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Advice on new bass for impaired bassist

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mndean, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. mndean


    Mar 20, 2009
    Newbie with a serious question. First my history -

    My history of playing bass isn't large, but I did play bass three times in my life. First was in the early '80s with a Jazz Bass, but the band broke up before I got anywhere near even mediocre with the instrument. In the early '90s I bought a bass I don't even remember the name of, just that it was very cheap and fit nicely. It was full scale as well, and this time again a group of musicians asked me to play with them, but members left and the band wasn't even ready to gig when it was no more. With a job requiring lots of overtime, I lost interest without others to play with.

    Recently I got a P-bass (okay, a Korean Bullet Bass, but it has the P-bass neck profile) to play gigs with a songwriter friend, and I've been having many issues with reach and thumb/heel of hand/wrist pain after even only 45 minutes of practice. I should mention that I have smaller than average hands and was operated on for carpal tunnel (not brought on by playing bass), with modest success.

    My question is - what should I do? I would dearly love to stay with a long scale bass, but both neck width and thickness are real issues. I am not against a short-scale bass, but I've looked at some short-scale basses and they seem to be afterthoughts for the most part, whether cheap or expensive.

    Any thoughts or guidance? I'm very serious in playing and have more time to do so now, so I don't mind spending the money for something that will make me happy.
  2. 1. You maybe havent played enough to get good technique. Search the technique section for information.
    2.The Geddy lee jazz bass has a thin neck, front to rear, and standard 1.5 jazz bass width.
    3. Hand size makes no differance. Women play long scales, I know a short man, 4 feet tall that plays. He has small hands.
    Hopefully the carpal tunnel syndrome wont be a problem. Only a doctor can answer that.
    The short mans name is Norman, He's playing a Rick here. www.myspace.com/steelcaravan
  3. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    As much as I dig short-scale basses for their own sake, I agree that hand size shouldn't dictate scale length, and that painful practice just means you should spend time with an experienced teacher.
  4. OtterOnBass


    Oct 5, 2007
    thumb/heel pain, lack of reach.

    I'm assuming it's the left hand, then. You need to get that technique figured out. You don't need to squeeze the hand to fret the notes. Try putting your fingers closer to the fretwire instead of the center of the fret. Also, adjust the strap until you can reach all of the notes. You may need to aim the neck more vertically.
  5. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    I have small girly hands.

    2 more things to consider besides neck thickness:

    1. Radius of the fretboard. A more convex radius makes you reach harder for the 4th string. This to me has been a big deal.

    2. Not as major, but something to consider: width of the neck, not just the thickness. A wider neck may be harder to get your hands around.

    I'm pretty new to the bass thing as well. I've got money to blow, so lately I've been buying blowout priced basses to try and find what works for me.

    I've got a Lace Helix which has a thick "C" shaped neck, but Its quite playable for me because of the mostly flat fretboard, and I think its specific neck shape, though thick, works well with my hands for whatever reason.

    I've got a Yamaha RBX4 A2 which has a thinner Jazz-like neck. Its quite difficult for me to play though, as the fretboard has a very curved radius. As the neck gets wider up the notes, it gets harder and harder for me to reach stuff, especially that 4th string. I have a hard time just doing a complete slide. It makes me sad because this bass is really well built and has perfect fretwork.

    I just got an Ibanez EDB550 2 days ago. Even though it doesn't say so in the catalog and on the websites, it has their soundgear neck. This has got to be the thinnest neck out there and its width is probably the least as well. Its seriously small at the nut! Even though its a 34" scale bass with a full 24 frets, its like what I imagine the average 32" scale might feel like. Its just fantastically slim.

    So, that's some stuff to think about.
  6. mndean


    Mar 20, 2009
    Thanks for the ideas. Just FYI, I do put my first finger as close to the fretwire as I can. Even with that, my pinky finger is left in the middle of the fret and only with great difficulty can I reach any nearer the fretwire.

    Technique is something I considered, and I'll read up here on what I may be doing wrong. I can contact and old bassist friend I know to see if he sees anything wrong. He generally plays double basses but spent many years playing bass guitar.

    Also, one thing I missed mentioning is that when I started bass with the Jazz bass I was a converted guitarist, and even then I much preferred my '60s Les Paul with the skinny neck over my Telecaster. It was one reason I bought the Jazz Bass. I spent the day trying out basses for feel then, and was very uncomfortable with the P-bass and Rickenbacker necks. Yes, I have small girly hands. I used to not even be able to span an octave on a piano, but now I can.
  7. mndean


    Mar 20, 2009
    Oh, I checked the Ibanez site, and the EDB isn't listed. I did find the SR bass with the soundgear neck, and it seems about the narrowest, thinnest neck I've seen specs to. Should be worth a look. My problem is I'd prefer a passive bass, and heavy flatwound strings. Other basses in their line have fairly thin necks. I used to own an Ibanez guitar - solid as a rock and about as heavy, too. I'll keep Ibanez in mind along with the Geddy Lee.
  8. I've got fairly small hands. I started with an Ibanez SR 400, and it feels good. Also found a used 2001 MIM P-bass that has a fairly thin, narrow neck that I don't have any problems playing. Ibanez also makes a smaller bass, the Mikro I think it's named, that is short scale and has been discussed elsewhere on Talkbass. Might be worth the time to try one out somewhere, if you can find them at a music store somewhere.
  9. Technique, technique, technique.

    I'm 5'6" and 125lbs on a good day. I have a short scale Rob Allen Mouse 30, but I also play a 35" scale Conklin 6 string that makes me look very tiny. Having proper technique and the right strap length makes a very pronounced difference. Keep in mind that some budget shorties aren't particularly balanced and have high action, which may offer other kinds of wrist problems.
  10. J. Crawford

    J. Crawford

    Feb 15, 2008
    Look into a short scale bass such as an SX, www.rondomusic.com

    Theyre about 125 bones, and should give you a cheap way to experiment.
  11. bassistgook


    Feb 5, 2009
    How are your wrist positioned while playing bass? A good form will be playing with your wrist straight. If you have your wrist at fully bent angles it will cause discomfort and can cause pain after a bit. Hope this helps.
  12. DING! DING! DING! I think gook hit it.

    Put your bass on adn fret a note the way you do now. Are your knuckles at a 45 degree angle to the edge of the neck, or are they parallel? Proper technique is parallel, which usually measn you have to bring the back of your left arm, i.e. your elbow up closer to your ribs, tight to your body.

    I can play sloppy with my hand size BUT, once you go to 5 string or more sloppy kills as you cant mute strings using that old skool grab the neck anyway you can thing.

    I will tell you that it was uncomfortable for me at first, and I dont know if this will help or hurt your carpal tunnel. I'm no doc.
  13. I owned one of the SR405s; nice, deep sound, the neck was a split-P with a wide pickup cover and the bridge was a J-style with the same cover. Main bass for a while, the bass tone control was very responsive. I think the newer models come with only two tone controls:
  14. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Yeah its a discontinued line for this year, but you can get them on blowout right now. You can see mine at the end of the Ibanez thread or the end of the Ergodyne thread. Its not passive,though.
  15. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    I lost the ends of two fingers and half of my thumb on my left hand, so neck size and shape has a lot to do with what I find comfortable. The assymetric profile of my Tobias Growler has been a godsend for me. If cost is an issue, try finding a used MTD Kingston, which has the same neck profile, is very tonally versatile, and doesn't break the bank.

    If you have the money, Warmoth makes traditional Fender necks with this assymetric profile, and may suit your needs.

    This article may also be of interest:

    Don't give up yet!
  16. mndean


    Mar 20, 2009
    I checked my fingering with others on You Tube and noticed that while it's generally pretty good, OPFP may be too much for my hand as I get down close to the nut. The fatness and width of the neck isn't helping - I had an easier time with a friend's Dean I just tried which had a thinner bass neck, although its sound wasn't impressive. I'm not convinced that there isn't something wrong with my technique yet, but the comfort of a smaller neck persuades me to attack my problem from both angles.

    I notice that some P-bass models have a J-bass neck profile, which is another model to consider. I'm building up a shopping list of models to try. Whatever I get, I want to be able to live with for awhile, something I can always pick up and be comfortable playing. If I do get a short scale it will be by necessity a cheap one, as I'm not going to stay with it if I don't have to.
  17. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    Comfy necks IME:
    EBMM Sterling
    Fender Jazz
    Ibanez SR-series

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