Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

German for CTS Sufferers?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by tplyons, Jul 3, 2005.


  1. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I was flipping through a page on Lemur's site saying German bows are recommended when tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome become problematic. Any insight on this?
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    With the German bow you have a lot more natural leverage by the way that you hold it. This makes it a less abusive on your hand when you are doing it wrong, I suppose. With German, you spend a lot of time (or at least I do) learning how to lighten up your touch from your natural instincts, where with French you spend your time not clamping, wrenching and cramping.

    Ultimately you have to find 'the touch' with the bow. Once you have it, I think it might be a lot easier to learn/play either bow. Now that my touch is getting in the proper range with German I can grab a French bow (or hold mine French style) and actually feel what it's probably like to play French without the pain.
     
  3. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York
    I think that the generally agreed upon answer to that question would be that French and German are just different and that one is certainly not better with the other. Any bow can give you physical problems if you're using it wrong, but I suppose that is just like many things in life. Bottom line - choose whatever feels better to you, get a good teacher to show you how its done, and listen to your body.
     
  4. Ashley Long

    Ashley Long

    Jan 3, 2004
    I believe this to be true. I recently switched from french to German bow hold after years of strict training and playing mainly french because I developed problems with my right arm. The problem was playing extreme avant-garde music with extreme dynamics and intensity (e.g. Xenakis' "Theraps") resulting in a lot of downward pressure on the bow and therefore strain on my arm. Since switching (not too difficult as I played both styles anyway) Ive found I can play for much longer with no strain even on the most extreme stuff.
     
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've heard, but haven't verified, that a simple test that has some indication as to which bow you might find more comfortable is: Drop your arms and let them relax and find their natural 'at-rest' position. If your palms face more rearward that toward your hips, then French might be a good place to start. If your palms face your hips, then German.
     
  6. Yes: French bow - you have to both hold up the bow and some how transfer weight "down" at the same time. Conflicted muscles there! German is far more "natural" a bow hold; you kinda get to "hang from the bow".
     
  7. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York

    if you are "holding up the bow" you are definately doing something wrong. When you use the french bow you transfer the weight from your arm and back so that the bow is moving into the string. Whilst playing, the bow should have enough traction on the string that you should never be holding it.

    As for thrown strokes: the momentum of the bow should keep it in your hand. Again, you should never be "holding" a french bow.
     
  8. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Try a short, light bow. So many bassists use relatively heavy bows when it might not be entirely necessary. At least experiment with different lenghts and weights. Using a shorter bow will greatly influence your arco technique. When you have less space to work with, you only use as much as you have to.
     
  9. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    An interesting test -- I just did it and got a "French" result. I've been playing German since I started in February because that's all the school has, but I've been wanting to learn French for a while now. I'd tried before at my lessons, but it never felt right (my teacher has a very expensive, VERY heavy, short French pernambuco jobbie) until tonight when I played with his much cheaper, much longer, and much lighter French brazilwood bow (with a loony taped onto the tip to give it a bit more weight :D) and everything just felt "right." I used it for about half my lesson until we started working on reading and I needed to remove as many out-of-the-norm factors as possible (eg, moving from his Kay to my Hofner, his French to my school's German, etc.) so I wasn't messing up because I was adjusting to someone else's equipment.

    All in all, I found the German easier initially because, like Ray said, it seems to be less abusive to your hand and arm when you're not holding it right than on a French bow. I also talked about French vs. German with an orchestral player who was playing in the Kingston Youth Symphony because there were no youth bassists available and he switched to German several years ago because of wrist problems and is much better now. Still on German, but I'm sure he'll get back to French eventually.


    -Aaron
     
  10. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Well, my hands almost directly at my hips, guess German's worth a try. :)
     
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    My hands are much more German than French when tested and German has always felt more natural to me. I had a student who has the other set of hands and he could never get used to the German, but feels fine on French. I'm wanting to get a hold of a French stick for a while to see what I could do with it.
     
  12. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I tried the arms thing, I was a Frenchie also, and that's what I play.

    There's no doubt that it is a feel thing and different body types may respond differently.

    I'm fairly tall, and I tried German bow during a lesson with my teacher. I could never get the bass at a height that allowed me vertical coverage of the strings and not have my left arm go nuts or feel like I was dog-humping my poor Shen. It killed my upper back between the shoulder blades.

    If I played German, I my back would never last long enough to develop RSD in the wrists, so maybe it is a solution. :)

    If I stand comfortably and hold the bass, everything lines up about right with French.
     
  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'm really tickled by the thought of TB'ers all around the world sitting there in their chairs, dangling their arms with a glassy, distant look of concentration in their eyes.

    :)
     
  15. The French hold requires a more noticable "holding up", or whatever words you choose to use.

    With both bow holds you transfer your arm weight to the string, but the distinction I'm talking about is very real: take your thumb off the French bow and watch it clunk to the floor. Take your thumb off the German bow... and keep on playing!
     
  16. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    I tried the test with the glassy look and all. My palms turn toward my hips, and koinkydinkly I'm a german dude too. I tried the french thing at first and the opposing thumb thing just got to be too much of a literal pain. So I gave it up a while ago and have since started GASsing for a lighter german bow. Bob G's french bows are much shorter than his german bows, and thus heavier. I felt like I had alot more control and a lighter touch with the french bow. So I'm gonna go after that light touch thing again.

    I tried lengthening the end-pin to compensate, but like your experienced, my LH started doing weird things. Nowadays, I get a tingling in my left hand that happens now and then (and is not directly related to bass playing from I can tell). I couldn't tell if it was because I was pressing too hard or that I was playing too much Tricotism and Simandl in one sitting. I may be pinching a nerve in my arm or back or something. So now I've lowered it just where the hair on the german bow meets halfway between the end of the FB and the bridge. Seems like the tingling is going away now.

    Just crossing my fingers.
     
  17. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Based on my experience playing both bows I do agree that if you don't have a teacher then German is easier to produce a good sound. If you have a teacher who can show you how to use the bow in a relaxed manner then neither bow becomes more natural than the other. It's like many things, simply a preference.
     
  18. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York
    Again, if you play properly, this is not true.
     
  19. That is funny! (test is valid again by the way...) German. I cramp up almost immediately if I try to play french. I'm convinced I could probably never do it. I've only suffered mild muscle aches in my forearm from overplaying with the German bow. My hand is almost completely relaxed while playing. With German bow, the arm and shoulder do most of the work and the pressure is applied by relaxing the arm, you can increase it by digging in, but that usually isn't as effective as just getting the speed and bow placement right.

    In any case, you should use the bow that hurts the least, hopefully it will also sound the best. People are built so differently;- height, arm length, hand size;- that there is no one answer. You really have to juggle the adjustable parameters of the instrument to get a good posture match. End-pin height, string length, sitting vs. standing, french and german, are all things to adjust if you have RSI issues.