WHEN YOU PLAY a guitar, at least the instrument is showing you where the notes are - the frets mark out the divisions between tones. On any of the violin family – and the double bass is just a big violin stood on end – you don't get that kind of help, and you have to get used to where the notes are by touch and practice.
That means the fingering has to be as precise as if you had invisible frets on the instrument. As with violinists, viola-players and cellists, the basic position in which you shape your hand from which to start fingering the notes is very important.
If your fingers are flat, it's harder to plant the finger-ends squarely on precisely the right position to get the correct intonation – and the flatter they are, the more likely your fingers are to touch the wrong string on their way across to the right one.
In this clip, Larry Bartley demonstrates the starting point for playing jazz bass.