1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

finger (knuckle) joint pain

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jmestman, Aug 2, 2010.

  1. jmestman


    Aug 2, 2010
    Hi - I've been playing double bass for about 4-5 months and have been playing alot - some days 3-4 hours.

    I started getting a pain in my first joint on my right hand from plucking and eventually, it's gotten so bad (shooting pain when I do simple things like zip up zippers, etc.) that I've started using my second (middle) finger to pluck and I'm starting to get the same joint pain in that finger too.

    So depressed! I've tried to use standard plucking technique (curling my finger slightly over the string and plucking with the top left side of the pad on the top of my finger. Is there another way?

    Does anyone else have this problem? Is there anything that I might be able to adjust to minimize impact on my finger joint? It's my knuckle joint - the pain is mainly on the top left side.

    Should I use my hand more for plucking and less motion on my joint?

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated - I love playing but at this rate, I'm going to run out of fingers that I can play with.


    Thanks so much.
  2. Andrew Grandahl

    Andrew Grandahl

    Sep 11, 2007
    Yes. I sometimes like to team up my pointer and middle finger too and sort of let one rest on top of the other. But your fingers shouldn't really be curled... think of it more as sliding your finger across the string rather than getting under and plucking the string.
  3. LeslieD


    Jul 25, 2006
    You indicated that you get "shooting pains." To me that describes a pain that extends to another part of your hand (or arm). Or is your pain truly isolated to your first finger joint? I have a lot of joint pain in my fingers, but it's always on the second joint, and they flare up whether or not I'm playing my bass or fiddle a lot.

    The advice I always get from physicians is "give it a rest" for awhile and take anti-inflamatory medicines (i.e. aspirin) as needed. But seriously, you are suddenly getting a lot of repetitive stress in a very short period. Also if you are 45 or older and/or have close relatives who complain of arthritis, you may need to reconsider your approach to playing the bass. It might be the perfect time to learn to use a bow (though get some instruction first, because you could do some real damage to your hand with a bow too).

    Good luck!
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    As someone who is constantly dealing with different pain issues, I suggest giving your hands a break, you are playing a lot for a relative beginner. Lay off and see if the pain goes away. When it does, get a pizz teacher who can help you, watch videos of how great players are doing it, and really think through the motion you currently use and how that may contribute to your problem. Also, make sure your setup is as easy as possible and the string response is forgiving. If the bass is fighting you, problems are much more likely. Some basses are also just "tight" feeling and may not be good for pizz players in the long run.
  5. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    I have had a similar problem for the past year on the first knuckle on my right index finger. It is enlarged on the outside top and achy. The symptoms sound like we are fighting the same thing. I have rested it as much as possible for the past few weeks and the pain is now almost gone.
    FWIW, my string tension and heights are both on the low side yet I have had an aggressive style, trying to get as much meat and pull as I possibly can. This may have contributed, although I dunno for sure.
    Well after the pain began I whacked the knuckle hard on the latch to my wooden fence so that didn't help. :D

    Eric's advice is sound.
    Good luck.
  6. wdnewman


    Apr 13, 2009
    Way back in the days when I had instructors I was told not to "pluck" the strings like a guitar, but to use the entire side of my index finger. The idea here was to "get as much meat as possible" on the string which I guess makes for a fuller sound. We were using one unamplified bass backing a twenty to twenty five piece dance band as well as in combos, and there was never a problem being heard. The single finger "plucking" method is used a lot in symphonic work, and I have seen some really wierd stuff in old movies! Jerry Scheff (on the Roy Orbison & Friends CD)is playing exactly same style I use. This is not unusual considering that we had the same instructors.
    In any case, there is no knuckle pain using this method. Just a good and bloody index finger until the callus forms.
  7. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    I have a callous starting on the side of the second knuckle and running down the side of my finger. Usually, I use the side of my index finger as that does def get the most meat on the string. Without seeing the OP's technique I can't say if his is similar.

    YMMV etc.
  8. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Note that I'm not a qualified teacher...

    I pluck with two fingers side by side, pulling away with both fingers at once. This is shown in Rufus Reid's book alongside the one-finger technique. The way I pull involves the tendons going all the way back into my wrist. This is also how I learned to use the muscles and tendons in my left hand as well, going back into my original training on the cello.

    You don't indicate whether you are learning pizz-only, or also working with the bow. Even if the bow doesn't figure into your ultimate musical goals, it might be another way to give your right hand some relief while your joints heal. Thinking about the knuckle problems that you describe, a German bow might be preferable. But that's a guess, and not based on experience.

    Finally, what kind of strings are you using? The strings forum has had some discussions on finding softer strings for players who are experiencing hand problems.
  9. my impression is that the way to get a big sound without hurting yourself is to pluck the string using your whole arm's weight for power. it's a similar concept to arco playing in fact (something i never got into my jazz playing until i really developed my arco technique). it's the same whichever style you use (one finger or two finger). you should take some time off though for now and ease your way back into it. it's true that you need to develop strength in your hands and arms, but at the same time you need to let your natural physiology work in the most efficient way, which often involves using arm weight instead of force.
  10. LeslieD


    Jul 25, 2006
    Nice post Square Bear.

    You can really tell when someone is applying this technique (don't watch me though--I fall back into bad habits constantly). Anyway, I've noticed how fluid and relaxed a lot of jazz players get when they are using the full weight of their arm. I'm sure that really helps decrease the chances of injuries to their arms, shoulders, and perhaps even their necks.
  11. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    Sight unseen, I would humbly offer:
    - If it hurts, stop it. Work on the bow for awhile.
    - Use minimal motion; don't waste energy flopping the fingers around or hitting the string hard. Its more of a pull and less of a hit.
    - Practice open strings, in front of a mirror. Figure out the minimal amount of motion required, find the point where the string rolls off of the finger(s), and practice this.
    - Try using the two fingers together to give the first a rest. Try using a 1-2 alternating stroke, with those two fingers. Try to get so that you can't hear any difference between fingers 1 and 2.
    - Make sure that your hand is relaxed. Nothing good comes with tension.

    Finally, a good teacher might really help. I was able to study with some folks who had sounds that I wanted and were able to show/tell me how to produce them without hurting myself. It helped me, anyway, and really changed how I approached pizz playing (not to mention arco...).
  12. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Good advice. The sound starts in your head. Use the rest of your body to get that sound. Trying to get it with one finger will produce a sound just as big as that finger.

    My point was that playing the DB sometimes causes pain, even when using proper technique. Also, aging brings with it aches and pains that we must deal with when playing a physically demanding instrument. Blaming the pain on poor technique is a bit knee-jerk, IMO. Finger pain may be caused by old sports injuries, using power tools, falling off a bike when we were kids, whacking a finger on a fence gate or a million other things. Heck, spending too much time typing on a computer or channel surfing might even contribute to finger pain. :D

    When pain does occur, give your body time to heal.

  13. Square Bear,
    I like your approach, but your logic is all wrong. I crunched some numbers and have concluded the following:

    By using this chart: http://jordankirkness.tripod.com/dbstringtension.html , one can find that the average tension for a set of Pirastro Obligatos, a choice favorite among "jazzers" is approximately 64.925 lbs. With a little internetting, I found that "The total arm mass is given as mean 3.216kg with a standard deviation of 0.464kg
    in Clauser, "Weigth, volume, and center of mass of segments of the human body", 1969, p.45

    By converting the kg measurements to English pounds (the unit of weight, not the currency, mind you) we can see that the human arm ways, on average, 7.09006635 lbs - a weight much smaller than the average tension of an Obligato.

    I agree that you should use the weight of your arm when pizzing, but you should combine it with the weight of 8.157 other arms (9.157 arms total to get that satisfying pizz tone we all love!)

  14. That's a good point and your math is impressive. i don't think that you're trying to break the string though!
  15. I concede that a little over 9 Armsworth* would push the string to its limit as conventionally tuned, but would surely not break the string (who hasn't cranked their strings up to solo pitch once in a while just to see what it's like to be the great Jerry Car!!!! lol). I would advise anyone to back it off just a little to the 8-8.5 Amwth range to avoid any breakage)

    *the Armsworth, abbreviated Amwth, is a new unit of force related to the weight of average weight of the human arm.

  16. i don't even know how to respond to this. as your name suggests, you are a true master.
  17. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Should we then choose a string with 9.157 times lower tension? I don't get it......
  18. This sounds very familiar to me. I began to experience discomfort with the first knuckle of my middle finger after I had jammed it about a year ago. merely tapping the finger on the tip would create a shooting pain in the joint which would last for about a minute before it began to ease (months after the initial accident). Naturally, I went to see the doctor who suggested that it was tendonitis due to repetitive tasks. His suggestion was to simply stay away from repetitive tasks for a while...it worked.

    Trying to change your technique without a qualified teacher's perspective is not a good idea. In cases like this, adapting to the problem or working around it could do more long-term harm than good. It's better to just lay-off for a while and let things heal rather than re-invent the wheel.

    What sort of music do you play?
  19. Some of the previous posts concerning jazz pizz technique reminded me of Rufus' "chicken wing" approach to pizz playing. I can't remember if he describes that in his book, but a search should yield something. It's a sort of exaggerated way of involving the whole weight of the arm like Square Bear said.
  20. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    I believe I saw Rufus explain this in an interview. This is something that helped me, but really just watching the best players shows the way.
    FWIW, John Clayton studied extensively with Ray Brown and gets a great tone using mostly his index finger. He certainly developed his technique under Ray's watchful eye. Certain techniques work for most people, but individual players gradually adapt them, mold them, in ways that work for them.