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right hand/wrist questions

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by hernameisrio, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    I'm working on revising/improving my right hand technique as per my teacher's suggestion. Before, I was holding my right hand more like a guitarist...more on a diagonal, and I tended to pluck the strings with all my fingers, not just my index and middle. I got used to it and I guess in a way, it worked for me. But whatever...I started taking lessons to make sure I'm not developing any bad habits, and I realized that it wastes a lot of energy to play that way. So now, I've raised the height of my bass slightly and I hold my hand more vertically and pluck the strings with my index and middle, the more traditional way.

    I'm feeling pretty comfortable with the idea of straightening out my right hand and plucking with only two fingers...I've worked up to speed and it's finally feeling right, whereas the old way now feels weird...so I guess that's a start!

    However, I'm still having a hard time finding a decent place for my hand to rest on the bass, and a proper angle for my elbow and wrist. I hope I'm explaining this in a way that makes sense...I can try to put up a video soon. Sometimes my right hand will start to cramp and it'll feel as if the circulation is being cut off. So obviously I'm missing something here.

    I'm planning to troubleshoot with my teacher at my next lesson, but in the meantime I wondered if anyone had any suggestions. I play a Peavey Cirrus, so it's built a little more like a guitar and the neck is 35" scale (doesn't bother me, I just roll my wrist...I love this thing!). I actually wonder if maybe I should lower the height of the bass again, as now it seems like my right arm is not at a good angle and it just doesn't quite feel natural. I've looked at photos of bass players who have similar basses and builds to me, but I realize everyone is different. I have long arms if that matters. But then again, I'm also skinny, female, and about 5 foot 5 (and a half!!!), so I dunno where that leaves me.

    Ideas/advice? Thanks guys!
  2. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Well, I don't know if I can help, but I'm curious about what you said about your hand being vertical. That doesn't sound right. Personally, my wrist is only slightly bent, and my fingers sorta reach out. My arm is also slightly rolled over just enough so that I am plucking slightly with the side of my fingers (not really the side, but just a hair off-center). My bass' height is such that my elbow is bent about 90-degrees, maybe a bit less (the top edge of my bass' body runs along about half-way across my belly, not too high or low). If my elbow bends any more than that I start to feel it in my elbow. I also use a fairly light touch, not too light except for sometimes.

    That's just me, though. Your teacher should be able to get you sorted, I would think. Can you post a pic of yourself playing? It would help to see what kind of position you're in. Otherwis, just try to do what feels comfortable. Your body will let you know when it's wrong.
  3. JehuJava

    JehuJava Bass Frequency Technician

    Oct 15, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    My thought is why are you correcting a problem that's not a problem? Do you have pain in your wrist or fingers or arm for that matter? If your old style is ergonomically incorrect, yes change it for longevity's sake. Though it sounds like you are simply playing "different" than the instructor and is outside his or her comfort zone. The only correct way to align your hand is in an ergonomic position. There is plenty of leeway on this position it's not as strict as you may think. Search the net for this info. There are other techniques you can work on, like finger pressure while playing, that contribute as much or more to you personal technique and proper playing style.
  4. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Although I admit that I don't follow it, I definitely find Gary Willis' advice very logical and benefitting.
  5. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    Thanks Alvaro, I'm having trouble with YouTube right now but I will check it out. Re: vertical, it's not my whole hand, more the angle of my fingers. I wanted to try the more traditional approach...bass up high, resting your arm on the bass, two fingers...

    Well you know what? I hate it. I tried, and it just doesn't work for the way I'm built. I really, actually hate it, and not just because it feels like my freakin' hand is asleep...but because I also don't like the way it directs my energy when I play. To me, it feels like all the momentum that I should have in my hands, is compressed into one spot instead of flowing through my whole body. I think it makes more sense to hold your hand like this if you play sitting down, but nine times out of ten, I don't. A lot of that is due not just to personal preference or stubbornness but to ergonomics and to the fact that I don't feel comfortable sitting down and playing. With a long torso, long arms, and a 35" scale bass, it's hard to find a way to sit and feel like I can play easily.

    So I spent about fifteen minutes tweaking the height of my strap, watching my hand in the mirror as I played, and fidgeting as much as I needed to until I felt more comfortable and there was no tension anywhere in my right arm. I still hold my hand, wrist, and arm at certain angles in order to avoid hunching my shoulder or cutting off circulation, but I also strike the strings at an angle which- compared to my old technique- produces a better, cleaner tone and allows me to move with more dexterity than before. I play with two fingers now whereas before I used four.

    Kudos to the dudes who can sit down, curl their forearms over their bass, and pluck away with two fingers like we're all "supposed" to...but apparently I am physically unable to play that way without experiencing discomfort. I figured I'd try and I'm not knocking anyone else's technique by any means! I find it really fascinating that there actually is such a wide variety of different techniques when it comes to playing, and so much of it depends on how you play, what you play, if you sit or stand, how you're built, how heavy or large your bass is.

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