I have also been dealing with thumb pain in my fretting hand. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of technique, a problem with my hand or both.
I’ve been trying to conscientiously not grip the bass too hard or put too much pressure on my thumb on the back of the neck but ultimately my hand will start to hurt when I try to do full songs and I’ve had to take a break and rest my hand.
I used to get this pain when working large batches of dough by hand so perhaps it’s an Repetitive Strain Injury type thing.
I wish I had a suggestion for you. I’m just throwing out my experience in hopes that we both might find some answers.
If you get a second, pop on over the the Introduce Yourself thread and tell us more about yourself and your bass journey!
This is a common issue for beginners. Having a good setup and low, easily-playable action is a must-have as a first solution.
Beyond that, it’s experimentation with the amount of pressure needed to make a fretted note sound cleanly when plucked.
Many beginners think that the big strings on a bass will require a lot of finger strength/pressure to play clean notes. Another misconception is that a lot of thumb pressure on the back of the neck is required.
Try this: Without any thumb pressure on the back of the neck, place a finger on a string right behind a fret and pluck the string until the note sounds cleanly. Now apply a bit less finger pressure to the fretted string and pluck again. Repeat this process, gradually decreasing the amount of finger pressure on the string until the note no longer rings cleanly. Then add just a tiny amount more finger pressure until the note is good again. That is the minimal amount of finger pressure you need to apply.
This exercise will show you how little pressure it takes to play a well-setup bass.
You can also apply the same general process to figure out the minimal amount of thumb pressure you need to play without pain or discomfort.
The point is that it takes far less finger/thumb pressure to play bass once it’s optimally set up. Hope this helps.
The grip you describe is very common to some guitar playing and called a baseball grip, I think (someone correct me if I’m wrong!).
The upsides are a flatter, maybe more relaxed hand, muting or fretting the top string with your thumb and doing stuff with the fingers simultaneously, and perhaps a firmer grip overall.
The downsides are that your fingers are slanted sideways (the fingertip probably points toward the body of the guitar), which restricts your reach. If you have huge hands, maybe you won’t notice this. You also may be slower to shift vertically and horizontally, as more of your hand is in contact with the neck/fretboard.
There is no position that’s good for everybody, but there is a position that’s good for you.
At the end of the day, it’s fine if you can play! Experiment with different positions, don’t rush anything and don’t play through pain. Even if your hand hurts sometimes, you’ll have years of playing available to you, and tons of fun! You can do it!
I’ve been experiencing some hand pain lately as well. Not the first time.
Always strive for perfect technique and be as relaxed as possible. It’s not always going to happen.
An old teacher once told me “I always just played through pain. Eventually the body heals and it goes away.”
Idk how good that advice was…but so far it’s been true with me >.<
My advice is to monitor it, use the best technique you can, stretch, see a doctor if necessary. But that hand/wrist pain is somewhat common and that the body does heal as long as you’re not re-aggravating the initial injury.
Couple of thoughts here from someone who often suffers fretting hand thumb pain
(1) baseball grip (with thumb overhanging the top of the neck) generally is not recommended unless you are doing it to mute the E string, as it limits your reach and puts fingers at an odd angle
(2) make sure your bass angle is set the way you like it with the strap–i.e. you should not be holding the neck up with your arm. You can use left hand/arm pressure on the body near your waist to stabilize the bass as well.
(3) Your thumb should be parallel with your fingers–i.e. running across the neck not up/down it. Ideally it should be placed in the middle of the neck. and it just just rest there. I tend to violate this rule, as I find that I need to press the neck with my thumb in order to get my fingers to stretch. I.e., I wind up using my thumb as an anchor/pivot point, which you are NOT supposed to do.
This guy has some good advice on maintaining a good, neutral hand position with a good demonstration:
Don’t worry cheese, I’ve been trying to figure out how to ask a similar question for days as well. I’ve had extensive injuries including a broken back, and a fusion operation for stenosis in the neck vertebrae. There are further stenosis and bone spur problems building up in my spine. Pain in back and neck, and burning nerve pain with pins and needles and tingling in the hands make it almost impossible to play some days, without a quickly mounting pain and anger level.
I was going to post a question of how people stretch and warm up and help deal with injuries and pain while sharing my own ideas and current stretching techniques for feedback and improvement where I can.
I hope to see a lot of input and feedback in the thread! Thank you @juju for the topic post and it sounds like a welcome to the forum is in order. Welcome!
Juju, I’m looking forward to trying this as well @MikeC, thank you for the ideas Mike.
I’m going to get my guitar in to a shop in a week or so to double check the set up, it’s a no brainer after finding out how affordable it should be. If I can reduce the pain level in my hands at all it will be well worth it.
I’ll post a follow up after I get the work done, and see what comes of it.
I suggested that in another (similar) topic some time ago.
Try lighter gauge strings (I currently use 40-95). This will lower their tension. It helped me a lot.
Remember to re-set up the bass after changing the gauge.
Another experiment you could try is - short-scale bass “simulation”.
Tune your bass to D-G-C-F and put a capo on the 2nd fret.
You’ll get standard tuning, shorter scale and lighter tension.
In regards to playing “through the pain”. I’d be cautious with that.
I agree with it and Josh makes this point too; OFPF is not a rule, it’s a technique that is useful if (and only if) you need to cover four or more frets. If everything fits in three, or if you can’t comfortably make the stretch, just ditch it for what makes sense.
Wish I’d seen this thread 3.5 years ago. Early on I struggled a bit with both thumb pain issue (solved with a nice wide strap; @Celticstar gave great advice there) and finger pressure pain (solved with a better setup; @MikeC was dead on with that one!). Now the only issue is stiff/sore hands (but not fingers) in both hands the day after a long session - but I have a feeling that is just good old-fashioned overuse/old-man syndrome - and nothing a little naproxen can’t address.
These are the kind of threads that make BB awesome for newcomers! Thanks for asking the question @juju , you’ve definitely helped others by asking!
I actually do exercise when I play without using left thumb to anchor the back of the neck. It helps with vibrato and finger pressure. The first time i tried it was so weird but once you get used to it., it really helps me with much less finger pressure.