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No pain, no gain?

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Dave Grossman, Jun 23, 2004.

  1. Lately, I have been getting back into my solo Bach project pretty heavily and am attempting some pretty hairy works. Most notably, the massive Fugue from the 3rd Sonata for Solo Violin. Playing this work which was obviously written for a small instrument tuned in fifths on a large instrument tuned in fourths requires some significant finger origami.

    Naturally, after playing for a while, my fingers exhibit some soreness from contorting them into unnatural positions. When that happens, I usually chill out for a while, surf Talkbass.com or watch TV or something and the pain subsides and I play some more. After a while, I find that I am able to play difficult parts much more easily without getting sore or fatigued. Things that seemed impossible come more naturally.

    I guess the question is, how far should a person push themself before possibly incurring permanent damage? Is a little pain okay?

    - Dave
  2. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I'd say, that once you start feeling pain, stop playing. Do some light stretching. Loosen the hands up a bit, and take a break. No need to risk that kind of thing at all, especially when you have to live with your hands, even if you get carpal tunnel.
  3. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Yeah, the worst thing you can do is play through the pain. Stop when you start to feel it, take a breather, and come back a little later.

    Seeing as how we really only concentrate and learn stuff in the first 3-5 minutes of doing something, taking a break and then coming back a little later can not only prevent damage to your wrists and hands, but it might also help you learn the piece better.
  4. have you tried warm-up excerises? simple chromatic excerises before going knee deep in some crazy fingerings?:)
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Wise words from the other gents...

    You do have to differentiate between a little muscle fatigue (if your hand just feels a bit tired, it's OK to push beyond that as it can help to build stamina), but as soon as you get any real pain, stop. If the pain is very localised, it might be worth looking at the technique you're using for that particular piece and see if there's an issue with your hand being held in a tense position for too long.

    Warming up is a good idea, though getting your muscles in condition for playing doesn't have to be done on the bass. Make sure they are warm and the blood is circulating well (this is where Caffeine is a really bad idea as it inhibits circulation... says he nursing his first cup of coffee of the day... doh!). some light flexing of your fingers and arms is good. Yoga is better...

    Remember that playing bass is a very physically involving thing - it's not just about hands, but arms, shoulders, back, neck, posture etc... All things worth considering.

    I'm sure Michael will chime in here with some wisdom - I've learned a lot about these things from watching and listening to Michael...

  6. Dr. PhunkyPants

    Dr. PhunkyPants Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    I know Joe Satriani used to soak his forearms in a bowl of warm water before shows. Sometimes I pick up the bass on the way out the door to work, having just taken a shower, and I can play just about anything I can think of.

    Maybe you could try that or something similar to stimulate circulation?
  7. To warm, up, I generally just play what I'm working on ... but slower. :D ( I know, that's bad )

    - Dave
  8. lamarjones

    lamarjones Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    Went to a bass camp, and was talking with one of theinstructors wife (harmlessly, I might add). Anyways, she said that alot of people ask him how much they should practice, and he says one thing, but when she asked, he said he practices until his hands hurt. I think he said he reaches that level, but doesn't play through it.

    Don't want to mention his name, but Manring was at the camp, and all the instructors were top notch, so I'd say pushing it, but not killing it, is a good thing.

  9. \m/ man.... \m/

  10. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Steve! Actually, I think warming up by just playing your regular practice material slowly is not such a bad idea. I've come to believe that intention is the better part of warming up – if your mind is really in the right place your hands will follow. Personally, I like to play through a few exercises that work all the muscle groups I'm going to be using in order to get things really loose, but I'd say starting slowly with focus and relaxation is the key.

    As far as pain goes, I agree very much with Steve that the important thing is being able to recognize what kind of sensations you're having. By all means, if you're getting anything but mild muscle fatigue, stop. I believe that we can learn more quickly and efficiently by better understanding our own physical and mental processes, so I definitely recommend paying attention to what's going on.