Technique: double bassist Alex Henery gives tips on controlling left-hand finger pressure

henery 1

How to place down, lift and move your fingers in a way that minimises fatigue, by Alex Henery, Principal double bassist of the Sydney Symphony and head of double bass studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music

When I first learnt to play the double bass, the left hand was treated like a typewriting machine: the left arm went up and down the instrument as the fingers pressed down in the right places with the hand shape only encompassing a single tone. More recently, players such as Franco Petracchi, Joel Quarrington and François Rabbath have instead been using pivots, extended thumb position and rolling of the forearm to extend the reach of the hand; pivoting from the thumb to allow the hand to reach up and down the neck; or using low thumb position to increase the number of notes in any given position.These methods are fantastic and have led to major advancements for the instrument, but how best to put the fingers down while using them is not discussed enough. If done incorrectly, extending or stretching the hand can require more energy and lead to fatigue – and that fatigue will impact negatively on players’ intonation, vibrato and shifting.


Sign up for a free 7-day trial to read this article in full

Strad subscription


This article is usually available exclusively to subscribers.

For a limited period, you can enjoy all the benefits of an online subscription free for 7 days. Sign up now to read this article in full and to enjoy unlimited access to all premium online content, a digital edition of the latest issue, plus an online archive of more than 100+ back issues.


If you are already a subscriber, sign in here.