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Jus Lukin

Playing through blistered fingers

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I'm going to be Googling this and searching the site, but I'm also in a bit of a hurry!

I have an outdoors gig locally tomorrow afternoon and due to the potential for rain we have been asked to perform fully acoustic, something we were planning on anyway as we play old-school swing, R'n'B, and blues. Due to all the DIY from a house move just before lockdown (and lots of moping on the sofa) I didn't end up doing the ten minutes a day which would have got me back up to speed on the upright, but I have started rehearsing the acoustic setup now. Last night I worked up a couple of blisters on the side of my plucking finger where my callous used to be, which isn't an issue for electric bass playing, but may be a problem with this unexpected unamped performance.

Hence my question- is there a quick and dirty way to reinforce or protect insufficiently calloused fingers for a couple of hours of playing? Surgical spirit, super glue, tape of some kind? Or just keep some tissues and a cloth handy for when they burst all over the strings?! 😄

Thanks for any tips (and for ignoring that terrible pun).

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Light masking tape might do the trick, not wrapped round too many times so you keep the feeling for the strings.

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I used to have this problem from time to time, and never did find a completely satisfactory solution. People always talk about surgical spirit or other alcohol, but that's more of a preventative for firming up the skin a little - if you're already blistering it'll just smart and not do anything useful. Carefully applied micropore tape (wrapped right around to avoid the edges peeling) can work in the very short term, but you'll need to reapply between sets and it changes the feel and sound a little. Almost any other tape produces sticky residue at the edges and makes things feel unpleasant very quickly. And be wary of the idea of pricking the blisters and playing on through the pain - I did this at a party years ago, aided by drink, and the next day my hands were so bad that I had to take two weeks off double bass and do the gigs I had booked with electric bass and a pick...

The main thing for me is just to relax a little and not try and push too hard to project if your hands are already suffering. It's better to be a little low in the mix and playing with good feel than to be wincing and missing notes by the end of the set, IMO.  Running the hand under cold water and drying thoroughly between sets always seemed to help too.

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Thanks for all the suggestions.

I picked up some surgical spirit, couldn't find micropore tape, but have some anti-blister tape in case things really go awry!

1 hour ago, Beer of the Bass said:

The main thing for me is just to relax a little and not try and push too hard to project if your hands are already suffering. It's better to be a little low in the mix and playing with good feel than to be wincing and missing notes by the end of the set, IMO.

A very good point, I'm hoping I'll be able to contain myself and sit back in the mix. The band isn't loud when electric, so volume shouldn't be high this afternoon.

My fingers have done a sterling job of healing over the last couple of days too, so fingers crossed- metaphorically speaking, at least.

4 hours ago, Downunderwonder said:

I wonder how many upright players in all of history took a pick to it.

I thought Peter Steele might have but he looks to be using fingers when he had one strapped over his shoulders on a chain! The closest I have is when I was crew for an orchestra- one of the more avant garde pieces had the bass section using supermarket loyalty cards as giant plectra. I'm not sure that would work for Louis Jordan songs though! 😄

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Killed_by_Death said:

 

full

 

Very much this. Get that pick out and dig in until your heart’s content.

 

Edited by ezbass

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Downunderwonder said:

I wonder how many upright players in all of history took a pick to it.

They went all arco on its äss.

Edited by ezbass

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Perhaps I could cut the straps off my red-patent G-string and use that?

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Well, I'm tingly and have a couple of bubbles- in fact a bubble on a bubble in one case, but aside from the odd sluggish note due to pain reflexes, I believe that I may have over-worried.

Apparently myself and the harmonica were what carried, it was the vocals and guitar which suffered, and testament to the drummer that he can lay off the racket to the point that a gob-iron can top him!

Thanks for the advice folks.

I'm going to try to bang out a few minutes each day from now on to turn those pustules into string armour! 😄

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Posted (edited)

Glad it worked out! Harmonica is weird for volume - it's not crazy loud but sits in a frequency range that we pick up easily and where there's rarely much else going on. Especially the higher key diatonics!

Edited by Beer of the Bass

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Superglue! Works every time. Recommended by my guitarist friend who is also a GP. Apparently its very commonly used in surgical procedures now.  Or at least an expensive medical version probably.  But I'm talking about Superglue from a corner shop.

Get it on your fingertips and let it set. You might want to do a couple of coats.

It affects your piz tone somewhat. Makes it slightly more clicky,  but you gain a bit in volume too.  You'll probably need to re-do it a few times, maybe between sets.

I played 24 hours of upright bass over a 3 day weekend, by being greedy and over-committing myself.  Superglue got me through it.

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Superglue can be very toxic to susceptible individuals. Cyanoacrylate can send your immune system haywire. Before you you know what's going on you can be destroying your own gut and developing allergies that dog you for life. Not worth the risk if you ask me.

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3 hours ago, Downunderwonder said:

Superglue can be very toxic to susceptible individuals. Cyanoacrylate can send your immune system haywire. Before you you know what's going on you can be destroying your own gut and developing allergies that dog you for life. Not worth the risk if you ask me.

It's especially nocive if breathed in. Use the stuff in a well-ventilated environment; preferably outdoors, and try very, very hard not to breath in the fumes. B|

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