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R.H. 3 finger style: to curl or not to curl?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Rockin Mike, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Flatpicker for a long time, developing fingerstyle skills.
    I'm doing a 3-finger strict Ring-Middle-Index technique (not great at it yet, but getting there)

    I'm trying to learn to play with a light touch so I started curling my plucking hand fingers. Not all the way underneath like I was going to pop the string, but just enough so the tip of the finger is at right angles with the string.

    Light touch
    3 finger strict RMI
    Fingers curled where fingertip is perpendicular to string

    It's been working OK but I read some people saying that R.H. finger curl is a good way to get carpal tunnel syndrome.

    Can anybody verify or debunk that?
    Most valuable would be opinions from people with an orthopedic background, or people that have used this technique who can say whether or not it caused them problems in the long term.
  2. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    I've been playing with 3 for 35+ years without any problems. My fingers have a slight curl to them, but nothing extreme. Nobody ever accused me of playing lightly!:D
  3. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    First off, it is complete rubbish that CTS is associated with finger curl.
    CTS is associated with hand use and posture, so anything that our hands interact with has the potential over time to develop problems (not just CTS).

    Use this as a bench mark, curl your fingers into the palm until the tips are level.
    That will be the maximum amount needed so work around that mark and see what works best for you.
    Also try and not swing your fingers from the big knuckle on the back of the hand, but use the finger joints instead.
  4. You're right, finger curl is a relatively normal and natural position for fingers. Nearly everyone's fingers curl in a normal, natural position. The closer you can play bass to a normal natural hand/wrist/elbow position, the less problems with CTS (and to a lesser extent, tendonitis) that you'll have.

    Unfortunately, the nature of playing most musical instruments (as well as other activites that involve repetitive motion, like typing) forces you to put your hands in unnatural positions. However, as close as you can get your hands and your wrists into a normal, natural position as your 'center' hand position, the less likely you will be to develop CTS.

    For example, this guy's wrist in the picture below is at a 90 degree angle. Your wrists weren't really made to do that for a 1/2 hour straight, let alone over 4 1-hour sets or over 30 years of playing. It's made to do that for a few seconds while you scratch your rear end or reach for something off a top shelf.


    Also, everyone is different. This guy posted on another forum to say that he's been using this form for decades without problems.

    Some people can use "bad" form for decade after decade without problems, as that "bad" form is actually closer to their natural form then "good" form. This usually isn't the case. For 95% of us, "good" form tends to be better for us, like the following picture (originally posted by SLaPiNFuNK):


    It's important to remember that everyone's body parts are built different. My experience is that the taller, lankier and more double-jointed you are, the less "bad" form tends to affect them as much, but double jointed people also can twist joints into unnatural positions without feeling it, which has bad longer term effects.

    In this picture, althought it's a wierd one, both of Flea's wrists are dead straight.


    His back's all wierd, so maybe he'll have back issues later, especially if he gets fat, but in most pictures of Flea playing live, his wrists are very straight, his fingers are curled a bit, and his right elbow is sticking way out.
  5. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Again sort of true, but you will develop CTS if you live long enough, the soft tissues of the hand will impact on the Median nerve as we get older, it's loss of form will deform the tunnel walls and bring on the on-set of the condition.
    CTS is an on-set condition, its development is just brought forward through use, as you say a player can pay for 30+ years and have not show no symptoms, that does not mean there is not one, it just means not yet. When symptoms to present themselves they can go from a sensation to fully blown in weeks....depending on the catalyst.
    That catalyst can be numerous things from diabetes to just being over weight, or from a genetic fault, a disease or illness.
    It is not just a playing issue, as I said it is associated with hand use because that is where the symptoms are felt, so it is natural to associate it to the hands.......over use and mis-use of the hands will promote it but may not be the cause of it.
  6. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    Some finger curl is essential. If you kept your fingers straight, they might as well be kielbasas. What's most crucial is the sound. My fingers at 90 degrees to the string produce one sound. If I cock my wrist so that my angle is closer to 40 degrees, and play with the corner of my fingertips, I get an entirely different sound. It's not that one sound is better than the other. They both have value, depending on what's going on around you. CTS is generally a result of repetitive motion. Developing different attack angles reduces this risk, and gives you more sounds in your arsenal.
  7. That is disturbing! As I age, I notice my aptitude for stuff like this.... Just this year, I've started to get tennis elbow, and I'm sure it's from my playing. It seems like CTS is more likely when you're older, although it seems like you hear a kid getting in from something like typing every once in a while. More often, it seems like it sets in somewhere in the 30s or 50s or something.

    I'm guessing that there's been studies that included age. What's your take?

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