relative ease, one reason being that I practice a lot :)

 

When I auditioned for my current band, I was really nervous and it didn't go too well. One of the g**tar players then remarked 'Yeah well you've got small hands', hinting at my 5-stringer. Next rehearsal I came back with a vengeance, and not a word was ever said about my hands since :D

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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Thanks! I had a feeling that these would be the types of responses we'd see. In fact, I almost edited my original post to add that,

 

A) I know that hand size, and physical attributes in general, have little to do with musicality--not nothing to do eith it, but little. Peripheral.

 

B) And I know that there are many technically accomplished bassists with thin, fat, long, stubby, meaty, boney hands.

 

I appreciate all the expert persepctives nonetheless. The greatest single revelation I've had thus far on bass is the paradox of the light touch.

 

I must say, though, that left hand reach and strength continue to be issues for me.

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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My hands are about what you'd expect from a part-time bass-player (mostly at Church on Sunday), although I've got a generally large body/frame.

 

If my fingers are curled "text-book bass-playing style", with the finger-tips pressing the strings, I've got no problem. For smoother passages, though, I'll "barre" my finger(s) across the (6-string...) neck - that's what tires me. Once (at about 20 years old - I'm 45 now), I remember a finger "locking-up" on me when "barreing" some smooth passages - VERY wierd to have a finger curled-up, and have to use the other hand to straighten it out!! It was fine after that, but I stopped playing for the night (was just a party/jam - fortunately other bass-players were around).

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5'10", 205lbs, and med sized hands with long thin fingers. I grew up playing keys and learned to stretch them to a couple-three keys past an octave. I can't say that I have bass mits by any stretch of the imagination, but the bass just feels right to me, relaxed and comfortable. I also like thick necks, like the one on my OLP MM3 and the Euro Spectors. Four string Jazz basses and Ibanez Sound Gear basses feel too narrow down at the lower end of the fret board to me causing my fretting fingers to slip off the strings. Given a little time I can adapt, but still the thicker neck just feels more relaxed to me.

 

Its all in practicing and conditioning your fingers to move over the larger fret board. Try doing some finger stretching exercises everyday, they can be done just about anywhere at any time and may help you better span the bass fret board.

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Practice. Work on dexterity rather than speed.

 

Stretch your fingers regularly, never to the point of pain. If you like, try another activity that will help develop hand strength and agility.

Even though I lack the time to practice as much as I like, card/coin manipulations are great for this.

 

Play softly, and let your amp make it loud. That's why it's there. :)

Developing a softer touch was one of the best things I discovered as a little bass player, and it has served me well.

 

Look at the set-up of your bass, you may be able to adjust the string height or gauge to affect a lower string tension. But, beware of the tone trade-offs.

 

Also, I find that having a relatively physical job helps, in that it can help develop the upper body muscles, and there's a lot more of them involved in playing than just the hands/fingers.

I push shipping cartons around the planet. :D

 

Some will advise the use of Grip-Trainers or similar devices. IMO, these are pretty useless when it comes to developing useful playing strength. Try 'em, see for yourself.

 

Know your fingerboard, and develop useful shortcuts to find a way around reach issues. For instance, I will sometimes play a 2 string octave with first and third finger, sometimes with pinky and middle, regardless of position. Depends where the next note is.

 

 

Practice. :)

 

Just some thoughts.

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

p.s.

5'9", about 150. Average sized hands for my frame, but I have pretty strong hands.

Surprisingly so, I've been told...

 

Ibanez 5 string Roadstar II

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm 5' 9" and I have pretty average sized hands. As others have already eluded to, it's not necessarily how big your hands are, or how strong they are; it's about dexterity and speed. Working on stretching exercises and really learning the fretboard (to learn all the shortcuts) is going to improve your playing and comfort on the neck.
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I have average size hands for my frame, 5'10" 220lbs., good grip strength, and I started on the upright, which I think helped. Do some fingertip push-ups with your stretching and a great grip exercise is to take the Sunday paper, lay it out flat, lay your hand on top and wad the paper one sheet at a time.

 

 

www.ethertonswitch.com

 

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I have small hands myself. I'm not a big guy to start with, so. . .

 

I'm a Jazz Bass guy, so my necks are smaller (all of mine are fours, no five strings etc.). But I like my strings heavy and my action on the high side. All in all, size -- or lack thereof --in my hands has really never been an issue to me, and I've been plying for seventeen years.

 

Early on, I probably just "adapted" somehow, and do what I do the way I do it. . .

 

Don't worry about it, really. Just dig in and rock on.

"When it comes to havin' a good time, nothing beats 'fun'. . ."

 

-- Stefan Johnson

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Surprised no one mentioned technique yet.

 

You'll never be able to play bass if you have that g****r player fretting-thumb-wrapped-around-the-neck technique. Have a real bass player show you in person how to position your fretting hand. Or rather, they should watch you and correct as necessary. Or even take a lesson or two.

 

Also, try practicing at slower tempos until you have the technique/hand strength worked out. Yes, you have to push the strings down harder on a bass (flats or rounds) than on an electric g****r. And the fret spacing is wider. (Try doing some Steve Miller chords from the first fret. Hahaha!) Scales and chromatics are great; work them all up and down the neck.

 

Slop stands out more on bass because we generally don't hide behind 20 effects and heavy distortion. :D

 

Oh, and everything else they said. :)

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I'm 6' with average sized hands - reasonably strong. What they said, and:

 

While I've never been a guitar player, it strikes me that you have different goal - accuracy so you hit the string you want (and not the one next to it - damn tiny strings). And it doesn't take much oomph to push them down.

 

On bass, you have to hold the strings down a bit more, and you've got more real estate to cover. I would agree that slow and careful practice will help.

 

I started on a short scale, so when I "graduated" to a 34.5 scale, I had to make some technique changes. Sometimes my hand gets tired when I play in the "one finger per fret" style that was so easy on a short scale. My arm also gets tired of reaching "out". That I fix by pulling the neck up a bit (it's not really an issue when sitting).

 

Good luck - you'll get there !!

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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My hand are about 7 3/4" long, I can comfortably stretch from the first fret to the sixth fret. My freting hand fingers are about a half an inch longer than my plucking hand fingers. I'm 5'9", about 140 pounds. I have relatively strong hands but some recent injuries have stolen some of my hand strength (namely an accident that gave me a broken left wrist and some stiched in my right hand about a year ago, and a more recent broken thumb..I had surgery about7 months ago and I now have two pins in my left thumb). I can still beat most of my friends at thumb war!

I believe playing is as easy as you make it, and practicing will get you where you want to go.

Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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In 5th grade, I was recruited into orchestra and turned towards the bass due to my stature and hand size.

 

Currently at 6 foot with pinky ring size of 11 and ring finger size of 13 (ZZ in UK) I have what would be considered the typical bass mitts. On the upright, I was trained to have my thumb square in the middle of the back of the neck.

 

To help reach different parts on the fingerboard, try holding the neck higher, as illustrated:

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/41/410645.jpg

 

Good luck, and have fun.

 

ATM

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I have pretty big hands with thick fingers, even for someone 6' 225lbs. As a long time guitar player you probably went through some difficulty when you started playing that too, so don't worry about it..

 

My hands give me some problems due to a few old injuries, and the early signs of arthritis (not just my hands), and I'm only 34.

If you think my playing is bad, you should hear me sing!
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6'3" 290. Size 14 shoes and comparable hands. I still prefer thin necks on my basses.

 

Big hands can be a detriment to certain other instruments perhaps, but I don't think smaller hands would hinder bass playing.

Push the button Frank.
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"Big hands can be a detriment to certain other instruments perhaps, but I don't think smaller hands would hinder bass playing".

 

I wholeheartedly agree! I have small hands but I still manage to play upright bass. Its all about technique as you can see from other comments in this thread.

 

With upright you do need to develop strength but that comes automatically with practice. In your case, let your amp do the work.

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I have large, strong hands. Some of the best bass players I know have small to medium, very delicate hands. This goes double for upright. I still can't believe it.

 

Every year, my touch gets lighter and lighter. My tone and time get better and better. My callouses barely exist anymore.

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Originally posted by tnb:

My callouses barely exist anymore.

Yep. My skin is thicker in the contact places but certainly not calloused and hard. And to think of all those blisters I suffered in the early days...

 

My right and left hand appear to be the same size but due to the extra flexibility the fretting hand has it can reach a ninth comfortably whilst the right finds an octave a stretch.

 

Alex

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I have small hands, but I've never felt that it was a hinderance with regards to bass. As others have said, it's all about precisely focusing the strength in the hand. I'm also a pianist, and in that regard having small hands used to bother me a great deal until I learned that the same basic principle applies to keyboard playing. It's all about focusing the power and delivering it with efficiency while keeping your hands as relaxed as possible. Try to eliminate all extraneous muscle contractions in your hands - they will only cause fatigue and loss of mobility.

 

Keith Jarrett is a living example - he has tiny hands (much smaller than mine) but he plays like someone with hands the size of banana stalks!

 

Kirk

Reality is like the sun - you can block it out for a time but it ain't goin' away...
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Size does matter, but I don't think it matters with playing the bass. Seems like having ability is way, way, way better than big hands. If you have both, then it probably can be an advantage, but big hands really only directly implies big gloves, not a good bass player.

 

If you practice, you'll get that dexterity that is required for ability and the strength too.

 

I heard Jeff Beck is really small, but also has enormous hands.

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Check out Trout Fishing in America. - way2fat
Had the pleasure of seeing those gentlemen in Nevada some years ago. Wildly entertaining and yes he is a great player/showman.

 

I go 6 foot (if I stand up straight) and around 175 in the summer but have at best, medium sized hands. Stretching and constant practice are key there.

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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-5'4, 142 lbs.

-small Asian hands, but I can play an upright (3/4 size)

 

The one thing that's helped me is that I don't strap the bass too low. For me, it's strapped in the same position standing, as it is sitting. That allows me to do a four fret stretch from the first four frets fairly easily, though I wouldn't try that if you're just a beginner, or don't play the bass much.

 

I also weightlift at least 3 times a week, which does strengthen my upper body, and my hands. Very important for me, as my future day gig will be very desk intensive.

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