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Abnormal fretting hand wrist angle

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jansen2k17, Aug 4, 2017.


  1. jansen2k17

    jansen2k17

    Jan 16, 2017
    I've been playing bass for a year and about 8 months into my playing, I started to get serious wrist pain in my fretting hand. I took some videos of myself playing and compared it to other people and realized that I had a serious bend in my wrist. I've spent at least 4 months trying to fix it, and I would much rather have spent those four months improving my playing. I've tried adjusting strap height, angle, thumb position, arm position, which part of my fingers I fret with, using my right (plucking) arm in different ways, and I even tried getting a wrist brace. When I decided to switch from 1234 fingering to 124, I still had that problem. My 1234-using bass teacher has told me to simply "not put my wrist at that angle." This has been really frustrating because it physically hurts and I'm not as far in my musicianship as I could've been if I didn't have this problem. In fact, it's been so frustrating that I've been thinking about giving up on bass playing together. The photos I included show me trying to play a major second, perfect fifth, and octave respectively. If anyone else has experienced this or has any advice, it would be deeply appreciated. Thanks

    4mEDQmG.
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  2. Badwater

    Badwater

    Jan 12, 2017
    After a year of playing, you should have learned to hold the bass and fret it. But if you're still struggling with how to hold and fret the bass, there are some online tips that can help you look at other ways to hold and fret the bass.

    There is the proper beginner school way of doing it. Which consists of playing the bass like a cello or classical guitar. Once you get beyond the beginner mode of holding the bass, you can start to hold and fret the bass in a more comfortable way, that will allow you to relax and play with more speed and acuraccy. Doing so, you'll have less strain on your wrist, hand, and thumb. And you'll be able to play for hours without a problem.

    One way to learn how to hold and fret the bass is look at some videos of how good bass players do it. And emulate their hand's and positions, and how they hold the bass. And, how they move their hands in unison vs stretching their fingers. The best bass players have technique and groove, and most never use a lot of pressure to fret. And the one thing they all have in common is... They play standing up.


     
  3. flojob

    flojob Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2011
    Just want to say dont feel bad about the months you've spent correcting your wrist. That IS improving your playing. Good on you for that.
     
    bolophonic and Lobster11 like this.
  4. fearceol

    fearceol

    Nov 14, 2006
    Ireland
    +1.


    OP...try bringing the elbow out away from the body slightly, and bring the wrist up closer to the bottom of the fretboard.


     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
    Garret Graves and Lobster11 like this.
  5. yes, your hand in the photos looks crampy.
     
  6. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Ouch!

    Good suggestions above. I tend to hold all my instruments up pretty high with the neck angled somewhere around 45-60 degrees. My thumb rests on the back of the neck on the other side of the 3rd or 4th string in a c shape with my fingers.

    Bad habits are tough to break.
     
  7. From the picture - move your elbow away from your body a little more. And try to sound the string with the pad of your fingers. We play one note at a time and really do not need to play - as the guitar guys do - with the tip of our fingers. Try to just lay the finger on the string you need, as if you were making a barre chord, this will deaden the lower not used strings and help with muting. Plus get the angle back into control. The picture in post # 4 is an example of what I'm talking about.

    My two cents. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
    Lobster11 likes this.
  8. Don't anchor your thumb behind the neck...let it slide over the top if it wants to.

    The minute you do this your wrist will straighten out by itself.
     
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  9. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Yep. And don't try to play notes on the very tip of your fingers so much, but more under on the flat part with your fingers not so curved. THAT, in fact may be what's making your wrist want to bend so much.

    Another thing that might help is to try pointing the bass neck a little outward toward the audience, like shooting a rifle, although not that much, of course. Just a little.

    I really think it's ALL because your fingers are too curved onto their very tips. My bass callouses are under the tips and a little toward my body. My guitar callouses are more on the tips.
     
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  10. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Look at that last video without hitting PLAY. See how flat his fingers are? I'm convinced that's your problem.
     
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  11. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Heh, try this. Tape a ruler to the back of your hand and up your arm so that your wrist can't bend at all. Then see what your fingers want to do. It's extreme (it's ok for your wrist to bend SOME when playing, even necessary at times). But it might give you the idea.

    Also, you don't have to always have to keep your fingers spread so far apart all the time, even with 1234 fingering. You might even try 124 fingering. That's what I use most. But I was trained on classical upright, so it's natural to me.
     
    Oleg BassPlayer likes this.
  12. bolophonic

    bolophonic

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    OP, I've been playing for 30 years and somewhere along the way I found that I had adopted a terrible bent-wrist style as pictured in your post. I attribute it to carelessness, over ambitious playing, and (most importantly) listening to other players early on who insisted that the only proper way of playing was to anchor my thumb on the back of the neck.

    So I basically had to re-learn how to play, utilizing a technique that jives better with my own ergonomics. That was 10 years ago and I still fight the urge to bend my wrist if I'm playing a chord or hitting an octave. Just stay focused.
     
    Russell L likes this.
  13. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I just spent some time sitting with my bass trying to recreate this hand position. It is very painful for me to do. It also seems to make playing harder.

    I would also suggest playing with a camera or a mirror so you can pay attention to it when you play. And even if it seems stupid or a waste of money, spend an entire lesson with your instructor working on it.
     
    Russell L likes this.
  14. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Right. You (OP) look like you are trying to play chords like a guitarist, arching your fingers and fretting with your fingertips in order to carefully avoid letting your fingers touch any of the other strings. This is not only unnecessary on bass, but counterproductive: You want your fingers to lay across the other strings in order to mute them (i.e., prevent them from vibrating sympathetically with the string you are playing).

    I find this extremely helpful in helping to keep my fretting wrist straight. Let the body of the bass sit on your right hip more than on your belly and aim the neck outwards a bit.
     
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  15. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Where's the OP? Still listening, pal?
     
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  16. Garret Graves

    Garret Graves website- ggravesmusic.com Gold Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    Arcadia, Ca
    There's a lot of advice here from some solid players, and some of it contradictory. Some are saying wrap your thumb over the top, and that will straighten your wrist- but that has you pointing your thumb at the ceiling- the video in post 4 (which I think is a great source for good ergonomics) says point your thumb at the headstock. I agree that the thumb (in general) should be pointed at headstock behind the neck, at least as you head past the 5th fret or so. Standard guitarists like to thumb over, especially for bending notes.
    Most important is RELAX!
    Other things to keep in mind, when you are playing, the more that you can (gently) plant your thumb and pivot up to reach notes in the next position up and return back to home position without ever shifting your thumb (but only pivot), the better you will be prepared for no look playing and reading. See Carol Kaye talk about that here at 34 minutes in- a great concept to get!
     
  17. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I agree about the thumb pointing toward the headstock, but it can come over the top some and still do that as well. I also find that when I use my pinky when in 1234 mode, that's when my wrist bends the most, but even then it isn't much.
     
  18. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It's funny -- I've long been mystified by the thumb-over-the-top-of-the-neck thing. Not saying that there's anything wrong with it -- I see lots of great players doing it all the time -- it's just that in 16 years of playing my thumb has just never ever had any desire to go there. Honestly, it's difficult for me to even do it on purpose; it feels terribly awkward. Don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I'd be curious to know if anyone else is the same way.
     
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  19. fearceol

    fearceol

    Nov 14, 2006
    Ireland
    My thumb peeps over the neck from time to time. While it can be limiting, I don't see anything wrong with it, as the wrist is straight. If you are playing in the one area of the neck with little requirement to move the hand, then I don't see why not.

    Having said the above, my thumb does not reach over the neck near as much, or as often as Macca"s does in this clip.


     
  20. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I, in general, have to bring the thumb around on purpose. I do it less on bass than guitar, but I only do it to fret a note. Bringing my thumb around like that makes my fingers less free to play. Sir Paul also plays with the wrong hand, but he is a knight.
     
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