My Hand Hurts When I Bow!

So, you play a few passages with the bow, and you start to feel a nagging pain, maybe in the meaty part of your palm, or in your wrist, eh?

Your issue with tired hands is not unusual. It is very common to hold a bow too tightly (and this is the case with both French and German style bow) which causes this fatigue. I, myself, sometimes catch myself holding the bow too tightly and end up with a sore wrist.

The bow, when held properly, should generally feel like it’s almost ready to fall out of your hand (which sounds crazy, but...) and you shouldn’t need to "press" against the strings, but rather the "arm weight" of your playing arm should provide enough pressure to get sound and tone out of the string. Using the proper rosin for your climate, technique, and strings is also a big help – if you’re not "forcing" the strings into submission, but rather gently coaxing them to your will, you’re playing with a lot less tension in your joints and muscles. And that's going to result in less pain, and probably better tone.

Look, there's a good deal more to it that I can explain in a simple FAQ, and it's much better done in person where someone with experience can analyze and show you how to improve your grip. If you're relatively new to arco, or are a self-taught player, you should still consider talking with – or better yet, taking an informal lesson or two with – a classical bassist who can give you some pointers about proper holding of the bow. There are actually quite a few variations on bow grips, as well – you might do well to see if a different grip might give you more confidence (and allow you to loosen your grip on the bow as well).

Ultimately, It shouldn’t “hurt” to play bass.

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