1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Pains playing bass?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by arctan, Apr 10, 2005.

  1. arctan


    Mar 14, 2004
    Greetings to all fellow players. Without trying too hard, I'm seeing a lot of posts about pains in hands, arms and shoulders.
    I get these from time to time and I sympathise with you. I'm just in to my second year of learning- a very slow learner in his forties. I remember going through a period of bad pain in the back of my fretting hand not so long ago- it was putting me off playing. My teacher told me to give it a rest for a while, and not to try 'working through the pain'. Bearing in mind the tension in the face of a small child learning to draw the letters of the alphabet for the first time, I decided to try and be kind to that hand. Here is a list of some of the things that I got in to: ( in no particular order).
    Massaging in homeopathic ointments (before bed) that I had lying around (belonging to an earlier girlfriend)!
    These where rus tox and ruta grav.
    My sister, an aromatherapist, made up an oil that I've also started using.
    I went with some family members to see a healer who was well known in the uk for her abilities with both animals and humans- without any clues, she correctly identified that one of my knees is troublesome, and then went on to work on my left shoulder, which hadn't been giving me any grief ( that I knew of).
    Get a massage from a capable person?
    Basic Alexander technique, used a lot by classical players, suggests not having a 'knee jerk' response to life's problems- to slow down and look at what's happening. Unfortunately I can't afford to see a a specialist but-
    I gave some thought to how I was using my left hand when playing- not relaxing, not warming up, playing when I'd just come in from the cold. Was I using my thumb as one part of a vice grip? One of my books suggests that the thumb isn't to be used that way when playing- that fretting pressure is provided by a combination of the hand, arm and shoulder.
    I now include periods in my practice where I try and forget about perfect technique- I just bang around, listening to the musicial result. One can have too much theory, scales arpeggios, finger exercises etc. The end result is supposed to be music isn't it?
    That much said, many exercises seem impossible at first, but get easier with time...
    I've also decided that I need to change my bass. I've seen advice that playing a few different ones before buying is the way to do it. I didn't do that for my first bass. I just bought what I thought was a quality item straight off ebay. It's a Stenberger spirit Xt- sounds great, has a nice neck, but, in my case, doesn't sit easily on the knee ( positions the nut too far from the torso, resulting in further arm/ hand problems), and it doesn't hang well on it's strap- fetboard moves out from body so that I can't see over the frets. Probably OK for an experienced player, but not for where I'm at. (Having been driving for years I can make sense of any vehicle quickly). Initial research and budget is pointing towards a Yamaha RBX 374, but I'm going to look and play around a fair bit, and get it (more) right this time!
    And Yoga. Lossen up those limbs and the mind, and relax that overworked body!

    Sorry this has become a stream of conciousness, but it's important that I can offer my support to anyone who's in pain like I was! Just time a a quick practice before bedtime...
    one and two and three and...

    Here's a link from a bloke who has opinions on the above stuff: > select 'trenches', then article 'Healing Your Hands' . There are some clues in it.
    Nite all.
  2. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY

    First step for me was to realize I had a problem, and keep reminding myself of my bad technique habits while practicing. Now if I can only learn to breathe smoothly and deeply while playing and quit clenching my jaw.
  3. anonymous278347457

    anonymous278347457 Guest

    Feb 12, 2005

    hmm... yeah i agree, i dont seem to breathe properly when im concentrating on playing bass and piano and then i start panicking and making mistakes
  4. Hi arctan,

    "Was I using my thumb as one part of a vice grip? One of my books suggests that the thumb isn't to be used that way when playing- that fretting pressure is provided by a combination of the hand, arm and shoulder."

    As silly as it is, I thought I was the only one that has or had this problem. I do it for sure and It feels very wrong but I can't work out how to stop it.

    My hand feels like it's spending all its energy on gripping the neck instead of string fingering.

    Have you worked out a way to work past this? :)
  5. Hi,

    I used to do this until recently too. I've only been learning for about a year (and without a teacher, hope to rectify this soon) so don't take my suggestions too seriously. :bag:

    I found that if I tried fretting without my thumb on the back of the neck (just to prove I was gripping with the thumb) then my fingers would rotate the neck of the bass around my body instead of actually fretting notes. Like a see-saw with my chest as the pivot

    Eventually I managed to get round this by setting a lower string action and putting a small amount of pressure on the body of the bass with my plucking hand/forearm to equal the force of my fretting hand on the neck. My fretting hand is much more relaxed when playing now, and I've had no aching since.

    I would be very interested to hear of anyone else's ideas on this, incase this technique gets me into wrist trouble later on...
  6. eric atkinson

    eric atkinson "Is our children learning "Is our teachers teachin

    Feb 4, 2001
    Man i have been playing a little over 20 years now and i have the pains in my neck for some reason! Alot of times after a long show i will have to pack up and go straight home and take a muscle relaxer and go to sleep! So much for the groupies and drugs and all after a show! Ohh wait i really never got that anyways! LOL But yeah i feel for ya guys! My hands never really botherd me, but my neck can take me down for a couple of days after a long gig! :crying:

  7. I bet that's nothing a good old Boulevard in KC wouldn't fix!!! :) :) :)
  8. arctan


    Mar 14, 2004
    Arctan--- this is my line of thinking too. My earlier mention of my Steinberger and problems with it's small body point me this way. One of my books also talks of fretting using 'the lightest posible touch'- Do any experienced players ever examine the mechanics of their playing ? I think we'll just keep at it!

  9. All_¥our_Bass


    Dec 26, 2004
    When I started playing I had hand pain. It's simply because your exercising a part of your body that probably doesn't get this much "wear and tear" when not playing, just take breaks. Eventually it will only happen when you've been playing for a long time. In time your hands will get stronger and more used to playing.
  10. eric atkinson

    eric atkinson "Is our children learning "Is our teachers teachin

    Feb 4, 2001
    This is true but the only problem with that is by the time i get drunk enough for the pain to stop in my neck i kinda have problems standing on stage! LOL
  11. bassman314

    bassman314 I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process...

    Mar 13, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    I've noticed pain in my hand in the following situations:

    1) practicing on an EB without an amp
    2) playing where I can't hear myself
    3) relying solely on my fingers for dynamic control
    4) sitting at my desk at work typing *L*

    For me, self-massage, ice, heat, etc. have all helped deal with the pain after the fact.

    Before the fact, I am trying these:

    1) ALWAYS practice with either my small practice amp or my AEB. I live in an apartment and keep most of my rig at the church.
    2a) Make sure I can hear myself by either moving my cab, getting a monitor wedge, or using in-ears, I haven't tried this yet, but I might need to think about it.
    2b, 3a) Turning up my amp so that a comfortable pluck is my loudest tone, then going down from there. That way, except for slaps and pops, I'm not fingering heavy when I play ff. I barely touch the strings when I play pp. Means I also use my volume pedal for some dynbamic control.
    3b) Using a compressor for slaps and pops.
    4) Quitting my job and going to Seminary (ok.. so that's happening NEXT summer *LOL*)

    We'll see how well this helps. Unfortunately, this helps the right hand. The left hand, I'm still kinda stuck on how to relax. Maybe my action is too high?
  12. arctan


    Mar 14, 2004
    Thanks guys for all your posts. I got shot of the Steinberger and got a Yamaha RBX 374. It's not perfect, but it has addressed some of the problems and pains I was having. The RBX now sits comfortably on my knee with a strap, and the the neck is better positioned when standing, so less wrist pain. I'm just waiting (and playing) for the strings to stop sounding new- a bit too bright and twangy for my tastes. The neck profile is a little thicker than the steinberger, but I'll stick with it 'till the third bass come along... (third time lucky). I think the 'playing pains' are also getting less the more I play...
    Thanks again for the support and encouragement.