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The last word on Blisters?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by hdiddy, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Was talking about playing the doghouse at a party a while back and there happened to be a dermatologist who was listening. I asked him what's the proper way to care for a blister since he's a pro.

    Bottom line: Do not pop it! The blister is filled with a serum that the body naturally creates which speeds up healing. The fluid will get reabsorbed as part of the healing process.

    Got two blisters last night due to someone elses bass and lack of practice lately. Already a day later and it's almost flat again.
  2. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Usually when I pop it it heals faster than when I don't. But next time I try not to pop it.
  3. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Ask two physicians and you will get two answers.
  4. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I also found not popping the way to go. The problem is my OCD mind can't help but pop it after a couple days. But the times i did not pop, i did find the whole thing kind of absorbs back into the finger in a way. I think if you pop it too soon it becomes an open wound of sorts.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I never pop, but I do tend to file calluses down when they reach the "too much friction" point so that blisters won't form in the first place. I also think that blister formation and healing may be pretty different for dry skinned and oily skinned people. As an Irish alligator, calluses form like hard leather and then harden into awkward and potentially painful protrusions if I don't file them into a smoother shape. But some students I work with always seem to have moisture on their hands and fingerboards, and I would think that calluses/blisters would be a different animal for them. I always tell these students that they should probably wipe down their strings after they play to extend string life, but that on the plus side their hands won't likely crack and bleed every... single... winter... like mine. It's all a trade off in the end.
  6. YosemiteSam


    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    My problem isn't so much standard blisters, but almost like burns. They're dark red, like blood blisters, and form on top of the callouses.


    Yes, I realize these are a little "inboard" from where they should be, but this photo is from a year ago, and my technique has improved. I still get similar to these if I play a long gig with fast numbers. No matter how much I practice and develop callouses, this happens. So I end up taping my fingers a lot. I may switch to a different string; currently using Spiro reds.
  7. JohnDavisNYC


    Jan 11, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar, D'Addario
    Have you looked into an allergy to chrome? Spiros are chrome wrapped. I have a nickel allergy, and it took a while to figure it out.... I was getting blisters from playing my electric bass with..... nickel wrapped strings! Switching to steel or chrome wrapped strings made the blisters stop.

    Groove Doctor and Jmilitsc like this.
  8. YosemiteSam


    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    Worth a thought, though I've been playing bass guitar for 40 years and never had a problem. Also have a Harley with a fair amount of chrome, and no rash from that! :)
    StyleOverShow likes this.
  9. cpaterso

    cpaterso Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2007

    Chris - Slightly off topic - but ..... dry, cracked, splitting, bleeding finger tips, especially in winter! Yep. Seems to be age related - I never had the problem until I hit about 55 or so. The ends of my fingers would "spontaneously" split - I wouldn't even be near a bass! I have piles of various creams all over the house - i find those developed for heels (or for diabetics' feet) to be the best. I keep my hands creamed up all the time. I also always wear gloves when doing dishes. ALWAYS! Even one short session without gloves can wreck all my preventative creaming. Increasing house humidity might help - but I suspect not.
    Winoman and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  10. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
    Drink plenty of water?
  11. Brad_Pearson


    Jun 5, 2015
    Best thing Ive found for preventing blisters all together (after about 6 years of getting them anytime I took more than 5ish days off) is that GHS fast fret stuff. I just slather it all over the strings and fb only where the right hand touches. I have clamy hands (yet the backs of my hands crack and bleed as soon as things get even slightly dry) and since I found this stuff Ive had no blisters. Keeps my fingers from sticking to the strings which is what I think causes them in the first place. I can play electric with stainless rounds for endless hours with no blisters at all. But I used to blister as soon as I touched flats of any kind.

    When I did get them though I would just avoid popping at all costs. If I had a gig I would bring an electric and jsut use the less blistered finger or a pick. All my schooling was classical so it didn't interfere with school too much. But on gigs they used to be a total pain!
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  12. Fast Fret is simply white mineral oil, a lubricant for your fingers and a protectant that leaves a fine film over the string.

    Wiping the strings after application helps remove gunk (dead skin, loose surface oxidation), and distributes the oil evenly over the string.

    Fast Fret Can You DIY? - Guitar Forums
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2017
    Winoman and Brad_Pearson like this.
  13. bassmastan

    bassmastan Guest

    Jun 25, 2011
    When I used to get them, I would never intentionally pop them... However I would play with them, so much so they would pop, skin would come off and you would see blood. This past 4th of July, we did a ton of pizz for the pops concert and it had to be LOUD. My stand partner and I were plucking away so hard we had blood on our strings...That being said the gig was awesome, our fingers hurt but we had smiles ear to ear!

    This probably isn't recommended. It may be wise to cover your fingers, I know when I was first starting I tried to use medical tape on my left hand, I would end up taking it off but it may work for some.
  14. More info on why blisters form...
    What are some good suggestions for a bass player's plucking fingers?

    "Let me point out a common misconception about your hands. It is moisture/sweat that leads to blisters and irritation.

    As an experienced rock climber, I have witnessed many new climbers come into the gym and use lotion before a climbing workout. The result - tons of blisters and zero durability. Your hands work best when they are dry, not lubricated.

    Playing bass is just as tough on the hands - the same rules apply. You want to remove moisture and potential sweat build up.

    Try out some climbing chalk before you play. Apply rigorously to your hands, outside since it is going to make a mess in doors. Play. When done, you can simply use a rag to wipe the chalk off of your instrument. Chalk isn't bad for your instrument either.

    Loads of famous guitars do this before playing: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton. Also, Flea."

    "I have a few product suggestions. Some are quite unexpected but I have found them effective!
    1. Talcum/magnesium/baby powder works fine to keep my hands dry but I naturally have very dry skin so sometimes it's too much and makes my hands feel uncomfortable. It's cheap so you can always try this first. It can used for other body parts as well (against chafing on a warm day for example).

    2. I discovered an alternative to normal talcum power: dusting powder by "LUSH" (I guess they have stores in many countries) and use that instead of normal talcum powder. It feels slightly more hydrating because it's not pure talcum powder but has cocoa butter infused in it (pure cocoa butter is good for extreme dry skin). Downside: It does cost more than usual talcum powder ($8) and it has a fragrance (I don't find it overly feminine and the fragrance wears off).

    3. Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel. I believe many runners use this to prevent areas from chafing but is not greasy. It keeps my hands pretty dry but doesn't dry out.

    4. Mattifying make-up primer. Maybe this sounds weird/unexpected but it works a bit the same as the Monistat solution. It must be a mattifying version since that one can handle the sweat better. It's colorless and pretty much weightless by the way so you won't notice it.

    5. Furthermore, I know people who use Anti-perspirant (like Odorex) on their hands and apparently it works really well against sweating and keeping moisture away. I haven't tried this myself yet so I cannot attest to this one.
    I hope one of these solutions work out for you."

    EDIT: some concerns with talc particles and lungs. Alternatives include pure Kaolin clay powder (used in #2 above), cornstarch powder (used in some baby powders) or arrowroot powder.
    7 All Natural Talc-Free Powder Alternatives - Big Green Purse
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2017
    Winoman, Seanto and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  15. Great explanation here...
    Blister Treatments and Prevention

    To prevent blisters forming, use a lubricant (eg. Fast fret), or "an adhesive bandage on areas that take the rub -- before the blister happens."

    "Most blisters caused by friction or minor burns do not require a doctor's care. New skin will form underneath the affected area and the fluid is simply reabsorbed.

    Do not puncture a blister unless it is large, painful, or likely to be further irritated. The fluid-filled blister keeps the underlying skin clean, which prevents infection and promotes healing."
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
    Winoman, Seanto and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  16. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Practice & superglue....
  17. Here's the finger tape I've used. Quick to apply, stays on all night, easy off with almost no residue.
    Double Bass and Electric Bass Finger Tape

    Tip: for a more natural feel/more flex, apply with palm-side of finger straight & back of the finger bent. One layer 4" long (10cm) is all I need for each finger. Apply when hands completely dry. [No affiliation].
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
  18. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    I'm so damn tired of this...


    From Friday night. I bit thru the index blister immediately after playing (I ended up taping), bit thru the middle an hour ago. You can imagine what they looked like beforehand. This is on Mitts at only 5-10mm with a guitarist and a horn player. No amp. Other people here play with no amp... what the hell is wrong with me? I rested up for two damn weeks (because of job-related stuff) and this still happens!
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    When you say "rested up for two weeks", what do you mean by that? Also, where are you on the dry skin/damp skin scale?
    RBrownBass likes this.
  20. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    I mean, I hadn't picked up the bass. I'd developed some decent callouses in the weeks prior, and I had some work-related stuff come up- I figured they'd hold. They did. What happened is, the skin below the callus is what separated. When I bit thru, I was able to peel the whole callus off both tips with almost zero pain. But I've torn thru most of the layers of skin on every gig I don't bring an amp to. The photo you're looking at seems like minor stuff but it's one layer above blood. I'm sick of it. I don't know what to do, or how much longer it's going to take before my skin is tough enough to play sans amp. My skin is fairly oily, FWIW.

    Has anyone here ever tried that stuff ninjas use to toughen their hands?
    Don Kasper likes this.