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Thumb pressure on back of neck

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by zappabass, May 13, 2004.


  1. zappabass

    zappabass

    Mar 31, 2004
    visalia
    Lately when I have been playing I notice that my thumb starts to hurt when I take it away from the neck and bend it if I'm done playing or something. It doesen't hurt as bad when actually playing but there is still discomfort. Also when I'm playing jazz I start to get a blister on the skinny middle pad of my thumb. I'm not sure if before I was using more of the pad when playing or if lately I have been putting too much pressure on it. Should my pressure come totally from fingers? How much of a role does the thumb play in string pressure and what part should make contact with the neck?
     
  2. McBass

    McBass

    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    A lot of the pressure on the left thumb has nothing to do with strings. It comes from the thumb supporting the weight of the bass, keeping it from falling back or to the side. To aleviate this, you can play with a bent endpin, sit on a stool, or keep the bass as perpendicular to the floor as possible, minimizing the angle of pressure on your thumb.
     
  3. Think about using the weight of your left arm pulling the fingers down toward the fingerboard rather than clamping the string down between your thumb and fingers. To practice this, try playing a scale without touching the back of the neck with your thumb at all.

    Personally, I keep my left elbow up to do this (think forearm parallel to floor Edit: or more accurately, perpendicular to the neck of the bass), but I understand that there are methods that say to keep the elbow down.
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Unless your action is high and stiff it doesn't really take that much pressure to get the strings down. Try, in addition to the above, to just place your fingers on the string, not worrying about 'pressing' them down. Also, before you play your first note of the day, do some experimenting to see just how little pressure is needed. This'll help get the feel eblazoned in your brain.
     
  5. zappabass

    zappabass

    Mar 31, 2004
    visalia
    that actually makes a lot of sense to me because I can tell that I wouldn't get worn out as much with my fingers either. I seem to loose time sometimes because my fingers are hurting during a fast song or just losing power.
    Is it okay to sort of lean the bass into you and support it with whatever part of your body it's resting on?
     
  6. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Okay, I get to jump on this first!
    Get thee to a teacher!!
    :hyper:

    Now, for a calmer response. . .
    The way I learned to hold the bass, standing, is to keep it vertical or leaned a bit into my left hand fingers. I have my left knee and hip supporting the bass a little, but it mostly balances on it's own. Try taking both hands off every so often while you are playing (Not on a gig!), and you'll see if you are holding the bass up with your thumb or not. Also, when you can, take your bass to a good violin repair shop, and get the nut slots made lower so that it is easier to press the strings.

    When I get sore from playing, it is more like the muscle "burn" that I get at the gym -never numbness or pins-and-needles. And I never get pain in thumbs or wrists, only (very rarely) in my back or shoulder muscles.

    Best regards,
    LMNOP
     
  7. McBass

    McBass

    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    I've never seen or heard any bassist with good technique using his knee to balance the instrument. It seems like an awkward way to stand with your weight poorly distributed and also has the pleasing side effect of dampening the vibrations of the back of the bass.
     
  8. This is common advice in books Mc B. LM did say a little and it stops the bass rotating. You see it in Rufus Reid's book, The art of Double Bass Playing, and curiously, in the Eugene Cruft Method of DB playing (no I hadn't heard of him until someone gave me the book with a forward by his mate, Yehudi Menuen) he recommends a stool because in this 'recommended' standing position, you end up with all or most of your weight on one leg and it gave him cramps, poor circulation or some such. I tried to copy this and indeed got complemented on my stance, but I want to be balanced and comfortable so its out. If I moved, I found my bass immediately needed support exacerbating the subject of this thread.
     
  9. McBass

    McBass

    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    I checked rufus's book and, while the photo does look like his leg is touching the bass, he does not recommend anywhere in the text to use your knee to balance the bass. He also has some pictures of his bass upside down in an airplane seat. Equally obsolete. The cramps you mentioned were the reason this thread was started. The "knee" technique will only shift the pain elswhere. I think the idea is to use the most sensible, up to date information and technique and to play as comfortably as possible. That's why I use a bent endpin. No pain. No problem balancing. No knees involved. BTW, Rufus is also using a bent (laborie) endpin and swears by it.
     
  10. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I won't dare to bring in Streicher's way of standing with the bass, but I'll try offering Gary Karr as another bass-vertical-knee-straddler with great technique.

    I read somewhere that Rufus Reid has become an angled-endpin convert as well, but I might be wrong. My take is that the angled endpin and "open" posture allows for the left hand to stop notes with the carpal tunnel open, which is a big advantage. I don't like that my right arm isn't long enough to keep the bow as close to the bridge as I want while keeping my back straight, but that's my only disadvantage.

    I've witnessed David Neubert, Paul Ellison, Sandor Ostlund, and Lynn Seaton play some really, really great stuff with this angled endpin setup, and when you bring Rabbath into the picture, well, you've made a great case for open position and angled endpins as a durable solution for bass playing ergonomics issues.
     
  11. Johnny, you gotta explain this one to me please:

    "My take is that the angled endpin and "open" posture allows for the left hand to stop notes with the carpal tunnel open, which is a big advantage."

    My guess is that you mean that your forearm and hand make a straight line and are not bent at the wrist? This can be done without the bent pin but does require a bit of effort not to let the arm sag - having suffered from time to time although mainly with my RH, this is what I try to do.

    Have a look at this on the merits of bent and straight in which David Gage also comments on its affect on the thumb and his experiences with them - http://bassplayer.com/archive/0803/0803_BassTech1.htm

    BTW, my vote goes to hold the bass vertically at the moment, having never tried the bent pin.
     
  12. He is. You aren't.
     
  13. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    You know, man, you could have said that in response to just about anything I could say to compliment Rufus Reid. :)

    Mike: I mean what I think Rabbath means when he says "open" position - there is no leg support to keep the bass up. It simply leans towards you and is kept from falling back by your thumb. The bent endpin displaces the center of gravity so that less weight falls on your thumb...but my thumb still prevents my bass from falling back.

    Because this "open" position allows the natural weight of the arm to assist the fingers in stopping the strings, no squeezing of the neck is necessary with the thumb. Think about it: if you have to squeeze the neck to stop the string, you're in trouble when you begin to learn thumb position. This is why George Vance puts the beginner in thumb position from the get-go and why Gary Karr puts the beginner onto vomit exercises, to teach (or trick) the beginner how to stop the strings correctly in all positions.

    With the "closed" position where one uses the left knee to support the bass in a vertical position, if you want to use the natural weight of your arm to assist in stopping the strings (that is, the arm is relaxed) but you want to keep the carpal tunnel open, well, then you're going to be lifting your arm (at least I have to) - and that's a little counter productive since you're then working in opposition to gravity. I'm a big Gary Karr fan and love playing and standing in closed position, but there are advantages to this Rabbath stance that I have enjoyed exploring. And the results of Rabbath's insights clearly speak for themselves.

    This is just my personal take on all this stuff as I learn and play the bass. If you've got it going on doing it your way I'm the last guy you'll hear tell you you're working backwards.
     
  14. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Yep, Gary Karr and Ken Friedman (F. Zimmmerman student) taught me my stance. The bass is vertical, holding itself up, and my knee just keeps it from rotating. Shifting exercises (for eons!) made it possible for me to get around without disturbing the bass' balance.

    I believe I get more sound by standing upright than I would sitting. If I leave my bow arm long, I have all that weight to get into the string. If I bend my elbow, or raise my arm forward, I have less weight. I guess someone mathematically inclined could make sense of this, but just put your arm out in front of you and you'll feel the difference. With a long arm hanging almost full length, you have more weight to work with -as you're not holding it up. . . I don't know if I explained that very well. . .

    The main thing is to get to a good teacher and learn posture, any good teacher can set you up. Which way you do it is secondary to getting good info right off the bat.
     
  15. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    To McBass,
    My knee is not in the centre of the back, the way it would be if I were sitting on a stool. I stand with both feet equally weighted, and have minimal contact with the back of the bass. Me vertical, bass vertical. I guarantee that I am a lot louder this way than I was sitting, and I have no back problems this way. Stools always pinch the nerve in the right leg (unless they are really high-tech, or seat you REALLY low), and put the sit bones at an angle, causing havoc on the lower back.

    I have had students that were very short, with short arms, and the leaned-back approach suited them best. I directed them to a student of Patrick Neher, who uses the bent-endpin to great advantage.

    To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, whom I got to play for a couple of weeks ago (how's that for name dropping?):
    "There are many ways to play the bass, and I think mine is best! :)
    I also accept the fact that others may think their way is the best!"
     
  16. I hear ya, and that applies to me as well! I got a chance to hear/see Rufus in action at the Bass Conference in Madison. He has an incredibly deep understanding of how to really play the bass, make it really sing. But he was definitely using the bent endpin and recommending it, as were several others on the faculty, both classical and jazz.

    I'm a vertical player as well, something I got into maybe a year or so ago after reading about it right chere. I probably wouldn't have pursued it if I hadn't noticed such a difference in sound. Like LM, I'm getting to the point where I don't have to think about balance. Thumb position is no sweat; I can stand bolt upright and still reach the D harmonic on the G string with no problem.
     
  17. McBass

    McBass

    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    With a bent endpin you could probably get almost another full octave on the g string with no problem.
     
  18. In no particular order; Mike, Johnny, LM & Mc Bass - I just gotta waste a post to state the obvious - great discussion guys in your last few posts - very enlightening!
     
  19. Looks like I'm gonna hafta bend me an endpin and see what its all about!
     
  20. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    This doesn't have anything to do with an angled endpin. It has to do with how you have the bass positioned against your body, the length of your arms and what the bass will allow you to do in relation to its size and shape.

    Rabbath was kicking ass with a straight endpin before angled endpins came in on the scene. Angled endpins just make things easier for folks who stand that way.