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How do I stop getting blisters when I play double bass for long periods of time?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by BrandenSteele, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. BrandenSteele

    BrandenSteele

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    Hello! I play the double bass in my school band and for fun, and I am continually getting blisters. I usually play slap on the bass guitar, so I have callouses built up, but the double bass just gives me blisters. Is there a way I can stop blisters or build up callouses? Thanks.

    Edit: I play using metal strings.
  2. KUNGfuSHERIFF

    KUNGfuSHERIFF

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    Keep playing. Form callouses. Take a break when it hurts.

    Is your school providing lessons with a doublebass teacher?
  3. bherman

    bherman Supporting Member

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    Time, dude, time. I started playing again after a really long hiatus (I'm talking decades). It took me a year to get my hands mostly back in shape.
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    Blisters are a way of life. It's probably just safer to just assume you will never be rid of them and find out ways that deals with a blister and how to callous up after you've had it tear off. I've been playing regularly for almost 10 years and always get blisters at some point - esp after not practicing for a week.
  5. Marty Forrer

    Marty Forrer

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    You're playing too hard. If the bass is set up well (if it's a school bass I guess its not) and if you play softly you should be able to coax a nice fat sound out of it without blisters. Do you have a bass teacher? Most schools do not, they just have a violin teacher who thinks they know how to teach bass... the reality is they dont know the first thing about it.
  6. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

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    Disclosures:
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Branden,

    DB and bass guitar are different animals, the DB being much more demanding and sometimes painful. It is important that you get some instruction about proper pizz technique. Your physical approach is very important in learning to get a good sound from your entire body rather than concentrating on your hands. However, it does take time to develop calluses so my advice is to practice a bit every day and when it hurts, stop.

    Try using the outside of your first finger, really the middle knuckle.
    Watch this:

    Primarily using the outside of the first finger spreads the contact area and allows more meat on the string. I'll still occasionally get a bit of pain beneath the calluses and it's good to be able to switch my fingers for relief.

    Marty is right. You need a teacher who plays the DB as his or her main instrument. If you intent to play pizz get some lessons from a jazz player.
  7. tcl

    tcl

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    Okay, I'm chime in my 2 cents. In my experience, 7+ years on the upright - it's impossible to avoid getting blisters if you play more than you usually do. If you'll accept that, then the only way to avoid blisters is to play frequently for as long as you usually do. That means, if you have a gig for 4 hours, four 45 minute sets, and you want to avoid blisters, you need to play for nearly 3.25 hours before you play your 4 hour gig. So, the advice to play every day - and get a teacher - are correct, IMHO - but I'll add that you need to practice for nearly as long as your gig if you want to avoid blisters. I've had really bad days with 2 4-hour gigs on 3 consequence days and my fingers were bleeding profusely on the 3rd day. Band-aids just don't hack it. So, now, I try to work up to the duration of the gigging with my daily practice. Don't even talk to me about hand cramps - which happen if I play both too much and too little!
  8. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

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    A few weeks ago I had 6 gigs in one week and two of them were without an amp. One of the ampless gigs was 5 hrs and I didn't get any blisters. My pizz fingers have never bled either.
    I don't think it's helpful to practice 3-4 hrs before a 4 hr gig.
  9. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

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    +1 Follow this advice and you may have a long and productive bass playing life. Our bodies can only take so much. You may have heard of repetitive stress injuries...

    I haven't had a blister in decades. Blisters will lead to callouses and once you get the callouses, you should be fine as long as you play regularly. You don't have to play a specific amount of time, just play. If you take off, say a couple of weeks, you may get some new blisters upon returning, but if you work into it easily, I think you will be fine. Don't play too hard. If you constantly get blisters with no formation of callous, I would see a Doc.
  10. damonsmith

    damonsmith

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    I got a rough blood blister at a free jazz session in Mexico City in Oct. Pizz is not a good technique for practicing the instrument, but if you play pizzicato, pizzicato must be practiced!
    Practice the bass arco, and practice pizzicato pizzicato.
  11. tcl

    tcl

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    Sorry, I should have been more clear, I meant in the days, week or so, prior to the gig. On gig days, I usually just warm up.
  12. jnel

    jnel Guest

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    in the meantime-the best thing that i have found to deal with a blister or cut finger is white paper tape- if feels natural- get it a wal-mart in the band-aide section- careful, it's right next to another tape that looks just like it(plastic-i think) just be sure you get the white paper tape. It seems that it took about 2 or 3 months before I stopped getting blisters-so give it some time and when you have one try this white paper tape- good luck! good question!
  13. ryanhagler

    ryanhagler

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    The relationship between blisters and calluses is a myth. A few posts up, someone said "blisters are a way of life." This is 100% false. You have to take care of your body. You wouldn't lift weights or run to the point of extreme pain or injury, would you? So why would you play an instrument to that point? (obvious answer: you've got a gig)

    Pain is your body's way of saying "hey, stop that!" The formula for good, healthy calluses is simple: play to the point of pain, then take a break. When you feel good again, play some more. Rinse and repeat, and you'll have solid calluses in no time.

    People think blisters cause calluses because they play carelessly until the blister happens, which eventually heals, and they have a callus. But in reality, a callus is a reaction to stressed skin, and a blister is not necessary to initiate this reaction. You need to stress your skin to tell your body that you need a callus on that spot. Good, consistent technique will help as well. If you are consistent with the part of the finger you are using (left and right hand) the callus will build thick and hard in that spot. For any serious pizzicato playing (jazz, bluegrass, etc) this IS where your sound comes from.

    Bottom line: If you don't HAVE to play, and you're in pain: STOP.
  14. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

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    Pulling a muscle is not in the same category as getting blisters or serious injury that would really slow you down. I suppose if people are really that wimpy.

    It's not just about gigs. Practice sessions, jam sessions, and some will suffer for the sound (like playing gut or ampless). IMO, blisters are something you live through if you're serious about your music. I dont' get pain when I get blisters BTW - if it happens, it happens - usually very small. If there's irritation, it comes after the playing is over. And generally, my blisters go very very deep, far below any callous that develops on top. Most of us can't get enough practice enough if we have to stop every time a blister happens. It's just impractical.

    There's no one answer. It's foolish to think that everybody's body works the same. For some, it's chronic, for others it's a rare occurance. Good technique helps but isn't always the solution.
  15. damonsmith

    damonsmith

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    People like me who understand pizzicato is not an efficient way to practice the instrument need to remember that the act of pizz must be practiced to do it well and avoid blisters.
    When I was playing more free jazz with drums I had no problems, in recent times I have been doing more drummerless improvised music and when I played some free jazz in Oct. in Mexico City I got a huge blood blister. Now do some pizz everyday!
  16. Groove Doctor

    Groove Doctor

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    @ Branden:
    How many times a week do you play DB? How long each session?

    Shorter sessions and more often were the only way I developed calluses. Spacing practice/ gigs apart (esp during busy times) I don't get blisters.

    +1 on a DB Teacher and a good set up.
  17. Dropwise

    Dropwise

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    Here's a shortcut to developing calluses:

    1. Play (with proper pizz technique) until you develop a nice puffy blister.

    2. Obtain a brand new safety pin (smallest you can find) and sterilize the sharp part by cleansing it with isopropyl alcohol, then burning off the alcohol with a cigarette lighter. Rinse the sterilized safety pin with cold water to cool it back to room temperature.

    3. Apply pressure to the blister and very carefully poke a hole in its side with the sterilized safety pin. Drain the fluid by applying more pressure.

    4. The hole will close every 20 minutes or so, so continuously apply pressure to re-drain the fluid. Re-sterilize the safety pin and poke a second hole if you need to.

    5. Repeat steps 1-4 and you'll have decent calluses in one week or less, with regular practice.

    Your mileage may vary. Consult your physician if you have any doubts, but I've relied on this trick for many years without any issues.

    NOTE: DO NOT remove the 'dead' skin of the blister. That skin will reconnect with the tissue beneath it with proper care, as described above.
  18. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

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    I agree with a teacher. I agree with consistent practice that builds from whatever you are initially comfortable with to hours a day. This might take some time. I was playing 8 hours a day (With private practice and rehearsals) while in my final year of my Bachelor's degree. In my first year? Significantly less because I had not built up to it yet. You can't go from 0-100 and expect your body to be ok with that.

    As for building calluses, that too takes time. As your technique improves, blisters become less of a problem. When your intonation improves, you don't have to slide/roll your left hand fingers around searching for the notes. When your right hand technique improves, you use a specific part of your finger consistently, and it builds a callus. The only problem I have with blisters is when my intonation needs work and my fourth finger is flat. I end up rolling the finger to get the note in tune, and a blister develops on a part of my finger I really shouldn't be using anyway.

    Likewise, do not expect that playing a lot of electric bass will mean you are in the clear on double bass. the strings are significantly different, (especially if you are using rounds on your electric) and the technique you use is different too. This means you might have calluses on your fingers from one, but they might not be very useful on the other. Try to give both instruments equal mileage, and your bass playing on both instruments will improve.

    Above all else, give it time. I personally don't believe in "playing through the pain" when you don't have to, encourage practicing/playing in moderation, and stopping when it hurts. Not everyone has that luxury.
  19. D_Bag

    D_Bag

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    I just put duct tape on my finger.
  20. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    I try to keep the callouses on my pizz hand as minimal as possible. If they get too thick and hard (jeez I hope PeeDub isn't reading this), the sound gets too trebly and there's a little click every time I hit the string. So I usually end up filing them down or cutting them away if they start to tear.

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