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Playing Post Injury

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by wiscrna, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. wiscrna

    wiscrna $hitty Bassist With Decent Gear

    Oct 29, 2010
    Southeastern Ohio
    Hey, all.

    Been a TB member for a while, and I'm relatively new to playing bass. To cut a long story short: In May I totaled a motorcycle (stupid rider error) and suffered tendon damage to the pinky of my fretting hand, in addition to 2 fractures, a very deep puncture wound, and loss of most of the skin on the pinky.

    I've lost most of the mobility of my left pinky. It flexes okay, but never returns to full extension (technically, I have a boutonnière deformity now), and getting it to flex and extend rapidly is impossible.

    I haven't touched a bass in almost 7 months now. I wasn't all that far into learning HOW to play, yet I feel the loss of the use of my pinky is....at least right now....insurmountable.

    So of course, that means I want to return to my former pursuit of learning to play the bass well. But here's the rub:

    Playing hurts. It makes my whole hand ache, my pinky can only produce the crappy buzz you get when not fretting hard enough, and the whole situation makes me grit my teeth and want to pull a Charles Mingus; but I love my basses too much....so I go pound the heavy bag for a while. My boxing skills are improving - some small consolation. But I digress.

    My question to you TBers is this: Are there any decent teaching methods for people who don't have complete use of their fretting hand? I've considered becoming a southpaw when playing, but this seems extreme to me. I've also considered some rather exotic instrument changes (2 string basses, etc.), but again, a little extreme.

    My personality is such that when I think I can't do something, I immediately MUST learn to do that thing, and do it well...but I'm also kind of a perfectionist. And I'm driving myself to distraction.

    Any suggestions would be really welcome. I know, I know.....psych meds, right?



    Oh...and if you want to see gross pinky pictures, let me know. I got a few. ;)
  2. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Hey man, injuries happen. Sounds as if you copped a big one. I was playing many gigs while working full time as a scientist some 12 years ago. I blew out my ulnar nerve in my left hand (fingering hand) while tuning up for a gig on double bass. Unbeknownst to me at the time. I played the gig and woke up the next morning unable to move my fingering hand ring finger and pinky.

    I was able to come back and do it; so can you. Don't abandon your perception of perfection; just temper it a bit. Look inside yourself and find a way to play economically. I can't suggest a method to do this, per se. But I can tell you that I was playing some 20-30 hours a week (between practice, rehearsal, and gigs), and I ended up not playing at all for six months. Then I got back on the horse when I was ready.

    Think bass, and come back when you are able to think of it clearly.
  3. Bitterdale

    Bitterdale Natural Born Lurker

    Dec 4, 2010
    Ocala, FL
    In 2008 I smashed my fretting hand ring finger. Tore the finger tip nearly off, lost the nail and lacerated the nail bed. The nail eventually grew back, but offset and surrounded by scar tissue. As a result, I just don't use it any more.

    Truthfully, I play nearly as well as I did (which was merely passable). I try not to let it frustrate me and am successful most of the time.

    I recommend learning to use your other fingers more effectively. It surprised me how easily I was able to substitute a different finger for my ring in most situations. Admittedly, I've never been a proficiently technical player.

    BTW, I have a few gross finger pics as well.

    Good luck and stay positive.
  4. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    Hi. Sorry to hear about what you've been through. I hope you heal fully and quickly.

    In the meantime, just don't use your pinky. It's ok. Use your other fingers and learn to play well with those. Once your pinky heals I don't think it would be that difficult to start incorporating your pinky into your playing.

    Years ago I dislocated the tip of my pinky on my fretting hand. It's permanently bent at a 45 degree angle. It was painful to use for several years, and took a good 10 years (yes) to be able to fully use it and build up its strength enough to finally be able to use it fully.

    Now, I use it and don't even think about it.
  5. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Sounds like you may have to give your hand time to heal. Several years ago I developed an eye problem that resulted in a total of seven operations before it was stabilized. Bright lights were a real problem, so I stayed inside, and to ward off cabin fever.........

    I used that time to study my theory. I now understand what I should be doing - doing it is another story we will not get into...... LOL

    While your pinky heals there are several things you could be doing that will help your playing later on:

    Take this as a time to strengthen your understanding of how music thinks.

    Good luck.
  6. prd004


    Dec 3, 2010
    Physical therapy!

    In 1997 I suffered a compound dislocation of the first knuckle on my right index finger playing basketball. Tore all the skin and essentially the tendons were all that held it together.
    It was in a splint for a while, and when the stitches were taken out and the splint was off, the scar tissue rendered it unbendable.
    I went the better part of a year with no use of the finger, but eventually with physical therapy, a lot of pain, and a lot of determination I regained 75% use of the finger. Today, I can play with that finger and it's no issue! The funny thing is, during that year I kept playing bass using only one plucking finger! Not quite Jamerson's hook but I managed and got so used to it that it became a habit that took several years to break.

    Hopefully the OP can get some physical therapy and get that pinky working again! If not, overcome and adapt. Use the three fingers you have, you'll take a few steps backwards and you may not be able to pull off the blazing licks like you used to, but that doesn't mean you can't play well and enjoy it.

    Good luck to you, hope that helped
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Just for the record, i help players to recover from injuries by developing exercises for them to use specific to their problems. As well as teaching and talking about the physical toll an instrument can have on the body, i do playing clinics on the ergonomics of the body to the instrument. I have no qualification other than a very sound basis in Body Mechanics and Anatomy, and i have worked with highly qualified Medical Specialists in the past in developing my knowledge and techniques.

    Injuries to a person of artistic talent are more than a physical injury. The physical injury can be healed, but the original function may not be there.
    This leads to many psychological assumptions about ability as there is nothing else to do as it heals but think. This is where the mind needs to adopt a new thinking, draw a line under what ability and function was there before and look to develop the current abilities and function to there best....do not ever compare what you have with what you had.

    This does not mean the goal is not to recover those skills, the goals is to develop what is now there and give it a chance to be as good, if not better.
    An injury can focus the mind in some cases and let the person appreciate that they maybe did not work as hard or develop their skills as good as the could have.....its the old saying of "you don't appreciate what you have till its gone".

    The physical side is mechanical, there are many medical professionals that can deal with repair and rehabilitation, but how the person rationalises it is another matter.
    If the injury is severe enough to stop a person playing then the mind runs scenario after scenario of what might or might no be.
    After all, like i said if you cannot play then you think about playing, the part that needs more work than any physical injury is the attitude to it.

    My situation was in 2008 as a professional musician i was a passenger in a late night motorway smash while on tour, injuries were a broken neck and upper body right side paralysis and left arm minor nerve damage.
    In the years following this accident i have re-built my skills, and continue to, to the best of my current abilities, not try and re-build to the standard i had before.
    I drew a line under my previous playing abilities, abilities i had develop for nearly forty years and started again.
    I made the mental change in attitude that it was nothing but bad luck what happened to me, but good luck never died, and even better luck i had the skills and knowledge to repair myself. It all started with a change in attitude, it is easy to feel bitter or resent at what happened..which is a negative mind set, or draw a line under everything that went before and accept the challenge to develop what is there now.

    It is just the lose of the physical skill, so it is the development of the physical skill from scratch, but the experience and knowledge are not from scratch the remain the same, unless there is a brain trauma involved and neural function is the cause of the physical injury.
    In my case i have healed, but the nerve damage is permanent, so i have a physical reason for why i will never regain all i had before because my nerves cannot carry the signals from my brain to my hands fast enough, or they get interrupted.
    When the signals are not fast enough i am clumsy slow and sluggish with my hands, when the signal is interrupted my hands do not function and tire fast.
    But i have leaded to "manage" all this and it is getting easier and i can reduce there impact on my life.

    Physical therapy or a targeted low impact exercise routines will develop and build the motion, muscles and nerves need to be used, the routine of exercise helps the brain and the muscle re-connect and learn to work together again.
    Reading music books, brushing up on theory, working on musical ideas keeps the mind occupied, so the time to dwell on the injury or situation is reduced, so negative thoughts are kept to a minimal.
    Again i have stress the importance of mental attitude in all this, the mental attitude is important. I never saw myself as a victim, i never used my injuries as an excuse for my in-ability to cope with certain things....even if the were the reason i would deny it anyway, i would not give my injuries the power to define what i could and could not do....i refused to become a victim of them.

    So i have always found that in all cases it starts with mental attitude to repair the mind and physical therapy to repair the body. Time is the healer, but time is the problem, frustration is the minds ability with the bodies failures carry out what it wants. More frustrating because the minds knows the body used to be able to do the tasks, so it reasons that the if it has done it before, then it should be able to do it again. So the person works harder and looks for improvement, rather than working diligently and accepting the the skills they are developing.

    So it is expectations we have to guard against, expectations can encourage us, but if the desired results do not happen, then as well as frustration the person becomes overwhelmed and starts think about it all again....so he mind runs scenarios again of what might or might not be.

    So realistic goals are needed, goals that can be achieved and expected to achieve with the therapy being used. As usual it is small steps, steady and sure as we go.
    One thing to avoid is pushing the injury to early, or at the wrong time, this needs professional help as there are times when it hurts to push so a player may back off.
    This is not a "no pain no gain" scenario, it is a physical controlled exertion on the injury.

    One of the problems with a long term injury is pain, pain can be there as an emotional response and this is why artistic people can suffer an i jury in a different way.
    The very thing that makes them artistic, that emotion of being connected to what they do, can refer pain.
    All this means is the person feels pain when none should be there, it is based in the part of the brain that deals with emotion and the emotion overwhelms the person and presents itself as pain.
    This pain is real, it is there and the person does suffer it, but the reason for it being there is not coming from the part of the brain that deals with pain.
    So medications such as painkiller can become addictive and used as an emotional crutch that a player believes without will leave them in pain.

    So to put it all in context, recover is about letting the injury fully heal and repair, use physical therapy and a good mind set to rationalise your situation. Take small steps and set small goals, though it all. Take time to let each new goal be reached and keep them realistic. I am over five years on my injuries and it still goes on...as it will for the rest of my life.
    At my age my body is naturally breaking down and i am losing small physical skills as the years go on. So the practice and the time i put in as a child is not an option for me at this time of life, so i have to temper what i do to suit me day to day....not what i used to to do. I still use the medical professionals to monitor my condition and make sure i am managing it correctly and the nature of it does not develop into another condition.

    To all that suffer injury or illness listen to your body, listen to your Medical professionals, stay focused, stay motivated, be realistic and optimistic and adopt a strong mental attitude to what happened to you and do not allow you do become a victim of your problem, do not let your condition define your attitude and so define you.

    If any of this post has raised any questions PM me and if i can offer advice i will.
  8. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I would just not use my pinky. It works just fine for a lot of guitar players (Jimmy Page for example). As for the pain, physical therapy hurts. I've had it for back issues, and they put you through the wringer!!! I would imagine that if you're feeling pain in your tendons, that you are slowly stretching them back out (which hurts!). As long as you're not causing damage, that should get better with time.
    I know a guy who plays bass with only one finger and a thumb on each hand (born that way), and he gets around just fine. Don't give up, man! I'd learn to play with my feet if I had to.
  9. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Look up Django Reinhardt and have hope. :D
  10. wiscrna

    wiscrna $hitty Bassist With Decent Gear

    Oct 29, 2010
    Southeastern Ohio
    Lance Armstrong: "Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I'm sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that's keeping you from the finals?"

    Peter La Fleur: "Right now it feels a little bit like...shame."

    You guys are the bomb, you know that? Consider my little rant about having a sore pinky to be over.



    Was just venting, not looking for inspiration. Finding it was definitely a bonus. My hat is off to you guys. If you need me, I'll be in the woodshed, learning some much needed music theory and getting back to shredding form.

  11. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The thing about any injury is you are not the first, you will not be the last, and most importantly, you can find reassurance that all is not as bad as it seems. Its good to talk...if just to put your fears to bed and deal with the reality of the situation...not what you imagine is the situation. :)
  12. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Hey Fergie thanks for that post. I got a Distal Radius Fracture in my left wrist Skateboarding in September. I got 2 plates and 5 screws put in. They said it would take 6 months to get back to 90%. I've also been having a bit of PTSD from it lately. Thanks for the inspiring words.

    Rev J
  13. Geni758


    Nov 15, 2013
    South Jersey
    Like the OP, I was in a motorcycle accident several years ago which I was very fortunate to survive. I broke both wrists, lacerated my scalp and forehead, had a concussion, broke a rib on my left side and broke all 4 horns of the pelvis. I lost 20% of my hearing in a certain frequency range (can't recall exactly which but it's treble) and have a constant ringing in my ears that the ENT told me can't be fixed. In my right arm is a plate with 13 screws and I also have a plate with 5 screws in my left. Neither wrist bends the way it used to but I manage. The tendon in my right thumb was severed by one of the plate screws while I was in physical therapy so I had to have that surgically repaired as well. I still need to get the plates and screws removed but that will have to wait a while longer. It's a lot to go through, but I wake up every day knowing I'm blessed to be here.

    Still it's hard not to be able to do the things you know and love. I used to sing and play acoustic 6 and 12-string guitar primarily. There was a long period of time when I didn't think I would ever play again between pain and lack of hand strength. It took me 7 years to get back to playing guitar. I just started again this past summer. First on a 6 string electric and when that went so well I decided to revisit playing the bass since my hearing isn't damaged in that frequency range. I guess what I miss most is not being able to sing anymore. I don't know if it's just because I'm out of practice or I can't hear myself over the ringing in my ears, but I haven't given up. Just shifted my focus for the time being. ;)

    As Fergie said, the injuries are more than physical. There's definitely an emotional component, especially if you're an artist (or aspiring). One of the things that I've noticed recently is my ability to remember notes and chord sequences has diminished quite a bit. I don't think it's from injury so much as simple lack of use. I don't think I really appreciated how beneficial music is to the memory until I realized that I had lost this ability. In addition to short term memory loss, I also seem to have lost my innate organizational skills. This is a great source of frustration because I now have to work very hard at something that was quite easy for me.

    The funny thing is, I seem to have picked up a new skill. Now I am able to see relationships on the fretboard more easily than I ever did before. I've learned more in the last few months than I did in the many years prior to my unfortunate encounter with an automobile. Maybe, just maybe, I needed that break.

    For everything that is taken from us, something is given to replace it. It might not be what you would wish or the way you would like, but you have to deal with things as they are. I always had the idea that I wanted to be back to playing at the level I was before my accident. The reality is that in some ways I'm back to that level, in some ways I'm not, and in some ways I've surpassed it.

    The point is, you can't rush it. May wasn't all that long ago. Do what you can do at whatever pace you can do it. The idea is to progress. You survived a pretty major trauma and the healing is more than physical. Have patience and know that this is a temporary situation. It will pass in due time and not one moment sooner. Take care.
  14. Left hand bass. You can use your bad hand to Pluck, pick or slap :sly::rolleyes::D:cool:
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The relationship between what you actually think and what you actually respond to is a very complicated relationship. Many senses are used to reinforce what you do, they all work together to come to to conclusions for the brain to draw on and help formulate an action or answer.
    For example when you fret a C how do you know it is a C?

    Visual information tells you it is the 3rd fret, sub-consciously reinforced by the fact you know it is on the A string, it has a B in front of it and C# behind it, G is below it and F is above it so the note i am fretting must be C. For each of the motes i mentioned you are also aware of there relationships, so you can confirm the C is next to the B, because the B is next to the Bb which has the F below it, D# above it..etc etc.
    Then you have the audible information, you hear the note in context with the other notes you have played, does it sound in tune and correct then it is C, some may even develop perfect pitch and can hear the note for what it is without any visual reference needed.

    The physical side add to this how far the arm has stretched, what finger is being used, the angle of the wrist etc. to again reinforce the hands position as being available for C at the 3rd fret.

    These actions are not only conscious but sub-conscious, the brain is prepping them as other actions are being done, so the motion flows with little interference from the brain, they are reactions not thoughts.
    So the loss of any part that contributes information to this process, is missed, the brain literally pauses to think "this is not right, something is missing or not here yet.....this info is different so may be flawed." and in that time the flow is disrupted as the brain no longer reacts but thinks.

    In music this means loss of flow, since music does not stop or hesitate, of you do, then you are left behind. So now in effect you are trying to think your way out of the problem and back into the music, but this needs more thinking, the more you think the more you lose as each new situation is analysed in a desperate effort to work out what you should be doing and what you should not be doing.

    This lead to frustration, which leads to more thinking....more frustration.
    It is frustration because you already had the answers, you could already do this, and your brain knows this, but your sub-conscious does not. Your brain wants to do the task, it knows what to do, but the sub-conscious is questioning it, rather than helping it. Any injury that affects motor skills is the same, whether music or sport, the body and the brain have to learn how to work together again, they have to work out what has changed, what info is now relevant and what info is not, and how it all fits in to create the desired result we had before....the same result but using different information. The literal brain may wonder "this not relevant before......so not relevant now" and reject it, fight it even. But when all is said and done it must learn that the situation has changed, this is why the mental thought of how you view your injury has to change.

    By dealing with what you have, not what you had, you teach again what you want done, not try and regain what you had. You cannot have what you had before because the accident or injury was instantaneous, the loss sudden and drastic so not allowing the conscious and sub-conscious to deal with it. If the loss of the skill was over years then each gradual lose of a little part of the process gets compensated by another because the sub-conscious deals with it, we may not want to believe at the age of 50 we cannot do the things we done at 25...but deep down we know we cannot, but again we do not need to accept it in our conscious thoughts and actions if we do not want to. We have to accept our limitations to open up new ways to expand and grow....after all do we really really believe we can play football every week with those half our age without making changes?

    I lost the ability to read music, strange but true. When i was paralysed i could not physically read music to sight, i had to work out what the notes were corresponding to on a score or what notes were in a chord in a chart. Part of my problem i now know is because i could not use my hands correctly my brain could not, or would not, process the information it was used to to come to the answers i wanted. Over the years as the more i heal the more i learn to read......i say learn, not get back, i am learning to read again. I am slowing down my brains desire to come to a conclusion until i have thought trough my options, as a result i am getting faster in doing those options, so i am reacting faster, so thinking less and playing smoother in reading situations. Sometimes i will play something the way i would have and that brings a smile as it was never planned, but for some reason i pulled it off.

    The one thing i used to have when playing was what my 'minds eye' saw...this was an imaginary score in my head, similar to the opening credits of Star Wars. I Star Wars those opening credits has the words in the distance coming towards use, getting bigger, becoming more in focus the closer the get, until we read them and start to understand what is going on. I had this in playing, i could not tell you the name of a song, bit start playing it and i sort of know what was going to happen next, in my minds eye i saw notes coming into focus that i should play, rather than thinking about what to play.
    Sadly this is gone, i no longer seem to visualise my options, in truth i never really knew when this actually happened, i just realised one day that i had it. But i certainly miss its loss.
    In all these are all part and package of learning and practice, there is more to music than just the task of copying what you hear, we have to learn to play what we hear, understand it in many forms to give us the information to make the right choices in not only what we play, but how we play as this is part of the reason of why we play.

    The term 'shallow' or 'not much depth' i feel is a reflection of this when used in describing a player, yes they seem to have the notes, or the skill, but nothing else a sort of one trick pony, a copy or pale imitation of someone or something else. But experience and time will change and mold that if giving the chance, some do it faster than others, but it does happen, and when the need to change altogether and come at it from another way is needed then that, although hard work, will be added and used to help a player develop again......not the same skills as before, but new ones that can do the same job. :)