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Pain in left hand.

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by hibeam, Sep 26, 2005.

  1. hibeam


    Oct 16, 2002
    I've been playing DB for about 10 months. I'm having a great time and feel like I'm finally getting past the base physical problems that I first encountered when I started playing.

    But alas, the one thing that continues to haunt me is pain in my left hand, between my pointer finger and thumb. I asked the teacher I studied with over this past summer, he seemed to be under the impression that it was a matter of building up hand strength. I don't know if thats really the story, though. I also asked my other (far more knowledgable) teacher, and the best answer he could give me is that I need to discover for myself how to position the instrument and my left hand in particular in such a way that I don't experience this pain. I spent an hour today trying various hand positions, with the bass at slightly different places, and the endpin both higher and lower than I normally I play. I also try to relax my left hand as much as possible while maintaining as natural arm position as I can. I haven't really been able to find anything that works.

    It is distracting at best, and prevents me from playing for too long at the worst. I can play through it most of the time, but I fear I am doing some damage that might catch up to me in the long term.

    The setup on my bass isn't fantastic, but I'm going to get that taken care of fairly soon. The pain did seem to be slower to build on a well setup bass that I played, so perhaps its a combination of a few of the things I've mentioned.

    If anybody can give my any advice regarding my problem, I'd be grateful.

    Thanks all.
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    This is what works for me:
    1. Only press the string down until it touches the fingerboard. This will break the habit of squeezing.
    2. I sit when I play and that allows me to hang on the string instead of squeezing.
  3. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004

    You need some new teachers. Both are dead wrong. Your left hand has nothing to do with strength. You can stop those strings with the weight of your arm. Try stopping a note with your index finger without your thumb on the neck, let your arm weight go. Gravity pulls it down, it's the strongest force we can use to our advantage. When you can master this bit of physics your on your way.
  4. hibeam,
    I've only been playing DB for about six months and occasionaly experience the same left hand pain you are describing. Normaly when I'm trying to play harder (for me) pieces, or faster than I should and relying on strength instead of technique, and leading to tension.

    I have followed the advice given by my teacher and echoed here by jallenbass and Savino. It's working! I need to work on it more but it's working.
  5. hibeam


    Oct 16, 2002
    Thanks for the replies so far. It is rather frustrating for me at this point, but I will try the 'no thumb on neck' experiment to get the feel for using my arm strength instead of just my hand.
  6. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Your problem sounds typical tendonitis, proper stretching and a good long warm up will help. After you are finished playing, some ice and some light stretches are agood idea.

    If you feel pain....STOP!!!!

  7. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    I think the other thing that hasn't been addressed is that if you may be supporting the weight of the bass on your thumb. This problem is most easily fixed by sitting. Are you playing orchestrally, jazz-ly or both-ly? If your only doing classical I would suggest sitting. It feels strange at first but it has been the best thing I've done for my classical playing.

    If you still want to stand (which I understand and do for concerto and jazz playing) a stance adjustment can help greatly. The idea that help me the most is to think of your two feet and the end pin as a tripod. When you work out the balance, you shouldn't have to touch the bass to get it to balance.

    Hopes this helps.
  8. It's true, you can keep the bass balanced so as not to have to hold it up at all.

    In fact when I start my bowing warm up, working the open strings, I always bow a while over all the strings without even touching the bass with the left hand. This helps ensure I've got the balance correct for the rest of my practice session.
  9. bassbaterie


    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Couple of additional points (the others above are good advice too) - make sure your left thumb is not collapsed - your left hand should be in a nice 'C' shape, and your wrist is not bent right? Hmm, I question somewhat finding your left-hand position for yourself as there are a lot of specific things not to do, so bring your teacher some ideas if that's what he wants you to do, but make sure he reviews and has specific reasons for approving your approach.

    Having laid down DB for 12 years and picked it up again I went through a minor incidence of a similar problem on re-starting and to a certain degree, some strength had to be rebuilt. You should be able to tell what kind of pain it is, a deep one in the tendons or a tired-muscle pain. I have had it turn into a sore wrist that takes a few days to clear up, but that's not along the healthy path. I found limiting practice involving working the left fingers heavily to about 20 minutes at a time at first was helpful. You can do this more than once a day, and spend other practice time working on your bow, learning your harmonics, and also in thumb position, where it's a non-issue. You are mentioning your setup and I happen to be a believer in strings as low as possible at all times, but that's a preference. For great advice on training and specific info on developing without injury, break out your Rabbath Book III.
  10. +1 for the no-thumb-on-the-neck practice method. When I was an undergrad, my teacher used to give me scale slide exercises to do without placing my thumb on the neck. These really helped me, cuz I'm a "squeezer", especially when it comes to difficult passages. He also recommended the no-thumb practice to develop a relaxed vibrato. I highly recommend this for practice, it really helped me!

    Shelly :)
  11. I sometimes get pains in my left hand too, I've been playing for 7 years and still. I've talked with my teacher some, and from my experience I've learned that you definitely want to keep your left hand in the C shape. Make sure you aren't supporting the weight of the bass with your thumb as someone else said. What usually helps me is to lean into the bass more and put my shoulder in more, closer to the neck so My wrist straightens, and my hand is in a more natural position. So basically try leaning into it, and keep your elbow up, don't let your wrist bend too much. Something like that anyway.
    Hope that helps.
  12. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    I experienced alot of problems when I first started playing concerning left hand pain. I asked my teacher about it and he was clueless. Finally I went to someone else and he was able to address the problem instantaneously. My wrist was bent and I was squeezing with my hand instead of pulling back with my back muscles. The pain disapeared immediately and it makes alot of sense if you think about it. You back and shoulder muscles are much stronger than the muscles in your hand and can thus more easily press down a string. Still it can be hard to understand this just by reading it. Get to a new teacher who knows something and get this problem fixed pronto.