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thoughts on building left hand endurance?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Stanky D, Nov 11, 2010.


  1. Stanky D

    Stanky D

    Jan 11, 2010
    Austin, TX
    Endorsing Artist: RKS Guitars
    Hello, I tried to dig up as much as I could about this issue using the Boolean search, but didn't come up with much. I feel like my most limiting struggle on the upright is that my left hand gets quite fatigued after a short period of time. In the interest of trying to up the length of time before I get crampy, I have been doing what my initial thought was about how to increase the time: rigorous daily practice just up to the safety threshold of what my chops can handle. This is kind of an athletic/strength training model. I have been doing other things to maximize time including spacing my practicing out through the day. I am also taking advantage of this limitation by interspersing lots of rh arco work (likely a good bit more than I'll do when I can use my left hand longer). It occurred to me today that what I practice could have a more effect than how long I practice.

    A couple things about my situation that could assist y'all TBers with giving good insight: I just began playing DB about 3 months ago; I am studying regularly with an orchestral player; my checkered past includes having been a jazz guitarist for many years and subsequently a pro EB player; I am doing about an hour and a half legit (arco) studies daily, much of which involves open strings and no left hand stress; I am spending about an hour and a half walking standards to a metronome; When I play the tunes, I generally play 2 or 3 choruses past what is comfortable then "end" the tune, at which point I usually need to rest my chops for a couple minutes, take a drink, etc. Basically I just keep doing this until I feel licked. Different tunes wear me out more, for example Cantaloupe Island wears me out much quicker than rhythm changes, I assume because of how many less open strings can be involved.

    Any thoughts on things to do to increase endurance besides sheer time on the axe would be greatly appreciated.

    Peace, Stanky
     
  2. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Fortunately, posts in DB forums aren't quite as numerous as they are over on the electric bass forums, the DB side is organized differently, and there's a lot less teenage nonsense littering the path.

    The Jazz Technique [DB] forum and Orchestral Technique [DB] forums are good places to start reading; the stickies are usually helpful, too. :)

    Here's a thread, from the Jazz Technique [DB] forum:
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=705682

    The Double Bass Pedagogy (DB) forum is also worth checking out.
     
  3. powerbass

    powerbass

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I am in the same boat - just started playing DB a couple of months ago. Yes it is exactly like sport training, you can not rush the process or you will get injured. It takes time to develop callouses, strength, endurance, precision and control. Respect your limits, gently try to push your envelop but stop when your body complains - rest, heal and repeat. This is what I have done - I set up my bass w/very low string height. 1st position can be the hardest on the left hand because of the string tension close to the nut - I filed the string nut slots so the strings sit close to the fingerboard. As I get stronger I will raise the string height. I use light tension strings - I will be switching to Obligato's Solo soon. My teacher has me doing Samandl both arco and pizz. The arco is what develops your left hand the most. 1/2 and whole notes with a slow tempo really works your finger strength and develops callouses. I like to practice chromatic scales from half/1st position by starting on the open E string, walking up to G/Ab keeping each finger on the string, only raising the finger when I cross to the next string. This approach can be applied to your walking bass line practice in 1st position - keep your fingers right over the note, moving your fingers/hand as little as possible, precision and economy of motion is very hard to learn. Try a slow blues in Bb or F. In addition to walking practice bossa tunes, double stops etc. Your teacher should have a few tricks. Don't over practice or you will get hurt!
     
  4. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    A few things that helps me a lot are:

    1 - When I start to get tired I usually start to drop my elbow and my thumb tends to collapse. I then take a minute or tow to shake it out and keep practicing.

    2 - Take some time to really get a sense of how much pressure from your arm you need to finger the F (E), Bb (A), Eb (D), ect. Without using the thumb you'll get a much better sense of how much pull you'll need from your arm and back. Then bring the thumb back as an anchor. My first teacher had me concentrate on this for a few weeks and it really helped in the injury prevention.

    3 - Try and stay relaxed as possible. A stiff left and/or right hand always seems to tense up both hands for me. When I relax my right hand for bowing it usually helps me keep my left hand relaxed as well.

    4 - Just start out slow. Your muscles will develop more with time.
     
  5. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I recently picked up arco a little more seriously than before. There's a common rule of thumb with pizz that how hard you play with your right hand also determines how hard you hold the string down. Light right hand means light left hand and the inverse.

    In messing around with arco, I've been trying to get the biggest sound with the lightest bow touch. And it dawned on me that if my bow is light, my left hand can be light too. And in playing with my bow, I start to find out how little strength is needed for that left hand. But it does mean you have to keep certain fundamentals down: thumb on the spine of the neck and a c-shape with the palm.

    Also, I'm sure it's covered in other threads that you should think about how you can get your muscles to use larger muscle groups in your body - and not just the hand and forearm muscles. Imagine squeezing the strings with the muscles in your back. Get your entire body into the act of playing. I do drop my elbow a tiny bit, but only so I can engage my shoulder muscles. I rock climb for fun so this kind of motion/body mechanic comes easily. Having a good stance, instrument height, and posture helps with making this easier.
     
  6. Stanky D

    Stanky D

    Jan 11, 2010
    Austin, TX
    Endorsing Artist: RKS Guitars
    Thanks for the feedback everybody.
    Jazzdogg: thanks for the link. I did find that one, but I am not experiencing pain. I have read all of the newbies etc. links on the orchestral and jazz technique forum and found some wise reasoning there. Admittedly, I haven't really gotten into the EB forums beyond seeking opinions about EB gear. I feel comfortable seeking mostly just the advice of my metronome and record collection for my growth on that instrument. DB is a different story: i want all the good advice I get get.
    Powerbass: It appears that we are doing similar practice routines. I am doing some long tones, curvatures, double stops, open string and chromatic up a string exercises from the Rufus Reid book, Zimmerman arco stuff (the A to E exercise), scale work from the Vade Mecum, a beginner Bach piece with a good bit o thumb position stuff, vomits (one octave only for now) and selecting a jazz standard to play the melody arco (this week is All or Nothing at All). I definitely agree that one of the most difficult things is managing my OCD and not overdoing it.
    Matt: I am committed to being relaxed and breathing correctly. I am a tendonitis survivor from way back.
     
  7. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Let me reiterate and ask some questions, being someone with damaged goods.

    1. How long are you playing every day, Please make this a concise response. How much of that time is arco and how much is pizz?

    2. Are you keeping your Elbow up? Fingers Curved? Thumb Relaxed?

    3. One of the big transitional problems from going from EB to UB is that regardless of how high your string height is on your EB, it is so much easier to play than a DB. I find that when i ignore one for the other for a while my touch needs recalibration. Perhaps this is your case? Are you overcompensating on your DB by pressing way to hard?

    Make sure that when you play your DB you aren't fighting it. I know you just started, and there is no shame in lowering your action untill you get better. Hell, some of us play with a lower action all the time.

    If you are a survivor of Tendonitis, you realize this could be merely a symptom of your former injury? Its possible you have reached your maximum playing potential for the moment, and you may want to try to get more out of your practice time as far as your approach.

    I would check out Rabbath's dvd's, he talks about playing with the weight of your whole arm in normal and thumb position so that there is less wear. I will see if i can upload a clip on those techniques to my youtube.
     
  8. powerbass

    powerbass

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I find the arco work much more demanding than pizz jazz playing. While walking over changes pizz, the tempo and use of open strings allows much more relaxation time for my left hand, for this reason I am keeping the arco practice manageable - when my fingers get sore I stop. The ultimate goal of a successful athletic training is to gradual build up your body's ability to handle stress, playing the bass is the same thing for me. Try to keep the focus on steady, manageable progress while allowing for rest and recovery.
     
  9. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    The sport training analogy I think is appropriate. I usually give myself a 1 day break after 2-3 days of practicing to let the muscles recoup. Practicing after the break, I actually feel stronger and have more endurance.
     
  10. powerbass

    powerbass

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    There is a saying in sports medicine when it comes to overtraining injuries "too much, too soon". When I push myself to practice too much it is usually counterproductive. I just came out of a nasty left elbow injury from practicing too much too soon. I had to back off and come back to practicing with a better sense of my limitations. I am looking forward to when my left pinky finger gets stronger and toughens up, that finger limits my practicing time and intensity right now.
     
  11. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Also, just a thought, check your breathing. Try playing while smiling or breathing in the mouth and out the nose. Lots of times when i get tired its cause im not doing it right :)
     
  12. Hi Stanky,

    You've been given good advice already. I'd just add my $0,00002

    I recommend to all my students to be sure they have their basses set up in accordance to their playing development stage, so they have -for example- a string height they can 'handle' for as long as their playing & practice sessions are supposed to be, without hurting themselves, and always retaining the joy of playing their basses. That means that at initial stages, you may need to balance your bass' setup between playability and sound differently than a seasoned player would.

    Best luck,

    F. Martin
     
  13. Analyze how you're holding the string against the fingerboard. It should be from the shoulder and not the thumb. You should be able to play a D major scale without your thumb touching the neck. You may have to redo all of your thinking about how you hold the bass, but it will pay off.

    Also, keep your fingers arched.

    I'm a 99% classical player, but I play in a big-band about twice a month. I can play a 4-hour 4-to-the-bar gig with no left-hand problem, and get up the next morning and do an hour of scales.
     

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