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Right Hand Finger Care for Pizz Players

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, May 20, 2003.


  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've been having some issues with my right index finger since right before my vacation, and I'm looking for any solutions that may have worked for anyone in the past. About a month ago, or two weeks before Derby for all Kentuckians, I had a really intense schedule of 15 gigs in 16 days, many of which were very intense listening gigs at the new club here in town. On the second night of the Sonny Fortune gig, I ended up with medical tape on my first and second fingers to cushion the painful callous that had built up, and that was the end of the first week. :meh:

    By the end of the second week, the skin at the edge of my index fingernail (on the side where the pizz stroke lands) was a hard as a rock, and it started to get swollen and separate from the nail. I tried to file some of the callous away (my usual technique), and this worked for a while, but the pain kept returning. After the two weeks was over, I had scheduled a two-week vacation. I didn't play at all the first week, then practiced lightly - about 45 minutes a day - for each day of the second week. Last Saturday was my first day back, starting with a 3 hour Aebersold quartet hit, then on sunday there was a 4 hour duo brunch gig, at the end of which the finger was fried again. For the past two days (one short gig each day) I've played with Band-Aids on the index finger, which I'm keeping moist with an antibacterial cream.

    My question is, how should I treat this problem? Soaking the finger? Wrapping it? Filing the callous down further? I'm at a loss, and have more gigs lined up for the rest of the week. Does anybody have any "skin healing remedies" for this kind of thing that you can pass on? It's kind of like an ingrown toenail kind of vibe, only it's on my playing finger. I've never experienced anything like this before, so any help/advice would be valuable and greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ... then don't do that!

    I wish I could say "I feel for ya", but I can't, not with that hand.

    Is this a case of normal bass player's fingers gone bad? I've done gloves and tape before, but those were in the green days of yore. They say that Krazy Glue (CA glue) works well. I'm not sure I'd put it on an open wound, though...

    Seriously, the thing to do might be to let it heal.

    Of course, you can always remember Django Reinhart and Jerry Garcia -- instrumentalists with less than 10 fingers -- and keep on playing your ass -- er, your finger -- off.
     
  3. Hey Chris,
    A few months ago I had problems with my feet. I have to wear Steel Toe Boots at work "I`m a Die Setter by trade" and my feet started to get bad callouses. To the point they hurt pretty bad. A Lady friend of mine told me to go to Wal-Mart and buy some Eucerin Moisturizing Creme. This stuff is GOOD. It help the paws bigtime. As for the Super Glue thing, I have done this several times but I dont gig much with DB yet. It is Non Toxic so it wont poison you or anything. I have put it on open sores on my finger tips. It will affect your tone but its better than pain. There is a product called New Skin I think its called I tried. It is a liquid you coat on the sore and it seals it but when I used it the stuff come off pretty quick rubbing against the strings. I always keep a tube of Super Glue in my Gig Bag...my 2 cents

    Dave
     
  4. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    New Skin is just pyroxylin (nitrocellulose) with some oil of cloves to plasticize it a bit and provide a little antispetic action. A good, safe protector for broken skin.

    Don't apply cyanoacrylates (superglue) to open wounds. Quoting from the medical literature:

    "Inflammation, tissue necrosis, granulation formation, and wound breakdown can occur when cyanoacrylates are implanted subcutaneously. The process causing the histologic toxicity is thought to be related to the by-products of degradation, cyanoacetate and formaldehyde. The local concentrations of these breakdown products are proportional to the rate of degradation (an aqueous degradation process) of the parent compound."

    You can safely apply it to the surface of the skin. There are other medically safe cyanoacrylates that decompose more slowly and are suitible for broken skin.

    Last, Eucerin is mainly (like all skin creams) a suspension of fats (in this case lanolin) in water. The active moisturizing ingredient is water, and the lanolin simply slows the evaporation from the surface of the skin. Eucerin also contains 5-10% urea which helps soften callouses.
     
  5. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ...but if Chris (or substitute your own name there, this can happen to any of us) chooses the strategy of moisturizing the offending digit and keeps on walkin', isn't he gonna wind up with a blister instead of a wound? The skin is saying "stop this abusive music-making, Heifitz, we're breaking down over here."

    Just because I like the name so much, I'll mention an old-time product called "Bag Balm" popular among farmers and such like, which is sold through Lee Valley Tools. It was originally for dairy farmers to rub into their cows' udders.

    There. A simple question, and an opportunity for folks to riff on the udder-rubbing theme.
     
  6. Durrl,

    Here's a few suggestions to consider:

    1. Put normal strings back on your bass. Higher tension strings contribute to callous build-up. With those things you use I'm suprised this didn't happen sooner.

    2. Apply some good moisturizing lotion.

    3. You could put some Vaseline on your fingers before you play. Forehead and Tip-of-Nose oil work well but supply is somtimes limited.

    4. You could try to get more of the fleshy part of your finger on the string.

    5. Until the situation is alleviated turn up your amp, adjust some eq, and play lighter.
     
  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Yo, Dawg...the Sonny Fortune gig?!! Did I miss something? How whazzit?
    Whoops, sorry, Chris, just read the Gigspam thread. I musta skipped over it til now. What with the commute and all...glad you're getting some juicy work.
     
  8. Some of the banjo/guitar/mandolin guys I pick with use some spray-on stuff called Fingerease. I think its primary purpose is to lubricate the strings and reduce friction. It works for them and only costs a few bucks for a can. There is some debate about its effect on the fingerboard--some say it dries it out. You might want to research it and perhaps give it a try.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Wow, thanks for all the great replies! I should probably be more specific about the nature of this problem: I came pretty close to describing it when I said it was like an ingrown toenail on my index finger - the problem isn't that the skin isn't hard enough, but rather that it's too hard along the thumb side of the nail bed...so I'm looking for ways to soften that skin up and keep it pliable between gigs.

    Without replying to each response, there are a few things I'd like to mention:

    DAVE 8WAYTOOMUCH - turns out my wife had a tube of Eucerin laying around, and it's on the finger under a band-aid right now. Tonight is one of only 2 nights this week I don't have a gig, so I'm just gonna rest it and see what happens. Thanks for the tip.

    DAVE KACZSDGCXNFSEORSRHDXFJZXFKI - good suggestions, all. I'm considering the string issue, but since I managed just fine for several months before this happened, I'd like to give them another chance. This weekend will be the clincher. If I'm one digit short after Saturday's gig in Indy, I may well just get some Weichs and raise the action way up and see what kind of sound I can get. I've been doing the amp/EQ thing, but all of you crusty old-school ****ers have got me hooked on a big acoustic sound, and I don't like giving that up. Re: the lotion, I've been doing that since I started. Also, no shortage of nose-grease here. :)

    DEMON DANCE - I remember my Grandfather talking about Bag Balm...it sounds interesting. I might have to check that out.


    SPARTACUS - yeah, the Sonny gig was fun, but he called a lot of 300+ bpm tempos and then blew for 10-15 minutes, and on the last night, the drummer and I clocked the tempo of the second to last tune at over 400. Not surprisingly, that was when all of this started. Guess I'm just not man enough for that stuff yet. :D
     
  10. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    OK, so two weeks of 400 bpm madness might not be in the cards right now, but you're the Big Finger Man. Be proud!
     
  11. Here's a thought: Give some of your too many gigs to your friends. I hope your finger throbs day and night.
     
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    When I was a NY freelance jazzer, Mike Richmond showed me a great trick. The NYC summers are notoriously humid, and sticky bass strings just tear the skin off your fingers by the third or fourth set. Mike used trombone slide cream on the fingertips (I think it's called Superslick, or something like that). The result was a slick, smooth string surface and no abrading of the fingertips, no matter how hard you play. BTW, memory tells me it was Mike Richmond. But memory also tells me I used to be a three-legged frog. So it might have been someone else...Oh yeah, a warning--don't put this stuff on the bowing area of the strings, for obvious reasons.
     
  13. Chris - Back in March I had a trio gig at a local "jazz cigar lounge" (actually, what they really wanted was smooth jazz and a singer but thats another can o' worms) and by the end of the night, I had the same in-grown-toenail-on-my-finger type situation develop. I feel your pain! It too was caused by a lot of playing; a marathon four hour practice (by myself) the day before and a low budget recording session hours before the gig. And on top of that, both the drummer and keyboard player are notoriously loud. We played three 75 minute sets and I was hurting by the middle of the second set. Unfortunately, I don't have any great advise, but I do know what not to do. Don't peel/file the calous. After the gig, I peeled away some excess skin that built up and I couldn't play more than ten minutes the next day. Oh the trials we must go through for a good acoustic sound.:)
     
  14. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    ARN: As a Friend and student of Mike's I can inform you trombone was his first instrument, so it probably was him.BTW would'nt that stuff interfere with arco?
     
  15. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    Along the lines of Arnold's reply, Ray Parker introduced me to Fast Fret, which is this wooden handle attached to a felt batting which has Fast Fret in it. You rub it up and down the string, and it keeps them clean and fast. Unfortunately, it now comes in this cheesy plastic container instead of the old tin one, which means that unless you rubberband the top on, the lid will come off the top and dry it out.....

    Ray tells me that if anyone in NY knows you have the metal case, they will steal it. I've still got my eyes on that from any guitarists around here.:eek:

    For lotion, I use the Nuetrogena Swedish Formula to keep my callouses soft.


    WARNING : Do not use lotions containing Alpha Hydroxy. It will remove your callous!!

    Monte
     
  16. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    As I mentioned in my previous post, you have to keep the stuff off the bowing area of the strings. If you do get it on there you can wipe it off with some alcohol. (Gin will do in a pinch)
     
  17. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    Same goes for the Fast Fret.

    Monte
     
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Just curious: what are some of the popular brands out there that use this ingredient? That would be nice to know so I could avoid them.


    A quick update - On Tuesday night, I took a (pedicure) sanding block to the area and ground/smoothed it down a fair amount, then covered the whole nailbed area in Eucerin and covered with a bandage. After avoiding my bass for all of Wednesday and most of Thursday, it felt good enough to play last night's gig in Bloomington (which was VERY LOUD, btw... :meh: ) with no covering whatsoever - the first time I've been able to do this since last Saturday. It feels a bit sore this morning, but is livable. We'll see. I must say though, that Eucerin stuff is amazingly resilient. Thanks again for the tip.

    No pun intended.
     
  19. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Go ahead, Chris. Intend a pun. Live a little.

    Good news about the finger.
     
  20. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    Chris-I was thinking about your finger (and mine)
    wondering if you have a specific length you trim your nails to.Like classical guitarists keep their nails just past finger pad, to get a sharp attack. I've found when I trim my index nail too short and then play hard I get very sore right under the nail. Whether this has anything to do with your recent problem I've no idea, but I am curious nonetheless where you and others keep your nail length. Sounds like it's calming down; Best of health to you and your fingers.