Right hand knuckle joint pain

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Dan Neilsen, Apr 23, 2017.

  1. Dan Neilsen

    Dan Neilsen Guest

    Apr 23, 2017
    I have been playing bass guitar for approx 4 years in a cover band typically performing a four hour gig per week plus practice sessions. I typically play finger style and in the last few weeks i have been experiencing pain in the knuckle joint of my 2nd finger in my right hand. It has progressed to the point i have started to play some songs with a pick or with only my first finger to reduce impact on the joint.

    The pain seems to correspond with a change in my equipment.

    I was playing a 4 string musicman stingray sv4 strung with ghs boomers 45-115s.
    I recently purchased and have been playing a German made warwick 5 string corvette bass. I originally had it strung with warwick stainless steel strings but found them highly abrasive and that they had a really high tension. I have since swapped to ernie ball strings which seem better.

    Has anyone experienced anything similar?
    Any recommendations on changes i could make to bass setup to alleviate this issue?

    I really like the sound of the warwick but if i can't play properly with it.....
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Hi, and welcome to TB. :)

    The string tension and the set up of your new bass could be an issue. How high is your action ? You could try lowering it a little. Which Ernie Ball strings are you using ? You may also be digging in too much when you pluck.

    One final issue could be that you are simply over doing it with the playing. Wherever possible, I'd suggest easing up on the playing time to allow the finger to recover. Playing through any pain is only going to make things worse.
    Element Zero likes this.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Before trying to solve this by changing your equipment, it would be worthwhile to carefully examine your technique. First, how hard do you pluck? Cranking the amp and plucking with a gentle touch has many advantages over digging in all the time, not the least of which is less fatigue and strain on your fingers and joints. Second, do you position your plucking hand in such a way as to maintain a straight wrist? Playing with a bent wrist strains all kinds of muscles and tendons in the hand and makes your fingers and joint work much harder than they have to.
  4. Dan Neilsen

    Dan Neilsen Guest

    Apr 23, 2017
    Thanks for responding.
    I use a floating thumb technique where i mute strings with my thumb. Eg. If playing A string i will rest my thumb on the E. My wrist is typically quite straight.
    When i started learning bass ( after playing guitar in bands for many years) i made sure i learnt good technique right from the start.

    I don't believe it is a technique issue as i have been playing for several years now without issue, until i changed bass.

    In regards to plucking pressue, i have always been fairly light on the strings and use volume and compression to get my desired sound. (I typically run a mxr bass comp and then sansamp bass di into the pa. No amp. We run IEMs for monitors)
    Saying that, i believe i may be plucking heavier on the warwick as i find the string tension on the warwick seems to be greater than on the stingray.
  5. franklindayala


    Feb 8, 2015
    You should avoid the Warwick strings then. Also try lowering the new set of strings and I would also recommend to put some new pups in there. I would recommend aero pickups.

    I had similar problems with a set of Warwick strings on my Warwick. Didn't like them and swap them for another brand. Also changed the pickup for the aero's that are far more responsive to dinamic and you dont have to dig in to much to let them speak
  6. Dan Neilsen

    Dan Neilsen Guest

    Apr 23, 2017
    I did already remove the warwick strings and put on a set of ernie ball strings but the problem continues.
    I might replace these with ghs boomers (same as i use on the music man) and see if that helps.
    I have set the strings up as low as i am able to already.

    Other than the different bass itself the only diff between my stingray setup and the warwick would be
    - warwick string height is lower
    - strap length is longer (could this effect it??)
    - string brand
  7. franklindayala


    Feb 8, 2015
    Strap lenght could make your wrist bend or not. It does mather
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I can't imagine the strap length causing knuckle joint pain...especially if you're using the floating thumb technique.

    String brand IMO is not as important as string gauge and tension in this case.
  9. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    The OP says he is using the floating thumb technique. If so..then the wrist would be straight....unless the strap length is very short.
  10. franklindayala


    Feb 8, 2015
    Ah yes. Sorry about that. That right.
    fearceol likes this.
  11. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I don't see why string height or action should matter to your plucking hand (although it can make a big difference to your fretting hand).

    A longer strap length could alter the position of your plucking hand, but it seems to me that a longer strap makes it easier to maintain a straight wrist, not harder. So I don't think it's that -- but it might be worth trying to adjust the strap length on the Warwick so it's similar to your 4-string just to see if you notice a difference.

    It has to be strings, or more precisely string tension. I think the next move is to try the GHS Boomers on the Warwick, as you suggested.
  12. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    I have carpal tunnel syndrome and that is the symptom I most frequently feel. before it was diagnosed it got so bad at one point I couldn't open a jar much less play bass... I wear a wrist brace while sleeping and that has helped a great deal. Also I use floating thumb which helps keep the wrist straight. Plucking lighter should help too. But see a doctor if that's possible, and try out a wrist brace while sleeping for a couple weeks and see if it starts to improve.
    Lvjoebass likes this.
  13. Badwater

    Badwater Guest

    Jan 12, 2017
    It could also be your day job, in combination with age, and family history of joint pain. Perhaps a visit to the MD can save you more pain in the future.
    12BitSlab likes this.
  14. Nickweissmusic

    Nickweissmusic Knows all intervals from one Fred, to Juan octave Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    I teach lessons and perform live music in and around San Diego CA. Sometimes I even make money doing it!
    Using a pick is a very reasonable workaround. Ice it when you're able and take frequent breaks. I can't imagine strings are the cause of your problem here. You're using a new instrument and your ergonomics have changed somehow. Practice in a mirror or on video to see if something is bending unnaturally. Maybe the string height or pickup sensitivity is leading you to dig deeper or play harder than in the past. I've suffered through many nerve and pain issues and the only way to manage these things is rest, ice, and constant examination and monitoring of technique. I'm constantly telling myself to relax my hands and use as little effort as possible. If the new bass just isn't for you, it's not going to work out, give it couple months and if it's still painful, sorry, but you're better off moving on. I'm not going to have Stanley Clarke's turbo popping technique, I'll live :)

    If there's anyway to see a doctor Who is a specialist in musical repetitive stress injuries, that's never a bad idea. Pain itself is not a major problem, it could just be readjusting, but if any tingling or stinging, hot or cold feelings, etc., start popping up, see a doctor. The wrist splint idea is good but only if it's a wrist problem. I have to sleep in an elbow splint from time to time. It's extremely uncomfortable and annoying, but it works for my issues. Wouldn't have found that if I hadn't seen a doc.
  15. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    Dan Neilsen , welcome to TB! :thumbsup:

    sorry to hear that you're having pain adjusting to a new instrument.

  16. somebrains


    Feb 7, 2017
    I had a Stingray and Warwicks.
    As above go see a doctor asap.
    Band aiding instrument specifics isn't going to heal an injury.
    You want to find out what the extent of the injury is.
    Habit changes can help, after you heal.
    Sometimes the activity causing injury must go away completely.
  17. Dan Neilsen

    Dan Neilsen Guest

    Apr 23, 2017
    Thank you everyone for the advice.
    Re strap length. I made the strap length longer on the warwick by about an inch but i will try making it the same as the stingeray. My Bass position would not be considered at a high level

    Ill try putting the ghs boomers on today ahead of a 6 hour gig tomorrow and a 4 hour gig Saturday night. I realize an injury such as this is not going to heal overnight but i figure i need to fix the cause of the injury before it has any chance.

    In regards to occupational or hereditary. I don't believe my family has any history of this kind of thing and my occupation as a quantity surveyor is not particular strenuous on finger joints.

    The mirror is a great idea. I will certainly try that as it will be easier to identify any technique issues and i will certainly try and see a doctor if this continues, but solving the source of the issue i believe is important.

    Thanks again everyone
    Freightshaker likes this.
  18. I had almost the same issue with my right hand last year. It turned out to be work related. I changed the way I shift and played with a pick for several months. I'm mostly back to normal and can pluck for long periods. On the positive, my pick technique vastly improved. :D
  19. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Please report back and let us know whether the string change and/or strap adjustment made any difference.

    Even if one or both of these changes is helpful, a six-hour gig is still likely to aggravate the injury. If it does so during the gig, switch to the pick to avoid making it any worse. Good luck!
    Dan Neilsen likes this.
  20. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Lemme page @Fergie Fulton. He knows a lot about orthopedic problems related to bass.