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Re: The Left-hand technique


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Posted by Carol Kaye on June 21, 2000 at 23:48:18:

In Reply to: Re: clarification of mis-information words above. posted by phyr on June 13, 2000 at 19:38:33:

: : : : : : I've been playing for a few years, and I play a lot each day. However I've noticed that sometimes after I play, my ring finger and pinkie of my left hand will be twitching uncontrollably. A friend of mine who plays says its probably from not being properly warmed up. In the past I've always just played simpler songs to warm up before moving onto difficult complex songs. Could anybody give me any help on a warmup/hand stretching exercise to do before I play? I don't want to cause serious damage to my hands before I'm 20. Thanks...

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: : : : : The ring finger and pinkie finger both share the same ligament. Take the ring off and see if you still have that problem. I doubt if lack of warmup is causing that. You can quickly warm up your fingers by pressing each finger individually against your left thumb for 3-4 seconds, that's enough warmup, and worked for me every time I went to a record date. No other warmup was necessary, not even for live playing. With studio work, you always played 3-4x harder than live. Anything constricting your fingers, wrist, etc. should be taken off when playing, including a snug wrist-watch.

: : : :
: : : : I take off my watch, and i don't wear a ring. Nothing's constricting really..I don't know what the problem is, and i'm sort of scared about any damage being done. Should I go see a physician?
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: : : Next step is to check how you are holding your wrist, forcing it up near the neck when you play? Or letting your left wrist relax (down towards the floor)? Also, check how you finger. Are you using your 3rd finger a LOT? In place of your 4th finger? This always turns your wrist sideways into an unnaturaly way of playing/fingering, not good, causes carpal tunnel syndrome in my opinion (everyone I've ever seen who plays a lot with their 3rd finger, also has carpal tunnel). Sometimes it can come from your neck and affect your fingers. Are you standing up, holding a ton of weight on your left shoulder? Have a bad neck? You can access safe left-hand technique pictures on my Playing Tips page (pics there) on my website. And barring poor technique, or bad neck problems, I'd say go to a doctor immediately then. You're way too young to have these kinds of problems. This could be a symptom of something going wrong with your health too maybe (an outside chance tho', I'd say it's your technique mainly, something is not happening right in your left-hand there). Check out your technique, fingerings, keeping your left wrist down (toward the floor) not up next to the neck at all - fingers should be on the fretboard while your left thumb stays on the back part of the neck, pointing towards the nut and move the fingers around as a group. For blues, rock, funk etc. fingering 1-2-4-4 up the frets is correct, using the 3rd finger ONLY in a few places like directly underneath the 4th finger while jumping down a fret, otherwise don't use it, it's a weak finger. Playing jazz or arpeggios, it's OK to use the 3rd finger, yes, you're playing very lightly then, not putting pressure on it. Otherwise, do not use the 3rd finger in place of the 4th....the wrist sits better and properly using that strong 4th finger (it has the muscles on the side of the hand there) and you can always use the 3rd finger on *top* of the 4th finger as an "assist", that's OK. Good luck, hope it's nothing serious with anything else it could be (hurt tendon, nerve problems from the elbow or neck, etc.), be sure to check with your doctor once you've checked out your left-hand technique to make sure it's not that (so many have terrible left-hand problems with all those awful unsafe crappy left-hand techniques in books out there that are completely ignorant). Let me know how you're doing. Carol
: : --------------------------------------------------------
: : Writing too fast here ----- I said: >>>> underneath the 4th finger while jumping down a fret<<<<<<
: : I meant jumping down a STRING on the same fret, not jumping down the fret.

: well, i think it may be a combination of a couple of those, actually. I do usually stand up while I'm playing, and I sling my bass pretty low. While I can reach pretty much everything, there are a few times when i have to do some wierd bends to play chords. Also, my left hand technique is pretty screwed up. I do usually only use my pinkie, but I noticed I wrap my thumb around the top of the neck, almost touching the E-string, which probably stretches it out badly. I've noticed most other bass players have their thumb in the middle of the neck. Could that be doing it? Today I played a half-hour show at my school, and afterwards my wrist kept hurting and lockign up on me..I wonder if that could be from the same...Could I be getting carpal tunnel from my computer maybe? hahaha...anyway, thanks for the help.
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2 things causing your trouble for sure: the neck slung low (causing a poor stance with your left wrist), and not putting your thumb in the middle of the neck (and pointing your thumb towards the NUT). It's a wonder you're not in physical therapy by this time. Hold the bass up high on your body, or best (as you shouldn't be holding any more than 6 lbs on that critical left shoulder anyway, there's an important nerve-bundle there that influences your vagus nerve, the major autonomic nerve that helps to automaticly run your heart, lungs, etc. a few little things like that)...any more than 6 lbs, and you're invitiing trouble...I don't care how "manly it looks", or how wide or "supportive" your strap is...weight is weight, SIT DOWN. Look at the Playing Tips page and see the pictures of what your left hand should look like while you're playing...the bass is not a big toy, it's a tough instrument to play and never get hurt on, you need to get your left-hand technique straightened out now, you're too young for all this stuff. At: http://www.carolkaye.com/cpt.htm good luck, Carol Kaye



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