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Injury prevention

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Mike Goodbar, Mar 14, 2002.

  1. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I've been getting a lot of calls for gigs lately, so the number of hours I spend behind a bass each week has increased by about 100 percent.

    This is a good thing in most respects, and I'm certainly not complaining. However, at my last gig, I began to notice some pain and stiffness in one of the muscles that runs along the top of my left arm, from about my wrist to my elbow. There was also definite pain and tenderness in my elbow.

    I got through the gig by shifting the angle of my bass occasionally, and by concentrating on NOT gripping the neck. But I was just a little shaken up--I've never had any problems of this sort before, probably due to my light playing load. I want to be in this thing for the long run and don't want to be sidelined.

    Anyone have any experience with this kind of pain? Any suggestions for preventative techniques?

  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Without seeing you play, I will offer this:

    Have someone with good technique watch you play, preferably at a gig where you're aren't on your best behaviour for your discerning audience, and critique what he sees.

    I had some pretty bad tendinitis straightened out with the Alexander Technique. I would recommend this to anyone, whether he is experiencing problems or not.

    You're doing EXACTLY the right thing by getting on this right away. It could be nothing, just growing pains, but could as easily be that you're doing something stressful to your self.
  3. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Ditto Ray. On the ball, per usual.

    Gary Karr may be a controversial name around here, but it's worth making mention of his physical approach in this context. Gary's technique is intended and designed to avoid muscle strain by helping the player to use muscles efficiently. Here, as mangled by me, is the gist of his general posture and left hand technique:

    a) Stand the bass up straight. If the bass is standing itself up, you, o lucky bassist, will not need to use your muscles to hold it up. You can use them to play instead.

    b) You stand up, too! When you're playing in the lower register, be tall. Low F should be at eye-level.

    c) Position the bass so that your left elbow is at, or close to, a 90 degree angle and your wrist is straight when playing on the G string. That will help keep your carpal tunnel open.

    d) Make your left hand into a "C" shape. Playing on your fingertips yields much more power with the same muscular effort than playing on the flats. On the back of the neck, your thumb should be close to on the tip -- not on the flat, anyway -- for the same reason. My thumb is betweenthe first and second fingers.

    e) When bowing in the upper register, Gary would actually lean the bass slightly forward -- bridge slightly toward the ground -- which lets the weight of the bass do some of the work of pressing down the strings.

    I can't say I succeed in following these guidelines; I'm sloppy and I wiggle and no-one thinks I'm Gary Karr. But I'm a part-time player whose time actually on the bass varies dramatically, and even when it goes from zero to mucho instantly, I've been able to avoid tendonitis and back pain by aiming in this direction. Knock wood!

    Try it for what it's worth, folks. If it hurts, stop. And my apologies for any errors.
  4. Relax. I think you have to practice relaxing just like anything else. Practice slowly and be aware of any tension you may have, think about how relaxed you more than what it sounds like ,also watch yourself play in the mirror and try not to have any wasted motion. Keep the question in your mind "am I relaxed" as much as you can. Good Luck ,Marc
  5. I played last night for three hours and concentrated on proper form and keeping relaxed. I also took a few minutes before the gig to stretch my arm muscles. I feel a little bit of tenderness this a.m., but not nearly as much as after the last gig.

    I've heard of the Alexander Technique. Does it require taking classes, or can it be learned from books? Any you recommend?

    Thanks, all.
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    You must get with a teacher for the Alexander bit. A note or two on the whole thing:
    • It took 3 or 4 weekly lessons before I noticed anything.
    • It seemed to me for the entire time before I noticed change that the whole thing was BS.
    • By the month and a half mark I had more (and drastic) improvement than I had after a year of self-improvement, a year of a doctor (at the Miller Institute in NYC -- the best place to go), and 6 or 7 months of physical therapy.
    • The approach can be / is very nuts'n bolts. No special clothes or yoga mats or anything like that. Just stuff you do while you go about your business.
    • It's impossible to put into words what the whole thing really involves, so what most people that do it will tell you is something similar to what I've just said plus "Check it out and see if it works for you." I would add that you have to have a good lock with your teacher.
    • Lessons tend to be a little pricey, but you won't need to take weekly lessons for life. I only made it to 6 or 7 before I ran out of cash (a whole 'nuther story), but the average is 10-12 lessons and then 2 or 3 times a year you may want to stop in for a little 'touch up' lesson.
    • The bass player friend of mine that turned me onto this has been able to go further with it than I have and has noted that he's also had drastic improvements in tone and volume, both pizz and with The Stick.
  7. I've noticed that I tend to clamp down my left hand too hard on difficult or loud passages. By consciously telling myself to relax, I have done wonders for my endurance. In addition to all the valuable things everyone is saying, just try that - try to be totally comfortable with the thing - but you have to do it consciously, otherwise you will play a long time until you notice the pain. I played a 3 set, 4 hour gig the other night and I was ready to keep playing at the end - this is only a recent development, largely I think due to practice, light weight training, and proper relaxation on the instrument.
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've gone from not being able to sleep at night with the throbbing pain in my hand, wrist, and arm after a couple of hours of playing to playing 10-12+ hours days pretty regularly with little discomfort.
  9. LizzardTom


    Mar 16, 2002
    I have been a long sufferer of tendonitis. It first hit me in my right wrist about 17 years ago. I have even gone as far as having cortisone injections into my wrist(which hurts like the devil). My work is in radiology, but I have extensive experience in orthopaedics and sports medicine. As stated above, I think that rest is the best for an acute case of tendonitis, but for prevention I use a series of stretching exercises before I play. Just like an athlete you must stretch those tendons and muscles. About 4 years ago a medical rep. approached me with these magnet gagets, so I bought one called the Mag-boy, which is two magnetic balls about the size of golf balls mounted in a handheld plastic holder. It did nothing for pain anywhere else in my body, except my tendonitis in my wrist. This thing works like a gem for my tendonitis. I use it when ever it gets bad, and in 24 hrs it's gone. I guess I got my money out of it.

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