Hello everyone! I have begun to have issues with my thumb tensing up while anchoring. I have posted about this issue on a facebook page, and people said it came from me playing above my ability. However, this is a more recent habit that has been developed and while it is worse when playing challenging stuff, my thumb also tenses up for very basic stuff that I am used to. It is super frustrating and sometimes slightly painful. When it happens, I lose focus on what I’m playing and try to force my thumb to become relaxed. That doesn’t really work.
Does anyone else experience this issue, and if so do you have any advice?
It usually happens when you are learning and practicing new things. Once you have it in the bag then your intensity to your left thumb would come in pulses and not constant and sustain like when you practiced.
I usually practice 2-3 songs at a time so I can switch when needed to rest up the muscles.
@Al1885 is right.
My thumb tensed up bad when I was first learning bass finger plucking. I realized it was because I was consciously concentrating on keeping it in firm contact with the string I had it planted on. It was that, and also because finger plucking was new and foreign to me, hence, the beginner angst and tensing up that so many experience.
Until they don’t.
This happens after you go through the
growing learning pains.
Don’t worry. Just slow down your playing and concentrate on easing up on your thumb. Slowing down will lessen your jitters and allow you to relax your hands, plucking and fretting. With some time and practice, you’ll find that the tenseness in your hands will be much better.
Very normal. Still happens to me when I’m “focusing” and realize I’m trying to anchor my thumb somewhere in the middle of the pickup .
Pause and stretch the thumb down and out a lot and also slightly back.
I have the same issue on sax with my neck and shoulders.
Perhaps a glass of wine before practice or a shot might help?
One of the exercise I did a while back when I was really playing the fretless was the no thumb exercise. I would plug 1,2,3,4 on each string starting on E then move on to each note like step ladder. It goes without saying that the first few tries were very difficult but a couple of deep breaths later and doing it again and again really help me understanding the function of the fretting fingers and supporting thumb.
Don’t get me wrong, even now when I’m trying to fly through a new song I’m still white knuckles my way through the fingerboard, lol.
When you first start doing something the muscles are not used to it, so basically you are putting a light strain on the muscles and tendons. After some time it will get used to the new activity and stop bothering you. In the mean time, try and soak your hand in warm water for a few minutes before practice then do some easy finger/thumb stretches. When finished with practice stretch again and soak your hand in cold water for no more than 20 minutes. I just use a big bowl and put some ice in it. If it still bothers you after ice give it 40 minutes to warm up then you can ice again for 20 minutes. Same as for any muscle strain.
Are you moving your thumb from the pickup to the E string when playing, or do you keep it on the pickup? I noticed that when I started to incorporate a lot more thumb movement (I go from pickup - E - A - D, when there’s a lot of G action), it helped a lot. Every movement kinda reset my thumb.
I still struggle with this, sometimes I anchor thumb so hard leaves a dimple from edge of pickup. I am consciously trying to relax more as I practice. Also working to eliminate a tendency to press my thumb on string too hard if anchoring on a string, causing unwanted noise/pickup contact. issue is improving but I still find myself doing it and need to correct myself. Slowing down a song and playing through at reduced speed helps, so i am certain for me it is a concentration thing when learning soemthing new. Doesn’t happen on songs I am well familiar with.
Assuming the bass is positioned correctly, your arm is where it should be, it should pass after a while. Are you really deliberate when you pluck? If you are, that’s probably why you are bearing down. Once your plucking becomes “thoughtless,” that is to say, when you decided to pluck and it’s like walking into the next room,…I think that you won’t have tense thumb. Or, it could be something else that’s not right with your technique? Maybe a self video may help reveal something as to why that thumb feels tense.
Of course Facebook would post something like that. Did they include their qualification as a bass player?
Hardly anyone practice at or below their ability, that’s the secret sauce of how to get better. Bunch of genius there on BookFace. lol.
It does not take much to get your finger fatigue when you apply a lot of pressure or being tensed. You’d be surprised how little effort you use to play the song you know. You only need a few seconds of extra effort to nail certain sections of the songs then back to relax playing.
Bass playing is like a golf swing, You have to try hard not to try hard to get an optimum result.
This is a fantastic quote.
And the not trying hard comes from……wait for it….practice!!! Copious amounts of it. Goodness, relaxedness, stamina, etc come from knowing your bass and all related techniques cold. Masters struggle. The struggle never ends, just some things go on autopilot and are not a thing anymore, then other things come into focus as issues.
This is the way.
Interesting that since I started Josh’s course and have been using a hand-exerciser to strengthen my arthritic hands, my golf game has improved! Two birds, one Titleist!
Tense fingers are common when you’re learning something new because you’re so focused on hitting the right notes. Once you drill something into your hands you’ll be able to relax and play it smoothly. I often have to remind myself to ease the tension in my hands when I’m playing. Just comes with more practice!
I’m not sure there is any way to relax your way out of any of these beginner tensing up things. I was never able to. IMO it just makes more sense to remember that #1 do not let it become an injury. discomfort is fine, pain is not. take a break when needed. like a real break, days is fine if needed. #2 these things tend to just go away in time.
@olliviatherese How do you hold your bass? Do you have a short or a long bass wrap?
I’ve had the same problem with my thumb. Make daily some minutes of practice where you focus on every finger and both hands and your posture. It’s like a relaxating meditation for your hands (really, your bass is a partner and a mirror of you; if you are too tense on your posture, your bass is adapting to you and your play style gets mistakes - ok too deep basstalk ). Try to take the weight away from your right hand and do some gentle string walking up and down as if you were gently walking in a street at night, so that your right hand relaxes.
Plus: If you hold your bass like if you’re loading a shotgun and aiming it a bit towards the front of you, you’re good with posturing.
All the Bass