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Gentle (but not too gentle) Into That Good Night: Aging gracefully as a jazz bassist

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Jun 2, 2018.

  1. Levin S

    Levin S Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2007
    Charlotte N.C.

    Definitely a fad diet these days, but that doesn't subtract from the effectiveness. I lost around 60 pounds by cutting sugar and carbs in an effort to help my Rheumatoid Arthritis and extend my playing career. I was able to ditch the arthritis drugs and, as long as I maintain a minimal sugar diet, I'm free of nearly all the hand pain.

    What I would say though is that, like anything else, be aware that what's trendy and well marketed may not be the true best option e.g. eating a decent meal with a bit of carb content versus a protein bar with a bunch of hidden sugar and yadda yadda yadda...

    Also, this is only what worked for me, a confessed food and sugar addict so YMMV
    Winoman, Groove Doctor and Peck_Time like this.
  2. Roger Davis

    Roger Davis

    May 24, 2006
    I’ve got four days of gigs from next Saturday, then two days off and then another two days - six in total. And all at different venues with four different bands, so no short cuts. At 77 I’m a bit apprehensive but I’ll probably get through them all. I don’t do any formal exercises but I’ve been doing quite a bit of clearance and improvement work round the 15 acre property.

    I owe a lot to my dear wife of 50 years wedded. She is completely indifferent to my talents(?) and hasn’t heard me play for the last 15 years. But there’s always a clean shirt ready and, more importantly, she has fed me healthy sensible food that has kept me trim, fit and major ailment free. If only she could help me with my thumb position.
  3. Roger Davis

    Roger Davis

    May 24, 2006
    Well blow me, ‘cos just after posting this a guy phoned up and wanted me for Friday. That would be five on the trot, so I politely declined. Got to be just a bit sensible. But it’s going crazy for freelance bass stuff over here right now.
  4. oldNewbie

    oldNewbie Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2016
    Cliff notes: A good physical therapist can really help but you've got to do the work. Complicating matters, surprising areas of the muscle-skeleton system functionality is still unknown and presently under fierce debate. As a result, I'm coming to the conclusion that lots of advice and "knowledge" is not correct. Finding the good advice is often luck, as is finding practitioners useful to you. I believe that's why many approaches - yoga, Alexander (Do I hear a vote for Feldenkrais? I liked that too) , etc may work for different people - it's pretty much luck.

    Background: studied bass while a physics student in the early '80s. Bitten in the hand, injured, stopped in '89. Tried playing sporadically but not enough practicing until late'16 when kids were big. My attempts to get going were hampered by restarting the old overuse issues, now compounded with age, a busy exercise schedule and injuries in the meantime. In particular, my right knee had been deteriorating with accelerated but typical wear and tear after a long ago patellar break . I'd started working with a pilates instructor and PT on the advice of the ortho surgeon in '09. Working with her since then including daily practice and regular pilates classes (adding to exercise schedule) greatly reduced the wear on my knee by straightening out all sorts of bad motion habits. The first several months last year of trying to get back to ~2 hrs/day practicing kept getting short-circuited by the above physical issues. I could really only do 30-45 min / day, and with week - long intervals to let stuff heal. Finally I did a couple lessons with the PT and the bass over the course of a few months. First session was just static-she rearranged my feet and worked some back and head cues from previous work , I went back and tried those for a while. Up to 1+ hr. A few months later we did a full hour with me playing. I demonstrated my new, good form just standing there, and then started in on a Cmaj scale .by the time I got to f , she stopped me . "As soon as the bow started moving , you pivoted your right hip, locked the right leg , put your weight on it." Ahh, standing is one thing, moving another. I realized how long that had been a habit (forever) and given what we knew about the damage in the knee from MRI and Xrays in the last few years, the wear pattern was consistent with locking the right knee and bearing weight on it. Playing in those first years had probably set up a movement pattern that continued afterwards and likely caused a good deal of the damage. After a few minutes of playing, the PT noted that with the bass higher, my left side was able to stay flexible while moving up and down the fingerboard , while the right was locked and rigid moving the bow but bearing the weight. The first advice was lowering the instrument by 3-4 cm , what had been "just like the picture in the front of Simandl" to a bit lower. Dropping the instrument and doing yet more cues to improve right side flexibility and articulation of the back while bowing has really improved my situation. Weight and movement much better balanced now too.Three months later, I can go 2+ hours now, knee/hips/spine are better than they were, and with more ease and better awareness comes better coordination of muscle groups and much more consistent intonation, better articulation of bowing. 7 day exercise/pilates schedule continues.Next steps with the PT will include lots more work on articulation of mid and upper back. I believe this has been effective because of our longstanding work together and her skill and experience, I'm lucky to have found her. Communicating movement is complex, and here benefits from an understanding of the patient and excellent communication. (FWIW wife with sports injury history uses this PT more than I do)
    I have found that working with a PT completely independent of the music part to reveal better ways of moving.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
    Winoman, Tom Lane and Reiska like this.
  5. jthisdell


    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    No mention of this yet but I'll throw this in, standing on "mature" feet for hours at a time.

    A couple years ago I developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot from running. Rehearsals were painful and practice went to my BG. Took awhile to figure out how to wrap my foot effectively and wear stiffer-soled shoes (huge help). Then I think I strained/tore a tendon in my other foot running and again it took awhile to figure out how to wrap it right. And no, I don't really like playing on a stool, hard to get the right feel seated (IMHE).
    Winoman and Jason Hollar like this.
  6. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
    The most physically taxing part of bass for me, now, is lifting it in and out of the car. Takes more out of me, and my recently replaced shoulder than hours of playing.
    lurk and Winoman like this.
  7. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    The late Bob Cranshaw told me the reason he switched to electric bass was just this. He hurt his back and though playing was ok, had trouble transporting the big bass around town.
    Winoman likes this.
  8. Roger Davis

    Roger Davis

    May 24, 2006
    Strange isn’t it. My bass weighs twice as much carrying it out compared to loading in. I’ve now taken to setting up a stool behind me on the stage. I don’t use it all the time because, like several others on the forum, I prefer to stand. But it’s there if I need some respite and it even helps if I lean my right hand on it between numbers
  9. I'll second (or third) yoga as a regular practice. I do yoga as often as I can in the mornings, hopefully 4 or 5 mornings a week. Helps a lot. Although I do a lot of different things in life, when it comes to yoga I mostly talk to my yoga instructor about playing upright bass. Right? I think you guys understand. Balance, breathing, flexibility, listening, being able to get into a somewhat meditative state.
    kreider204 and Winoman like this.
  10. Going to be one of my favorite numbers come October and it's amazing how small, minor, nicks and bruises can become a big deal when you're in your mid to late sixties. An old friend once said to me, "If you're lucky enough to see the "golden years", you have 2 choices: be a couch potato and end up with a heart attack or stroke or decide to be active and look forward to possible shoulder, hip and knee replacements". Fortunately for me, I've never had any of those things happen yet. I've had my share of sports and music related injuries over the years and its a fact that you don't heal as quickly as you age. Still, doing whatever you enjoy to stay active and healthy has got to be way better than deciding to do little or no exercise. Oh yeah eating healthy is probably going to help as well. I still surf all the time, play lots of golf (often walking the course) and enjoy lots of biking. It's working so far!
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    @Treyzer good to see you around the old stomping ground! From what I can tell, you're doing great with keeping in shape.
    Treyzer likes this.
  12. @Chris, been away for awhile. Took my 2 grown sons to Yellowstone NP. Talk about some serious hiking at altitude!:woot:
    Kauai, where I live, has a special beauty and Yellowstone, although way different, has an incredible majesty and beauty. It was amazing trip. My boys, who are both very rugged guys wore me out. PS I'm looking for your video and Latine feels. Where can I find it on TB.

    Warmest Aloha Chris.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  13. @Chris, found the videos: bookmarked; The Latin vid is excellent...
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  14. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA
    I was taught a number of exercises by an excellent physical therapist, for the lower back and core. Lying on your back, knee to chest; bridge and then leg raises with each leg; dead pigeon pose (yoga); trunk rotations. Downward dog pose (yoga), abs crunches ;side and front planks on the elbows; rowing exercises at three angles with therabands, arm lifts with light weights (front and side). All of these are a huge help to me, so I continue to do them along with my usual routines.
    Winoman and hdiddy like this.
  15. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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