5 Levels of Bass Finger Exercise (Beginner to Advanced)

5 Levels of Bass Finger Exercise (Beginner to Advanced)


[Voiceover Josh] Okay, time to dial in my fretting technique, I gotta get these crazy
fingers under control. Okay, index first and
then keep that down while- oh shit, okay, index – middle – r-ring, now pink- pink- ahh
come on dude, pinky yes! No! [Meshuggah voice] WHY!? Whether you’re a beginner
just starting out, or you’ve been gigging for years, if you’ve never done
finger exercises before I guarantee you’ll notice big leaps in your overall playing
if you do these exercises for just a few minutes a
day for a month or two. [COINS COINS COINS] I’m going to show you five levels of bass finger exercise that will get you playing cleaner and tighter, have
you playing with less effort but more control and even get you on the path to shred-dom, if
that’s something you want. [Josh attempts to shred] So close your other 87 tabs, grab a sports drink and let’s dig in. [BassBuzz Theme Music] [Mario Teaches Bassing] Okay, Level 1 is one of the most common, most boring bass exercises, and
you may have seen it before. “Hey, I’ve seen this
one! I’ve seen this one. This is a classic!” But it’s really important
because it’s the simplest way to practice getting coordination in all four of your fretting fingers in conjunction with your plucking hand. And here’s the thing, most
people who do this exercise are actually doing it wrong,
so I’m going to show you how to do it the right
way, and how to make it less boring, in a minute. Okay, here’s the super boring exercise. We’re going to start on
the G string, 9th fret. We’re just going to be using
the 9th through 12th frets, because that’s the
easiest spot on the neck for most people to use all four fingers, whether you’ve got small hands, or giant alien hands with
freaky long spider fingers. [Record Scratch] So use your index finger on
the 9th fret of the G string, your middle finger on the 10th fret, ring finger on the 11th fret,
and pinky on the 12th fret. And then we’ll just do
the same thing in reverse, pinky on the 12th, ring on the 11th, middle on the 10th and index on the 9th, and that’s the whole Level 1 exercise. Your Level 1 goal is just
to do the right fingers at the right time, index
– middle – ring – pinky, pinky – ring – middle – index. And, to aim for the ends of the frets, right behind the wire. And here’s what you might sound like if you don’t do this right. [plays “Sunshine Of Your Love” terribly] As opposed to this: [plays it without upsetting Jack Bruce] So every time you fret, aim
for the end of the fret, right behind the fret
wire, and that allows you to get clean sounding
notes with the minimum amount of pressure required. So you’ll know your notes are clean if they sound like this: [plays clean notes] and not like this: [plays rattley bad notes] If you’re hearing those kind of noises, you just need to scoot
towards the end of the fret, and if you’re still
hearing the rattling sound at the end of the fret, just try pressing a little bit harder, not too much. We’re focusing on the fretting hand and not really the plucking hand in this lesson, but you can just alternate index – middle with your
plucking all the way through all five levels. So when you’re first starting any new bass finger exercise, you should start super super super super
super super super slow, to make sure that you’re doing it right and then from there,
to make it less boring you can spice it up by using… [Drumroll] Wait for it… [SO MUCH DRUMROLL] Drum loops! [Ba Dum Ch] [Slow Clap] Using drum loops is a great way to make exercises like this feel more like music and also give you an
opportunity to practice the crucial skill of
locking in with the drummer. And once you’ve nailed an
exercise at a certain tempo, you can just nudge the
speed up a little bit to keep improving, which is a great way to measure your progress over time. I’ll be using the Drum
Beats+ app on my iPhone, which is like five bucks. If you’re on Android you
can use the Loopz app, Loopzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Either way you can just pull up the app, find a drum beat that suits you, find a tempo that works
for you for the exercise, [Drum Beat Begins] and then start working on it. [Bass Playing] So I might start here if I’m a beginner, this could be too slow for you or too fast for you, that’s fine. You just find a tempo
that feels like your edge, and you’ll know you’re at your edge if you can mostly do the exercise right, but it’s pushing you
just right on the edge of making mistakes here and there. If you’re making mistakes the whole time then you’re going too fast. [Bass Playing With Drum Beat ] If you’re getting clean notes all the way through the exercise, then
you’re nailing Level 1. You may still have
flying fingers like this, which is exactly what we are going to address in coming levels. But there’s a mistake people often make when doing exercises like this. They try to perform the entire exercise right out of the gate
where it’s really a process of getting a lot of little elements right before you can do it all
as one fluid exercise with no mistakes. If there are one or two
little micro-elements that you’re doing wrong and you just keep repeating the whole
exercise over and over, you’re at best wasting some time and at worst you’re baking mistakes and bad habits into your playing. The trick to avoid just
drilling in your mistakes is to break the exercise
down and bite size it. So, how I would apply that to Level 1, let’s say I’m doing Level 1: [Bass Playing] and every time I play my pinky note, I’m getting a buzz so I think “Okay, I’ve identified an
issue, my pinky is buzzing, let’s see what’s going
on, I look at my hand, I see, okay I’m not at the end of the fret like Josh told me to, so
what if I just isolate that part of the exercise
where I’m making the mistakes, so how about I just go,
ring – pinky – ring – pinky, until I can consistently
get myself to put my pinky in the right place, make sure that note sounds clean and doesn’t sound buzzy. And then, once I can do that in isolation, then I would integrate back
into the full exercise, nice and slow, and hey my
pinky note sounds good! So I must’ve done a good job.” If you integrate it back in and it still doesn’t sound good, then you need to do more
work at the bite size level. Because the whole point of
finger exercises like this is so you can find your weaknesses, so that then you can
improve them, bite by bite. [Pacman Chomps] Okay, let’s move on to Level 2. [Itsa Me, Bass Mario!] Level 2 is the same exercise but now you have a new level goal, which is to keep your fingers
pressed down as you go. So, instead of looking like this: [Bass Playing With Flails] Your fingers are going
to look more like this: [Bass Playing Without Flails] That means that after I
play my index finger note, I add the middle finger
and keep the index finger where it was, add the ring,
keep the middle and the index. And add the pinky, so now all
four fingers are pressing down and then coming back down, I
just release one at a time. Play the pinky, release the pinky, release the ring, release the middle, and then I’m back to the index. So instead of having to lift a finger and press down the next
one at the same time, you only have to do one motion, either add a finger, or subtract a finger, depending on what
direction you’re going in. And this actually makes
it easier to play clean, once you get the hang
of it because it cuts the amount of coordination
you need in half. Here’s what it might sound
like if you don’t nail this: [plays “Dazed And Confused”
with bad coordination] As opposed to this: [plays it better, JPJ says “Thank you”] Again start super slow and out of rhythm, just trying to get your fingers
to follow your commands. [Bass Playing] Aiming for the ends of the frets, keeping your fingers down as you go up, and then releasing one at a
time as you come back down. And really, seriously,
do not be afraid to start really really slow, like way
slower that I just did it. There is no tempo that’s too slow, if it’s the right tempo for you. And keep in mind that a
lot of gigging bass players can’t actually do Level 2 all that well the way I am instructing you, so don’t be surprised if it
takes some time to nail it. And remember to bite size it. For example, if I’m going through and okay it’s working,
it’s working, it’s working, ahh when I press my pinky down
my index finger goes flying, so that’s an issue that I want to isolate and then bring back
into the full exercise. So again maybe I could just go, ring – pinky – ring –
pinky, see if my index finger is doing a little
dance with my pinky and try to get it not to. Okay that’s working in isolation now, now maybe I can bring it
back into the full exercise, and okay my index isn’t flying anymore, so now I’m clear to do the full exercise. Once you feel comfortable doing
it slow and out of rhythm, you can start trying to
do it with a drum beat at whatever tempo is doable for you. I’ll just start here- [Drum Beat Begins] So don’t move onto Level 3 until you can do it at this speed. For beginners, half notes
at 120 beats per minute, which is what I’m doing right now. 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, So one note every two beats, and if you’re more advanced you can aim for quarter notes at 120. Just aiming for the ends of the frets and keeping your fingers down as you go. The two biggest mistakes
most bass students make with these kind of exercises are one: Trying to perform the whole exercise, instead of focusing on bite sizing it. And two: Going way too
fast for their own good. [TOO FAST, YOU LOSE] It’s totally normal to not progress speed wise for multiple practice sessions, and if you’re just starting with fretting efficiency practice, it could
take you like a month or two, just to be able to pass Level 2 at the tempo I recommended. That’s totally okay though! The point is not to blow through all five exercises as fast as you can. The idea is to get as much juice out of each one as possible. So you might be staying
at Level 2 for a while, but you should still keep watching to see where you’re headed next, and especially to get
the tip that I give you in Level 5 that’ll apply to all the previous levels as well. [Bass Playing In Cave Level] Level 3 is the same exercise, index – middle – ring – pinky, pinky – ring – middle – index, but we’re adding a new level goal that drives a lot of bass
players totally crazy. We’re going to put a magnifying glass on your Flying Fingers, so that we can try to keep them closer to
the neck as they release, so that you don’t look like this: [Bass Playing With Fingers Flying] You can look more like this: [Bass Playing With Efficient Fingers] Reducing your range of
motion saves you energy and it also helps you
to play fast more easily because your fingers will be closer to where you need them next. So, same exercise as before, go super slow because we’re adding a new thing. So aiming for the ends of the frets, fingers stay down as you go up, and now as you come back down, see if you can limit the range of motion when your fingers release. I can tell you right
now, you’re going to need to seriously bite size this level if you haven’t worked on this before because your pinky is not going to want to stay anywhere near the neck. When I first started
working on this stuff, I remember I would
physically, like, restrain with my other hand, try to keep my pinky from lifting too far off the neck when I went through the exercise, and I don’t know if that really helped or if I was just feeling frustrated. [Demonic Pinky] You’re not the boss of me! [Josh Gasps] So don’t be afraid to isolate the issue, just if you’re having
issues with the pinky just start there, with the pinky and all the other fingers pressed down and just remove the pinky,
press, lift, press, lift, and just try to get that range of motion as small as you can. It might not be as small
as what you see me doing, that’s totally fine, just
aim to improve over time. Once you’ve got the
pinky a little more tame, you’ll probably have to isolate again when you find that you
lift the ring finger your pinky wants to go flying again, so just isolate the issue,
get the bite size level up, just go pinky – ring – middle, or just ring – middle – ring – middle, and then once you’re convinced that your pinky isn’t going anywhere, you can try the full exercise again. [Bass Playing] Just trying to keep it
as close as you can. Going slow is really crucial here so don’t be in a hurry to speed up. And when you do speed up,
I recommend you take notes on your progress, maybe
just on a sheet of paper, write down the date, the name of exercise, the BPM and a little note
about how it felt that day. [Crying] Then you’ll have proof that
you’ve improved over time which can really help to see when you’re feeling stuck, which is going to happen. So your tempo goal again for this level, is half notes at 120 if you’re a beginner, that will look like this: [Bass Playing] Or quarter notes, if you’re more advanced, just twice the tempo… [Bass Playing] Once you hit that goal,
it’s time for Level 4. [Ocarina Of Bass] Level 4 means that you’re finally ready to change up the actual exercise! Woo hoo! We’re going to start on
the D string 9th fret, go index- middle – ring – pinky, and then move to the G string, index – middle – ring – pinky, and then everything in reverse. Pinky – ring – middle –
index, to the D string, pinky – ring – middle – index. This gives us your Level 4 goal which is to lift your
fingers in the direction of the string you next need them on. Okay, let me show you how that works because it sounds a little complicated. So, I start on the D string 9th fret, I go index – middle – ring – pinky, the first spot that shows up
is when I play pinky note, I want to move my index
over to the G string, because that’s the next
place I’m going to need it and then as soon as I pluck that note, my other three fingers can
come get set over the G string, so that I can go index
– middle – ring – pinky really efficiently. Now it’s even trickier coming back down, this is where this really shows up. So, I play my pinky note and
then as soon as I lift that, I want to lift in the direction
of the G- of the D string, sorry, so if I lift my pinky like this, this doesn’t do me any good because there’s no bass over here. So after I’m done with the pinky, it should go here, because
that’s where I next need it. Same thing with the ring
finger, lift to go over to its note on the D string. Middle lifts towards the D string, and now once my index is
playing the 9th fret note, my pinky should be ready
to go over the 12th fret, as soon as I play that, my
other fingers press down and get ready behind it. [Bass Playing] Okay, so that’s a lot
to think about, right? Keep in mind, again, a lot of gigging, professional bass players, don’t actually do this all that well. I’ve seen it. I have seen it in bars. I have seen it in clubs. Whether you’re just looking
to protect your body and make playing feel easier, or if you want to be able to
shred super hard in the future, this kind of efficiency
makes a huge difference. So, don’t be afraid to start super slow and out of rhythm, just at whatever speed you can actually think
about all this stuff at, and do it right. [Bass Playing] Especially the coming down part, because that’s a lot
of moves to get right. And then just ease into a tempo where you can still keep all
of your level goals in mind, from Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4. So I’ll just play with that at 120, which again is your goal tempo is to get half notes at this speed, if you’re a beginner. Move the index, and then
get ready as you come down, lift toward the D string with each finger, and then get everything
set behind the pinky as soon as you play that note. If you’re more advanced, you can aim for quarter notes at 120. [Bass Playing] It might not sound that hard, but it’s pretty hard to actually
do it right at that tempo. [Donkey Bass Country] – You have reached the summit- [yay] of Level 5, we’re going to play a full one octave chromatic scale, meaning all twelve notes from G to G, and here’s what that’s going to look like. We’re going to start index finger on the 10th fret of the A string, and play index – middle – ring – pinky, and then shift to the
9th fret of the D string, with the index, again go index – middle – ring – pinky, shift to the 8th fret of
the G string, same thing, index – middle – ring – pinky, that’s the first half. Now the second half we go up to the 12th fret with the pinky, come down, pinky – ring – middle – index, then 13th fret of the D, pinky – ring – middle – index, shift to the 14th fret of the A, pinky – ring – middle – index, shift down a fret and you’re back home to where we started. [Bass Playing So as you can see, we’ve
got more string crossing plus we’ve added some vertical shifts compared to Level 4, so don’t expect to be able to do this if you’re not ready. It’s not a big deal. You’ll get here at some point when you are ready. Um, so, before I give
you your Level 5 goal let’s talk through the Level 5 exercise with your Level 1, 2,
3, and 4 goals in mind and then I’ll add on the Level 5 goal which will help you with all
the previous exercises as well. So, I remember my Level 1 goal is to aim for the ends of the frets. And then Level 2 goal, was to keep fingers down as you go up,
index – middle – ring – pinky, and then coming down,
here’s the trickier ones. You want to reduce your
range of motion as you lift, and you want to lift towards the string you’re about to use, so with the D setting version of the exercise that means pinky lifts towards the
D, same with the rest. And then I lift towards the A- [Bass Playing] And those are the Levels
1 through 4 goals, the Level 5 goal is to use as little pressure as possible
with the fretting hand. This makes a huge difference in how easy or difficult it feels to play bass. Here’s how I recommend doing this, I’ll just demonstrate with
the Levels 1 through 3 version of the exercises
just on the G string. So first is perform a system reset, [BLEEP BLOOP] So reset the amount of pressure you would normally use with your hand, and what I mean is: Don’t use any. Just put your fingers- just
go through the motions, but as you can hear, it’s not
enough to get notes, okay? So the idea is from here I’m
going to very very gradually, just a tiny bit at a time, add pressure. I’m almost hearing notes now… Boom! Clean notes. Now this is a little less pressure than I’d normally use honestly, so the goal is after doing this reset, is to keep the pressure
at this new lighter level for the duration of the exercise. And to regularly check in and makes sure that I haven’t started gripping the neck like I’m trying to murder it, again. If you’re like me, you might notice that the amount of pressure you
actually need is less than the amount of pressure you normally use and that’s what’s great
about doing this reset. I mean, just imagine
how easy it could feel to play bass if you were actually using the minimum amount of pressure you needed at all times with your fretting hand. It’d be pretty glorious. [Mario Is Glorious] So I could apply that same idea to the Level 4 exercise, where
we had the string crossing from the D string to the G string, so I’d do a reset, no pressure, just convince myself; “Okay
I’m definitely not using too much, because it’s not enough”. And then I’ll just try a little bit more, okay that’s still not
enough, little bit more, and there it is. So light, so easy. Now all I have to do
is feel how that feels and remember to keep it light like that. And I can do the same thing with Level 5, with the full Chromatic Scale, to start with almost no pressure and then just add a
little bit, a little bit, and there I am, feels really light but I’m still getting nice clean notes. [Bass Playing] Your tempo goal again for Level 5 is half notes at 120, just
like all the other exercises, so that would look like this: [Bass Playing] It’ll take a while to get through the exercise at this
speed but it’s worth it. So I’m aiming for the ends of the frets, fingers staying down and then as I lift,
reducing the range of motion and aiming for the next string
I need those fingers on. And trying to keep the
pressure as light as possible. If you’re more advanced,
you can try quarter notes. As long as you can keep all of your five level goals in mind, if you can’t then you need to go slower. If you can play Level 5 at
one of those tempo targets and keep all of your level goals in mind from the previous levels and
actually have your fingers doing all those things,
you are crushing it. You are so far ahead of most
bass players, technique wise. So, what should you do
if you get to that point? You finished Level 5, you
hit the target I recommended, just go back to Level 3, before we changed up the exercise and work on bumping your
BPM a little bit more. Whatever you think is a
realistic new goal for you. Just so you have a sense
of what’s possible, I set the advanced goal to
be quarter notes at 120, but you could definitely shoot to be able to do eighth notes at
120 with any of these, or even sixteenth notes. [Fast Bass Playing, Josh breaks a sweat] You can also apply all
of these level goals to any other bass finger
exercises you want to work on. Just remember, there’s no
“Best Finger” exercise, it’s not really about the exercises, it’s about the focus on bite sizing whatever you’re working on. This Level 5 exercise is by no means the most difficult bass finger exercise anyone’s ever come up with, but you’d be surprised how many people actually can’t do this, while keeping all of the level goals from
Levels 1 through 5, actually happening in their hands. Victor Wooten said,
“Technique is very important because you can have all
the ideas in the world, but if you can’t express them, then you’re going to be frustrated.” So remember that though these exercises themselves can be really frustrating, what’s like really
really really frustrating is when you have bad technique and you can’t express yourself. [♪ Express Yourself ♪ ] Do you ever wonder why it’s so hard to get your fingers to do what you want? [Evil Pinky] Muahahaha we shall keep the puny hu-mans from mastering
the Bass. Index finger! [Evil Index] Yes sir? [Evil Pinky] Every time I
press down, you will lift. This will make them furious! [Evil Laughter] [Chilling Music]

Daniel Yohans

24 thoughts on “5 Levels of Bass Finger Exercise (Beginner to Advanced)

  1. BassBuzz says:

    🎮 What level did you make it to? (without trashing your Level Goals)

  2. Jeroen Trappers says:

    ❤️

  3. Michael Alvey says:

    Hey! Tried a Squier PJ Bass kit with 15W amp. Whether it is a matter of setup or otherwise, I could not get this bass to get a good clear sound? Any advice here. Have you changed your guitar pickups or otherwise? What other Basses are good bang for buck?

  4. Andrea Turturro says:

    Man, i found your lessons waaaay better than the others. Keep going!

  5. James Anderson says:

    Well, I thought I'd joined a gym with all this excercising. Fortunately, it's only my fingers I need worry about. I found after a few minutes of excersises, I was taking "bite sizes" and shredding cheese in my kitchen to make tacos for lunch. 😁
    All joking aside, great video, good excersises, and I noticed you're left handed as am I. All good people are left handed IMO. 😜
    A pleasure as always Mr Josh. 👍

  6. Elies Apellido Falso says:

    Loving all your tips and the Zelda references, thx so much for your work!

  7. Michael Alvey says:

    Another question – fret sizes? What frets do you recommend of rock and blues, jazz! Narrow Tall or medium/wide? How and what is the difference?

  8. Pamela Anders says:

    Good stuff Josh. You always keep me striving to improve, even when it's painful. Thank you!

  9. Filiosp says:

    Love the arcade theme!

  10. SB / x says:

    THANKS FOR THIS 👍 Watching from Manila PH 🇵🇭

  11. Sweet says:

    im here early

  12. Paulo Tumani says:

    Hey Josh, new sub from Brazil. Very nice teaching methods, thanks!!!

  13. Torgonius says:

    Drummer better learn to play with me, instead! I'm the most special snowflake! 🙂

    Great vid! I really have to work on my super fly(ing) fingers.

  14. Stu Art says:

    You are plucking awesome, Josh!! I have just learnt so much in so few minutes.

  15. Jasmin Duncanson says:

    Great video! Maybe I should get a bass guitar

  16. Sam Rafferty says:

    So helpful, thank you! Your channel is the best I've found for learning bass by a long way. You seem to have a natural talent for teaching. Keep these coming! 🤘

  17. Mattia Devecchi says:

    sorry i understand the name of the app

  18. Raúl Ignacio Possamai Nuñez says:

    Was the italian fingers comment a shoutout to davie504

  19. Darren GTO says:

    I made it to level 3 1/4 notes. Level 4 needs some work. I'm currently in module 14 of Beginner to badass. You've been a tremendous help. I knew absolutely nothing before taking your course. Now I'm writing riffs and having a lot of fun. Thanks 🖤🤘

  20. lyricbread says:

    Hey Josh! Love your channels and your content. Totally off-topic, but how does your Squire Jazz Bass compare to an American or MIM Fender Jazz Bass?

  21. James Craft says:

    Bruh Was This for me Yea!!! I recall telling you my mechanics were terrible didn't really realize how bad until level 2 I'm gonna work on it Thanks

  22. Some Guy Named Phil says:

    Just got my first bass about 3 weeks ago, and your channel has been so helpful!

  23. A Person says:

    Is that A banana tattoo?

  24. Perry Born says:

    I still struggle with level 2 sometimes, but I find that I do it naturally when playing faster music like Hysteria or Reapers. (been on a muse kick recently)
    Still though, best to not get complacent with it and keep up with these exercises/scales

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