I’ve recently picked up the bass (I’ve been learning and practicing for 2 weeks or so) and I’m really enjoying it. I have done my best to follow all the great advice there is out there about positioning and hand/wrist placement, angle etc. - but in the last couple of days, I’ve started to get discomfort in the arm of my fretting hand.
In particular, yesterday (after practicing some OFPF exercises on frets 9-12), my ring and pinky fingers went all tingly and numb. It felt like I had hit my funny bone, but it lasted a few hours. This morning, it’s just my underarm that feels tight, but it’s still quite uncomfortable. A quick Google suggests it’s likely something to do with my ulnar nerve, and that’s made me feel a little worried.
What can I do to rest, stretch, and get back to playing? Is it symptomatic of something I’m doing wrong in my technique, or did I just over-practice? Has anyone experienced this before and found a solution or adjustment?
For reference, I have a full-scale 34" Harley Benton JB-75. I don’t have an especially thick strap, but I do try to play it sitting down, since it’s on the heavy side.
Rest and basic stretches may help, you’ve taken on a new activity and it’s possible there will be an adjustment period and over doing it is a possibility as well. In general, if something is causing discomfort best to take a break for a bit. If it keeps coming back, getting worse, or not getting better with rest, I’d consult a doctor to be on the safe side. Don’t take chances with your health.
When I was using a cheap 2" strap, this would happen to me. Now, I use a 3.5" very well padded strap and I haven’t had a problem since.
Having said that, it could be from pushing too hard, too fast. Definitely take a day or two off and see how it feels.
+1 to all of the bass / position / strap related advice up above.
I’ve had different but relatable issues with both hands on and off for years.
I find that it’s most closely connected (aside with bass activity) with what I’m doing when I’m not playing the bass.
When I’m excercising regularly, it’s not as bad.
If I’m doing core strengthening, it’s not as bad.
It gets a lot worse if I have heavy computer use.
It gets a lot worse if I have heavy phone use.
It gets a lot worse if I do lots of gardening / hammering / fix-it work (but I’m not allowed to use this as an excuse, so I must suffer in silence).
Pay attention to other parts of life and see if there are things that take an extra toll on your hands and arms.
Having wrist hand issues myself of late this is IDed as a big contributor. Voice to text is your friend, snd im cutting out senseless scrolling.
Quit trying to do this stretch for now, at least on lower frets. OFPF is not the only technique nor is it the best for all people.
One thing I would do is ensure you have a good neutral position in your left wrist. This older video from Adam Neely is still the best I have seen on it:
I’ve said it before but I am convinced this saved me from a RSI.
Be sure the neck isn’t too far back, that is to say, the neck should not be at 9 o’clock, else it can jam your arm against your body. It should be 10 o’clock or so.
Having experienced exactly this, I can confirm that it will cause further issues down the road if not addressed early.
There are a few physio wrist exercises that will help but honestly here are my suggestions in bullet form:
Relax your fretting hand as best you can, only apply the least amount of force possible to fret notes.
As @howard stated, Adam Neely has an excellent video covering this topic.
Practice good ergonomics, and make sure you aren’t “Death gripping” the neck of the bass while playing.
Try to be as relaxed as possible (not just wrist but shoulders & elbows)
Have the guitar at a 45° or so degree angle and not parallel to the body.
Most important of all, TAKE BREAKS. I play/practice for a maximum of 30mins at a time and giving it a break then picking it up again a bit later makes a difference.
Lastly, try to be conscious of your fretting hand technique at all times and as soon as you notice you’re tensing up try your best to reset and relax (I know it’s hard when you’re dead set on trying to hit those damn notes lol).
I hope this helps. Make sure you take frequent breaks especially if you’re dead set on OFPF (honestly it’s not for everyone in the lower registry) simandl works well when micro-shifting.
That was the kicker for me when I was starting out. I got twisted up like a pretzel when I got up the fretboard. When we look at Josh in his videos, it isn’t readily apparently how he’s seated (hips, shoulders, bass neck orientation) because he wears black in a black background. I would go even further and say that the 45 degrees varies depending on what you are fretting.
Often we see these guitarists in the cool poses when they are up the neck near the 24th fret, but we don’t realize that pose lends itself to getting up there more easily.
Thanks for all the replies guys! I’ve been away the second part of this week so that’s been a good opportunity to rest. My arm is still a little tender, but some gentle exercise is helping. In a way, I’m glad this has happened early in my bass journey so I can get into good habits from the outset.
That Adam Neely video is a really interesting one. I haven’t seen anyone else promoting that technique, but I can totally see how it creates a more neutral position. I’m excited to get back to playing and seeing how it feels after some adjustments.
Another thing on my list is a good setup, so that I’m not having to grip or press too hard. I know Josh has a good video on this, but I’m not sure I know how a good bass feels to play, so I’d only be making changes based on the theory.
Glad to hear that. But a good setup should be at the top of every player’s list. It’s absolutely a must-have in order to play comfortably and well.
Give yourself time to heal, but do either have your bass set up professionally, or do it yourself when you’re able, without injury. Good luck.
Probably just a little strain with swelling. Light stretching and ice it after practice for 20 minutes on, and at least 40 minutes off. Push on your fingernail and it should go white, when you let off it should go pink again. If it doesn’t then you have a circulation problem and you need to see your doctor, or if this continues for a longer than it should period then see a doctor, but more than likely its just a strain and you need to build up the muscles and tendons and make sure your hand position is good.
I found a fitness trainer that is really into neurology and nerve glides. Google “ulnar nerve kruse elite” and you’ll find videos from him. He’s great.