Difficulty with fingers on stage lately
I just wanted to post up on this to see what other bass players thought. I have always been able to play without ever getting my hands tired during a gig(even ones where I found myself playing harder due to lack of hearing myself), but lately it seems to be getting the better of me.
I've been playing since I was 15, have been playing fast and leady riffs in my latest band(with a few solos wink wink) and only over the maybe 6 gigs(2 months) I noticed my plucking hand will get tense and start to lock up during the set(usually when I'm playing harder due to lack of hearing myself on stage) and sometimes even my fretting hand will get sore(but not as much as the locking of my plucking hand)
This is surprising for me. As I'm a person who 4 years ago, had a reputation for my fingers bleeding onto my pickups at gigs, because I used to play so "hard"(little did people know it was because of the sound engineer at the venue not having the bass audible on stage) haha. Which is why it's worrying me, as even then, my hands never locked up. Should I maybe be doing more exercise to make sure my fingers don't lock up and tire out during the faster riffs? What could cause this after nearly 8 years of playing? I'm a bit worried ;p
Hard to say. Just from my own experience I would say that you've just sort found yourself in some kind of a mental rut.
I can play the same tune for days, but if I just play it over and over at the same speed, eventually one day I'll just go blank. It's so buried in my subconscious that I can't get to it intentionally.
You probably need to just refocus on your technique. Good practice, slow and without tension etc. Speed comes from getting it right slow iME.
My guess is that it will come back with good practice.
You might be right about the rut thing. I do find myself playing gigs that I don't really want to(mainly due to being weekdays and support slots, which I don't take as much joy in) and sometimes focus too much on the song because of the fact I don't want to screw up :p(I actually think about these things when less people are at a gig haha). Cause I can play through these sets 3 times over and still write without my hands cramping up in rehearsal, but I don't play as hard in rehearsal as I do on stage :p haha
Same happens to me occasionally. Try some stretching of the fingers and forearms, arms and shoulders, some warm up exercises to help loosen the muscles.
You need to get some kind of monitor...wedge, your cab, in-ear, etc.
You're on the fast track to tendonitis. If you let it go until it becomes carpal tunnel, you can almost forget about being a bass player after that because your hands will never be the same. You'll never have the speed and endurance that you have now--ever again.
This issue is really a fascinating one. Some days I can play with ease, some days it's like pulling teeth. I think its just a part of the process of becoming a good player.
It's something I really focus on. If I start playing and its like I'm forcing everything, it really takes discipline to sort of go back and be where you are on that day. Just because you could play with a certain skill one day doesn't automatically mean it will be there the next.
Usually if you find your comfort zone for that particular day and just stay there for a while, you'll break through and your skill level will come back, again IME.
Sometimes its physical I think. Maybe your hands are a bit colder. Sometimes I've just peeled an orange and my fingers just stick more. Stupid stuff like that.
But the bigger issue is mental. It's like shooting a basketball.....some days you're hot and somedays not. On the days where you're not, you just have to do what you can do and not be frustrated with yourself.....or at least control it.
Your mind is processing so many things at once when you play. It's like your head brings up one thing at a time that you need to work on, that before was unconscious.
Getting stuck or having to go back is the process of going forward. Zen man, zen.
(usually when I'm playing harder due to lack of hearing myself on stage)
i think this could be your problem. playing harder than you would normally play in practice could be causing the issue.
does this happen at rehearsals or when you are practicing by yourself?
I have experienced the exact same thing! I am predominantly a pick player. When I joined my new band i switch to finger style because the reggae rock calls for it. My plucking hand would stiffen up to the point to were I couldn't play and I would have to grab a pick to finish the set or sometimes the song. Best thing for me so far is to stay hydrated and drink Gatorade / water a few hours before the gig. My wife also massages my hands about 5 minutes before I play and it has been helping. I have also been turning up my stage volume so I don't have to pick as hard.
I was getting some physical therapy on my shoulder once. I asked my PT to do a little work on my forearm and hand as I was having the same issues. He was surprised how tense my arm and hand were. He did some work on my tendons and muscles. It was amazing how loose my hands felt after. I worked forest service for years doing wild land fire and chain sawing so I have carpal tunnel issues already. But try to free up any tension in your forearm and hand. try deep massage on your hand right on the muscle by your thumb. If you have some money you can spend, make an appointment with a respectable PT and have them tune up your arms and hands. Im expecting to do this every 6 months or so just to keep up on it. Good luck
Ditto on all the above. And, if you're noticing more cramping or twitching of muscles in other areas, (a good bassist will notice it first in the hands) might not be a bad idea to go see your doctor for a blood test to make sure you're not missing some vitamin or something. Same thing happened to me when I hit 30. Turned out my Vitamin D was way low.
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