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No Pain, No Gain?


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#1 Bilbo

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 10:04 AM

Some of you may recall that I have posted here reporting a bad experience with the DB and discussed some injuries I have sustained which still cause me some twinges and aches.

Well, an opportunity to try the instrument again has dropped in my lap and I wanted to hear some concensus from double bass players who have learned the instrument later in life (i.e. not a a child but as an adult learner). I am hoping to get a sense of whether I can go at this again without further difficulties or without aggravating existing issues (currently feeling quite minor). It would be my intention to get a tutor and not try and go it alone but I guess my question is, can you learn the double bass later in life without going through the pain and misery of aching limbs, bad backs and bleeding callouses :)

I'd really like to do this but am anxious that I may be making a rod for my own back. How did others fare?
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#2 Steve Amadeo

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 10:13 AM

I studied double bass for a couple of years (starting at the age of 27) at music college here in Birmingham but suffered with tendonitis because of the combination of double bass and also playing a 36 inch scale 5 string... I had to stop practising and only played a few sporadic gigs during that period. it affected my electric bass playing too when I'd get stabbing pains if I moved my fretting hand up the neck.

After a period of rest and wearing a splint on my left arm for months I discovered a routine of warm-ups as detailed in the book 'The Bassist's Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health' by Dr.Randall Kertz.

I would then warm-up before every gig and long practise session, I sold my double bass and 5 string and played only 4 string bass for the next few years. Since then I've taken up double bass again (at the end of last year at the then age of 35) and have been playing gigs on it for most of this year. Because of the warm-ups, a gentle practise routine and regular gigs I've been able to develop strength and haven't endured any of the problems I had before. Initially there were a few muscular aches and pains but I think that's to be expected in the early stages of developing strength the instrument.

The fingers got a bit sore to start with but regular gigs meant that they hardened up pretty quickly and now they don't give me any trouble at all.

I took lessons while at college and am trying to apply all that he told me while I play now but am considering taking a few more early next year just to make sure all is ok.

That's my experience so far.

#3 TPJ

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 10:45 AM

Yes you can do it. Being 43 puts me in the adult learner category (even though I act like a child most of the time) when I picked it up again after 12 years off. It was basically like starting over again. I'm now 45 and have no issues and my technique certainly aint the best. Getting proper instruction is key. Also, set the action on the instrument accordingly. Some players love low action and can achieve good results like that with DB.

I wish you the best of luck getting back into DB, it really is a very rewarding instrument and I hope you get to experience that.
Tom

#4 Steve Amadeo

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 10:49 AM

View PostTPJ, on Nov 16 2009, 10:45 AM, said:

I wish you the best of luck getting back into DB, it really is a very rewarding instrument and I hope you get to experience that.


I agree... I've found it incredibly rewarding to play double bass again this year.

#5 geoffbassist

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 11:11 AM

ive had loads of RSI problems but if you have a well set up double bass and a great tutor then you should be fine. Ive found that its easier on double to keep your wrists straight than on electric.
If you have the time to practice, get stuck in!

#6 jakenewmanbass

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 11:29 AM

Hey Bilbo, I would be bound to chime in. Having heard your electric playing on a few of the things you've posted it's clear that you have great harmonic facility and technical execution. You can transfer those skills onto DB very easily.
Primarily if you are worried about injuries as has been said make sure you are warmed up before practise, a quick spell on electric first can be useful with that. Secondly work very carefully on the physical approach to the instrument in the left hand, and do very little until you are doing it right. Straight wrists, gently curled fingers, not to much 'gripping' more using the natural weight in your arm to get pressure on the stops and into your finger tips. Use the pads of your fingertips rather than curling too much and in fact with the right approach you can stop notes without having your thumb on the back of the neck at all (NB that is to see that applied pressure is correct and NOT a recommended way of playing per se) Keep your elbow up and your wrist as flat as planet earth (it is flat isn't it?)
Later today I will post some pics of a good attitude for fingers wrist and arm...
Most of all you have PM and posting here for a constant stream of help and advice so, really, I mean it, contact anytime.
Enjoy, you will prosper spiritually on it as it is the natural home of your second love (assuming your significant other is 1st)
Jake
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#7 farmer61

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 11:32 AM

Am sharing your pain right now, I am investing in some lessons with Jakesbass. I'm sure it's all about technique!

Edited by farmer61, 16 November 2009 - 11:33 AM.

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#8 Steve Amadeo

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 11:33 AM

View Postjakesbass, on Nov 16 2009, 11:29 AM, said:

Later today I will post some pics of a good attitude for fingers wrist and arm...


Looking forward to seeing that myself, Jake.

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 11:35 AM

I came to it at 36yrs old & the best tool / piece of advice I had was get a powerball. Really worthwhile in building strength & stamina. I really should get a couple of lessons too but touchwood no issues at present.

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#10 farmer61

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 11:40 AM

View Postjakesbass, on Nov 16 2009, 11:29 AM, said:

Later today I will post some pics of a good attitude for fingers wrist and arm...

Won't be from my session last week then!! :)
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#11 Bilbo

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 11:47 AM

View Postjakesbass, on Nov 16 2009, 11:29 AM, said:

Enjoy, you will prosper spiritually on it as it is the natural home of your second love (assuming your significant other is 1st)
Jake

I wish I was still living in Farnham and could come to you for lessons (I used to live in Field End, Badshot Lea, on the old Aldershot Road). Would have saved me some grief. I was actually living there when I had my bad experience (you weren't there that far back - I left in 2002/3). I am already struggling to find a teacher up here (Google is proving unhelpful!!) but am determined to be patient and do this right.

PS am listening to James Taylor as I write - that's your fault too! :)
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On with the dance and let the joy be unconfined (whether there's any dance to dance or any joy to unconfine)

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#12 Doddy

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 02:05 PM

Like Jakesbass says it's all about technique.
I disagree with the 'no pain,no gain' philosophy. If you
are doing it correctly it shouldn't hurt at all.
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#13 TheRev

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 02:08 PM

I started on double bass at 35. After the first 6 months or so I developed pain and pins & needles in my right forearm but a couple of lessons identified some crappy pizz technique and now everything's hunky dory and 80% of my gigs are on DB.

Given your existing physical issues I think lessons, a good setup and slowly buildig up your practice regime is the way forward.

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 02:36 PM

Absolutely right - I started playing db in my mid thirties and it's really helped me progress as a musician and bassist esp. with jazz...

The big mistake with DB is to transfer using the gripping method of fretting from electric to db. It really hurts after a few minutes and any effort to persist will result in tendinitis. People sometimes expect it to hurt and persist with bad habits and it can seriously bugger your hands/forearms.

DB left hand is all about using arm weight and correct hand/finger shape so that you can use arm weight to depress the strings without screwing your tendons.

A really good DVD with a sound analysis of left and right hand technique is Rufus Reid's 'Evolving Bassist'. He covers left and right hand technique, chord theory, walking and runs through a few great standards. It's a fantastically well spent 20 quid. And, of course, get a good teacher and use a bow too, if only just for practicing, it nails your left hand technique and intonation.

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View Postjakesbass, on Nov 16 2009, 11:29 AM, said:

Hey Bilbo, I would be bound to chime in. Having heard your electric playing on a few of the things you've posted it's clear that you have great harmonic facility and technical execution. You can transfer those skills onto DB very easily.
Primarily if you are worried about injuries as has been said make sure you are warmed up before practise, a quick spell on electric first can be useful with that. Secondly work very carefully on the physical approach to the instrument in the left hand, and do very little until you are doing it right. Straight wrists, gently curled fingers, not to much 'gripping' more using the natural weight in your arm to get pressure on the stops and into your finger tips. Use the pads of your fingertips rather than curling too much and in fact with the right approach you can stop notes without having your thumb on the back of the neck at all (NB that is to see that applied pressure is correct and NOT a recommended way of playing per se) Keep your elbow up and your wrist as flat as planet earth (it is flat isn't it?)
Later today I will post some pics of a good attitude for fingers wrist and arm...
Most of all you have PM and posting here for a constant stream of help and advice so, really, I mean it, contact anytime.
Enjoy, you will prosper spiritually on it as it is the natural home of your second love (assuming your significant other is 1st)
Jake

Edited by Cairobill, 16 November 2009 - 02:42 PM.


#15 Bilbo

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 02:41 PM

View PostCairobill, on Nov 16 2009, 02:36 PM, said:

Rufus Reid DVD for 16 quid! Buy it now, it's all in there...

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Evolving-Bassist-R...2107&sr=8-3

Could be worth a look - I have had the book for 25 years!
I don't think, therefore I am not...

On with the dance and let the joy be unconfined (whether there's any dance to dance or any joy to unconfine)

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#16 Cairobill

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 02:51 PM

I've got the book too. It's great. The DVD has the same high quality feel, really well out together. But the stand out thing about it is his demonstration of 'the claw' and how (as Jakesbass said) you should be able to get a reasonable tone out of your left hand without using the thumb to oppose your fingers pressing the board. It's all about using arm and body weight to produce sound. Likewise with the right hand - big tone is achieved by transferring the weight of your arm through your finger to push a lot of energy into the bass....

I really recommend the DVD.

Likewise, Andrew Anderson's pedagogy for Double Bass technique is a FANTASTIC resource for double bass chops - and it's free! It's several parts and there's loads of info there...



Good luck!

Nick

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 02:58 PM

I'm new to DB, well EUB to be precise and i find that a few initail aches when just starting due to the size of neck and the ergonomics of it all, soon pass. More importantly i do short lengths of practice until i can feel the strength in my dexterity improving. Have a rest, return again and that way build up slowly. Works for me i have to say......



View Postbilbo230763, on Nov 16 2009, 10:04 AM, said:

Some of you may recall that I have posted here reporting a bad experience with the DB and discussed some injuries I have sustained which still cause me some twinges and aches.

Well, an opportunity to try the instrument again has dropped in my lap and I wanted to hear some concensus from double bass players who have learned the instrument later in life (i.e. not a a child but as an adult learner). I am hoping to get a sense of whether I can go at this again without further difficulties or without aggravating existing issues (currently feeling quite minor). It would be my intention to get a tutor and not try and go it alone but I guess my question is, can you learn the double bass later in life without going through the pain and misery of aching limbs, bad backs and bleeding callouses :)

I'd really like to do this but am anxious that I may be making a rod for my own back. How did others fare?

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#18 Rich

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 03:17 PM

IMO, pain is your body's way of telling you to stop doing whatever it is that's hurting, before it does some real damage. The way I see it is: No Pain, No Gain Good.

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 03:22 PM

I agree - when you have to play db for a couple of hours, pain will turn into exploding fingers...when it comes together it's a pleasure. But you definitely have to practise regularly, that's the bargain with the big chunk of wood...

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 03:46 PM

I've been lucky enough to secure a short tour with a bluegrass band in December. Excellent musicians, lovely songs and great, fun music. It's easy. Root, fifth over and over again. As long as I learn the songs, what could be simpler?

WRONG! I've had to take so many breaks in practising the songs today because of the sheer strain of playing such simple parts. It's a lot easier to play lines that use different fingers for the different notes of a bassline once you've developed a decent amount of overall hand strength, but try playing a root (E on D string) then a 4th below (B on A string) over and over and over again on a bass with relatively high action, with solid time, without your arm and hand feeling the strain. It's NOT easy until you develop the strength and I'm clearly not there yet. But, it's great practise!

Edited by Steve Amadeo, 19 November 2009 - 10:03 AM.


#21 walbassist

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 03:54 PM

In the short time I've had my EUB I have discovered that, when playing upright, the open string is very definitely your friend!

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 03:55 PM

It would be great to have you aboard the DBers, Bilbo. I would never ever disagree with those who recommend a good teacher, a good warm up and good technique to get you through. Trouble is, when I started I couldn't find a teacher who did jazz - they were all classical - and I wanted to just get on with it. So I did. I've been playing for nearly fifty years and have got five gigs this week up and down the country. I'll wake up shattered each morning but my arms hands and fingers will be fine. I've never had a prob; so what I'm trying to say is, don't be too afraid of the DB, it's quite benign, really. There are others who may disgree but I think that a little bit of amp helps while practising. You don't have to play so hard and why not use the technology if it's available.
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Posted 16 November 2009 - 04:17 PM

I'm not sure I'd agree with Jake about keeping the elbow up. That might work for you Jake but I found that just intruduces so much tension to the shoulder = problems. Drop the elbow down and be aware of any tension in any part of your body. If you feel tense anywhere try and work out some way of relaxing.
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#24 jakenewmanbass

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 04:23 PM

View PostBassBus, on Nov 16 2009, 04:17 PM, said:

I'm not sure I'd agree with Jake about keeping the elbow up. That might work for you Jake but I found that just intruduces so much tension to the shoulder = problems. Drop the elbow down and be aware of any tension in any part of your body. If you feel tense anywhere try and work out some way of relaxing.
I would say that as long as your wrist is straight then whatever works for you, I would be a little stronger in my assertion if I saw that there was a big difference in the height of your hand/elbow/shoulder if that created an unnatural angle for the operation of your wrist. My thinking is to use the more robust muscles to lighten the load of the more dainty ones and the tendons in the hand wrist are much less in stature than the shoulder, Especially if like me you are a right lump... :)
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#25 jakenewmanbass

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 05:32 PM

ok some pics
This is left hand stopping Bb on the G string. note even spacing of fingers, note notes covered ie Ab and A with 1st and 2nd fingers. Look at the position of my shoulder/elbow/wrist nice and flat for minimum stress points. the first picture highlights my hand the second shows my arm in more light.



This is stopping a B on the A string to display reaching around the fingerboard a bit more. Most important here is that I'm not cupping the neck with the palm of my hand which is a classic bad habit.



Same position different angle so you can see my thumb.


Up the neck fingers closer together playing an octave 1st finger stretch 2,3,4 all in support of one another


one from above to see the counterpoint between left and right (right hand very slightly anchors the bass but ideally posture should allow you to make the bass stand without holding)


One from the front in the same position as above. (using the heavy 2 finger RH pizz in this )


I'm open to comments on these as I am no world authority on this, what I am though is a pro DB player of nearly 20 yrs with no physical problems so either I'm doing something right or I'm very lucky..

Edit:as a general note in all cases look at where the fingers that are not engaged are, when they are 'off duty' (albeit for a split second) I make my life much easier by ensuring that they hover milimetres above where they will go down. In short 'minimal movement'

Edited by jakesbass, 16 November 2009 - 08:08 PM.

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 06:56 PM

That's really useful, Jake. At least your comments have made me go and check my left hand/arm positioning. I have had problems with my left shoulder before I dropped the elbow down. Like you say what ever suits you. Then again I won't be out playing as much as you. :)
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#27 jakenewmanbass

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 07:35 PM

View PostBassBus, on Nov 16 2009, 06:56 PM, said:

That's really useful, Jake. At least your comments have made me go and check my left hand/arm positioning. I have had problems with my left shoulder before I dropped the elbow down. Like you say what ever suits you. Then again I won't be out playing as much as you. :)
Absolutely, we all have different physiology, of utmost importance is making sure that you can be relaxed and minimise any pressure by keeping nice straight lines. Getting your hands and arms into those positions can feel alien but should not hurt in any way other than normal exercise pain (muscle use heat) once you have trained your muscles into the movements they will remember for you... The human body is very good at that. Once you make the alien feeling things part of your day then an easy flow of ability will follow.
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Posted 18 November 2009 - 11:27 AM

I have taken up the double bass about 7 months ago, although I was a bit nervous about it having had problems with carpal tunnel syndrome in the past while playing guitar.

I study with a good teacher and listen to my body - I know what symptoms to look for when I go too far. But so far so good. I have also found this book very helpful, because it provides a large number of very useful stretch exercises which I do before and after playing as well as at work when I get a chance:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conquering-Carpal-...3370&sr=8-1

#29 Bilbo

    Bilbo

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Posted 08 February 2010 - 04:01 PM

I am making progress in my efforts to joined y'all in the doghouse and have noticed how easy it is for one to allow various parts of one's body to tense up as you play. I am a fan of Alexander Technique and am learning how to relax those parts of my hands and arms that I am not using at any given moment to allow them to rest. Interestingly, I also have to watch the tension in my back and legs - this is not borne of effort but simply a consequence of 'trying too hard'. By 'listening' to my body, as duckyincarnate suggests, I am finding I can stave off the worst physical problems.

Three months in an no blisters, CTS or tendonitis!! The main issue is fatigue in my left upper arm and a general lack of stamina (Cherokke is off the set list for now :)) but the progress is evident and I am happy. Just wish I could give it more time but that's been a problem with music in general for that last 20 years!!

Its all good.
I don't think, therefore I am not...

On with the dance and let the joy be unconfined (whether there's any dance to dance or any joy to unconfine)

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#30 thisnameistaken

    Sociopath (nomadic antisocial)

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Posted 08 February 2010 - 10:40 PM

View Postbilbo230763, on Feb 8 2010, 04:01 PM, said:

I am a fan of Alexander Technique

My drummer does that. Shameful. Whatever happened to good, honest mucky mags off the top shelf?





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