The thumb pain issue has been completely resolved

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Libersolis, May 2, 2005.

  1. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    I posted here many months ago that i was experiencing incredible pain on my left hand's thumb that caused me to be unable to play for more than five min. I was taking lessons from a simandl teacher who was a fine player no doubt, but could not address my problem and basically told me "I just need to get in shape".

    This past January I started taking lessons in Charleston SC with the jazz bass professor at the College of Charleston. As soon as I started playing he immediately recognized about 5 problems with my technique.

    1. Clamping down and keeping my fingers pinned to the fingerboard the entire time, allowing no freedom of movement.
    2. Using my hand muscles instead of my back muscles to press down the string.
    3. Curling my wrist to an uncomfortably odd angle in order to play on the E string

    To solve these problems he had me start playing sitting down with my right leg standing and my left leg hooked on the stool. The bass row rests on my leg. I the bass back now, with my leg serving as the anchor preventing it from hitting the ground. Instead of curling my wrist I keep my hand straight and curl my fingers to play on the lower strings, moving my hand closer to the finger board if needed. I also keep all of my fingers free using only the finger I need to play the specific note. I shift as opposed to stretching. I have small hands so I even shift a bit when moving from Bb to C in first position.

    I cannot tell you what a difference this has made for me. I never experience pain anymore, I am able to play as long as I want, and the bass has actually become fun, as opposed to a painful chore.

    I have even applied this same method to my electric bass playing, with the emphasis being on shifting rather than stretching. I realize that everyone has a method that works for them so I am not touting this as being better than anything, all I know is that it has worked wonders for me and I am happy.
  2. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer

    jazz :1

    "legit" : 0

  3. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Is this a "jazz" method? The method I was on before was simandl and it just didnt work for me. I have never bothered to ask if this is a particular method, but whatever it is it works and I now love DB
  4. I suggest that the problem may not have been with the Simandel method you were being taught, so much as with a teacher who either couldn't see the problems developing, or couldn't verbalize the solution.

    I had many, if not all of the problems you had, but in my case my teacher (who teaches the Simandel method), noted and corrected all those issues, before they created physical damage.

    The only problem you had that I did not, was hands too small to reach a normal half position stretch. Perhaps you would have been better served, playing a bass with a smaller mensure (vibrating string length).

    At any rate it is great that you found a way to play healthily.
  5. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    I think it had more to do with the teacher I had. He is a fine person and sincerely sought to help me, but things just were not working out.I still work on Simandl etudes and what not, but I apply the method I am now being taught. I think for some people stretching works better, but for my shifting is probably the best way to go. I find it helps me particuarly on Electric Bass now.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I'm a sitter myself for many of the reasons mentioned - Arm weight, back pain, and less reliance on the LH thumb. Glad it worked for you too.
  7. Eric_J

    Eric_J Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Flower Mound, TX. USA
    I've been having LH thumb pain for about a month. I determined I was squeezing too much, but couldn't figure out why.

    I figured it out last night.

    I was letting my left elbow drop to where my left forearm was not perpedicular (sp) to the finger board, so I was unable to use the musules (sp) in my back and shoulder effectively to put weight on my fingers. I had to squeeze to stop the strings with my left hand.

    Now that I'm remembering to keep my left elbow up, no more LH thumb pain, but I'm feeling a little pain in my left shoulder blade, probably from using musules (sp) that I have not used in a while.

    I had not brought it up to my teacher yet. I may have been using proper form during my lessons, but not my practice.

    I may purchase a large mirror for my practice room.
  8. littlekatie


    Jul 14, 2004
    London, UK
    i practice with a large full length mirror...good for two things

    a) watching your technique and noticing the bad habits!
    b) learning not to pull faces while you play..very important!
  9. littlekatie


    Jul 14, 2004
    London, UK
    ps i'm a sitter too. i cant play standing. the whole holding the bass issue is not a big hit with me, i play too far up the neck!¬
  10. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    Finding ones problems and then categorically fixing them can lead to finding more problems or rather a mere "sending it down the line" issue. The thumb believe it or not starts in the lower pert of the thoracic spine . At the top of the lumbar spine. This part of the spine is where the "bending" that lower back does stops. Most people freeze this part of the back, and the result is that the other parts do more work. ie. the thumbe, the shoulder, I will guess that wehn the pain in the shoulder changes it will move to the left side of the neck.

    There are feldenkrais lesson that will erase this "non efficient" body use. But most people don't have the patience
    Good luck with the mirror, seeeing bad habits is like looking at a mirror of ones self. You don't see the diiferences without an objective reference.