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Short scale to cure my ills?


Short scale to cure my ills?   

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  1. 1. So after returning to the bass after a number of years away, I've been getting arm and wrist pain in my fretting arm every so often. Mostly after focusing on the lower frets. I'm wondering if a short scale might alleviate this, or if I need to do some work to revise my technique and warm up regime?

    • Buy a short scale of course!
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    • Warm up properly, don't be so lazy!
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So after returning to the bass after a number of years away, I've been getting arm and wrist pain in my fretting arm every so often. Mostly after focusing on the lower frets. I'm wondering if a short scale might alleviate this, or if I need to do some work to revise my technique and warm up regime? 

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If you have the means, just get a cheap shortscale and see if you have the same issues. If you do, perhaps it’s warm-up regime or perhaps it’s something else about playing position/general health.

Si

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I'd say try a short scale, yet I think not having to stretch the fingers so much across the frets is not so important as keeping the fretting hand closer to the body.

But I'd choose with care. There's a lot of other factors that can cause pain. My favourite wrist-friendly neck is on a 34" Chris Larkin bass. It's P-bass width, 45mm at the nut, and of baseball bat dimensions. The fattest neck I play, but it's asymmetric and fits my quite small hands so that the wrist is straight in most positions.

The Squier Jag SS neck feels like a pencil by comparison, and although it's 'easier' to play in some ways, it will never feel as comfortable.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

If after getting used to playing again it doesn’t go away, then a short scale is worth a try IMO - a short scale was my main gigging bass for many years, definitely helped with my physical issues and at the time made it easier on me than a full scale.

Could also be a reflection on underlying issues with your neck, shoulder or back; or posture. Just mentioning that as something to look out for perhaps. 

Best of luck.  
 

Edited by Chiliwailer
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Before going down the instrument route, it might be worth paying to see a physiotherapist - taking the bass with you if necessary. They can both make an assessment of what you're doing and also diagnose what the issue is. I had pain in my left elbow from playing cello and it was faulty fingering technique due to gripping the neck of the cello. Round here a private 45m session is about £40.

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Thanks for your replies everyone. 

I spent a little while last night analysing my posture and hand positions. There is one piece where my wrist is definitely over bending and if I change fingerings I don't need to stretch fingers. It's also a tricky piece so I may be more tense than usual when attempting it! 

I'm currently playing a sire v7 (one of the first models), the neck dive isn't really an issue, but I was wondering if the 7.5" radius might have something to do with it? 

I also have a cort B5 with a much Flatter fingerboard, this is generally light and easy to get around. 

 

The ibanez EHB look interesting. Not the usual look I would go for, but if I can get some time to get to a shop I'll definitely try them out alongside a shorty. 

 

If things don't improve with my more conscious approach to posture I'll look in to a physio session. I'm also wanting to start with a real life teacher once covid retreats further. I'm sure they'll be able to spot any dodgy positions. 

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I can’t see the radius having much impact on your situation and if it did, I would have thought a smaller radius would help. I presume your are commenting on how things are when you are playing in a standing position? Maybe shortening the strap a small amount may improve things?

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17 minutes ago, hiram.k.hackenbacker said:

I can’t see the radius having much impact on your situation and if it did, I would have thought a smaller radius would help. I presume your are commenting on how things are when you are playing in a standing position? Maybe shortening the strap a small amount may improve things?

This. I adjust my strap so that the bass is at the same height when sitting and standing. It doesn’t look cool but avoids unnecessary wrist bending. Although... the bass tends to hang in a different position when standing.

I’m totally short scale now. There are some great SS basses out there at all price points.

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I've had my strap at the right height since I started playing: No change in height from standing to sitting. That's always been most comfortable. I'm not too worried about looking cool (even when I was younger). 

5 hours ago, christhammer666 said:

i think it might be just your body getting used to it again. I wouldn't jump to the short scale conclusion to early

I'll see how it goes. I've been looking in to hand warm up exercises before even picking up the bass so let's see how that goes over the next while.

 

Cheers 

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This got me thinking, my next bass will be a 5 string so I looked into a shorty and while not mutually exclusive a 5 string shorty isn't exactly a match made in heaven which has kind of made my mind up for me. I can definitely see the advantages of a shorty though. On the other hand I'm thinking that a 5er played from the 5th fret gives effectively me a shorter instrument with low B,C & D if  and when I need them.

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10 minutes ago, dave moffat said:

This got me thinking, my next bass will be a 5 string so I looked into a shorty and while not mutually exclusive a 5 string shorty isn't exactly a match made in heaven which has kind of made my mind up for me. I can definitely see the advantages of a shorty though. On the other hand I'm thinking that a 5er played from the 5th fret gives effectively me a shorter instrument with low B,C & D if  and when I need them.

I have a short scale Status S2 and it’s fabulous. All of the sound and none of the issues I normally have with wider necks/my ailing left hand. One of the best things I did buying that.

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My cunning plan is to head up to Glasgow (guitarguitar) try various ideas out and probably fork out some dosh as I definitely need a new bass amp.

The other notion - of actually joining a band is down to fate - my mind is open, if it happens.......I'll be up front and professional in my attitude.

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17 minutes ago, dave moffat said:

My cunning plan is to head up to Glasgow (guitarguitar) try various ideas out and probably fork out some dosh as I definitely need a new bass amp.

The other notion - of actually joining a band is down to fate - my mind is open, if it happens.......I'll be up front and professional in my attitude.

Give the Vintera Mustang that they have there a whirl. I nearly bought one, but was seduced by the JMJ (only available to order at GG, in stock at The Gallery).

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8 hours ago, WishICouldWalk said:

Do you play one finger per fret at the low end of the neck? If so, try Simandle technique and shift a bit more. Way easier on the wrists and tension generally.

Yes, I try to keep 1-2-4 on the lower frets, but do occasionally lapse in to 1 finger per fret. I'm trying to be extra conscious of fingerings and positions so I don't lapse in to bad habits. 

 

13 hours ago, dave moffat said:

My cunning plan is to head up to Glasgow (guitarguitar) try various ideas out

Remarkably similar to my plan... Hope you leave something for me. 

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Hypothetically (I couldn’t condone such caddish behaviour) you could nip down to GG try some short scales (don forget the Gretsch G2220). You can then go home and order the one you liked, try it out on your rig for 14 days in the comfort of your own home, before returning it to GG (keep boxes).

I know its a rotten thing to do, but I did buy a G&L short scale from them in the end, so worked out best for everyone.

 

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As others have suggested, I would definitely buy a 2nd hand Short Scale - to give it a whirl.
It could be just what you need, and if not, sell it on again and hopefully you won't have lost much cash

But in the meantime, hang on to your long scale bass, and persist with some warm-up and stretching exercises
No harm in having a short scale as a backup, or for an occasional "noodle" anyway

Best of luck with this, and let us know how you get on :)

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On 17/05/2021 at 20:45, Fishfacefour said:

So after returning to the bass after a number of years away, I've been getting arm and wrist pain in my fretting arm every so often. Mostly after focusing on the lower frets. I'm wondering if a short scale might alleviate this, or if I need to do some work to revise my technique and warm up regime? 

I have nerve damage in my left arm and wrist caused by years of cycling. 3 or 4 years ago I was at the point where I could no longer play a 34" scale bass for more than a few minutes without cramping up and getting fatigued in my left hand. A mate of mine who is a medical professional suggested trying out a short scale and another mate of mine had an Ibanez Talman that he let me borrow for a couple of weeks - and it was a life saver. The first fret being 4" closer makes a massive difference, especially if you're a bit of a short arse like me, I can play a short scale for hours without any cramps or fatigue, something no amount of warm up or exercises was going to help with on a 34". If you have a similar issue I'd say don't even think about it, just try a short scale and see, it'll hopefully be as much as a revelation to you as it was to me. 

All my 34" scale basses have been sold off and I now only play short scales, whenever I play a 34" now they feel cumbersome and impractical, and I wonder how I managed to struggle on for so long. 

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39 minutes ago, Osiris said:

I have nerve damage in my left arm and wrist caused by years of cycling. 3 or 4 years ago I was at the point where I could no longer play a 34" scale bass for more than a few minutes without cramping up and getting fatigued in my left hand.

I had never even considered that. I used to cycle to and from work for years and did start to feel it in the wrists in the last few years before our whole unit was abruptly moved to a base too far for me to cycle to. I wonder if my issues are related to that. The more I think about the pain I used to get, the more I think it might be. A dull but piercing pain in my left palm where the finger joints are. It comes and goes, but it’s definitely less with narrower necks. Something to think about. Thanks.

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5 minutes ago, hiram.k.hackenbacker said:

I had never even considered that. I used to cycle to and from work for years and did start to feel it in the wrists in the last few years before our whole unit was abruptly moved to a base too far for me to cycle to. I wonder if my issues are related to that. The more I think about the pain I used to get, the more I think it might be. A dull but piercing pain in my left palm where the finger joints are. It comes and goes, but it’s definitely less with narrower necks. Something to think about. Thanks.

In my case, it's a damaged Ulna nerve. Might be worth Googling the symptoms to see if they match yours? With me it's more in the wrist and the elbow, I don't have any issues with the palm so maybe it's something else in your case? Either way it might be worth a quick look if only to eliminate the possibility. 

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