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7 years and still terrible

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by WillySanchez, Mar 2, 2006.

  1. greetings. i have been playing bass for 7 years, when i first started playing i used a pick and played punk type of stuff. as the years went on i matured and started switching between fingers and picks and played indie rock type of stuff (think taking back sunday). my playing is influenced alot by eben from saves the day (again..think 'through being cool' era). im trying to make the transition fully to fingers instead of pick...its really rough though because i can rarely play a whole song fingerstyle without straining my hand. i have been able to hold it down and get the job done, but id like to get better, i can't really do any cool fills or anything because i dont have the speed, or the strength in my left hand, i try to play a G major scale and i cant even fret most of the notes all the way..it sounds horrible. then when i practice it my left hand starts to hurt really bad, i feel like im just starting to play again..any suggestions here about what to practice and how to avoid permanently injuring my hands??
  2. dunamis


    Aug 2, 2004
    If playing through one song is causing strain, you may be tyring to play too hard.

    I read an interview of a famous bassist (Michael Manring) who described part of his workout routine. He said (and this is from memory here but hopefully you'll get the gist of it) that he would practice the feel of how much tension or force it takes to produce a good clean note, with no buzz on the frets (left hand). He said that it is surprising how little tension is really required to play clean notes on a bass.

    This is important because too much tension can:

    1) cause wrist/hand/finger strain and possibly even injury
    2) slow your playing down
    3) make it harder to play notes cleanly.

    I think the same is true of the right hand as well. Pick up your bass and try plucking a note lighter and lighter until it really can't be decribed as a note anymore. Then go a heavier and heavier with the plucking until just the point where the note is well formed.

    Manring's left hand exercise is similar. In the interview, he said he would pluck a note repeatedly then slowly release tension on the fretting hand until the note started to buzz out. Then he'd increase tension gradually until just the point when the buzzing stoppped.

    Once you get to that point, try to play a familiar line or song all the way through using this "low tension" approach. Remember to use the low tension on both left and right hands. Let your amp do the work! If you're not getting the volume you did before, turn up (or get a more powerful amp!).

    One other thing: this doesn't mean that you can't *ever* play hard again, but (IMHO) playing this way will improve your playing and help strengthen your hands. My advice: save the hard stuff for an occasional run or fill, learn to play lighter, and use more amp for punch and volume. Just my $.02...

    Hope this helps!


  3. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    I would definitely suggest getting a lesson from a local teacher at least once - even if you're not up for the time or financial committment of regular lessons, a good teacher will be able to help you with technique and posture and point you in the right direction. One visit is a pretty small investment to get you going down the road to better musicianship. (Don't settle for being a "bass player", strive to become a musician!)

    For starters, though, how high/low do you wear your bass?
  4. joeyzaza


    Dec 16, 2005
    If you're getting pains and stuff often, you need to get yourself checked out, there's loads of music doctors that specialise in musical related injury. If there's nothing wrong with you, you need to see a teacher, who has good technique, then he can say, ok, you're doing this wrong, you're holding that too hard, etc etc. Dude, I can pick lightning fast, but I like to use my fingers, and I've only been playing with my fingers a year, and already I'm gaining speed quickly, because I can sit down and practice repetatively for 4 hours, practice properly and know when enough is enough, then you get better faster stronger, etc. Practice is not about fun and enjoyment, it's boringness and tedius hard work, you just have to be determined, but you have to educate yourself a little bit on health and safety, what you do when you feel a pain, what it means when you have a pain in a particular area, and occasionally it is a good idea to stop for a day, or maybe 2, to let your muscles heal, of course, you have to warm up before you undertake any strenuous activity, stretching and putting cold muscle under strian is a no no. Have fun.
  5. morf

    morf Banned

    Feb 17, 2006
    Keep playing. Pain will go away, muscles will move in, and youll be able to play whatever you want.... slowly ;)
  6. You may want to consider repositioning the height and location of your bass relative to your body and hands.

    You said you started out playing punk style, and a lot of those guys play with a pick and with the bass really low.

    That's all fine, but you will notice that it puts a sharp bend in your left wrist, especially in the low frets.

    This sharp bend is bad - it is a palmar flexion/ulnar deviation - which in English means "more likely to cause pain, suffering, & damage."

    Ideally, from the point of view of tendonitis, both wrists should be in a "neutral" position, like it would be when shaking hands. Of course, that's pretty tough to do all the time when playing.

    Try adjusting the height of your bass as well as the angle of the neck relative to your body - the headstock can point straight across your body, or almost straight up in the air, or anywhere in between.

    You may be able to find a location where both your left and right wrists are fairly straight.
  7. that suggestion about lighter touch sounds really good to me, and i am definitely going to take some lessons for a bit for sure. my bass position is variable, i have a horrible time finding a comfortable spot, usually its in the middle, not too high not too low. but no matter what i do i dont have alot of dexterity or flexibility towards the top of the neck, if ive got to do a scale or a run up there thats when it really hurts, i have alot of dexterity on the higher notes...im gonna need to start practicing alot more.
  8. i agree with cristo about the position of your instrument.
    Alot of people learn to play sitting down which puts your bass up near your chest and is pretty comfortable. But then they start playing with a strap and they drop their instrument down past their waist because it looks "cooler". But it is going to be harder to learn technique with your wrist bent in weird positions. Look at pictures of Jaco or even the guys from Audioslave/RATM. Alot of guys (and girls) play up high for playability not "look".
    I suggest shortening your strap for a quick cheap fix and see if it helps.
  9. joeyzaza


    Dec 16, 2005
    Yep, check billy sheehan, he wears it HIGH, and he is a cool cat, nobody thinks any less of him because he doesn't have his bass below his crotch. He says in his video that you shouldn't practice with your bass sitting down in a different height to what it would be if you were standing up, that's important too.
  10. kenlacam


    Nov 8, 2005
    akron, ohio
    I wish I could play with a pick!
  11. RoMeRz


    Feb 13, 2006
    Glasgow, Scotland
    This may be totally unhelpful - but im the opposite. I can play really well with my fingers, but with a pick my hand hurts after a while and I always seem to drop them. No matter though as I have no reason to use a pick.
  12. amistybleu


    Jan 15, 2006
    Thornton, CO
    +1 an raising your Bass, I had terrible tendonitis from the Bass being to low and solved it by raising the bass, don't keep plaing if you are experiencing pain, heal and reposition:bassist:
  13. How is your bass setup? If you have high action and high string tension, that could be a culprit as to why you're having trouble with left hand technique and pain.

    I'd look at your setup, and your technique (as has been said, even one lesson can be a real eye-opener). It may just be a matter of getting used to a different right hand technique though as well... I'm pretty happy with my left hand when I play fingerstyle, but when I use a pick it seems to all go out the window.
  14. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    It's surprising (to me anyway) that you changed what you're doing with your right hand, and you're having problems with your left hand, if I am understanding correctly. As a picker/guitarist transitioning to fingers like you, all I can say is that I agree with a previous poster - why not take a few lessons to develop good habits right off the bat (even though I haven't done this). And second, it takes practice, practice, and more practice to be good with your fingers. Good players make it look easy, but it's not. I always wonder if some people are just more gifted than I am with their fingers, and that may very well be, and you might be more gifted than they are with a pick. But I also know I'm better than I give myself credit for with my fingers, and you probably are too. The more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. Oh, and my right hand hurts and gets tired sometimes, but I'm developing muscle strength in muscles not previously used just like you are. Also you have to realize that your brain knows what you are capable of doing with a pick, and you try to do those things with your fingers, and you can't yet, so you get frustrated. You just have to keep practicing, and accept that you will not be as good as you were with a pick unless you keep playing with your fingers, especially at gigs when your adrenaline is going, and you doubt yourself - you might screw up a little, but that's where you build confidence.

  15. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    Go to guitarprinciples.com. The guy has the best insights as to how to *properly* practice improving the technique side of your chops.

    (disclaimer: not affiliated in any way).
  16. i tried bringing my bass up a bit higher, it does definitely help, and ive stopped practicing sitting down, because that position hurts my hand, so i practice with my bass in the same position i play in...it feels like its starting to get better.
  17. Mach1FT


    Jan 5, 2006
    Manchester NH
    Dont feel bad, I'm working with a guitar play now who has been playing for 30 years and he's still trying to get pass the first 7 notes on creedence fortunate son been working on it since november..LOL

    I quit playing for a few years and my hands are in pain almost daily
    Wohoo Lots of advil before playing helps...
  18. mothmonsterman


    Feb 8, 2006
    play more, i try to play along woth my drummers double bass as much as possible for a number of reasons. He's quite fast (think the guy from fear factory) it helps make me faster but at shows he goes nuts and i strain my hands, but slowly i get fast and we keep chalenging each other.
  19. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Willy, connective tissue and chronic joint pain points to some serious problems that will cause real heath issues. Your technique or lack thereof, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, a very painful inflamation of the ligaments of the hand.You need to take a break and let the inflamation subside. A visit to a hand Doctor is not a bad idea. You may also need some anti-inflamatory drugs.

    You need to find a qualified teacher as has been pointed out. Not for one lesson, as one post suggests, but rather on an on-going basis. You need a coach! Soft touch is all that is required to get a great tone.

    A teacher will cut the learning curve dramatically, provided you do some wood shedding.

    Good Luck.