left hand ache

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bnolsen, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. bnolsen


    Jan 30, 2014
    denver area
    New to electric bass, finally got my first last week. Yesterday after doing some left hand drills and a few scales I switched over to playing lines out of one of my fake books. Messing with 5/7 chord transitions, etc. I don't remember how long I played but it wasn't short.

    This morning at work sitting at the keyboard I noticed a very irritating ache in my left hand, in that meaty region between the thumb and first finger, towards the joint. It doesn't help that I pinched a nerve in my shoulder a few months ago which causes me to often have pins and needles in my thumb and first 2 fingers.

    This is just part of getting used to fretting on a bass or am I possibly doing something wrong?

    Oh also forgot to add that I'm double jointed and I doalso play ukulele.

    I took tonight off, did a few left hand drills and just watched a few videos about other drills, pentatonics, etc. Did a check on my new POS bass and noticed the frets are entirely level all the way down the neck but the very last one and the string height is 2-2.5mm at the 12th fret or so (I guess a tad high, but not grossly so.) Looks like a shielding job will make it pretty sweet.
  2. markkoelsch


    Sep 6, 2008
    First thing is to stop playing everything for a few days. I would recommend ice several times a day too.

    I think that sounds like you are playing too hard. It could be your technique, but your strings could be too high as well. In general, I am believer in having my strings as low as I can without getting fret noise. I think you will find that will help.

    next, I would consider your left hand technique. Are you playing to hard or too fast. These things take time to work up to.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I would agree with "markkoelsch's" advice to rest up for a day or two.

    When you return to playing, make sure to warm up for about two or three minutes. Before you touch the bass, do some gentle stretches for about two minutes. Search You Tube for "hand stretches for guitar/bass". After the stretches, play some scales S-L-O-W-L-Y and play above the fifth fret. Do this for a minute or two. Now you are ready to start your practice.

    If playing for long periods, take regular breaks and during these breaks, do a couple of gentle stretches. Stay well hydrated too, as this helps to prevent cramps.

    Be careful not to grip the neck of the bass too tight. Keep both hands as relaxed as possible.

    Finally, here is a clip dealing with safe L/H technique:

  4. vbchaos


    Sep 5, 2011
    Groningen, The Netherlands
    Uncompensated endorsing user: fEARful
  5. All good advice. But dont forget you're also now using /training new muscles. You're going to feel it, just like hitting the gym after some time off, you're going to be sore, its normal. But make sure your technique is good. Rock on!
  6. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006

    All true.

    OP, be aware of the difference between the natural "soreness" described above and actual pain.

    If you experience the latter, stop immediately, investagate the cause and take remedial action.
  7. bnolsen


    Jan 30, 2014
    denver area
    Thanks for all the replies. Thinking about it, I bet my soprano ukulele experience screwed thigs up. With a soprano ukulele you really don't "fret" anything since the frets are so close together pressing the string gets it fretted. Playing out of that fake book and pushing speed, not knowing the neck I'm pretty sure I was all over the place and probably pressed too hard.

    Which means...I get to learn how to actually really "fret" strings.

    Wouldn't I have the same problem going fretless (more like when i was playing bass viol and I pretty much ignored the very thin tied on frets). I'm guessing fretless must have an extremely low action.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
  9. bnolsen


    Jan 30, 2014
    denver area
    Likely so with the death grip.

    I may consider trying to find a local instructor to see if I have bad habits that need undone. Or not. Ugh.

    I'm in this position of having done classical voice for 15+ years, piano for 7+, viola da gamba for 4 years.
  10. Keep your wrist as strait as you can, try not using your thumb.

    Do you ever go up into a thump position on the viola da gamba or is that just a cello thing 'cause I have developed a weird habit on bass of going into a thumb position an random anytime I'm playing past the 15[SUP]th[/SUP] fret.
  11. I have had this exact problem. In my case, it was caused by following some bad advice, which was that I was told my left-hand thumb should be opposite my 2nd (middle) finger, in other words the thumb is folded over toward the palm of the hand like I am making the "okay" sign. If you make this shape when you are not holding the bass, you will see how much pressure/strain it puts on the base of the thumb joint. Since I stopped this awful technique, no more pain at the base of the thumb! :)

    In fact, the more comfortable position (for me) is to NOT cross the thumb over the 1st (pointer) finger into the palm, but in fact have the palm pointed slightly toward the headstock in a neutral/comfortable position. If you put your left hand in playing position (but not holding the bass) you should most definitely NOT see any large creases or wrinkles in the palm of your hand. If you do then you are holding too much tension and will get cramps.

    The most comfortable left-hand position for me is achieved as following: 1. Place hand palm-down on the desk or table in front of you, totally relaxed. 2. Keeping it relaxed in this same position, flip your hand over so it's palm up. 3. Keeping your hand in this same position/shape, raise it off the table to the neck of your bass. Try it! :)

    Also I hope you are playing 1-2-4 fingering (no ring finger) and not 1-2-3-4 fingering, which is the most common destroyer of beginner bass players' hands.

    Any good private instructor should be showing you this stuff. Be wary of guitar teachers who also teach a little bass, as they may not be familiar with best-practices. And of course a book (or internet TAB) cannot look at your hands and tell you what you're doing wrong.

    (edit) Here is a video demonstrating what I consider to be excellent left-hand technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1i1RJeUw70

    This is the kind of comfortable, relaxed technique used by pros who play 7 days a week for 20+ years. Notice that because his left hand is relaxed, he can make effortless and accurate shifts of 1, 2, 3 frets or more.
  12. bnolsen


    Jan 30, 2014
    denver area
    Even more good suggestions, thanks. The hand is coming along nicely, I'll let it sit more today and then work on the left hand as well.

    Yes, finding a decent teacher will be interesting, although there's something to be said about jumping in and trying stuff, unless bad habits are learned that is...
  13. ZenG


    Dec 13, 2013
    Near the fridge
    What Mambo4 said.........
  14. bnolsen


    Jan 30, 2014
    denver area