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Playing with the fingertips to prevent injury

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassista6, Oct 30, 2010.

  1. bassista6


    Feb 13, 2009
    I first picked up the bass last February, but have only been consistantly playing with instruction since this January. I thought my technique was pretty good, but about a month ago I started having really bad pain in my fretting hand pinky. After resting it for a few weeks and stretching it the pain still didn't go away. I started to pay more attention to my technique and I noticed that I fret with the pad of my fingers instead of the fingertips. This causes the first joint of my ring finger and my pinky to bend backwards. I'm pretty sure that's what caused my injury. I need to start playing with my fingertips and for some reason it has been a really hard transition for me. It feels very unnatural to me. I have almost no speed and my accuracy isn't very good. Is that normal? When I play with the pads of my fingers the pinky is still in a lot of pain, but when I play with the fingertips there is no pain at all in any of my fingers. Also I was having a hard time with my non-fretting fingers flying up in the air when I was playing and since I've been playing with the fingertips I haven't had that problem anymore. What part of the fingers are they talking about when they say play with your fingertips? Is it somewhere in between the pad and the fingertip or is it directly on the fingertip. Does anyone have a picture or a video that could specify this for me. I really need something visual to make sure I'm doing it right. I tried to find a picture of this on google, but I came up with nothing. I would really appreciate any help you can offer.
  2. It's good that you're catching yourself on technique now. Better to have some discomfort in learning a new technique than have permanent joint damage.
  3. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    look up gary willis' videos, he touches on ALOT of subjects and he just may touch on this.

    I was taught to be careful with my pinky, i dont use it [independently of the ring finger] until im higher than my 7th fret or so, and you could make that limit higher.
    Pinky is a tough, awkward joint setup to use.
    One little trick i like is to play maybe a 4-fret chromatic exersize, but with your palm TOUCHING the neck and your thumb not touching.
    --------------12-11-10-9 etc.
    letting the neck sit IN your palm is bad technique but used as a tool it can help your body to learn how to bend your pinky. I have short fingers, so my pinky has to go straight to get my E and B strings, but i reckon, as it was with myself, that your pinky is hurting on the g and d strings?

    To answer directly, i'd say that most people suggest playing 85% or more of the time on that spot between the pad and the tip- on the tip enough to let you use the natural strength and ergonomics of your hand, but enough on the pad to where you can actually fret a note and not slip off (or crunch the tip of your finger because using tips adds a lot of pressure i find)

    Also- dont stretch when its hurting, especially dont pull it backward.
    its a GOOOOOOD thing to do to stretch it, especially backward, but to do so while injured (i tell my judo students "DONT TEST YOUR INJURY") just asks to make the micro-tears in muscle/tendon worse. What nipped pain in the bud for me was to strengthen the BACK of my hand, ie against the direction you pressure while you play. Ill take VERY light weights, start with a pound or so, tie strings to my fingers and open my hand up, palm down, and hold them for a couple seconds
  4. bassista6


    Feb 13, 2009
    Your absolutely right I forgot to mention that my pinky only hurts when I play the G and D string. Do you know why that is? It doesn't hurt at all when I'm not playing the bass and it almost never hurts on the thicker strings. It's a sharp shooting pain that goes away and then comes back unexpectedly, but I haven't been feeling it while playing with my fingertips. I have pretty small hands and I've been using the 1-2-4 fingering below the 5th fret. Playing on the fingertips is becoming easier on my first three fingers, but still very awkward with my pinky. The pinky kind of lays over to the side when I fret the bass. What kind of finger exercises can I do when I'm not on my bass? It's funny I just started getting opportunities to play out and now I've got an injury and I have to change my technique. Oh well it's just like irishpride28 said it's better that I'm realizing this sooner rather than later.
  5. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Here is a link to L/H technique from a fellow TB'r. He talks about the finger tips at around the 04.35 mark, but the whole clip is well worth watching IMO.

  6. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    it only feels awkward because you haven't established the muscle memory yet. it will feel natural in time.

    I've noticed I use sort of the side of my fingertip with my pinky and the tips for everything, seems to work but I wouldn't recommend trying it just based off a text description
  7. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Yes. Take heart. For better or worse, I started on cello and then taught myself electric bass. It wasn't until 4 years later that I took an electric bass lesson. My teacher pulled the usual: "You are doing it all wrong, and must start from scratch." He taught me the Simandl method.

    The first few weeks were horrible because I had all of this music in my head, and couldn't play it. For a time, your brain will be a better musician than your hands. Gradually it improved, and by the end of the summer, I was back up to speed and ready to go even further.

    I think that if you're prone to injuring your fingers, or have already done so, then it's worth learning a 1-2-4 technique such as Simandl, so you will always have it as a backup in case you develop problems with four fingered techniques. Today, I play mostly upright, but when the going gets tough and I'm on the last set of a difficult gig, I concentrate on using the "correct" technique to conserve my strength.
  8. S. Katz

    S. Katz Guest

    Oct 24, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Arch your fingers (like you are holding a soda can). Work on simple, slow chromatic exercises until you are used to it. And do not reach with your pinky on its own. Keep at least your ring finger next to the pinky (I usually have all four fingers together when I fret with the pinky, but I have a preference for shifting positions. Most people try to avoid it unless absolutely necessary.)
  9. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    it is important to push your pinky development, just push it SLOWLY
    just try playing with your ring and pinky fingers walking down the street or whatever, like tap them on your leg in 8th notes or something

    your pinky and ring are pulled by the same major tendon, so it will ALWAYS be a little hard. just be patient but diligent.

    With the d and g string if you play with a straight pinky it forces your hand at a harsh angle, especially at 90degree from your forearm. Look up any floating thumb video, its a right hand technique, but most guys start it by saying let your hand relax straight at your side, then keep that alignment; same idea holds. While your left hand WILL bend for different positions, you want it to be somewhat aligned with your forearm line. Cause if youre anything like me, this will cause pain and problems

    dont worry too much, just observe.

    OH and try playing songs you already know with just 2 3 4 on the left hand. Take them up an octave if its in the high tension low range. this will develop ALOT of coordination, and when you start looking at different scale shapes youll have a head start.

    I ramble, but i hope theres some good stuff in there if you dont fall asleep!
  10. bassista6


    Feb 13, 2009
    Thanks everyone all of your answers are very helpful. That's the same video that I watched last week. I find that I already usually play with my thumb in the neutral position because with the size of my hands and their flexibility it's really the only way I can play. I tried the thumb behind the middle finger and it kept my wrist at an awkward painful angle. That video helped a lot. I knew I was supposed to be playing with my fingertips, but I hadn't really taken the time to pay attention to what my fingertips were doing when I played. I looked at the Gary Willis video and he really helped me figure out where to hold my bass while sitting. I've struggled with that since I started playing and his way is so much better than the other ways I've tried. It doesn't put my right wrist at that awkward angle that I was unfortunately getting used to and it's easier on my fretting hand as well. I've been working on chromatic exercises and I tried a couple of the easier songs that I know, but it's going to take some time to get used to. When you say don't use the pinky independent of the ring finger what exactly do you mean. I think I have an idea, but I'm not completely sure. Thanks again for all the help.
  11. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    glad to help man
    if you need anything, feel free to pm me as well, when im posting i ramble, but anything specifically id be glad to help someone avoid the big ol' problems and plateaus i hit when i started

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