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Flat Radius Neck = Shoulder Pain?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by BillyIVbass, Jun 8, 2011.


  1. BillyIVbass

    BillyIVbass

    Sep 24, 2008
    PA
    Gear Reviews Guitar World Online
    I recently got a bass with a near flat radius fretboard. Naturally it makes my fingers dig in more and my wrist to angle up, but afterwards I get a soreness in my left shoulder. We're talking 2 days total with the bass, probably about 6 hours of playing.

    I'm used to a Fender radius. This happened to me once before when a friend was showing me some classical guitar technique.

    I keep my strap at a normal level. When standing the middle of my bass is probably right at my waist. I don't have a light, nor overly aggressive attack.

    Am I harming myself or is this just something new for my body to adjust to? Is there any sort of stretching that would help?
     
  2. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona
    IMO there's some missing information.
    The radius of the fret-board or of the neck construction should not contribute to shoulder pain. However the position of the fretting arm may do so.
    Is your arm ( that is used for the fret-board) in a natural position in that the upper arm (humerus-bone) in line with the trunk of your body? Is your elbow approx at the end of your rib-cage?

    How high is the action? IMO it is not the radius as much as the height of the action that is the determinate of the need to compress the strings with greater effort. Be that as it may be; clenching one's hand should not contribute to should contraction, but the position of the arm may do so.
     
  3. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I don't have any advice, but I can also say that I don't understand why a bass needs a flat fingerboard. On guitar it's different if you're bending strings. The flatter radius keeps the strings from bottoming out on the upper frets. But, unless you're bending bass strings a lot I see no need for a flat radius. I love the feel of my '87 Jazz Bass Special's 7-1/4" radius, better than the 9-1/2" on my '01 American Jazz Bass. Classical guitars drive me nuts with their flat fingerboards. I like to chord using my thumb sometimes, and it's a LONG way around a wide flat neck.

    Best I can tell ya is to keep at it and see if you get more used to it. But, if it hurts already, maybe there's something you can change ergonomically. Strap height comes to mind first, to me. Then, hand position, as well as neck angle.
     
  4. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    First question........ Where do you wear the bass, when playing it? High? Low? Seems like your fretboard arm is the culprit, like previously mentioned....
     
  5. BillyIVbass

    BillyIVbass

    Sep 24, 2008
    PA
    Gear Reviews Guitar World Online
    The action is very low and I'm using 45-105 strings. My elbow is about at the level of my ribcage. I keep the bass and an even level around my waist.

    I'm going to try a few different hand positions. Whatever I was doing before was squeezing a muscle in my upper arm.
     
  6. I don't see why you wouldn't want a flat fingerboard. For me, the flatter the better. Makes it much easier to play for me, and also allows for more consistent playing.
     
  7. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona
    My "practice bass" has a very low radius fret board ("Flat") Speaking only for myself; I LOVE it. I have a Fender MIJ J-bass with a fairly short radius fret board & for the type of things I enjoy; it's less of an advantage than a flatter one. I would choose a flatter board once gain if I bought a new one.
    However I don't see that as a contribution to shoulder pain. If the shoulder is in an awkward position AND/OR if the deltoid muscle is being used to control or manipulate the neck; that could certainly contribute to shoulder pain.

    Were I in your position, I'd try two things. I would raise the level of the whole instrument: wear it higher (unless it's very high to begin with). I would also consciously RELAX my fretting hand & press lighter (much lighter) on the strings, using my thumb simply to steady the neck from moving backward. Try NOT to press the strings any harder than to make a clear note.
    Start with the bass in a seated position with no strap and plat a clear note with the lightest touch you can. Then put a strap on and raise the bass so that the instrument is higher than it had been. When standing notice IF the neck moves to more horizontal (or vertical) position from when you have achieved the most comfortable fretted note you can possibly make.

    Speaking only for myself: I want the Bass to simply be draped over my body and very limited exertion on my part to do any more than move both HANDS. My thumb simply steady's the neck from moving backward, my "plucking" hand simply strikes the strings - ideally with the weight of the instrument to maintain an equilibrium. I don't muscle the Bass around: I play music with it. The more effort I put into controlling it's exact position with my muscles; the more difficult it is. My skeletal structure and the balance of the instrument maintains it's position.
     
  8. "low" radius would be less flat. A flat fingerboard would have a very high radius.
     
  9. devine

    devine

    Aug 22, 2006
    Owner: Scott's Bass Lessons
    Billy it sounds like your wearing your bass to low. I'd heighten the strap and see how you get on. There should be only a little bend in the wrist while playing if your bass is correctly positioned. If you check out this video of mine you can see what i mean... YouTube - ‪Scott Devine 'In The Shed' Practicing bass soloing over Bb groove.‬‏

    Obviously this is my seated position... but if I was to stand up the bass would stay in the same position. - this is super important. Try it your self, sit down and play, then stand up... if the bass is any lower while standing up it's to low.

    Also... the bass i'm playing has a completely flat finger like a classical guitar. In no way should this make you dig in more. So be careful not to do your self any harm... RSI etc.

    I think with a few slight adjustments you'll be rockin' and ready to go!!

    Good luck.

    Scott.

    Free Online Bass Lessons - Scott's Bass Lessons
    SCOTT DEVINE-BASS PLAYER-COMPOSER-EDUCATOR
     
  10. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona
    I stand corrected.
     
  11. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Maybe it's just me? A rounder fingerboard is easier to play, IMO.
     
  12. calebbarton

    calebbarton

    Aug 25, 2007
    Oregon
    I manufacture for several companies including but not limited to: Bridge City Sound, Catalinbread, more.
    Hey dude if something hurts, go to the doctor. If you suspect the bass, stop playing it for a few days or a week and return to it. If the problem returns, maybe its the bass.

    But still, go to the doctor if something hurts. Especially if it continues to hurt after you stop playing the instrument for a period of time.
     
  13. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Minnesota
    Actually, the radius of a circle would be spoken of in terms of small and large, rather than low and high (speaking of the number) ... :)

    .. but your point is certainly understood ... good catch .. 7.25" vintage Fender board would be a smaller radius, than a larger 9.5" modern radius ...

    Edit to add for OP: I would try wearing the bass a bit higher .. I have all kinds of shoulder and hand/wrist issues, and there is no way I could begin to play a bass down around my waist without discomfort ... try moving the bass up to the height it would be at if you were seated playing ...
     

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