Hand Pain from Digging In

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by CoolGuyBassist, Jan 24, 2023.

  1. CoolGuyBassist


    Oct 12, 2021
    I've been playing jazz double bass for years now, and struggled with right hand pain a bit in the past. For a while I stopped digging in hard and that fixed the issue, but I'm not getting the same kind of sound that I got when I dug in more, and that's the sound I'm really looking for. I've asked my friend at Berklee and my Private instructor for advice, as they're able to dig in really hard and get the sound I'm looking for, but they haven't been able to give me any tips because it hasn't been an issue for them. Does anyone have any experience with this/found a way to pluck really hard without hand pain?
  2. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Might help first to hear specifically where and what kind of hand pain you're experiencing. Also your general age might be helpful to know.

    Some of us are experiencing age related degenerative bone and joint problems and might have suggestions related to that kind of thing.

    Others have experience with double bass related injuries that might be helpful for you to hear about.

    Most of us also have some experience with periodic muscle and joint pain from simply playing longer and harder than usual, you probably have experience with that too.

    So more details would help... Any suggestions we can provide will be based on our personal experiences which unless they match your details, probably won't be relative to your situation.
  3. CoolGuyBassist


    Oct 12, 2021
    I’m 18, so it won’t have anything to do with the long-term health problems like you mentioned. Basically everything below my elbow feels at least a little off, but at the moment it’s worst in my elbow, the underside of my forearm near my wrist, and between my thumb and first finger.
    Hopefully that provides a bit more context.
  4. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Appreciate that...

    It sounds more intense than periodic pain related to simply overdoing routine playing. I have to wonder if you're working on an injury. We do have folks that have dealt with that so hopefully someone will talk about it here soon...

    In the mean time, have you talked to a physician or DPT about this yet?

    One thing I can suggest that has helped me with hand stress, hand injuries and lately, age related hand problems, is hydrotherapy -- literally, I go out of my way to wash dishes in warm-to-hot water 2 to 3 times a day. Our automatic dishwasher has been completely retired. The combination of immersive heat, the humidity itself and the movement of doing dishes are very soothing for my hands. Other methods of hydrotherapy might be easier for you to work into your routine than this, but some form might bring some comfort to you. It's historically a very natural healing method.

    I'd still highly recommend seeing a physician or DPT for a lasting solution.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2023
  5. Kevin Hailey

    Kevin Hailey Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2011
    Brooklyn NY
    Use the big muscles in your torso and back, not the small ones in your arm.
    s van order, BassFalcon and g-dude like this.
  6. crd

    crd Supporting Member

    Feb 1, 2022
    Get some Alexander Technique lessons. The best thing I did at conservatory was find Alexander Technique experience. Playing a lot is how I learned to have a big sound, but that is over many many years and not a short amount of time. You can't rush it. As Rabbath says every day I fall in love with my bass in the morning and then we get a divorce after we've been together for a couple hours. The bass isn't like the sax -- you can't shred all day every day.
  7. Please don't assume youth automatically guarantees good health.

    At 18 we are all invincible. That's not a dig on you personally, but a fact of brain development that we all go through.
    The armed services have much more success at recruiting 18 yo than they do someone in their early twenties. That is in part to feeling like nothing can harm us at that age.

    Rheumatoid Arthritis (R.A.) is your grandpa's disease, yes?
    I was diagnosed at 25. At that age I had just fathered my first child, never mind being a grandpa.
    There is also a juvenile version of Rheumatoid Arthritis called J.R.A. This develops in younger people.
    These are systemic diseases, meaning they can affect more than just joints, other organ involvement can happen.
    These are also diseases of the immune system. That can lower your natural defenses against other diseases. Being exposed to someone with the Flu or Covid becomes a riskier encounter for someone with certain types of Arthritis.

    Also not saying these are what you have, but am suggesting you see a doctor. What you experience does not seem normal, even for most older folks. If it is something chronic like R.A. or J.R.A it is usually much better treated and controlled when caught early. I wish they had the treatments available today, when I was first diagnosed.

    Also know that this kind of diagnosis can take some time to get right. A family practice doctor may do an initial evaluation, but getting a proper diagnosis for whatever is going on may require one or more specialists.

    Hope it's nothing and just a temporary condition. But if it is affecting you as you say, there is something going on, and it may be something simple. But if not, continuing to try to play in a manner that causes pain isn't going to fix anything.

    Good Luck in getting this resolved.
    dhergert likes this.
  8. It’s not about plucking hard. Overplaying winds up choking the sound of the instrument and causes lots of hand pain issue. The real secret is finding ways to make gravity and your body’s natural weight do all the work for you. How achieve this will all depend on what works best for you and how your body is designed. If you’re taking lessons with anyone, ask them to help you out to make a big sound without hurting yourself. I’m only 26 and still working diligently to stay relaxed and using just the right about of energy that’s needed while playing.
  9. For a louder sound, you need to make the string vibrate more. More force helps to a degree and then chokes the bass. For a strongest sound I pluck the string 'from the air'. Finger starts in air above the string, then hits the string, then continues to a restplace on another string. Try this, perhaps it will help. Also, be sure to hit the string with some lenght of your finger, not just with fingertips. I believe Chris Fitzgerald has some cool videos about this, roll down on the page in link. As others say above, the most important thing is to stay relaxed and the rest will come in time.

    Also, from a physics point of view, you should notice two things:
    - stronger (or faster) pluck generally means there are more higher partials in the sound. The lows generally don't get much louder, the highs get thicker are more intelligible.
    - since you, as a player, are standing off the axis from the direction where the sound projects to, you hear different (less full) sound than the audience hears. You can try to find a place where the sound reflects back clearly at you. Ask some singer about this issue. Best place I ever heard my sound was outside a church, playing into the wall, with some walls from sides and trees from rear. In common situations, you just need to get used to it. In time you will learn how to play along with your room. Some shortcut is to record yourself practising, to get used to compare what you hear with what others will hear from you.
  10. Notaluthier


    Oct 7, 2021
    Gut strings are easier on the fingers and also consult a teacher and a doctor.
  11. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Do you do any other exercise? You may simply be stressing the small muscles in that part of the body beyond their strength. A lot of musicians are rather physically weak and the stress of playing their instruments can cause repetitive stress injuries that would not occur in stronger people. Also, strong muscles support the joints better, so joint problems can often be solved or improved by strengthening the muscles around the joint. That's why a for a lot of skeletal problems (lower back pain, shoulder impingement, knee injuries), meta-analysis of clinical studies often shows that surgery has no better outcome than physical therapy.
  12. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    Maybe pluck closer to the center of the FB, (instead of all the way at the end of the FB)? It's not as loud, but it's warmer for sure...

    And maybe switch to synthetic cores and or weichs instead of mittels? You have to change your right hand technique a bit to pull a big sound out the softer strings, but it's much easier on your body. (I use Kolstein Heritage strings, but Zyex or Evah Pirazzis are a similar vibe)
  13. ablumley


    Jul 25, 2006
    @CoolGuyBassist I'll second the recommendation that you check out @Chris Fitzgerald 's excellent 'bassjitsu' videos on youtube. They deal directly with what you're struggling with. Working with this material has been a game changer for me.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  14. CoolGuyBassist


    Oct 12, 2021
    I’m switching from spirocore mittels to weichs tonight. I play a 4/4 anyways so the mittels sound a little choked anyways imo.
    sean_on_bass likes this.
  15. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    It's gonna take a minute for you to dial in tone production. Give it a chance. First time I switched from mittels, the strings felt like wet pasta.

    You have to ease up your right-hand effort, and strive for a warmer tone when you pluck. Otherwise the bass turns into a bow & arrow situation.

    I personally use my middle finger doubled up on top of my pointer, to create one giant sausage finger (like Thomas Morgan's right hand), but any technique should work as long as you lighten up.

    edit: check Harvie S' right hand here:

    He's using the Kolstein strings, which feel light, like Weichs.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2023
  16. bassically_eli

    bassically_eli Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2010
    Mebane, NC
    My significant other is an occupational therapist and former cellist. She gave me these exercises years ago to help prevent tendonitis. IDK if that's OP's issue or not, but a little preventative exercise isn't a bad idea for us bassist in general.

    Cool Guy, any chance you have issues from other activities? Do you spend a lot of time working at a computer? Do you do any sports that require a lot gripping such as climbing or jiu-jitsu? I'll second (or third) the advice to really work on using gravity and using your back muscles to pull a big sound.

    Attached Files:

    Martin Spure, Jmilitsc and Sam Reese like this.
  17. Notaluthier


    Oct 7, 2021
    +1 on closer to the nut.
  18. BassFalcon


    Nov 18, 2020
    Also, the weight of your arm and gravity. Your arm probably weighs 15lbs at least. Imagine dropping 15lbs on a string. That’s all the digging in you could possibly need
  19. crd

    crd Supporting Member

    Feb 1, 2022
    I don't think anyone has enough information to give you any technical advice. Talk more to your teacher and be patient. Your sound is deeply personal. Take your time finding it. If Ray Brown played up the fingerboard he wouldn't have sounded how he sounded... If Percy Heath played closer to the bridge he wouldn't have sounded the way he sounded... They both sounded great, had different hands, tonal goals and had big acoustic sounds. I don't think anyone can give you much useful advice on how to develop your sound. It just kind of happens. (I do not think this is the case with many other aspects of bass playing/musicianship.)

    Working at it a little bit every day and letting your body find it's way to what works best makes a lot more sense to me than trying to over analyze body weight etc.
    CoolGuyBassist and AGCurry like this.
  20. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    There's a book available on the ISB website called The Bassist's Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health. It has a lot of good info, written by a chiropractor.