Busting Those Blisters

I recently took six weeks off gigging for personal reasons, when I came back to the stage the blisters came out to play. The time before that I spent 5 days swimming on a beach in greece. I paid for it the following weekend with blisters you would have to see to believe.

If you play double bass with any level of energy, you will have to deal with blisters one way or the other in the course of your life in music.

Here are my top ten ways to deal with bass blisters

  1. Vaseline – This is a top tip if you don’t mind slippery strings and you don’t play with the bow. I don’t use it, but I know of bassists who claim a spot of Vaseline on their fingertips before they play banishes blisters for ever.
  2. Plasters – As far as I can tell this is a myth, think about it, if you play a lot of gigs your fingers will toughen up, a lot, if playing can rip the skin of your fingers (and it can), a plaster is not going to stand a chance.
  3. Gaffa Tape - I’ve seen this done so I know it works! John “Lard” Gibbs of the kneetremblers wraps what looks like half a roll of tape around his slapping hand before a gig, and he plays like a god. The downside – well, he’s got half a roll of Gaffa Tape wrapped around his hand.
  4. Don’t take a break – I thump pretty hard (my bass) and am used to 3 hour gigs, if I play every weekend I don’t get blisters, and funnily enough my fingertips look and feel quite normal
  5. Pin pointing the problem – I don’t reccomend it, but I have done it when I have to gig and a blister has developed. I stick a sterile pin in the edge of the blister that is last to cross the string. The positioning is important because otherwise the blister may rip open while playing. More on lancing blisters.
  6. Putting a finer point on itAcupuncture needles are worth having in your gig bag. They are already sterile and are thin enough that the skin quickly closes over the hole.
  7. Avoiding disaster – The only reson I ever lance blisters is because if you don’t, and you still have to play, you risk the blister bursting open while you play leaving a bloody painful hole. I’ve tried it. Didn’t like it.
  8. Fighting infection – After a weekend of 4 gigs, and sticking needles in my fingers like a pin cushion, my fingers can be swolen and sore. I’m always paranoid that there may bee a septic infection. So – soak the digits concerned in soap water, salt water or disinfectant.
  9. Eight hour cream – From Elizabeth Arden, this stuff is amazing, I’m quite confident you could treat a shark bite with this with a degree of success. Just apply it last thing at night and there will be noticeable healing done overnight.
  10. Stop playing you idiot – if you have blisters, and you are not morally or contractually obliged to do so, don’t play. Give your body a chance to heal.


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