1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Thumb pain in left hand playing in half and first position

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Libersolis, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Hi guys. I am new to the Double Bass and I am finding that it is giving me problems physically. Most of my hand is ok but my thumb starts killing me after a short period of time. Is this just something I am going to have to deal with and overcome or are there ways in which I can minimalize the tension?
  2. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    how are you holding the neck. is your arm perpendicular to the neck ?
  3. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Umm im not exactly sure... Should my arm and the neck form a right angle? My thumb is burning right now and I really need to practice.
  4. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Although some may disagree, make sure your left thumb is not hyperextended. Translation: your thumb should be curved with all the joints flexed outward so your hand forms a "C" shape as you press the strings down. Hyperextending will slow you down, won't be as strong, and may be what ails you. Don't look at cellists or violinists, a baby can press those strings down.

    Having said all that, where is the pain? For beginners the big muscle at the base of the thumb is weak and sometimes hurts while it's getting stronger. If it's joint pain, see above.

  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I don't buy the thumb advice at all. If you have hitchhiker's thumbs you have other things to deal with, but 'curving' your thumb I've had to shake out of more than one student. It is simply a way to adjust to clamping down with the left hand instead of playing properly.

    If you're not able to push the strings down without using your thumb you know where you have to fix things. Not that you don't use any clamping of the hand -- everybody uses some of that here and there -- but for the other 98% of the time all of your pressure on the strings comes from your back and longer muscles (and the weight) of the arm.
  6. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    I agree with both Neil and Ray.

    I use the curved thumb (simandl) but also check that you are not using the thumb, and the thumb only. If you have that much thumb pain you are using it too much.

    You should be able to hold the strings down with out the thumb touching the back of the neck. Get use to how this feels and then you will know when you are over using the thumb for pressure.

    Plus, I find that when my elbow starts to drop I compensate with thumb pressure. When my elbow is more or less at 90 degrees it is much easier to use the weight of the arm and back.

    Hope that helps.
  7. Also remember that if you keep the bass more upright (instead of leaning back) it is much easier to get the notes stopped cleanly, without squeezing the strings between the thumb and fingers.
  8. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    It's times like these when things like the Karr vomit exercises and the modern beginner books that go straight into thumb position seem to share so much wisdom.

    Ray Parker's advice is dead on in my book. If "you know where to fix things" makes no sense to you, take this problem to a teacher who can help you face-to-face.
  9. LaurenBell


    Aug 10, 2004
    Cincinnati, OH
    My teacher had me take pressure off of my thumb by thinking about the shoulder being the support for the hand by using the muscles in the back to use the weight of the arm to press the strings down. He actually showed me that this way was stronger by having me pull off his fingers in the 2 different positions, and it turned out the clamped tension was less secure than using the muscles of your arm and back.
  10. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    I have a lesson this week. Im going to try to get some of these issues resolved
  11. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    Hi there,

    I'd like to share my experiance with similar thumb pain.

    First off, recently my thumb got to the point where i couldn't practice for more than 10 mintues witout being in so much pain i couldnt' concentrate anymore.

    To remedy this i did a couple things including visiting a physical therapist. One of the things that the therapist suggested (and i think this made a big difference) was to make sure my wrist was (mostly) straight. I think i used to have my wrist bent 45 degrees or so... he said this would prevent things like lactic acid from being moved away from my thumb muscle.

    I also began playing sitting down on a stool, which i think helps me obtain a better arm/wrist angle. Also i play sitting way on the edge of the stool, with one leg up... it's almost like standing, only i can brace the bass on my leg and the bass is at a bit of a different angle then it used to be...

    Hope this helps a little... i had never really though how much my arm/wrist were related to my thumb before.
  12. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Thanks for all the advice.. I still have not really solved this problem several months later, so I think I may go and see a physical therapist
  13. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    you may look into the bent endpin. I have found that , although it takes a little getting used to, it significantly reduces the weight of the bass on your thumb. this has helped me tremendously.
  14. billybass


    Oct 14, 2003
    New Orleans
    If the previous suggestions do not help take a look at how thick the neck is. I have found that basses with a thin neck make my left thumb bend the wrong way not creating the ideal C shape of the left hand. Part of what makes a bass feel comfortable is the relationship between the the thickness of the neck/fingerboard and the size of your hand. Bassists with big hands feel more comfortable with a thick neck and bassists whith small hands prefer thin necks. Playing a thin neck with big hands could possibly be the problem.
  15. kwd


    Jun 26, 2003
    silicon valley
    It can't be overstated. I had the same problem with my thumb and the vomit exercises fixed it. Have you searched the threads for instructions on the vomit exercises? If not, I think it would be worthwhile. They're geared toward arco but you can do them pizz and get nearly the same benefit.

    It's not about the thumb, it's about adopting a whole body approach.
  16. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Wow im not getting any better results.. Either I have an unknown injury or I am doing something terribly wrong that my teacher just doesnt notice. It takes me all of about 1 min to flare up and I am not exaggerating. I want to practice, but I am physically unable to and yes I have tried sitting down. I am going to make an appointment with a hand specialist
  17. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    Alexander technique
  18. Yeah, why don't you PM Don Higdon, (Donosaurus) our resident expert on the Alexander Technique?
  19. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    Hmm... what part of your thumb is it that hurts? Joints? the "fatty" part(the big muscle)? If it's the muscle, then you are probably squeezing too hard or using it to hold the bass up. If you play sitting in a stool and support the bass with your leg, you can actually play without your thumb (it's very awkward) but that might give you an idea of how little you really have to use your thumb. Also make sure it's centered behind your fingers... if it's not it'll put lots of unneeded stress on it.
  20. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I'm curious if this poster ever resolved this issue?