As all bass players know, bass guitar requires a surplus of finger strength. With higher gauge strings comes higher tension (in some causes in the twenty pound range), and this requires stronger fingers.
Only, not all of us are born with hulking, behemoth fingers. So how can we build finger strength to improve our bass playing?
First thing’s first; put down your bass. Building finger strength, in the early stages, requires something small and round; a stress ball. Stress balls are great for getting your high blood pressure to drop when you are angry. They are also great for increasing finger strength.
Grip the stress ball between the tips of all your fingers. Squeeze the ball inwards until your fingers are as close to touching one another through the balls skin as they can get.
Hold for five seconds, and then release slowly.
Repeat ten times, and do this exercise daily. Pay attention when performing this action; if you feel discomfort stop; you’re doing too much for one day.
Now, you may be feeling some warmth throughout your fingers, your hand, and your wrist. This is because the stress ball is working your tendons, which in turn will strengthen your fingers.
While the stress ball is a safe way to begin building finger strength, one product we DO NOT recommend is a Grip Master or other spring operated ‘grip strengthener.’
These products put far too much stress on the wrist, which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and arthritis.
The spring weighted systems are made of hard plastic and are made as a rectangle. This means that your fingers are pushing down while you’re the plastic is resting against your palm. This pushes the hard plastic into your palm, this putting the stress of your grip through the delicate tendons of your wrist. In short, in transfers all of the pressure to the most tender portion of your arm.
When you use your stress ball, you aren’t resting it in your palm; your holding it up and squeezing it between the tips of your fingers. This prevents any possible injury as it is a much more natural movement.
Once you have built up the strength, and the stress ball is easy, the next step is to move on to a tennis ball. A tennis ball will add more resistance, which will further increase your finger strength. Once again grip the ball between your fingers, squeeze inwards (it will be hard enough to make any indentation at first, so suffice with a little), hold for five seconds, and then release. Repeat ten times. As with the stress ball, do this daily, but always pay attention; you don’t want to over exert the small tendons.
Both exercises should get you well on your way to having stronger fingers for your bass playing without risking you any injury. However, the best way to strengthen your fingers besides these two methods is to play your bass. Practice your licks and bass scales, and over time, finger strength will come.
Watch this video for one of my favourite exercises to build finger strength. It is called the spider and is very useful to build dexerity in your playing as well.
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