This post was kicked off by Simon Little‘s comments on “Bass Guitar Scale Length – Stretching Too Far?” (do check out his blog). Talking about extended scale lengths, then comparing and contrasting upright and electric bass technique, got me thinking about the subject of injuries, stretches, strains and pains.
The bass puts a unique set of demands on the fingers and the tendons that get them where they should be. The combination of big stretches and lots of muscle power to get that string down are especially demanding on the left hand (or fret-hand for lefties!). I remember a conversation some years ago with Norm Stockton on the subject. For a time Norm suffered from tendinitis, you can read about the warm up routine he now uses on his site here - he also mentions more of the story in his artist profile on the International Institute of Bassists.
A good warm up routine is essential to get the muscles and ligaments ready for action. The next thing is to stay loose, don’t over tense muscles or exert too much pressure. I’d list this as a top reason for not practicing without your bass plugged in (there are others). If you are getting tense, stop, rest and have a stretch or shake. Lastly, avoid over stretching. Think about how you are fingering your playing, and take a leaf out of the double bassist’s book (they are much more conscious about these things). If you watch Rocco Prestia in action, you’ll see he changes left hand position a lot when he is playing in the lower positions. That’s the painful area where the gap between the frets is that much bigger. A good place to use the first and fourth fingers (index and little finger) to do octaves, rather than 1 and 3.
- Warm up
- Keep relaxed
- Avoid over stretching