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Neck profile and health

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Chris K, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. Guys, I'm working hard on pages on my website on heath & playing the bass guitar, hoping them to become a thorough study.

    A problem that struck me was the relationship between neck profile and playing comfort, or lack of that, creating health risks.

    Issues might be: C-shape, D-shape, asymetric shape, radius, thickness, on 4-string or on 5 and 5+-string.

    The most important question is how these shapes might relate to the positioning of the thumb. A critical factor is hand size.

    I'd be interested to hear about your opinions and experiences.
  2. DaLoCo


    Jun 16, 2010
    South Africa
    My new 5-str bass has a trapezoidal neck, a lot thicker, but it doesn't feel like a thick c-shape because of the flat surfaces. The thumb actually rests on a flat surface at the bottom, whilst the angle sits naturally and comfortably where my hands bends.....something my 2010 Rockbass and BTB cannot achieve, as there is always air between my palm and the neck, so it seems that subconsciously I tend to put more strain on my musles to compensate for this perceived lack of grip.

    I must add that I am a beginner bassist, so I am very aware of muscle strain in my hands, as I have not yet developed the muscles.

    My next build will definitely have the same setup, as it has the added bonus of having a lot more wood to stabilize the neck (It does not move a micron between being unstrung and having strings)
  3. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Theres other factors to which explain why some prefer one type of profile over another. This has to do with individual positioning habbits. How one habitually curls hand for example can vary from person to person. The only real health issue is personal comfort and wether or not a peep does warm up and flexibility excercise for hand, fingers and wrist. How one wears their bass or guitar will also determine wether or not the persons fretting arm thru fingers are in optimum position for strength and dexterity. Wearing the instrument so it points more upward rather then more horizontal actually improves this. But this requires wearing the instrument lower then some want to for visual asthetics and other things that have nothing to do with optimum joint angles etc.
  4. This probably belongs in the technique sub-forum, but I've found that even with small hands, neck profile isn't a huge deal with good technique. Playing with the thumb down the skunk stripe behind the middle finger is a very efficient and ergonomic way to play. If you hold your middle finger slightly closer or further from your thumb, no big deal, right?

    Given that many guitarists and bassists are in the habit of wrapping their thumb around the neck, it's not nearly as joint friendly and you lose a lot of strength. Humor me and tap your middle finger to your thumb. Easy, right? Now try tapping your middle finger below the thumb. It shouldn't feel as easy.

    I find that most musicians get infuriated when this is brought up, but most conventional teachers don't stress good form and technique because it's not popular and nobody wants to hear that they're doing it wrong. When I took classical guitar in college, it was not enough to play a part correctly, but my instructor drilled good technique. I resisted at first and 10 years of bad habits were hard to break, but revisions in my technique made it so I did not care about neck profiles (provided the neck is balanced) and I no longer cramped up on a 5 string. Now I play a lot of 6 string and 35" scale with ZERO discomfort, even with small hands.
  5. IMHO squeezing should be avoided, period. Do you have a teacher to assess your technique?
  6. Habits may seem comfortable at first, but turn out to be risky later.
  7. Right.
    Confirms my ideas.
    I play with my thumb pointing up though. Just as good, as long as you take care to keep the thumb in a bow.
  8. DaLoCo


    Jun 16, 2010
    South Africa
    No, sadly I don't:help:. I used to play classical guitar about 25 yrs ago, and I am using some of the thumb technique from that. I live in the sticks in Africa, where there are a lot of good self taught players with very bad technique:eyebrow:. I have recently started looking at Youtube instructionals, which do help a lot, but unlimited internet in South Africa is still a myth, we still get capped and pay a lot for exceeding the cap:mad:.

    The trapezoidal neck made the biggest difference yet for me, which does highlight the fact that my technique on a normal neck is somewhat off:bag:. Since I have learned to set up my own bass things have also improved. I will however make a note to check whether I am squeezing.:D
  9. Jjango


    Nov 16, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA

    To a large extent, I would say that blaming the neck profile of a bass for hand problems is akin to blaming the ground for one's poor posture. I find that you either have good posture or you don't. Same goes with fretting technique.

    I can play anything from the skinniest Hofner to the widest fiver, from the flattest Geddy to the chunkiest P-Bass, without experiencing any hand discomfort whatsoever.

    A lot of us are self-taught, and start with poor technique that we never correct. But that's the fault of the bassist, not the bass.

    In short, if it hurts, don't do it like that! At least that's what always has worked for me. But sometimes, it takes years for us to notice that our technique causes us pain (I think that's what happened to Geddy, right?).

    I think that straight wrists + proper thumb placement is 99% of the battle.

    (Of course, this does not strictly apply to people who have pre-existing or chronic conditions – like arthritis, for example)
  10. Human Bass

    Human Bass

    Aug 26, 2005
    I recently got my first fretless neck and I decide for a D shape, it looks weird but feels quite good.
  11. "thumb down the skunk stripe" was a poor choice of words on my part. My thumb is pointing upward.
  12. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Im gonna disagree with the thumb along skunk stripe as a healthy static position. Based on my 35 plus yrs playing experience and understandings Ive gained from body mechanics etc as taught in yoga, kung fu, modern sports science, and such things. Which btw have supported the techniques for fretting etc I started out with. I was lucky enough to have had the mistakes of clasical era based european proper technique, pointed out to me early. And as will be repeated, its why many great players are great players despite their haveing what some call bad technique.

    Actually wrapping your thumb loosely around the neck and letting it occupy the area above the skunk stripe closer to the top edge is better for joints there. It has to do with optimum joint angles, mjuscle tendon locks, natural strongest hand and finger postions and movements for dexterity, strength, and precision. Clasical era proper technique is based not on such matters but rather on the polite proper society attitudes and other foolishness. The reason so many great players have bad technique according to traditionalists is because theyve figured out that that stuff is nonsense. The people who developed yoga, martial arts, spec opts military etc combat sciences, and the stuff being used in the more developed versions of athletic motion and movement science for athletes etc have it right. The classical victorian age proper tech stuff still bandied about doesnt imo. If your not changeing the postion of your thumb as you play diff strings your not moveing in the healthiest way for joints, muscles, tendons. The idea isnt to grip the neck its to cup the neck and move ones hand, wrist, fingers, etc in their optimum manners which are actually the most natural for a person. Unitll and unless they weed that out of themself via changieng to the old school proper technique stuff which was again based on nothing but the victorian age of proper polite movement etc. Anyone whod of worn their guitar slung low would have been burned at the stake for consorting with satan while the fire lighters bespoke about such being not only rude and heniouss but also improper and unhealthy, so says the church amen and no more witches ways allowed for playing music instruments. LMAO. Had europeans adopted the attitudes of yoga, kung fu, karate ect type body sciences, those horible proper technique ideas would have never been developed. Static position of thimb on the skunk stripe to me is as bad and silly as stick your pinky finger out and straight while you hold a cup of tea. Their both based on the exact same types of thinking for proper hand and finger usage. Imo.

    Yes Im weird. And I agree with players like Jon Lord, John Mclaughlin, John Entwistle, and Chriss Squire about trad proper technique being full of lotsa bollacks. Lol. Just play as works best for you naturally while maintaining good dexterity, precision, and easy strength for yourself. If you really want to understand body mechanics and optimizing of fingers, wrist, thumb, elbow, arm angles, etc for doing stuff for long term health etc. Go study the sciences that have it really developed as found in yoga, kung fu, athletic science, etc.
  13. JoshuaTSP


    Sep 26, 2008
    .....like a terrible broken record.:scowl:

    Do you just copy and paste that meaningless rant in every thread?:eyebrow::rollno:
  14. I'll give you that there is a given amount that the left thumb should rotate around the neck to try to stay roughly behind the thumb, but I fail to see how yoga and kung fu offer superior dexterity and ergonomics.

    Classical technique hasn't made many changes over the years. One might say it's because of a fear of change, but I'd like to think a majority is because the mechanics have been good to go for a super long time.

    When you go to the average symphony, there are a lot of older musicians, which I lend to the credibility of the ergonomics.
  15. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    I remember interviews with symphony players that toured with Rick Wakeman back in the 70's and early 80's. And some comments by symphony members who played with some death and black metal bands. About how they had to really lighten up on the proper technique following just to be able to play the stuff. My thumb varies from horizontal to vertical to the line of the neck and from anywhere from middle of necks back to wrapped around neck so that thumb could even fret the low E or B string. Yes a bit of inward curl is a basic constant. People whp try to keep their thumb up the neck near middle of its back, often put thumb joint at reverse/negative bend.

    Whats the best neck profile for a given player? One custom fitted to the player. But we dont live in a world where such is the norm. So each player must find the brands offering what would be closest to custom fitted profile for them.

    Is there help for the person whose technique is detremental to them even if its good for another diff peep? Sure, doing various warm ups and after set limberness and cool down excercises.
  16. Many useful posts, guys, thanks. Some of my own conclusions have been confirmed. We have to keep in mind that people differ more than we might think in terms of hand/arm dimensions and dexterity.

    My goal is to define the narrow path between
    - a set of general instructions that many of us are unable to follow completely
    - just letting everybody find their own way

    Both, IMHO are at risk of injuries.

    Jjango, you are absolutely right saying any neck profile will do with good technique... I just wanted to check. So.. what's that bass builders' crap about slim necks? IMO a thick neck, filling the bow of the thumb is much safer.

    To Darkstorm: the lower the thumb, the more risk of flexing the wrist too sharply, but some players just have short fingers. They have to stay in the middle of the neck, especially if they play 5 strings or more.

    The longer the fingers, the more player will benefit from placing the thumb closer to the upper rim of the fretboard, because the player will automatically keep the thumb in a bow, which is absolutely essential.

    My general pointers:
    1. thumb in a bow
    2. hand palm open
    3. no squeezing (incidentally, some traction with the entire arm)
    4. neutral wrist position (let your arm dangle at your side; that's a neutral wrist)

    Take care, guys.
  17. Of course you can get just about any neck profile you want, just not as cheap as a $11 SX bass. :D

    An added benefit to proper thumb placement is that the player is MUCH less sensitive to different neck profiles. Provided it's balanced, I really don't notice. Throw in neck dive and I'm basically screwed. However, most unbalanced basses have that round contour to allow a death grip on the neck....probably for a reason or two.
  18. Throw in Simandl fingering and I think the fretting hand is pretty much where it should be.

    ....now the right hand, that's another story all together.... :D
  19. I'm too lazy to learn that... like the majority of us.

    Could we make a deal? No 4 fret spans below the 7th fret.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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