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Left hand problems

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by BassMan257, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. Well, seeing as this is my first post... ever... It seems as if i have some explaining to do...

    Firstly, ive been playing Upright bass (in a jazz manner) for about a year now, and I feel as if i have progressed steadily in right hand techneque... now that Im getting a nice deep pizzacato growl out of my bass... and my fingers arent blistering up... ive been playing alot more...

    Actually, the past two weeks i have been at jazz camps... playing about 4 hours a day... (this may not seem like much for you Charly Pakers out there... but its more than normal for me) and I have run accross a problem...

    My left hand is seeming to cramp up badly...

    what is strange is that I have allways thought of my self to have fairly good left hand techneque... My fingers are nice and curved... not flat like some other (student) jazz upright players around...

    Ive been taking lessons from quite reputible sources... a professor at UMSL, and a graduate from Webster University (I Live in Missouri, if you all were wondering)

    The professor basicly looked at me playing, and said that if it felt fine, I was doing it right... well, it felt fine... untill i played for like 4 hours streight...

    I have a rufus ried book called "the evolving bassist" and he talks about "the claw" i believe... he mentions the pressure really coming from your shoulder and arm... this is quite a hard concept for me to grasp... and I was wondering if anyone had any good excersies for keeping your left hand correct...

    I mean, its just a really hard concept for me to grasp (pun fully intended)... not needing to use your thumb... It just feels really wierd

    thanks for all your help!

    another question... who decied to put a smilie with a unibrow on this forum? :eyebrow:
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Do you sit or stand when you play? Sitting on a stool can take some of the pressure off your thumb. If you already sit then you may be squeezing too hard. We all find a happy medium between sound and endurance that's right for each individual.
  3. Yes, I'll have to second the sitting idea. I used to get the worst cramps in my left thumb when I played standing. When I learned to use a stool, all of my problems went away, and I found many other things in my playing got better because I wasn't having to think about holding the bass upright.

    The problem is that when you stand, the weight of the instrument tends to support itself too much on your thumb. Whatever you can do to fix that problem will alleviate the thumb cramps. The easiest fix is to sit, but that sounds/looks very strange for a jazz bassist (If you didn't already guess, I'm mainly a classical player).

    Al Laszlo, the bass professor at CCM, has another solution. He's found that the bass can vibrate much more freely when not resting on your knee or thigh, so he has a different system for that. He replaced his endpin with an eggpin, or bent endpin, and designed the Laszlo Brick. It's essentially a concrete slab with a pole extending vertically about ten inches on one side of the slab. The pole has a little bit of padding on the end of it so that you can rest the bottom left corner of the bass against it.

    It's also possible your endpin is out too far. If you're having to lean the thing back more than just a little, it's probably putting undue strain on your thumb. My general rule has been that the nut of the bass should never be higher than your temple.

    So there's some ideas. If you have to, maybe just practice some of the time on the stool to save yourself some worry. I hope this is helpful.
  4. yeah.... at the moment... a stool sounds kinda hoaky... really hoaky... I mean, its not that sitting on a stool looks bad or anything... but a 17 year old kid playing jazz bass sitting down... just... wierd... in the rufus ried book, he even says that you have to use your thumb to balance the bass when standing... pluss... i think my thumb is just on their wrong.. I could take some pics... but I mean.... I think i have a "hichhikers" thumb.. where it sticks out backwards... you know... it looks like the joint is really hyper extending... and thats how i hold the bass..which is probibly wrong too... as for the leaning thing... i dont lean my bass as far back as some jazz guys do....

    thanks for the help... maybe you knowing about my thumb might help the sitch...
  5. ehdbl1


    Apr 18, 2005
    St. Louis
    Hey Bassman, I beg to differ with brother Rufus. The bass should lean into your body and be balanced by your gut on the upper bout and your left knee on the lower bout. This allows your left hand to move freely without having to worry about the bass falling over. Also, if your hand is cramping up I bet it's because you are trying to keep your thumb opposite the middle finger (on the other side of the neck). Try angling the thumb slightly upwards (if you're at three o'clock try 1 o'clock). This makes for less stress on the thumb.

  6. Ok, here's a general tip I've been going by for many years now: Jazz Bassists are not typically good examples for proper technique.

    If you're doing something that hurts, then it's wrong. It doesn't matter what Rufus Reid or anybody else says. If it hurts, it's bad. Do what you can to make it not hurt. You can try adjusting your thumb, but it has been my experience that if the bass is resting a significant amount of weight on the thumb, it's going to hurt pretty fast.

    The easiest solution is to sit. I've been doing it since I was 15. Just because we're young doesn't mean we can ignore pain. It will cause permanent damage if you keep it up.
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Exactly the kind of statement that maintains the stereotype of the classical snob. But, that aside...

    If you're going to play standing, the bass has to balance at least, if not fall forward and perhaps toward you if you let go of it with your left hand. This allows you to use the weight of the bass against the weight of your arm and the large muscles of your back to depress the strings. DO NOT use the left knee to support the bass. The puts you in an awkward standing position and will cause you injury in the long run, and sore feet and fatigue in the short.

    To get the feel of how light the bass should feel to your left hand, try sitting on a stool for part of your practice time. Sitting and playing is probably more difficult in the long run -- to do comfortably, anyhow. It's very easy to get into bad posture habits.

    Get in front of a full length mirror, without the bass, and stand completely relaxed with your weight even on both feet, and the weight equally ditributed on each foot. This is exactly how you want to be standing when you play the bass. Now take the bass and find a pin-height that will allow you to stand this way and reach what you need to reach with both hands (use the bow in the right hand to help with this) and the bass is balanced as described above.
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    P.S. The above advice will see awkward as hell at first, but persist and you'll find the solution. Having a teacher nearby that understands how to do this would be a great assist.
  9. That's probably true. It's not like there aren't classical bassists with lousy technique, and jazz bassists with good technique. But what I've noticed is that many jazzers like to say things like "oh, but I saw so-and-so hold his hand like this," and it's a horribly awkward looking hand position, or "I remember such-and-such doing that, and he's a Big Name, so he must be doing it right," and it turns out to be a way of standing that could easily lead to scoliosis.

    For whatever reason, there seems to be more discussion in the "classical" realm of bassism on technique. What I hear from the best teachers is that bass playing should be as easy as possible, and if it hurts, you're doing something wrong. Things I've heard from jazz teachers and players include "no pain, no gain," and "if it hurts, then you're just weak."

    This has nothing to do with muscle building, and has everything to do with preserving your tendons and bones from over use and over stress.

    Or is this all stereotype? If I'm wrong, tell me. This has, for whatever reason, been my general experience with bassists. There are exceptions, yes, but not usually.
  10. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    Yes Paul these are your experiences. who are these " some of the best teachers" ? and believe it or not there are many who share your view. It is not so special a position at all. If you want to look at ONLY those who go against your view for the sole purpose of making juvenile stereotypes AND trying to back it up by saying, well...they are based on truths. You then are treading on seriously thin ice.
    The line is then crossed . it is clsoer thatn you think.

    But you will learn your own way just as the rest of us..
  11. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    thanks guys for bringin me down. I gets ab it ornery with the youngens.

    but what aboutone of these as well, especially for sore left hand training

  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Marcus, thank you so much for making my morning - that was the funniest post I've seen in months. :D :D

    LOOSE CANNON - You do realize you just whacked a hornets nest, right? If you persist, the usually mild-mannered G SPOT will be the least of your worries. Stop and think about what you're saying, and then, if you really want to go there, try to be a little more specific about which "jazz players" seem to advocate pain over comfort. I say this having been lucky enough to have recently spent two weeks in the company of Rufus and Lynn Seaton, both of whom have studied with Rabbath and are masters of physical technique. This experience, for me, seems to contradict your perception of what "many" jazzers consider to be good technique. As always, YMMV. :)
  13. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    Whoaa now. I had a feelin I was gonna get some heat fer this.
    My original post started out like this.

    John Clayton
    John Pattitucci
    Rufus reid
    Mr Mc bride
    Jacco P
    Niels HØP
    and the list goes on.

    All "jazzers" whose left hands are of the utmost pinnacle of technique( I hope thats good english)

    I didn't mean to say that I shared Mr Cannon's views but that it is a view I have heard before.
    I admit I got a little hot under the collar.
    I get agitated by stereotyping whatever it is based on.
    As an American living abroad for many years I can asure you that sterotyping is a favorite pastime of many. For exmaple
    "american bassist can't play solos to save their lives..." or "american bassists can only play excerpts but are not as musical as us ....(fill in your chosen people).
    I wont even go to the non bass stuff. Especially in todays world of "endpins of evil " and the like.

    If I have offended anyone I appologise .

    It just gets my tail piece on fire when I read stuff...

    Chris , toushay ,I liked that G Spot , may I ask, was I hard to find...?
  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Yes, you are dead-ass, out of your water, nose-in-the-air wrong.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    GEE WHIZ - nah, you weren't hard to find at all...ya just gotta know where to look. And I didn't think for a minute that you were trying to stereotype jazzers for two reasons:

    1) Your visible posts never implied that for a minute.

    2) My moderatorial superpowers allow me to see deleted posts. :)

    Folks, this thread could be a lot of fun, or it could get really stupid really fast. Let's go for the former by being civil and lighthearted about it. I would never try to root sarcasm out of TB - to do so would suck the life right out of it. But lets not get too serious over what was probably a slip of the lip on PETER, 1812, and MARY's part, okay? We can debate to point without any bloodshed if we try, I just know it. :)
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Ok -- I'll bite. We can put our chops up for comaprison:

    We'll meet out at Cleopatra's Needle (Broadway @ about 92nd St.)

    We'll get Eric Lewis to rip off one of his renditions of Pinnochio. Usually around 300bpm or better. No bass amp, but a poorly supported mic is allowed. Loud drummer. My personal record with him is about one hour and fourteen minutes. Bass solo at about the one hour mark. If you have trouble with the solo or the bass line (we ALL know that classical players can't improvise -- or swing) I'll be happy to write one out for you. Follow this by a slow Db blues with about 15 horn players. Then we'll sit down and see who can hold a beer -- with either hand.

    Better, CF?
  17. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Oh -- no walking solo -- I want lines. I can do it with my lame-ass hillbilly technique, so I would expect it'd be nothing for you.

  18. christ andronis

    christ andronis Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2001
    oooooohhwee!!! The testosterone is pumpin' today!