Ergonomics- why is my sholder sore when standing?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Zephrant, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Zephrant


    Dec 10, 2013
    Spokane, WA
    So I can't play standing up for more than an hour or so, without getting a sharp pain in my left shoulder. It's not getting better with practice, so I'm thinking that I'm doing something wrong.

    Can anyone see anything specifically wrong with how I'm standing, head position, strap location or anything?

    When practicing, I often sit down, and even recline with my feet up. Not a good position for a gig, but comfortable for playing along to MP3s. I'm worried about being able to work up to a 4 hour gig, where I may not be able to sit down.

    Anyone have any masseuse groupies they use regularly? : )
  2. shorty4life


    Dec 22, 2013
    How well does that bass balance on its own? Maybe the neck dives a bit? I'm a mere 130lbs and prefer basses on the heavy side (10-11lbs). And they never bothered me even after 4+ hrs on my feet. The basses were pretty well balanced though. And I used a comfy & wide strap... Could be that you're leaning forward to see the fingerboard? Learn to rely on the dots along the top of neck instead of the front of neck. Force your fingers to learn the string spacing. Just my best guess
  3. Zephrant


    Dec 10, 2013
    Spokane, WA
    Definitely some neck dive. It's a lighter weight bass though. I was wondering about watching the frets too- It's not the dots so much that I watch, but which string my fingers are hitting. Have been working on playing with my eyes closed, because then I can't cheat.

    Thanks for the tips!
  4. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Definitely a Technique issue if I've ever heard one.

    Thread moved.
  5. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    There are a few things that I would suggest tidying up.

    The first is your left hand technique. You grip the neck like a club with your thumb over the top of your neck. This puts a lot of unnecessary strain and pressure on your entire left arm. It can also lead to a lot of nasty problems and issues with your wrist that you really want to avoid. Ideally you want to keep your thumb behind the neck, somewhere in the middle and keep your wrists as straight as possible allowing the tendons in your wrist to move freely. A slight curve is fine since it is pretty difficult not to have that but sharp ones aren't nice.

    I would say that you could probably raise the height of your bass on the strap. It looks like it is a little bit too low for you. Just raising it an inch or two might make all the difference for you.

    From the looks of your legs you seem to shift the weight of your entire body onto one leg. This can lead to problems and pains around your back but you can also feel the strain in your shoulders as well. I'm guilty of it myself but quiet often in a rehearsal or a gig as soon as I straighten up you can feel the relief instantly.

    That is what I noticed from the video, it is hard without being able to properly see it all but I would say if you address those issues you should see improvements in not just the relief of strain on your body but your bass playing in general. It is also worth mentioning that adjusting and readdressing your technique can feel uncomfortable to begin with and it is always hard to break bad habits but if you stick with it they pay off.
  6. Zephrant


    Dec 10, 2013
    Spokane, WA
    Very good tips, I'll give them all a try. I'm getting serious about not watching the frets at all. My playing is degraded, but I can certainly feel myself learning faster, as the pain of a bad note makes me concentrate on learning the feel of the position more.

    I'll go watch the left hand videos again too. Since I made that video I've been trying to work on the thumb, but it does not feel comfortable at all.

    Back to the woodshed. Thanks for the help-
  7. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    Don't worry, I can still remember the discomfort of first having to correct my thumb. It is just one of those things were it feels awkward at first but it becomes natural to the point where if your thumb ever does creep up high you feel it straight away.
  8. Where in the shoulder? Is it in the trap or the delt or someplace else? Is it in the muscle or in the joint? If it's your trap, then you might have a strap issue - too narrow, not positioned properly. If it's in the delt, then your arm positioning might be a problem.

    Do you weight train? I find that as I get older, weight training can make muscle problems worse if I'm lifting too much weight. Try lowering the weights, focus on clean technique and going for reps rather than lbs.

    It may simply be old age or an old injury rearing its ugly head. I have an old jiu-jitsu injury that gives me problems sometimes as does overdoing the weights.

    If my bass is bothering me, I find a softer, wider, stretchier strap feels better.
  9. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Just three main points after i mention your strap.
    This is easy to fix by the way, but your strap does not sit correct, the widest part of the strap should be on the shoulder.....i cannot see you strap clearly but it looks like most of the width is on your back.
    A good strap should be at least 4"/100mm across the shoulder, any padding included. So have a look at that and more on strap position later.

    You have a lot of tension in your playing is the first point.
    Try some stretches and warm ups before you play,

    Next point is a personal one, but your strap is on your neck.
    If you feel your neck you will feel ot is soft tissue, but of you move your hand along the shoulder towards the edge the tissue becomes more solid.
    Try and get your strap a bit more to the 'outside and use this solid part of the shoulder rather than the neck.
    It may take getting some used to, but if your shoulder line is stable the strap stays stable..if the strap slips off, then you now have an indication that your shoulder line has changed....its a good indicator that you have changed posture for some reason.

    Final point, try not to look at your fretting hand, I know it is hard not to, but there is no need to.
    What you have is a habit, because you spend as much time looking away as you do looking at your fretboard.
    Notice how you look.
    Your shoulders are forward, giving them the rounded shaped, you drop your head, then turn it.
    So you add tension by stretching the neck when you drop it, then add more tension by turning it to look at your hand.
    This can lead to the rotor -cuff area working harder than it should, ot is trying to pull back your shoulder line and support it from the back.
    Your Pectoral and Lateral muscle groups are not involved in the support the way the should be. When your posture is correct your shoulder line is straighter and balanced (now dipping, raising or favouring one side).

    The exercises in the link i posted will help with this.
    If you have to look, then just turn your head and look down with your eyes, try not to dip the head forward and turn.
    Stand in front of a mirror and learn to turn your head while maintaining an even shoulder line.
    There is not need to add any other movement, as i mentioned with the strap position it will start to slip off if you do drop your shoulders.

    I deal with a few 'readers' , players who sight read for a living, who have the habit of craning their necks when reading parts.
    The habit is they stretch the neck toward the music stand, the correct position is to bring the stand closer to you, so now the need to crane the neck forward has been eliminated, but the habit may remain, so playing in front of the mirror helps a players see the fault, but more importantly, helps the feel it.
    Sometimes they need glasses, or have a prescription up-dated if they already wear them...such issues creep in over time so tend to feel comfortable until the problem occurs.
    Posture related issues are usually gradual ones over time, the moving further away each time until the body can no longer support the use.

    Since we cannot have a mirror when we play live, the stretches and exercises help us feel what correct feels like, so we do feel un-comfortable when we stray from it, as does the strap slipping.

    I would say correct the shoulder line, add some stretches and warm ups and the head turning issue will take care of itself, of the strap is an issue buy a better one, it is one of the things you can buy to make life easier.
    If you have any further questions i will be happy to help if i can.
  10. probably you have some neck dive and you are correcting it holding the neck instead of letting it rest...
  11. Zephrant


    Dec 10, 2013
    Spokane, WA
    Extremely good info- I think Fergie is narrowing in on it best- I do have a gel pad on my strap, but it keeps slipping over my shoulder. I'll get it glued in place.

    I think that moving the strap down, and not leaning forward to look at the frets (or music) will help. After reading this, I realized that I had a similar problem with I played piano (before I picked up the bass). I'd try to sit up straight and all, but could not play for more than an hour. I suspect because I'd be leaning forward there too.

    I'll make the suggested changes the best I can, and work on the exercises daily too. In a few weeks, let me post another video, and see if I've improved in those areas.

    Thank you VERY much!
  12. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Maybe the gel pad does not stay in place because of your shoulder line...i would say that was a good indicator within the problem....not the whole problem. If you pull your shoulder line back, the pad will in fact come forward so maybe better sit on the shoulder line. When the shoulders are back the line is not so pronounced as round or stooped, so again stop the strap from slipping.

    By all means change your posture and look at it in everyday life and the things you do. Sitting watching TV ,at the Computer, driving, reading a book, or standing waiting for a bus, etc...just be aware of your shoulder line and have a regulation one for all aspects of life.
    Learn not hunch and learn to be comfortable with shoulders back and down, most military personnel will tell you they learn through continually being put in those position till it becomes habit....or a reaction to authority. :)