1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

how long does it take to build up hand strength or am I just too old?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Dredmahawkus, Oct 10, 2013.

  1. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    I just turned 40...I used to play guitar when I was in my teens. I just started playing bass a year ago and I love it! I cant believe I didnt do this earlier its like this instrument was made for me! anyway I am learning scales and chords along the way. mostly now I am just learning songs...I probably learned about 60 songs in the last year.
    anyway it was hard getting through a song when I first started till I built up hand strength. now I can get through almost anything...one example is dazed and confused. you know during the guitar solo JPJ does E 5-7 A 5-7 D 5-7 over and over again for like 3 days? I can do it perfect for like half way through that....then I just cant make it through it!
    do you ever build up enough strength were that does not bother you or do I just have some carpal tunnel from years of dealing in a casino and will never get through that?
    If your hand is killing you halfway through something how do cover it up?
    usually as long as I am moving my hand around nothing bothers me....its only when I have to stay in the same position for 3 minutes really fast like that dazed and confused part where it bothers me.
  2. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    It may not be a strength issue. It could be that you're working against yourself. As you play, listen to the sounds and think of them. Relax and let you hands and arms do the work.

    When someone is tense, more muscles than are needed get into the act and often times they work against each other. If you were going to practice foul shots in basketball, you'd think about the ball going into the hoop, not about what muscles you need to move the ball. Same with running or any other physical activity.

    Keep your eye on the prize.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    You seem to be on the right track, i.e. building up stamina and dexterity (notice I did not say "strength".... as you naturally have the strength required to fret a string, from an early age) by simply playing the bass. In time, you will build up enough stamina and dexterity to play repeated lines for long periods. The key is to build up gradually.

    If your hand(s) are "killing you" at any time...stop immediatly and rest up. Never play through pain.

    Before you even pick up the bass to practice, spend two or three minutes doing gentle stretches (search You Tube for "hand stretches for guitar"). Repeat these when you finish your practice. Keep well hydrated.
  4. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    I do stretches all day for a year! seriously like every hour.....now I used to hurt almost always when playing....now its very rare its just when I am playing fast in the same spot for more then a couple minutes. my hand starts to like cramp up like a carpal pain. I have a pretty light touch too. I used to have a harder touch and it would hurt quicker...but like I said as long as my hand is moving around a little its fine its just when its in the same spot...even if its slow for a long time....like if its a song thats like 1st finger to 3rd finger 2 frets away over and over and doesnt move anywhere between my wrist and my thumb feels like its going to fall off after a couple minutes!

    Guess I will just keep practicing it everyday till it stops hurting!
  5. Ed P

    Ed P

    Aug 4, 2007
    Relaxation seems to be a major factor.
  6. Einherjar


    Dec 1, 2012
    Lakewood, CO
    Would just like to chime in. If I ever have continuous problems with cramping during a certain quicker passage I'll look at the fingering I'm using and try alternatives.
  7. funnyfingers


    Nov 27, 2005
    Could your action be too high?
  8. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Are you breathing?

    It's not so much "hand strength". Really, how much does it take to press a string down? Are you flexing unnecessary muscles?

    With the frets that you describe, I'd use finger #1 on the fifth fret, and ALL fingers down when fretting the seventh fret. VERY little movement needed for that.

    Some players try to use fingers 1 & 3 - with flexed, unused fingers flying all over the place. A waste of energy.

    Relax and breathe.
  9. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Use a metronome. This way your progress will be objective.

    Good luck!
  10. vince a

    vince a

    Jun 13, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    Had similar issues about five years ago when I stopped playing guitar because those tiny strings just hurt my fingers. Picked up a Fender MIA Jazz and began the down low thing!

    My left hand cramped, felt like I had carpel tunnel, had trigger finger in my left and hands, and my right arm felt like it was going to sleep.

    A fellow jazz bassist gave me a few clues: (as above) relax, loosen up your left hand grip, stretch and warm up before playing, install lighter weight strings (I use 45-125 on my five string), and lower that action - screw the string buzz - that sound doesn't come through the amp/cabs. Lastly, which helped that right arm from going to sleep, pick your forearm up off the body of the bass . . . it was cutting off circulation in my arm.

    BTW, I play in four bands, and oh . . . I'm 67 years old . . . young? Whatever.
  11. Jhyl89


    Jun 11, 2013
    My left thumb would kill me sometimes in the middle of long sets, I paid close attention to my technique and found that I was just simply pressing too hard with my thumb when I got into it and wasn't aware. So like others have said, try to relax.
    For strength training, I recommend the "Buddha rope" you use the rope to do finger exercises on the bass. it makes the action and tension super high. It's the same concept as putting a donut on a baseball bat. It requires an every day routine, and seemed silly to me at first, but man, after the first couple months it began to help my playing dramatically. I started on guitar, and bass was always a physical challenge before, but now it's just as easy as playing guitar for me, I was amazed.
  12. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    Also consider varying the patterns of the bass line. Just because JPJ played the same pattern for 3 minutes doesn't mean you have to. You can start with the same pattern, then throw in a variation, then return back to the original pattern.

    I too have a tendency to grip too hard with playing what is seemingly as easy line. The variation will allow the muscles that were tense to free themselves up when going to a different pattern/position.

    This will also help you to establish your own style or voice. Creating lines when new on an instrument is tough. Playing a known song, then creating that variation will help you see additional patterns and lines that may be useful in other songs, or even your original music.

    Good luck, don't grip too hard and enjoy the Low End.
  13. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    My action is pretty low....I get it right about buzzing...and its really low....I do have small hands and when I do that 1st finger 3rd finger thing on those 2 frets the rest of my fingers are flying all over the place.....but I cant seem to lay the finger across 3 string and get the notes to ring....and it kind of hurts more if I lay one finger across the 5th fret and just move the other finger for the 7th.....it seems to make me less relaxed and more of a grip...like I said I have small hands.....most of my basses are close string spacing too! like 17mm.
    when I play that part I play 5-7 hammeron then move down with same finger do a 5-7 hameron and move down again and do another then back up.

    like everything else I play my hands never bother me I am pretty relaxed....its just if its really fast in that same spot.....and the only way I can last longer is play super relaxed where I am almost not pressing the notes through......

    I think I am just gripping way too hard when that part comes up....and my bass with flats when I play that are much stiffer then rounds....I am going to try it on my jazz with thinner rounds today as light as possible and see if I can get through that part.
    That song is totally a flatwound song thought!
  14. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    Yeah I am just pushing on my thumb too hard in that part....I tried playing it up on open and 2 but couldnt get it to sound right.
  15. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    Yeah what else I was noticing was when I am playing all around I am so relaxed my thumb barely touches the neck....I pretty much float around on top of the strings....but that part of that song I really clamp on! but I cant make the notes ring playing that fast on these flats unless I press a little harder....and if I press a little harder I cant play super fast and make the note ring! man this is frustrating!
  16. Kyle_S


    Sep 11, 2013
    I have small hands, too. I play the riff with my first and fourth fingers and pick every note instead of using hammer-ons. Fifth fret to seventh fret is by no means a monster stretch, but it would be enough to induce fatigue if I was using my first and third fingers for as long as that particular riff requires.
  17. surgay

    surgay Banned

    Sep 27, 2013
    Try a Planet Waves Varigrip several times during the day. I use one due to arthritis. helps me .
  18. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Sounds like your technique needs a brush up. You should go to a teacher and get a spot check on your hand positions. If you play the bass like most guitar players grab the guitar neck then you are asking for trouble. And don't bend your wrists.
  19. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    no I play straight wrist and pretty much floating thumb.

    Yeah I am going to start going to a teacher as soon as I get all the notes and scales down.

    I have been playing for a year only had an hour a day to play and taught myself like 50 songs....thats great and all but its only so good to be able to do that and not know what notes you are playing!

    I have a vid of a bass I am selling....and it shows my wrist a little and I am bending my wrist....I have to work on that!!! you cant see much but its all wrong


    When I move around like in that song it doesnt bother me.....its just when I sit in place playing the same spot....like stranglehold for 8 min....and the pain goes away in a minute....I am going to look up hand posture...I dont think I ever have before but I think I need it.
  20. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Ha! I've got scales you've never heard of.

    How about some Arpeggios. Fully harmonize, through the 13th, every scale that you can find in every key.

    On 2nd thought, get a teacher, asap... the waiting til you can play - "all the notes and scales" - is a life-long pursuit.

Share This Page