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Need some advice on calluses

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by Fat Steve, Feb 15, 2013.

  1. Fat Steve

    Fat Steve The poodle bites, the poodle chews it.

    Just bought my first DB, and don't have a teacher yet. That being said, I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to slowly break in my plucking hand to build up calluses. I play regularly in two different bands, playing EG and BG, and as I try and learn the DB, I end up thrashing my right index finger. Now, I'm sure if I started taking lessons, an instructor would have plenty of input, but as stated I'm not at the point where I can afford to take instruction yet. So, any of you veterans have any advice for this noob, other than "get an instructor"?

    BTW, I started this in the bluegrass subforum because that is the direction I plan on going with the DB.

    Thanks in advance :bassist:
  2. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    Start out easy and only play for a few minutes at a time. I know it sounds counter intuitive but having your hands be moisturized instead of dry will help a lot.
    Spend some time concentrating on how your index finger releases the string. You can control how much friction is created when you pluck the string and that is what ultimately leads to blisters. Try for a smooth but forceful release using as much of the side of your index finger (all the way to the first knuckle) as you can.

    Here is a Youtube video of Milt Hinton.
    Also check out this video of Ray Brown with Oscar Peterson. There are many shots of right hand technique which is a good thing to emulate.

  3. Fat Steve

    Fat Steve The poodle bites, the poodle chews it.

    Wow, thanks Jeff! The moisturizer advice worked. I was able to play a full set Friday night and not feel like I was burning my finger with a cigarette. And bassist1962, I plan on purchasing that book asap.

    Thanks for the words of advice gentlemen.
  4. What strings do you have? I had blistering problems until I replaced my arco strings with some softer ones.
  5. I was going to suggest burning your fingers with a cigarette...but now...

    String choice and moisturizing get my vote! Try some other grassers basses and be amazed at how much better they sound and how much easier they are to play, and find out what strings they have. I don't play a lot of bluegrass, but I switched to Evah Pirazzi Weichs a while ago and my paws thanked me. Probably not the best bluegrass strings, though!

    Good luck!
  6. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    It also helps to think that you are holding the string then releasing it to let the note out of the instrument rather than thinking you are plucking the string to push energy into the instrument.
  7. Fat Steve

    Fat Steve The poodle bites, the poodle chews it.

    I believe the bass came with spriros, and after playing them for the last couple of weeks they're breaking in nicely. I like the sound, and now that I'm getting used to playing pizz the calluses are working themselves in nicely. I try and play for about 15-20 minutes every other day or so, and as of last night was able to start getting some volume out of the bass for an extended amount of time. Played a full set with the band, and they are really digging the sound. Just keeping my hands moisturized seemed to be the solution.

    Eventually, I may get some more powerful strings as I get used to the higher friction involved with playing pizz.

    A funny aside: Last night I was trying to figure out one of our songs that I traditionally played on an acoustic bass, and it was a bit uncomfortable. A few of the members were watching me try and transcribe the part for the bass, and could see me wincing at the rather large stretch that I had to make on the fingerboard. I sort of had an "ah ha" moment where I changed the position where I was playing and ripped into it, and the fellas started cheering and laughing as we tore into the song!

    The DB has got to be the most addicting musical instrument I've ever played!
  8. Good to hear. Don't know that you will find a string with much more power than spiros. I play acoustic rock myself, and have had several of the 'ah ha!' moments. Love it when things come together.

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