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Fatigue, pain in upper arm

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by dvh, Mar 13, 2009.

  1. I'm still new to DB after playing a slab for 30 years (and continuing).

    I do not have access to a teacher, so that is a non-starter. I have a couple of instructional DVDs (Rufus Reid and Todd Phillips), have been browsing this board, and have observed and sought advice from DB players in my area.

    As I understand it, the left hand fingering should be relatively effortless with the thumb essentially acting as a pivot. No squeezing should be necessary. I've been told, and Todd's DVD shows, that you should be able to finger notes without even the use of the thumb, just the weight of the arm (as by example , not as actual playing technique).

    HERE"s the issue: If I am playing mostly fingered notes (few open strings) and/or trying to play with any kind of speed I find my arm, specifically where the rotators are, becomes tired and sore. The soreness can often linger for a few days.

    Coincidentally, I find it pretty much impossible to finger notes without using the thumb for support unless I prop the instrument against my body at a weird angle. I think the two things are related somehow.

    I've tried different heights which doesn't seem to change things.

    Any insights would be helpful.
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well first of all the two statements "I do not have access to a teacher" and "have observed and sought advice from DB players in my area" don't seem to support each other. Instead of "seeking advice" why don't you find the bassist that has the best background in physical approach and have them become your teacher? If none of them have a good background, then any "advice" you get form them is not going to be much better than no advice at all.

    Cause this is exactly the kind of thing that a good teacher will help you with. Just like trying to learn yoga or Pilates or tai chi from a book or a DVD or typing to a bunch of folks on the web, having an actual, living and breathing person physically in the same room with you is going to answer complex issues in a simple and direct way. It is worth doing this even if you have to get on a bus to get to another location once a month.
  3. Since you didn't state which arm hurts, I'll guess it is your left and fretting arm. ..... Pain from your shoulder could very well be from a touch of bursitis. It's an inflammation of the joint and can come on or be triggered by the stress brought on from your arm being up in the air.
    I had it a few years ago and ended up getting rid of it by acupuncture.
    So, go see your doctor, if he say's that's what it is all he can recommend is pain pills. I turned that down and went the natural route.
    You should be leaning the bass into your body so you are not holding it while you play. That helps relax the shoulder. I talk about that on a video on www.youtube.com/bassmickeyd Bass Lesson For Costa Rica.
  4. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I'll leave the teacher thing along, though you obviously know how we all feel about it. I have a few comments to offer.

    First BE CAREFUL! Doublebass injuries can be musically fatal. Don't let it go on too long without help, medical or otherwise. From my own experiences, it's tough to find medical practitioners who understand what seem to be fairly common injuries among bassplayers.

    Second, some pain/discomfort/disfunction is normal when you start. Hard to say how much, but I remember thinking I might not successful make the switch after botching a few gigs because my hand just couldn't do for an evening what it could on electric bass.

    Finally, the only thing I could suggest, which MIGHT help is this. Stand with the bass and practice, then slowly move it forward, so that it would fall on it's face, until you are holding it essentially with your perfectly rounded fingering. Now move it back towards your thumb slightly until you reach a balance point. Your thumb or grip shouldn't be supporting the instrument. A teacher showed me this trick or testing how much it is and finding the point at which it doesn't. Hope it helps.
  5. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    what he said.

    I can't quite imagine how you'd be hurting your joints like that, so I'm guessing (there's the operative word) that you're too tight. Careful of your joints. You don't want to be gettin those replaced.
  6. Since we both live in Canada, a civilized country with adequate socialized medicine available for all, you can get a referral from your doctor and go see Doctor Chong. I believe his first name is John. He specializes in musician's and ailments from playing an instrument. He's quite well know and people from around the world come to get treated by him. He practices here in Hamilton, just down the street from where I live and also in downtown Toronto, which would be closer to you. He helped me correct any a lower back problem I developed when I first started playing upright. The upright is one of the most physical instruments you can play.
    PS: And don't play sitting down.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I find it extremely hard to believe that going to a health practitioner to treat pain related to faulty physical approach in Toronto is going to be preferable to going to a teacher who will teach you good physical approach so that you don't have any pain to begin with in Toronto.

    But that's just me.

    Oh and there's plenty of cats - jazz and legit - who play sitting down without any pain issues related to physical approach.
  8. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    I'm still with Ed here.

    Unless you are in such pain that you need to seek medical attention. Are you? I hope not.

    By and large, doctors do doctor stuff and bass teachers do bass teacher stuff. What are you in need of (rhetorical question)?
  9. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon

  10. hrgiger


    Jan 11, 2009
    You should see a good chiropractor hopefully one who graduated from Palmer and specializes in orthopedics. It sounds like you may have thoracic outlet syndrome, which can be caused by a number of things: a cervical rib, scalenius anticus syndrome, costoclavicular syndrome or hyperabduction syndrome.. Basically when you raise your arm, your neurovascular bundle can become impinged due to your clavicle/rib, muscles, or other interference. This can cause pain, paresthesia, and or weakness. Once this is treated/ruled out, you can begin to rebuild strength and form in that arm. To blame it all on your technique is easy but there may be an underlying problem that hampering your efforts...
  11. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007



    are you talking about?

    it sounds like it could be a million things. :rollno: did you just read about TOS yesterday or something?
  12. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon

    To diagnose the issue online is near impossible. And in fact, to try to diagnose muscular issues before we address what we're doing is backwards. Once you're sure that you use your body in an ergonomic way, then we can establish a baseline and diagnose underlying issues.

    In fact, we have no evidence that the OP is using good technique, and more than a bit to the contrary.

    (example, my wife was having back issues, so I'd give her massages and do trigger-point therapy, but they'd keep coming back. We finally analyzed how she worked at the computer, and found a more neutral way to do it, and the problem went away)

    OP, the best thing is to find a teacher, obviously. But you need to also analyze your movements on the bass. Are your joints in neutral positions? Can you find a position to play a single note without squeezing? From reading, it sounds to me like part of the issue is that you are not accepting that you will have to start from scratch, when it comes to technique. Don't muscle your way to play fast like you could on slab. Instead, learn to play one note without straining your joints and muscles.
  13. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    As usual, Ed wins.

    Immediately blaming pain on bad health rather than bad posture and technique is idiotic. Sorry, there's no way around it. This is not electric bass. Playing with poor technique will immediately lead to physical pain in most cases.

    Find a teacher in your area... even if it's another player (and hopefully a good one that knows proper form). If all else fails, do a one-time lesson with someone distant but make the drive. Starting off on the right foot with this is critical.
  14. neal davis

    neal davis

    Dec 29, 2006
    toronto canada
    To the OP, I know of a few bass players around your area that teach, or would at least probably look at what is going on with you technique etc, pm me if you want some names or numbers
  15. Wow, thanks for all the responses!

    Just to clarify: the DB plyers I've spoken with around here tell me they don't want to give lessons.

    I don't think it's because of a pre-existing mdeical condition.

    I fully appreciate the DB is a very physical instrument. And, I'm asking the question to avoid bad habits and pain!

    I don't play sitting down.

    Neal, can you PM me the players you know who give lessons? I think that is the best solution.

    Thanks again!
  16. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    It doesn't have to be a pre-existing condition. You can hurt yourself playing and lots of people do. if you let it go long enough, it may become a medical issue and it may prevent you from playing either instrument.

    To the guy with the on-line diagnosis, I hope you're not actually a chiropractor because that is irresponsible even for a Chiropractor, who tend to be some of the less ethical in the medical field anyway. Diagnosing a patient you haven't ever seen. Please. If you're just someone who is repeating what your chiropractor has prattled off to you, fine, but how about a disclaimer that you're not an expert. Again, if you are an expert, shame on you.

    No question that if you're trying to learn to play, pain or not, you'd be better off with a teacher. I know it's hard after having put decades into not being a beginner anymore, but trust us on this.
  17. JtheJazzMan


    Apr 10, 2006
    dont forget about your setup too. maybe youre still adjusting to the double bass, but you dont have to be stuck with a huge string height thumper. lower action, lower tension strings will make things easier on your arms too.