Looking for some 1:1 help with fretting hand mechanics

Hey everyone,

I joined back around November 2020 and this is my first post. Great to e-meet everybody!

I’ve been really been pleased with Josh’s great instruction, and I enjoy reading all the thoughtful content from the nice community here.

I could use some advice. I’ve been struggling with how to eliminate discomfort in my fretting hand, mainly the wrist. I’ve listened and watched and tried various approaches in every possible video that exists on the topic very carefully. And I’ve also watched good players in non-instructional videos. Slo-mo, freeze frame, you name it. There’s so much conflicting information, and I’m trying all different things.

I’m very conscious about trying not to use more than the smallest amount of pressure necessary. I also realize that it’s often necessary to work on any given technique for a while before you can even see it starting to work well for you. I’ve been doing that.

I don’t think it’s about pressing or squeezing. It’s that I have to change the angles of my fingers, hand, wrist, and forearm A LOT from one note/finger to the next in order to stay comfortable. And I don’t see this kind of big adjustment from one note to the next when I’m watching anyone else play. The discomfort comes very quickly after I start playing.

This is really puzzling to me because I consider myself quite good with fine motor control, and I know how to analyze and learn how to move and manipulate things with my hands, both with other musical instruments and in non-musical activities. It’s crazy that I’m getting so stuck on this!

Anyway, this endless analysis and trying new things has been going on for too long, so it’s time for a different approach. I need some one-on-one live instruction that’s ONLY about this mechanical issue until it’s solved. Could be one session, could be many sessions. Can anyone recommend someone who would be qualified and willing to help me in this particular way? I’m in South Florida and I’m totally open to either in-person or remote sessions via Zoom.

Thanks so much for reading this. I wish you all continued joy in your bass playing!

Jim

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@JoshFossgreen (for sure) and @Gio (I think) offer private 1:1 lessons over video, not sure about current pricing, contact them perhaps?

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Hi Jim, welcome to the forum.
My first impression would be, you’re overthinking: there is no one-way-fits-all. My second though was, which bass do you play? A thick longneck heavy beast like an fender jazzbass of a light shortscale like a Höfner. As the neck of these is very different to eachother. And that influence how to hold and play them.
I second reaching out to Josh or Gio.

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I struggle with this too. But mainly if I try to get my fingers parallel to the fretboard with my left hand. It just feels beyond the capabilities of my hand. Not something that I can just work on. Especially true playing the E and A in the highest positions.

I know you’ve watched tons of videos, so probably have seen these, but the most comfortable position for me is the natural position, demonstrated in this video.

However, that doesn’t give me parallel to fretboard fingers without contorting my arm and wrist in a highly uncomfortable way.

The other thing that helped me was knowing that my thumb is just there as guidance, not as pressure. Ari talks about that in this video:

But as you say, I’ve combined these together and still really struggle with this. Be great to see what you learn from a private lesson on this. I’ve been wanting to do one for awhile, but lockdown has not allowed that.

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This is common, take lots of breaks, and as others said don’t overthink.
It takes a while for your hands body etc to get comfortable doing something new or repetitive. It’s not natural, but you are training your body to do this no different than run a marathon, do a double backflip, carve statues or tame that darn pinky (granted all varying levels of effort and different disciplining of body parts).

It takes time, and LOTS of it, and you can’t shortcut it. I’ve been playing for a year and some days I feel good about it and some days I wonder why I’m doing it. Push on, you will tame your body parts. Better to enjoy the ride, ID things that are not right, and try to correct, lessons help of course.

But, if there is pain, don’t do it. No pain no gain does not apply here as in other pursuits.

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As @John_E said whatever you do pay attention to his last statement.

It maybe a good idea for you to post a picture showing how you are wearing your Bass.

One other thing you may want to consider is ear plugs.
If you play live or with a with a drummer, or just want to crank up the volume, you will definitely need them. Hearing loss cannot be repaired and you do not want to go down the tinnitus road. Do a search on the forum for ear plugs and tinnitus.
There are people here that have tinnitus and they will tell you it is no picnic to have constant ringing in your ears 24/7.

Welcome to the forum and good luck with your musical journey.

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+1,000,000 to this!

There are too many videos for this.

Your hand technique will have most to do with your own body and so it will be a variation on the wild spectrum of what people do out there.

Where you sit on the spectrum is impossible to know at the beginning because your fingers don’t have the strength to actually do what they are supposed to do at all.

You need to be patient, work on simple fingering exercises to relax the hand, strengthen the fingers, keep comfortable posture, and stay loose!!

Not sure how much this helps.
And yes, @JoshFossgreen and I both do online lessons! Feel free to reach out with a message any time!

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Interesting article:
https://www.bestbassgear.com/ebass/article/got-a-new-bass-and-have-wrist-pain-here-are-some-tips-that-can-help.html

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I second what others have said, but if what you are experiencing is pain on your wrist then you might want to have it checked… it sounds that you’ve done your homework and it’d be unlikely that you’re on a terribly wrong position while playing… it’s ok to get tired but pain is not aceptable

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Hi @js360160! As others have said, fretting is a journey of constant improvement, so don’t be too hard on yourself about your fingers being a work in progress. That said, you’re doing the right thing in seeking out help before you get injured.

I myself absolutely concur with @Celticstar’s comment about how you’re wearing your bass. About a month ago, I changed straps and shifted where I hold the instrument to a higher level on my torso (I was previously basing my posture on what I used for guitar… and it wasn’t quite right for the bass). Made a huge difference.

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First the calluses build and the fingers stop hurting so much.
Then the fingers get stronger (except that darn pinky) and they don’t hurt as much.
Then the wrist eventually stops hurting as much.
Then the ego starts hurting when you get good enough to realize how much further you have to go!

Enjoy the ride!

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I’m not sure if people have mentioned this already but in my personal experience I got a lot of wrist pain at first because i started out with the bass too low. The reach and bend to fret when the neck is too low will definitely cause some wrist pain. I’m sure you’ve seen 100 videos saying that already but raising the bass a few inches solved the issue for me. Doesn’t look as cool but it’s worth it :slight_smile:

Edit: lol yep looks like multiple people already made this point, whoops. I concur with them!

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@bjams

and

This is why I suggested a picture.

The angles between the wrist and fingers should be kept as low as possible on BOTH the fretting and plucking hands as well as pressing only as hard as necessary with the thumb.

If you are having to press too hard to get a clear note check the neck relief and string height because you should not need to press very hard at all.

Josh has said several times that the main purpose of the thumb on the fretting hand is to stop the fingers from pushing the bass neck back.

Most complaints about wrist pain seems to revolve around the fretting hand.

Raising the bass will lower the wrist angle on the fretting hand but will also increase the angle on the plucking hand. Also check the angle of the headstock.

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Do you have a history with computer work / gaming / dentistry / etching - anything that would have already pushed you to a repetitive stress injury on the carpal tunnel?
I blame computers for the majority of my bass playing-related pains.

If I can stay off a computer, no typing, no illustration work, etc. my hands and arms feel so much better!

I think you’re wise to be careful. Hope things get better.

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Carpal tunnel surgery in both wrists 20+ years ago from programming. It was night and day.

One thing people forget is how much finger / hand energy goes into our phones that we are clung to all day. Give your hands a rest.

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Thank you so much, everyone, for replying quickly and thoughtfully like you did. I’m really grateful.

I’ve been swamped with work the past couple of days, and I spent my available practice time just playing along with simple, familiar songs while focusing on relaxing my fretting hand, not overthinking, allowing my hand and arm to go to positions that feel comfortable and natural for me, and still trying for little bits of control/economy of movement when possible. All of this, which came from all of your feedback, really helped get me into a better way of approaching things and excited about moving forward.

I didn’t experiment with raising the height yet but I’m definitely going to do that during this week and see how it goes. I do find that having the neck at an angle as much as 45° makes fretting lower notes a lot more comfortable without raising the overall height of the bass. So I can see how raising the instrument overall could help with fretting notes more comfortably across a broader portion of the neck. Looking forward to experimenting.

Whether I arrange some private instruction feels up in the air now because of the improvement I’m seeing so far from applying everyone’s suggestions by myself.

Thanks for the help steering me back on track!

Jim

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Keep on it @js360160 / Jim.