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Recovering from Repetitive Strain Injury - String Advice

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by baconbits89, Sep 26, 2013.

  1. baconbits89


    Dec 20, 2008
    I'm (slowly) getting back into playing after recovering from a repetitive stress injury to my fretting hand. Original thread: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f30/repetitive-strain-injury-questions-advice-1006281/

    Now that I'm getting an entirely new set-up for my bass (MUCH LOWER ACTION), I'm looking for some advice as per easy-to-play strings to minimize relapse:

    • I play a 34" scale, 4-string Jazz...exclusively fingerstyle, in an indie/proggish band.
    • I generally prefer roundwound, nickel-plated strings.
    • Does string thickness determine the difficulty of bringing the string to the fretboard? Looking at perhaps the .95-.40 range.
    • Does string "tension" or "stiffness" have anything to do with the difficulty of pressing the string to the fretboard?

    If it's of any use, I'm running my bass through an Aguilar TH500 and DB210 (x2).

    Any recommendations anyone can make based on my injury/preferences would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I believe that thicker strings absolutely makes things more difficult. Some will argue that thicker strings can be given lower action, but I believe the thickness tradeoff more than offsets the gains offered by the lower action. Plus I'd debate whether they can be set with lower action to begin with.
  3. unclebass


    Dec 17, 2012
    When JimmyM talks.......PEOPLE LISTEN!!!!
  4. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I absolutely find lighter-gauge, lower tension strings to help. In my experience heavier strings can go a little lower without buzz, but the difference is probably only noticeable if you play hard and it doesn't come close to outweighing the extra strain that comes from the increase tension.

    I've had good results with lighter gauge GHS Bass Boomer sets, but I don't know how Boomers compare tension-wise with other sets at the same gauge.
  5. cripula


    Dec 20, 2006
    TI Jazz Rounds. Super low tension, amazing feel, cool tone.
    They are such low tension they will force you to lighten up your touch, or they will just flap away.

    And yes, heavier strings just make everything harder. I've had RSI for several years... I no longer play anything heavier than a 45-100 set, and most of my basses are now strung 40-100. No lack of tone.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Got no clue why, but I'm glad someone FINALLY started listening in my old age ;)
  7. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Try D'Addario Tapes. Easy on the fingers, still retains roundwound tone, doesn't have the noise other light strings have, lasts forever.

    Keep everything light touch. If you get tired, stop. Concentrate on slow stretches and slow warmups.

    To finally deal with all my injuries, I had to design and have custom built my own "half-fanned" bass. By the frets only fanning one direction, the elbow pivots naturally, the wrist stays neutral, and much of the stress from "ducking under" the elbow to get the upper positions is gone.


    The good news: I'm back to where I can play a few songs or even a set on a gig that requires a 5-string, so I have a conventional Ibby SRA305 that is really comfortable. But again, I have it strung with the D'Addario tapewounds. I have another one that I alternate between D'Addario Chromes Flats and GHS Super Steels, depending on what I have to play on a particular gig. The custom P/J usually wears Fender 9050CL 45-60-80-105 flats, but they don't sell singles, so right now I have a GHS G string and an Ernie Ball E string until the A & D thump out and I get a new set.
  8. baconbits89


    Dec 20, 2008
    I was thinking lighter gauge would help too, thanks! I've always played incredibly heavy-handed - hoping that a transition to lower action/lower tension will alleviate my symptoms.

    I've been particularly partial to DR as of late. I heard good things about DR Sunbeams being helpful for RSI, though that's just hearsay. Any consensus on that?

    I'm gonna look into the TI, GHS, and D'Addarios you guys mentioned. I wish there was a resource that compared the tensions of different strings....I guess the manufacturers don't release that info. Overall though, I'm into a fatter, more aggressive tone (without delving into stainless-steel territory).

  9. jamersonburton


    Jul 22, 2011
    What music do you play?
  10. unclebass


    Dec 17, 2012
    I have always used 45-105 with 125 for B. Recently stepped way down to 30-50-70-90 with a 125 B. Way too much of a drop. Try stepping down a little at a time until you find what you are comfortable with.
  11. hotbass57


    Nov 27, 2011
    Most definitely lighter gauge. DR roundcore Sunbeams, TI's all good choices. I had a broken fret hand still can't handle any type tension. Good luck I'm using DR black beauties on both basses. They are coated Sunbeams. I love them, but alot of guys have a love hate relatiionship.
  12. Mikhail1


    Apr 8, 2008
    I believe that you can get lower action with heavier strings but to me the trade off is lighter gauge strings are so much easier to play. I started back playing about five years ago after many years of not playing anything but acoustic guitar and that was infrequent at best. I had used nothing on bass in the past but .045-.105 but my p bass came standard with .045-.100. In no time, I was dealing with hand and wrist pain. I tried to muscle through it which was a big mistake. Reading this board, especially JimmyM, made me try lighter gauge strings, specifically D'Addario XL's in .040-.095. That combined with stretching and strengthening exercises have kept the pain at bay. More importantly, I can not tell one bit of difference in the sound of lighter gauge strings. This is not really a sales pitch for D'Addario, I've tried other brands of nickels in the same gauge and the tension seems very similar for all, but I keep coming back to the XL's. All I can say is try a lighter gauge and take care of your hands!!!
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    :D Glad to hear my suggestion helped you out, bro.
  14. baconbits89


    Dec 20, 2008
    Looks like I'm gonna go with either the TIs or DRs based on what I've seen online and the feedback you've all given me. Much thanks!

    Off-topic for strings, but: any techniques for warming-up/playing for those suffering with a RSI? Self-taught and playing for 7-8 years now, but any insight into warm-up and playing adjustments to reduce strain would be immensely helpful
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Find a teacher who's good with pain-free techniques...by far it's the best thing to do. As far as warmups, just play lightly for a few minutes.
  16. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Thank you Stumbo ;) but no, that one's about the other hand whereas this fellow's complaint is about his fretting hand.
  18. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    There's relatively little consensus on anything around here. That said, Sunbeams do meet your requirements. They're relatively low tension, being roundcore strings. And they're nickel-plated steel, as you specified.

    Whether they're also "fat" and "aggressive" enough for your taste, I couldn't say. :meh:

  19. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I don't know how necessary warm-up would be. I've never needed it.

    But good technique - for anyone, not just those recovering from injuries - would include:

    * Wear your instrument high enough on the strap so that you can easily reach all areas of the neck.

    * Keep your wrist relatively straight. If you need to stretch your hand to reach certain notes, move your arm instead to put your hand into proper position. Or learn to play more laterally, across the neck; less up and down the neck. Or play the same notes in higher positions, further up the neck where the frets are closer together. Or some combination of all of these.

    * Keep the thumb of your fretting hand centered on the back of the neck, or close to it. Don't "palm" the neck! (Untrained rock guitarists do this constantly. Drives me right up a tree!)

    * Strive to develop independent dexterity in all four fingers.

    * Don't overextend.

    * Try to fret the strings with the tips of your fingers - not the pads: Just in front of the frets on a fretted bass; right on the mark for a fretless.

    * Keeping the action relatively low will train you to lighten up on your attack.

    * Once you've achieved a consistently comfortable, effective technique, adjust your volume settings (instrument & amp) accordingly. If your instrument is well under control, your settings should allow you ample extra volume when you really need it - just by digging in a little harder. If you find yourself hammering the instrument to get louder, you're not there yet. Lighten up, and let your amp do the heavy lifting!

    * Relax! This isn't an iron man competition. It's not about how hard you can hit the strings, nor how tightly you can grasp the neck.

  20. baconbits89


    Dec 20, 2008
    Mucho thanks you guys.

    @JimmyM - I'll look into teachers in my area (Central NJ) for some help. Been DIY/self-taught for years and years, but you're right....I need to swallow my ego and learn safer techniques.

    @MysticMichael - Awesome advice. I've already got my bass way high (easy reach + nerdy? I'm all over it!). I've always "laid" the pad of my fingers on the strings, and applied a tremendous amount of effort to fret. High action & high gauge for years are the culprit there. Will go either DR Sunbeams (95-40) or TIs...but DAMN TIs are expensive! Regardless: definitely will be lowering the action and gauge, using the tips of my fingers, and CALMING DOWN on my right and left-hand exertion.

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