More Bassics: thumb pivoting and my weird relationship with youtube lesson videos

Okay, so, now that I have a minute I’ll get back to that bit of youtubing I mentioned doing 2(ish) posts ago when I ran out of time before work to talk about it. Now, since I have a new bass, you know that’s where I’ve been throwing a lot of my energy.   You also know a lot of that energy has been thrown at Rocksmith, since I have the attention span of a 3 year old. But, I’ve also been itching for a really coherent point A to B to C on bass, so I can conceptualize better of what to do with the instrument once I take the presence of other instruments away.

So, I’ve gone back over to youtube, clicked on my subscriptions, and rolled through it to try and find all those intro bass videos that I subscribed to ‘for later’. Well, it’s later now. I’ve had a bit of a hard time so far getting into intro bass lesson videos, partially because I want to start from the bottom, but I also don’t want to listen to someone talk about how to put a strap on for 10 minutes. It’s a STRAP, for pete’s sake. Unless you’re talking about different types of straps at some length, there’s literally no reason to spend more than 3 minutes or so discussing it. Attach it. Adjust it. This is how you should probably be holding your bass. Etc. But, I end up watching those videos anyway, because I want to start from the beginning, and because there might, possibly, be something in that lesson that no one else has mentioned so far which will be enlightening. You never know. But mostly…I end up playing mahjong on my phone and getting fidgety. Then, when the lesson is over, instead of going onto the next one, I got too bored, so decide to take a break to play a video game/ukulele/read a book/that ends up swallowing the rest of my night.

That’s more or less my jaded relationship with bass videos. I also tend to not watch your videos if you sound pretentious, which kind of crops out a lot of my potential learning. For example, if you start off a video with a tone that kind of implies ‘sigh, people ask me this all the time, siiiggh, I know so much that people just keep asking ME’, I decide right then and there you’re a schmuck. You have literally about 5-7 seconds to get my attention, so if you’re using that time to talk yourself up, you’ve already lost me. Put your bio in the description, at the end of the video, use those little blurbs to show me you have a website or whatever. But don’t spend 2 minutes talking about yourself before getting into the meat of the lesson, of you’ve definitely lost me.

So, yeah, I have a weird, passive-aggressive relationship with youtube lesson videos, in case that might have slipped under the radar somehow. (And, the irony of me wasting 3 paragraphs to talk about that before getting into the lesson is not lost on me. haha.)

Onward! Knowing I have these passive-aggressive youtube tendencies, I scrolled through my youtube subscriptions, where I know I have at least one or two bass guys, and decided to go with Talking Bass. I knew I’d already watched the boring strap video, so could move right onto whatever was next and chose the fundamentals playlist.

Lesson #2 was called Finger Stretching Tips & Tricks for Bass Guitar and is a whopping 4 1/2 minutes long! Now we’re talking. 4 1/2 minutes is perfectly reasonable, thanks.

Now, I’ve mentioned before I still can’t pull off a 4 fret stretch. My hand naturally (at this point, anyway) can pull off about 3 and 1/8th fret on the low frets. Yeah, I can get my finger into that 4th fret, but not far enough to get a clear note to sound without moving out of the first fret.  The way I’ve been dealing with this is basically just sliding my hand back and forth as quickly and accurately as possible. Most of the time, I can make it work, but I won’t pretend it doesn’t lack some finesse. The fact is, since I can’t make a 4 fret stretch, my only option is to teach myself to be faster and more accurate than someone who can. And sure, maybe my hands will become more flexible with time, but maybe they won’t and I have to be prepared to work around that possibility if that’s the case.

I know my learning style is all over the map, but I have watched my fair share of videos on just how the hell to put your hand based on the different instruments, and I know I am not as attentive as I should be to where my thumb is, which is actually part of the reason I really like this video. One of the first things he does is tell you to stretch out your hand, and then put it on the bass and that “that is the longest stretch your fingers are going to naturally make”. And, guess what guys? For me that’s still just a hair over 3 frets, so I guess my thumb position hasn’t been as off as I thought. I know I have a bad habit of wrapping my thumb over the top of my instruments, this kind of came mostly from my here again/gone again guitar practice; I got into the habit of using my thumb to mute the top string for things like the C and Am Chords, and that carried over. With uke, it doesn’t matter much. The neck is small enough that I can put my thumb almost wherever and still reach what I want to reach. That doesn’t make it a good habit to develop; it just means it’s a habit that hasn’t been that much of a hindrance in my basic, everyday playing. Bass being a larger instrument is a different matter entirely.

And then! Then he gives another tip that I admit made me curse a little inside my head: he talks about pivoting your thumb without actually moving it on the neck to extend your range. Why in the heck this is the first fundamental lesson I’ve come across that mentions this, I have no idea. This is such an important concept, especially for someone in my boat, who just can’t make that 4 fret span. This is economy of motion stuff. If I have my thumb on the back of the neck behind say…the fifth fret, then my natural range of motion (without moving my thumb) is about fret 4 through 6. I have to slide or turn my hand in some way to cleanly reach 7, same goes for 3.  But, if I put my thumb in the same place, at the back of the neck behind fret 5, but pivot, that easily reachable range extends down to fret 3 and up to fret 9 or 10(I can’t quite get the lower notes on the 10th fret without moving my thumb), before I move my thumb away from the 5th fret. That one little thing doubles my range without doing a single stretching exercise (not that stretching exercises aren’t valuable, of course.), so why in all of my adventures, this is the first lesson I’ve come across where someone thought it should be mentioned? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ve decided I’ll follow through the fundamentals lessons for a while and see how it goes.

Maybe, with a little practice on this thumb pivoting thing, I’ll be able to make those long stretches in the songs I like on rocksmith without scrambling up and down the neck like a speed demon just trying to get my hand where it needs to be in time, yeah?

Until Next Time, practice makes practice. Perfect is overrated.


4 thoughts on “More Bassics: thumb pivoting and my weird relationship with youtube lesson videos

    1. I just think it’s stupid that this is the first time I’ve seen anything where someone bothered to mention it. Like, ‘hey, you know you have an opposable thumb, right? Use it.’

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m iffy about the pinky. I do use it, but often supported by the ring finger. My guess is that’s a finger strength thing that will clear itself up with time.

        BTW, for some reason your comments are getting sorted to spam. I just had to manually move both of these. If it’s happening on my blog, it might be happening on other people’s too, though.


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