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Stiff, sore, popping index finger. Help?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Sgroh87, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    I started playing guitar in December of last year, but a month ago I switched to the bass and I feel way more at home. I'm sure you guys know the feeling.

    Anyway, I've started to develop a really weird sensation in my fretting index finger that's bordering on pain. On occasion throughout the day, though almost always when I wake up in the morning, that finger will be stiff and sore, and the feeling doesn't go away until I pop the joints in both directions (first away from my palm and then towards). Throughout the day, I can pop that finger by curling it towards my palm almost on command.

    I play for an hour or two five or six days a week. I use one finger per fret on my MiM P-bass string with regular Slinkies in standard tuning, and I usually play sitting down with the neck angled slightly above parallel with the ground. I shake out my arm and stretch between my fingers before I pick up the instrument, and my first warmup exercise is a 1234 spider walk starting at the 9th fret working my way towards the headstock.

    Occasionally my thumb gets sore, so I know that I'm pressing too hard, but is that also why my index finger is feeling so strange? What could I be doing technique-wise that is causing this, and how do I fix it?
  2. I am such a noob I almost feel I have no buisness giving ANY helpful advise. But only from experience, I can say, STAND UP and play. This wont help your finger but getting too used to sitting and playing will destroy you when you go to stand up and play. At least it did for me

    My first 3 months of learning was spent sitting. Once I tried to stand, I pretty much had to re-learn everything all over again. Wouldnt think there be that much difference, but for me, it was like black and white.

    As for your finger? IDK. That sucks. I would play for so long I'd have a string indent in my index and middle finger that would last for hours. Then the tips were hard as concrete. Now not so bad. Anyway, Just thought I'd throw out my only 2 cents. If its worth anything... Maybe some Aspricream or BenGay?
  3. arock0627


    Mar 20, 2013
    Lawton, OK
    You're playing too hard. This light touch thing is new to me too but I'm telling you, I had the exact same problem back when I dug the hell in and fretted like I trying to squeeze juice out of the neck. My end result was wrist damage that helped force me put up playing bass for over a decade.

    It seriously takes a feather touch.
  4. arock0627


    Mar 20, 2013
    Lawton, OK
    If you're concerned about an aggressive tone then it still doesn't take much. The only thing that should be sore after a good practice session is, if anything, your forearms, since they contain the muscles for your fingers.
  5. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef Formerly "thebrian" Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    Lighter gauge strings could help a lot. You won't have to press as hard to fret the notes.
  6. soitainly


    Aug 21, 2012
    Well, basically you have said you are pressing too hard, and the obvious answer is not to press too hard :).

    Don't we wish it was always that easy. An exercise I learned is to push down the string and slowly release pressure till it buzzes, then just add a little more. You have to develop an awareness what it feels like to play with just enough effort. It's hard to do if you are playing fast or on things that are too difficult for you. Just make a conscious effort to work on playing lightly in the left hand. It really becomes a mental trick, and sometimes just being aware of the problem lets your brain solve it on it's own.

    Your hands are like any other muscle/skeletal system, you need to stretch them properly before you play. Don't over do it of course, but stretch and play easy warm ups before you get into difficult passages. As far as popping, I always have felt looser after popping my knuckles, I haven't heard any conclusive evidence that this is harmful.

    The older you get, the more you have to beware of what your body is telling you. If the pain goes away by stretching then that should be ok. Even then it isn't abnormal to be sore if you play too much one day, just take it easy the next day. It's the guys that practice 8 hours a day for months on end with bad technique, and don't pay attention when they are hurting, that get into serious problems. Then again, some people are just more flexible than others and nothing seems to bother them. I have seen some virtuoso players with what looks like scary hand positions yet they don't seem to have any ill effects.
  7. jx138


    Jun 5, 2013
    Grand Rapids, MI
    One of the first things classically trained guitarists are taught is form. Its good that you elevate the neck of the bass but you should also focus on the position of your wrists. Keeping your wrists straight but slightly curved inward much like typing or playing piano, even bowling. I've found this will help with soreness. Also avoid pushing strings down close to your finger joint over time this will cause pain in your first knuckle. When playing one finger per fret try positioning your thumb on the neck closer toward the center of your palm this definately helps with holding down the strings without having to use so much pressure. I play an average of 2 hours a day on top of doing gigs in a cover band that does 3-4 hours of material a night, 3-5 gigs per month, and with good form I have minimal soreness. Though I still get big raspberry blisters on my plucking hand from time to time but Ive found a few drops of super glue on the tips can help keep your fingers from falling apart haha. I hope this helps.
  8. tfernandez

    tfernandez Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    First and foremost, your hand position is crucial here. Your fretting hand should have a c shape to it from the tip of the thumb to the tip of your fingers. I know that with guitarists, "baring" the frets is very common. To achieve better tone, you should be using the tip of your finger to fret the note. This also focuses the pressure applied to the string and cause you to use less force and energy when fretting. Thumb position is very important here as well. As you play, your thumb should be positioned in line with your middle finger. This allows you to evenly distribute the counter-pressure your thumb provides to your fretting fingers. Also think about economy of motion. The closer your fingers are to the frets, the less energy is used when fretting. When we play, we have a tendency to lift the pinky and ring finger farther away from the neck. It will be uncomfortable at first, but consciously work on keeping these fingers as parallel to the neck as possible. you will conserve energy and find that the hand position becomes more comfortable over time. Good luck and happy playing!