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Callus management (left hand)

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by smeet, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I've recently started on double bass, and at the same time I'm seriously picking up the violin again for the first time in a decade. I'm finding that the bass (both EB and DB) demands tough fingertips, which I have (invisible, but thick skin).
    The violin on the other hand, needs softer, more sensitive fingertips. One reason is so that the player can feel the string and manage intonation. Perhaps most importantly, vibrato and some other techniques want the point of contact to be flexible and "grabby". Calluses are smooth and don't have that inherent stickiness that soft skin does, so my finger slides around more than it should.

    So... How do I resolve this issue between the instruments? I can sand my calluses down, but that might result in them growing back even harder. I can also play the violin with the point of the fingertip and the bass with the pad part of the tip.

    Does anybody have a good way to deal with or think about this issue? It kind of feels like playing upright is putting on boxing gloves and knocking someone out, and playing the violin is gently typing on a computer keyboard... Not exactly compatible.
  2. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    You are listing multiple problems here.

    1. You shouldn't press down the strings of a double bass. you should use the weight of your arms and the torque of your grip to push down the strings. IF you are pressing and struggling you are doing it wrong.

    2. Decide what you really want to play. Sanding your fingertips sounds like a real bad idea. Real Bad.

    3. Good Technique is Easy. Bad Technique is Difficult.

    I play both DB and Violin. I don't have a problem with callouses.
  3. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    Thanks for your reply. I don't believe I am talking about multiple problems. Simply the hardness vs. softness of the fingertips found in double bassists and violinists.

    I am not struggling, and I am using the weight of my arm. Nevertheless, the finger pressure is necessarily much higher on a DB than on a violin.

    What exactly are you saying here? That I should choose an instrument and abandon the other?

    Did you never find that the more physical nature of the DB was a bit at odds with the delicacy of playing classical violin?
    Years ago, my violin teacher even used to advise us not to lift weights so as not to ruin our fine motor control. While I don't necessarily agree with that, I wonder if there are instruments whose physical requirements can come into conflict.

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