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Possible tendon issues with 6 string

Discussion in 'Ask Todd Johnson [Archived]' started by VoodooZombie, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. VoodooZombie


    Dec 2, 2010
    Hey Todd, how are you? I figured I'd throw this up in your section as I am still very new to this site and I know for sure that you play a 6 string. Feel free to move this if it's in the wrong spot.

    Anyways here's my issue guys. I started playing bass maybe 6 months back tops, I've been playing guitar off and on for a few years never really got into it, but the day I picked up a bass and gave it a valid effort I fell in love! I got a no-name bass for $40, and other than the electronics the thing is amazing! Especially for slap :D But after a few weeks of playing I knew that I wanted a 6 string, I wanted the challenge, and I didn't want to waste time getting used to one, so I found a 04-06 SR506 for 200, so I jumped right on it! Recently I FINALLY figured out how to adjust the truss rod, but before I didn't realize the bass had a big bow in it and that was making my life difficult, so now the action is perfect and the bass is MUCH easier to play! Originally I had an issue with some tenderness in the left hand when the action was high, but it went away no problem but I didn't play for a week or so just because I wasn't in the mood. Well right around Christmas I got a PS3, and I played the heck out of it! But I think the controller's small size messed with my arms, because it gave me really bad hand and tendon cramps on the outside(not the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger, but the pinky and ring finger) and it goes from the tip of my pinky to my elbow, and sometimes I feel it slighty up to my shoulder. So I stopped playing PS3 because it would only hurt when I played it. But here's the thing, I don't know if it was JUST the PS3, because in the whole mess of me having the PS3 problems I went to guitar center and decided to try the SR706 for a bit because I had a whole day to do nothing. Well needless to say, I didn't put it down until they closed! :bassist: I fell madly in love with 6 strings that day(especially the SR706), and I knew instantly I had to get that bass because the neck was sick! That was a day or 2 before I fixed my action on my SR506. So I have been playing nonstop since, and for hours. Now I wasn't really stretching... :meh: And lately that pain is back in my arm, but only my left one... So I don't know if it's from bass or not, but I'm sure it's not helping... But it didn't hurt when I played bass that whole day at guitar center, and it didn't hurt when I played for like 4 hours 2 nights ago, but now it does when I'm not playing... And it's a bit sore when I play, from the fingers to the elbow... So I have been stretching multiple times a day since then and it seems to relieve it a bit...

    Does anyone else have this problem??? I'm really worried! I finally found an instrument that I love (I played guitar, trumpet, sax, drums, piano) and this one tops them all and really suits my personality, so I really don't want to hurt myself to where I have to hang the bass up for good ESPECIALLY not the 6 string!! I don't want to play a 4 string it's boring! And the 5 throws me off... That dang middle string... :scowl:

    Does anyone have any advice or tips??? I'm pretty sure I have a good technique, I spent a lot of time figuring out and researching what's the most comfortable and safest, is it just the fact that now I have to stretch farther and press harder with my pinky, as opposed to guitar where I never had to work that hard? Could it just be that my arm is sore?

    I'll be going to the doctor tomorrow but the wait is killing me!! I JUST WANT TO PLAY!! :bawl:

    One sidenote of my technique that may need work is that when I play on the low B, my fingers are pretty straight and I'm using the pads of my fingers to press instead of the tips because I cant reach that far to use my tips, could that be the culprit? I tried using my tips but my thumb won't allow it...

    Sorry for the life story.

  2. SmittyG


    Dec 24, 2003
    Texarkana, Texas
    I developed the same pains in my left hand playing a four-string back in the late 90s. I thought I was going to have to give up playing bass. The short of it is--it was my ring finger causing the problem. I had learned one-finger-per-fret from all the books I read and so that is how I played. For about 15 years, I had no problem at all. Then it all went to pieces.

    When I finally got to the end of my rope, I consulted an orthopedic surgeon who was also a bass player. He told me that I needed to modify my fingering style to more closely match what upright players are taught. They only use the ring finger when they are in the higher registers, for the bulk of their playing, they use index, middle and pinky only. He also taught me a bunch of yoga hand stretches.

    I start the day off with my hand stretches and then repeat them before I practice/play. I only use the index-middle-pinky fingering unless I'm above the 9th fret; I'll go to one-finger-per-fret after that point. I've never had a problem since.

    Of course, over an Internet forum, I have no clue if that is the same problem as you have, but the symptoms sound the same. I hope you find the information useful.
  3. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ
    The short answer: It sounds to me like you're overdoing it BIG TIME!!!!

    It's like you're trying to start off running 10- to 12 miles a day and then wondering why your body is talking to you.

    SLOW DOWN....start with an hour of FOCUSED practice, 6 days a week and build from there.

    I hope this helps.

    Also, a quick etiquette lesson: Don't play ALL DAY at guitar center....those guys will hate you for that. NO ONE wants to listen to someone practice all day long. Get in....get what you need....then get out....The employee's will respect that and give you better service and possibly better deals down the road...I'm just sayin'....Just trying to help.

    You sound like an enthusiastic and self motivated student...this will serve you well, but SLOW DOWN....take a little time...It takes at least 5 to 10 years of focused practice to become a good musician. So take your time....you'll get there!!

    All the best,
  4. VoodooZombie


    Dec 2, 2010
    Ok guys thanks a lot I figured that I may just be over doing it. And SmittyG, I noticed that I have been attempting to use my ring finger a lot more lately so I will go back to my original pinky method and see it solves my problems. And Todd I know I shouldn't stay too long at guitar center I really don't want to annoy anyone, but its about an hour away from me so I try to make my trips count when I go. I'd go to my local C&M music center, but they don't carry 6 strings, or anything that's over $300, except Fenders...
  5. VoodooZombie


    Dec 2, 2010
    Just wanted to post a follow up for future readers. I went to the doctors and he diagnosed me with ulnar neuropathy, or as he called it, drinkers elblow. It basically had nothing to do with my bass, that's why it didn't hurt hurt to bad when I played. He gave me some steroids to help with inflammation and said is be fine, and that I didn't even need to stop playing bass, although I'm leaving it alone for a bit anyways.

    Thanks again for ya'lls help!
  6. BassNoob1


    Dec 18, 2010
    This is also useful for players who are looking to also learn the upright bass or for upright players learning to play electric bass (I fall into the latter category, which is why I play like that).
  7. foundation


    Jul 24, 2010
    FYI -- Drinker's elbow is usually reserved for inflammation of a TENDON, not a nerve. "Ulnar Neuropathy" would refer to an inflammation of the "funny bone" nerve, usually in the notch at the elbow and would present with numbness and tingling of the fourth and fifth fingers only. Drinker's elbow would present as pain at the elbow radiating into the forearm muscles that bend the back of your hand upward at the wrist(tennis elbow) or downward (Golfer's elbow). A good diagnostic test would be to place your left hand flat on the table, place your other hand on top and try to bend your left hand upward at the wrist while resisting the movement with your right hand. If you get pain in the forearm, it's probably tendonitis (tennis elbow). If you get pain with resisting the movement bending downward at the wrist...same thing but "golfer's elbow" Why is this important? Because it is an overuse syndrome and absolutely has to do with technique and positioning of your hand/arm and will definitely get worse with continuing to play. Can't diagnose these things on the internet, but I'd be resting, using ice, and perhaps seeing a local teacher who can examine your technique so you can prevent a lifetime of chronic problems. Steroids make everything feel better, but do nothing to solve the reason the pain started in the first place. Be careful! Hope that all makes sense and is of some use.
  8. vitor


    Aug 14, 2006
    I have been playing bass for over 25 years. I do use the thumb behind the middle finger techniques to play in proper position, but that hasn't always worked especially when I moved up to a 6 string bass.

    When you play a 6 string bass your hand will tend to flatten to the fingerboard making your wrist bend at an uncomfortable angle causing tension at the wrist and forearm. I guess the best advice I could give would be to practice slowly and work on relaxing your arm as you do play. Work your way up to "marathon" sessions when you become use to it, but take your time.