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arm cramping

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mrmcgee, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. mrmcgee


    Dec 6, 2006
    i am fine during practice , but it seems when it comes to show time, i find my hand or arm cramping only a few songs in

    any recommendations i could to to maybe strengthen or fix the problem?
  2. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Do you warm up at all before shows? That usually helps.
  3. mrmcgee


    Dec 6, 2006
    yeah. i usually start warming up and do it for about 10 mins or so before we go on. do you think i should start sooner?
  4. speedkills


    Jan 10, 2008
    Have a beer.

    If you only cramp up during gigs, and not during practice, it's probably nerves causing you to be tense.

    Lighten up. :D
  5. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    It all depends on the player. I like to warm a little at home before I leave for a gig. Run through some scales, and pick a couple of the more challenging songs that I play.
  6. You do right in warming up. Another cause can be dehydration. Drink plenty of water. I was playing a gig last night and one song from the end of the show my hand started cramping. I hadn't drunk too much through the evening and the room was very warm. I don't know if it was caused by dehydration but as I say I hadn't been drinking much.
  7. When you practice, are you sitting down? And when you gig, are you standing?

    Perhaps you can adjust your strap so that the height of the bass when you stand is equal to the position when sitting? I remember seeing Billy Sheehan recommend that in one of the first Bass Player magazine eons ago...
  8. I have similar problems with my hand cramping up on me. I tried alleve, it didn't help. I think it happens to me because of fatigue in my hand muscles at shows. I strengthened my hands and fingers with a gripmaster if you've seen those things. I also be sure to stay hydrated before and during the show. Another thing i'm using for my joints is glucosomine. I have also increased my practice time and intensity. All of these things have helped to almost completely eliminate the cramps. I hope that helps you out.
    About your arm, you should follow the advice of the TB'rs "just relax." I have a friend who taught me a few things and one of them was to relax my right arm and let my fingers work. I didn't realize how tense I was when I played! He taught me to be consious of it in practice and work on relaxing. That helped me tremendously. He also showed me the "proper" strap length. He said the bass should be exactly as high as it would sit naturally playing seated with the bass on my lap. It's a little higher than most people play, but it helped with my arm too. Experiment with different lengths, you may find one that feels more comfortable for you. Also the angle which you hold you bass changes the way your fret hand is positioned. Sometimes I'll let it dip or hold it higher for awhile to keep my hand from being stuck in the same position for long periods.
    Good luck!
  9. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    How hard do you press down on the strings when you play?

    You really shouldn't be getting any muscle cramps unless you're playing too hard.

    Lowering your action might help. It's possible you are just getting excited on stage and digging in too much. It's hard to play calmly in front of people, and a lot of times, I don't even notice that I'm playing too hard live, but it's important to pay attention to this to achieve good tone, intonation, and dynamic control.

    Playing a bass should be like petting a cat.... just gently run your fingers across the strings. You can dig in a little bit, but it should never be painful... Just push down hard enough to get the notes out.

    Scott Tennant (classical guitarist) in his video "Pumping Nylon" has a good exercise to help you get accustomed to pushing down just hard enough and not any more than that.

    Try just barely laying your fingers onto the strings, and play a note. You shouldn't hear anything but a "thunk thunk" as you pluck, since this is more-or-less muting the strings with your left hand. Now, start slooooowly pushing down harder and harder as you continue plucking. At some point, you will begin to hear a clear note ringing instead of a muted note. That is exactly how hard you need to play. Any harder than that is really unnecessary, can negatively affect your intonation, and will also cause you to cramp up.

    You shouldn't have to fight your instrument. Fluid, effortless, and gentle gives you the best tone and no cramping. This will also give you more dynamic range, but if you need more volume (not just dynamics), try turning up your amp instead of playing harder.
  10. shirky


    Apr 7, 2000
    Reading, PA, USA
    It might sound crazy, but bananas and some gatorade will help, if consumed about 10-20 minutes before you play.

  11. speedkills


    Jan 10, 2008
    All of your answers (warm up, hydrate, check your setup, even eat bananas) are good answers.

    But none of them - EXCEPT for ajmee - address the issue of why he cramps up during a gig but not during a practice.
  12. +1 You may need potassium. Stretch your hand muscles between songs when you can. One guy suggested stress("drink a beer" was the advise) was the difference between shows and practise.

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