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Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by MachinaMichelle, Dec 31, 2019.

  1. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    Okay. *phew* picking up the bass for the fourth time in over a year and a half has been...humbling to say the least! I have stupid flying fingers (the cramping and fatigue are BRUTAL!), and limited dexterity. I’ve also recently acquired two types of hand tremors due to a neurological disorder. So of course, me being the stubborn person that I am, I didn’t warm up, I got over zealous and jumped right into FNM “Land of Sunshine”. Going from ⬆️”shredder”⬆️ to ⬇️sucking⬇️ is super embarrassing, so please be gentle . Any CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is always welcome, but don’t be a “you know what” about it, eh?! Don’t butter my behind either because it’s not a pity party, just tell me straight up what/how to improve this nightmare. Most likely, I’ll end up deleting this as per usual. With all that in mind, I present for your careful consideration;
    Helix likes this.
  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    First, the video actually looks and sounds pretty good to me. One concern: I can't see your right arm in the video, but from the way you're sitting I'm gonna guess that your forearm is resting across the top of the bass and your wrist is bent to reach down to the strings. If so, that's a sure-fire recipe for screwing up your right hand and wrist. You need to stand, or sit on a higher chair/stool, so the bass body is lower and you can straighten out that wrist.

    Otherwise, I think you're frustrated because your expectations are unrealistic. If you're out of practice, and suffering from hand tremors, you can't expect to just pick up the bass and start shredding. You need to start out slowly and only increase your speed a little at a time -- over the course of weeks, not hours -- until you're back in shape. Also, slowing down will allow you to really focus on your technique, including keeping your wrists straight and working on trying to reduce those "flying fingers."
    Reedt2000, red_rhino, five7 and 4 others like this.
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Looks and sounds good to me!

    Cramping and fatigue are not not normal! They are warning signs. I recommend to choose easy practice songs so that you can stay relaxed, and you are not in pain at the end of practice sessions. If you are feeling fatigue and cramping, then you are overdoing it. Next time your hand starts to get tired, take a break! Don't try to push through. The amount of force it takes to play a note on the bass is no more than what it takes to type a letter on your computer keyboard. No need to slam against the strings.
    Poke, Reedt2000, red_rhino and 4 others like this.
  4. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Here is the easy two step program:
    Step 1: Put away the camera.
    Step 2: Practice regularly.
    PWRL, MrLenny1, Wasnex and 1 other person like this.
  5. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    Yes, the position I was sitting in was impractical and uncomfortable. My right arm was in fact resting on the bass. I don’t like practicing in the living room because there’s too much foot traffic going on but I think a chair or standing is definitely a great idea. I also have a lumbar injury so I can’t really sit for too long. You’re 100% correct in your assessment. I’m trying to be patient but it’s so frustrating to me. It’s time to be humble and get back to basics. Your input is greatly appreciated!!
    LowActionHero and Lobster11 like this.
  6. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    I gotta put the ego trip aside and start warming up proper. My hands get fatigued rather quickly. I’m trying to play 20 minutes a day minimum, but someone else suggested I practice once earlier in the day, then again at night. I’m going to try it out. Thank you
    bfields and design like this.
  7. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    dually noted
    design and el murdoque like this.
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    If your hands get fatigued rather quickly, so that you can only practice 15-20 minutes at a time, then the number one word of advice I can give you is: Don't waste those 15-20 minutes practicing things you already know! For example, a lot of people waste their practice time practicing scales, even though they already know scales. Don't do that! Spend your precious 15-20 minutes learning things that are new to you. For example, you could try to learn 1 easy song, that is new to you, per day.

    Also look into exercises you can do without physically holding the bass, that will make you a better musician. Things like: ear training, rhythm exercises, reading, transcription, or singing.
  9. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    That advice is truly invaluable to me!I already know what I know...it’s time to approach this with an open mind, heart, and ears. It’s time for something new!
    design likes this.
  10. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Your left hand technique has a lot of wasted energy. You pull your fingers very far off the neck when you release notes. Your fingers should just relax off the strings. Instead of your fingers popping off the neck a couple inches, they would relax off and rest just mm above the strings ready to fret again.

    Also, which hand or hands get cramps and make it so you have to stop practicing? Where is the pain or cramps?
  11. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    My left hand, thus the “flying fingers”. It’s arduous and I’ve always had that bad habit, but not to this extent. It’s disheartening. I think I need to start slow and really try to keep my left fretting fingers closer to the fretboard! I’m self taught and I was considering lessons to curb all that bad habits I acquired.
    Wasnex and Lobster11 like this.
  12. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Lessons will help. If it is your left hand that is bothering you, there are a couple of things to practice.

    1) "slow practice" just means slow enough to play without bad habits.
    2) practicing familiar stuff will be more useful than jumping into new music every time. This is opposite to what @Mushroo recommended. My thought is if you are learning new music constantly, you are focused on new music instead of correcting bad habits. If you correct the bad habits then follow his advice which is great advice.
    3) focus on the areas of concern. Take this song you are working on and practice it focused on your left hand and relaxing your fingers up. If you have no teacher, it is helpful to sit in front of a mirror or record so you can see what you are doing.
    4) do some warm up. I normally will play some scales to limber up before playing.

    The other thing that I think is 15-20 minutes is not much time. It makes me think either your hands are too weak and need a lot of exercise over weeks and months and/or your bass is badly setup making you waste unnecessary force.

    Are the cramps in your forearm or hand? Pain in your hands between your fingers would probably be weak hand muscles. In your forearm is probably bad technique.

    What kind of strings do you use? You might want to use a lighter gauge string. It will have less tension and be easier to play.

    How high is the bottom of the string from the 12th fret? It should be slightly more than the thickness of a nickel. If it is much more than this, your action is too high and needs lowered at the bridge.

    How hard is it to fret the first position? Fret a string at the third fret and check how much space is between the string and the first fret. There should be barely any space. If not, you need to file the nut.

    Good luck.
    Wasnex and MachinaMichelle like this.
  13. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA

    Most of the time it doesn't even look like his fingers lift up even though they are. Same goes for the guitarist. Look at just how little movement their fingers seem to make. That is your goal. Everyone has flying fingers at some point. Everyone has to practice it away.
    MachinaMichelle likes this.
  14. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    perhaps I’ll change it up every now and then; alternate. One day play something familiar, next day something new, and stay vigilant about my fretting hand.

    right now I have DR black beauties on medium gage, but they’re dead. I’m gonna bust out my D’Addario XL round wounds though. (No more boiling strings!)

    the action on the Schecter is a bit high, but I play slap so I don’t want to make any major adjustments regarding that right now. I may need to intonate though at some point.

    I’m not gonna mess with the nut right now. Optimally I’ll be able to purchase a higher end instrument soon ($$ Corvette is calling my name). I have three basses right now; SR800 which is my beater that I’ve had since I was a kid and played most of my gigs with. It’s got a busted push pull pot and electrical issues...definitely in need of a little TLC. Then I have this Schecter...and a “chickenbacker” which gets zero love. I had several basses years ago but I pawned most of them...so yeah.

    my hands are extremely weak. I’ve been dealing with some health issues which basically had me on bed rest for 1 1/2 years so atrophy is a big component here. The pain is in my left hand between the fingers and the fingers themselves.

    I’m loving all of this wonderful feedback!! Thank you!!
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2019
  15. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    Yeah my ex (also a bassist) was helping me keep my fingers closer to the fretboard with his hand over mine. It’s super painful to hyperextend my fingers like this. I gotta break it down hardcore...play some warm ups and focus on that left friggin hand! Thanks!!
  16. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Might consider light gauge strings instead of medium, especially if you feel weakness is a big issue.

    Even expensive basses need properly setup. It is generally worth taking them to a shop to get setup, especially when you don't know what you are doing. Also, lower action makes slapping easier, not harder.
    red_rhino and MachinaMichelle like this.
  17. MachinaMichelle

    MachinaMichelle Guest

    Jun 14, 2014
    yeah, you’re right.
  18. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Scotts Bass Lessons has a lesson and some ideas to help deal with "flying fingers". I'm pretty sure it's on You Tube.
  19. nickpc


    Jul 23, 2012
    You may already know this, but if you are playing along to YouTube you can slow down the speed. That way you can be playing a song you know but are able to slow down and focus on your technique. Settings/Playback Speed. There are a lot of licks I start out at 75% (and some at 50%) to get them down, then go to full speed.
  20. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Never, ever "hyperextend" your fingers!

    When you are practicing and feel a "super painful" sensation, you should stop IMMEDIATELY, as in, take your hands off the bass, don't even try to finish the song, and try again tomorrow!

    I'm going to disagree with your ex: In my opinion, it's better to keep your hand relaxed and your let fingers "fly away" than to force your fingers close to the fretboard if it causes pain and cramping. I was watching a video of Adam Clayton (from U2) and I noticed sometimes, when he is playing open strings, he takes his left hand completely off the neck and lets it hang freely by his side. I think this is a nice ergonomic technique that gives an opportunity to "shake it out" so he doesn't get cramping or fatigue in his left hand.

    Notice how relaxed and comfortable Adam looks out there on stage, and how straight his wrists are. No disrespect to Geddy Lee, but he has a rather "idiosyncratic" technique, and the clip you posted earlier was not a great example on which to model your technique. This is what relaxed and comfortable pro technique looks like!

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