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Severe thumb pain!

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Oldcoops, May 16, 2011.

  1. Hey guys,

    I know you've probably heard people whining on about this a thousand times before, but I'm a beginner on the bass and I'm finding that after playing for over 30 minutes at a time I'm getting serious cramps in my thumb.

    My other fingers are strengthening up ok, and I'm not experiencing much pain there. But I can't seem to get to a stage where I can get rid of the pain in my thumb.

    I'm self taught as there are no double bassists in my area, so it's very possible I'm doing something wrong technique-wise.

    Should I just try concentrate on using less pressure while playing? or could it be something else??

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  2. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    are you taking lessons to get the technique down?
  3. I would love to take lessons but there are no teachers in my area
  4. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    I imagine you're talking about your fingering hand (NOT your bowing/plucking hand) in which case this is very normal, but not at all good.

    Unless you have some underlying injury, the reason for your thumb pain is that the fingers of your 'fretting' hand are weak so you're compensating by pressing your thumb into the back of the neck. It's very common for beginners who haven't developed strength and independence in the fingers.

    Although it's common, it will lead to poor technique and more serious injury down the line if you don't break the habit.

    There are ways to teach finger independence and gain strength through specific exercises that a good teacher would be able to help you with.
  5. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Try and use more or your arm weight to pull back and stop the strings and use your thumb minimally. In other words, don't have your thumb do too much clamping work on the neck. If you try sitting while playing, this makes it easier to get a feel for it, as your leg acts as a support. Then try playing without using your thumb at all. Basically, don't squeeze too hard with your thumb!
  6. There are several good sites online showing proper technique if there are no teachers around hopefully someone on here will put some links on this post. Also, what kind of upright do you have? Only curious because some with a thinner neck that sometimes causes hand pain. Is your action set well? High action and high tension strings could be a big problem.
  7. Bassguy87564


    Jul 5, 2006
  8. Jluvial


    Oct 30, 2010
    Hillsboro, Oregon
    Don't forget to keep the claw shape in your left hand. Try to make sure only the tip of your thumb is making contact. If you're using the surface of your thumb then your hand is squeezing too close together and causing tension. Your hand should look like a C rather than a <.
  9. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    First of all you need to have your bass set up reviewed by a luthier. If your string height is too high and the string nut is not set up right and if you are using higher tension strings then you will most likely be working too hard which will cause pain. As a beginner playing for 30 minutes is about all I could do. Playing the DB is not easy on the body. You need to gradually develop your strengh and stamina by starting out with small bouts of practice with rest in between. I know folks can learn to play DB on their own but I am grateful to have a teacher. Even if you have to travel a long distance for a session or two a good teacher is essential
  10. +2
    If you try playing in a more cello like position you will be able to 'hang' your left hand on to the finger board. Try then to be conscious of the thumb pressure.
    Just wondering does your bass have a particularly thin neck?
  11. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    If you would fill out your profile, we'd be better able to help you.
  12. Hey guys, Thanks for the feedback, it's helping out a lot. To answer some of your questions, I'm 99% sure that the neck is of normal thickness and not particularly thin or anything. Also, the strings that came on the bass when i bought it are Pirastro Jazzers (Medium). Would these be considered particularly difficult strings to play for beginner bassists??

    I tried playing while sitting down and it's pretty comfortable! takes a good bit of pressure off my hand, I guess that means i should concentrate more on my stance and how I'm supporting the bass when I'm standing. I'm also now concentrating on using more of my arm weight when pulling back the strings.

    After a bit of research from watching other players online I discovered that I was making the seemingly big mistake of having my thumb pointed upwards while playing as a pose to having my thumb pointed sideways which seems to support the fingers a lot more. It feels a bit wierd at the moment but It definatly takes the strain off of my thumb!

    Also I've booked myself in for lessons with a good teacher in a different town. I'll have to travel a few hours to get there but hopefully it'll help get me on the right track and eliminate any other bad habits i may be developing.

    Thanks everybody. this was my first post here, everybody's really helpful.
  13. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    We won't tell him about Streicher.
  14. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    yea yea, you want your thumb kinda behind your middle finger. Also, make sure you are arcing the fingers of your left hand to get the most out of the strength you have. Pay particular attention to the top knuckle; it should stay curved (not flat / collapsed).

    Have you considered asking the teacher to just hang out for an afternoon? Since you're traveling so far it might be good to the get the most out of the trip.
  15. apurdum


    May 13, 2011
    Getting a teacher will help greatly. You can also try this:

    Finger a note and feel how much pressure you are using (a 9 on a scale of 1-10? a 5?)
    Try to play the same note with half as much pressure--can you still get a good sound?
    If yes, then try with even less pressure. If no, then increase pressure half-way back to where you started.
    Keep going like this until you find the minimum amount of pressure need to produce a good sound.

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