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I switched from electric and then broke my left hand...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by sloppysubs, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. sloppysubs


    Nov 24, 2002
    Swansboro, NC
    You heard it right. I was about a month into lessons when I broke my left hand playing soccer. Before we crack jokes, I am... was a goalkeeper. I broke the 4th meta carpel. Nasty stuff.

    Anyway, the Dr. cleared me and I've been going very lightly. Obviously, my hand hurts like all get out.

    Other than normal warm-ups and such, anything I can do?

    Also, would it be lame (my hand is having a hard time stretching now) and how would I make fret lines on the fretboard? At least until my hand gets back into shape and I relearn the muscle memory, etc.

    Any suggestions? Thanks!
  2. Lame? Heck no. When I play gigs, I draw lines on the side of the fingerboard with a pencil so I can do quick checks. My snark stays on too. Do what works for you!

    Hope your easing-back-in goes ok. Work your way up and don't over do it.

    As far as warmups, talk to a physical therapist too so you don't injure your precious hand. Photograph your hand positioning and if it is possible to bring your bass into a therapy session for the person to see the positions and watch the muscle engage, that may be helpful.
  3. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Use your ears, not your eyes. Make sure your bass is setup to play as easily as possible. Low nut, low string height, and little fingerboard camber.
  4. GO SLOW. I stupidly ended up with a boxer's fracture in my right hand (it had broken before and was weak) the day before a gig last year. Three hours of slap bass in a cast was not pleasant. Those thousand impacts from double-slaps and drag triplets was probably less strain than stretching your left hand and stopping notes. I'd take some time off and heal.
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'm not sure how painting lines on a fingerboard (it's only a fretboard if you don't know where the notes are and you have to worry what comes out) is going to do anything to help with your hand stretching. The note is where the note is, line or no line. The muscle isn't connected to a different brain than your ear is, I don't think regaining "muscle memory" is the issue....
  6. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    I had a case of tendontitis kick in about a year and a half ago. Laying off DB and just playing slab for four or five months was the only option. I think maybe time off to recuperate is your best option.
  7. Nagrom


    Mar 21, 2004
    Western Canada
    A yellow artist pencil makes a nice little mark that is easily removed. Hopefully with some care and physio you will soon be back to regular playing ability. Good luck.
  8. byrdzeye


    Mar 28, 2013
    Toronto, ON
    Feel free to use side position markers or fret lines; these are just tools to make you a better player. I've just started UB (long time EB player), and the Shen I bought had position markers (where a fret line would be) on it. The previous owner used white corrector fluid, which will come off easily when you're done with it. I use the marks to check myself with my trio, as sometimes its hard to hear what I'm playing when things get a little "rambunctious", and it helps keep us all happy and in tune.
  9. I agree with that but on the flip side, the mark, in pencil, would give him something to aim for, especially if his muscles are fatigued from his injury.

    Just to expand on my 1st post: The pencil lines I draw are an aid not a necessity. Used mostly when I can't hear myself and to eliminate doubt.

    When I first started playing DB, the very first thing my teacher did was draw lines with a pencil on my fingerboard. It was quite helpful when I was inexperienced and getting to know the instrument. The OP had a month worth of lessons before he broke his 4th meta carpel.

    Do stringed instrument teachers no longer use tape lines on fingerboards for their students?
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I would focus on regaining strength by doing something *other* than playing bass (EB or URB, doesn't matter). There's those grip strengthening things you can get at drugstores, or your PT could possibly give you a gob of that Playdough-like stuff that the patient re-shapes over and over (I think they come in different strengths).
  11. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    If his muscles are fatigued, he should stop playing. Some teachers use lines, although I feel it is more for children starting out. The point of not using lines and marks is to keep the visual element out of play between the hands and ears. I encourage students to not look at their fingerboard hand. When (site) reading music, your eyes have to be on the page, not the bass. I'm sure some will disagree…
  12. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Maybe, as a beginner, it's a stretch to tell another beginner the best way to approach the instrument?
  13. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I'm not sure lines will help you recover. Just get your bass set up so that it's really easy to play (I might even put a lighter set of Solo Tuning or Pirastro Obligatos on there) and take it easy with lots of physical therapy and breaks while you're practicing. Eventually you want to recover and play with good technique so that you're in tune and don't injure yourself further. I might use the time to slow down and either get Intonation Plus, Simandl Vol.1 or The Evolving Bassist and concentrate on slow bow work with scales, etc. Take it easy.
    If lines will make you collapse your hand position and "fish" for notes it's not a good idea, IMO.
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I had a shoulder injury a few years back and can endorse the idea of solo strings (spirocores in my case) tuned to orchestra pitch while healing. I quite liked them in the process and have kept them around, just in case.

    I also think it makes a lot of sense to play less, but use the time to focus on technique, ability, reading or anything that needs work vs finding ways to just plow through. It will pay off in the long run.
  15. Exactly what bone was fractured? What was the line of the fracture?
  16. sloppysubs


    Nov 24, 2002
    Swansboro, NC
    4th meta carpel break on the left hand. That's the bone that's inside your hand that connects to your finger. Spiral fracture, which means at an angle. It also means that my left ring finger is shorter than it used to be. That doesn't mean much for DB but a lot for EB.

    Yes, my arm is fatigued from the muscle atrophy. I've been rehabbing on EB and through PT and other stuff for about a month now. I just started getting back into DB.

    I don't play for long periods of time, and have already started doing what some have suggested in terms of working on technique, intonation, etc.

    Give me a little slack. Should I use any kind of line? Probably not. It's not about me seeing it, however, when your hand was inadvertently changed (the healing I mean, the bone is set back, it isn't straight, I have to grip things differently, on and on) whether I know where the note is on the board or not is irrelevant, I still got to get my hand there.

    If I can't get my finger to the right spot because of the way my hand is physically healed, then I need to find a new way to get to the note. Hence the lines to gauge how my hand feels, what muscles are being used, does it hurt and can I actually do it.

    My PT says I should play until I hurt and then stop. Keep at it, but be slow and gentle. Always warm up and use ibuprofen and ice if you need to. Hell, typing using home row still hurts and I'm a Ph.D. in English (read A LOT of typing).

    And, Ed, it's sort of hard to cement a muscle memory when you only did it for 4 weeks (on an instrument that you just started learning) and then you couldn't do anything for 4 months. Perhaps it isn't muscle memory, perhaps it's helping a guy who broke his hand find a fairly reasonable way without stopping the instrument altogether to be able to play fairly competently. Do my ears and hands needs more practice and training? Undoubtedly so, but does my rehabbing hand need a way to make sure these grips and hand positions that are so important (to prevent from more lasting and permanent damage) are correct? Yes.

    The bass has been set up to be as easy for me to play as it can without the set up being total crap.

    Further, I have re-enlisted the help of my teacher. As it so happens, he doesn't see the need for lines, though, he does understand that my left hand needs to be doing the right things.

    Thanks for all the suggestions and info. gang.
  17. So, drawn lines don't help... but tape can, if you don't look at it. You can feel where the tape is, and that gives something to aim for. But don't leave it on more than a couple of months.

    As for the injury, I can't really do anything but sympathise... it's a long road to recovery with some hand injuries, so don't reinjure yourself. Since you're learning at the same time, just be aware that this is going to slow you down, set goals accordingly.
  18. I broke my hand once too, zongeek and when I close my hands, a finger closes crooked, my right ring finger. You will be able to play fine. Mine affected my finger picking when I played guitar.
  19. til mannix

    til mannix

    Mar 5, 2013
    First of all I would find a good massage therapist who has had experience with this kind of injury. Check your local massage accreditation board for recommendations and word of mouth. Practitioners of a special kind of massage therapy called Rolfing are known for their ability to restructure the body. I may be prejudiced but having practiced massage therapy for 30 years I find the approach that we use to be less cookie cutter and more individual than PT. You need both exercise and rest in measured doses. The strength in your hands comes from the muscles in your forearms so flexors and extensor muscles have to be rehabilitated. The fracture site on your metacarpal may have a bit of calcium deposit from the healing process that may irritate nearby tendons when you open and close your hand. It may still be possible to break some of that scar tissue down. Use the ice to bring down inflammation but be very careful with any of the NSAIDs (non steroidal anti inflamatory drugs) Ibuprophen (Advil) and especially its big brother Naproxen (Aleve). These drugs have wrecked my stomach lining. Ice has no side effects.
    If it were me, at first, I'd practice fingering notes using very light pressure and not using my right hand and I would stop at the first indication that I'm getting tired. I would warm my hand in a hot epsom salts bath for 5 minutes at a time and then gently hyper extend my fingers (I push backwards and hold until I just start to feel the ouch. I hold until it stretches and stops aching then I stretch a little further). Maybe 2 sets of this. It can get annoying but worth it. Also I would massage the area around the injury, gradually encroaching on it until it got too tender to touch then rest. Start squeezing a very soft rubber ball gradually working up to firmer balls (yes, I'm still talking therapy here). A hot epsom salts bath will help my forearms eliminate some of the lactic acid buildup and make them feel great after a work out. I hope this helps.

    BTW Use what ever means you need to feel confident and comfortable when you practice. No one will see the lines or the tape on the neck when they listen to the recording. Just realize that you cannot read and look at your hands at the same time so eventually you will have to lose the training wheels.