Avoiding death grip and finger cramps

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by akaTRENT, Feb 13, 2009.

  1. akaTRENT


    Jan 10, 2009
    New Jersey
    Hey guys I noticed recently that i grip my instrument way to hard. On the neck and even holding a pick. What kind of exercises do you all do to say loose as a goose and not cramp up. thanks!

    **mod please move to appropriate "technique section" thanks and sorry.
  2. KramerBassFan


    Jan 3, 2009
    Well, first off, on the cramping up, Drink LOTS of water.
    This should make a big imrovement.... it does for me?
    And as for the gripping it, i'd just try to practice not gripping it so hard...
  3. Lurker79


    Jul 3, 2008
    Hayward, CA
    It's something you have to consciously unlearn. You noticed it though, some people don't until they hurt themselves.
  4. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Something that helped for me was getting the right bass. In my view, a bass that's too top heavy will make it hard to play with decent technique. If you are using your left hand to prevent neck dive, then you won't be using your left hand to play with correct technique. In my case this eventually involved switching from a "boutique" bass to a much more modest instrument that had better balance.

    As for gripping, practice pressing your fingers down on a table, with your thumb on the other side. That's the Grip. Now loosen your thumb and see how much pressure you can exert with the tendons and muscles that flow into your arm. That's where most of the force should come from. Do this while wiggling your thumb around so you know it is nice and loose.
  5. john_g


    Sep 14, 2007
    i notice I do it when I am struggling to keep up volume wise in the band. If my volume is good and even with the rest of the band, I tend to play more loose.
  6. Couple of things..

    1-Set up your bass correctly
    2-just sit around the house playing anything.. get to the point where you're not thinking..

    Your hands should almost be like limp hotdogs.

    The more delicate your touch.. the faster/lower your action can be..

  7. shamus63


    Dec 17, 2005
    San Mateo, CA

    Dehydration will be your worst enemy onstage...next to a gaseous singer.
  8. Idiotpod


    Feb 11, 2009
    Got Djent?
    Think of it as of your penis.
    You DO NOT SQUEEZE your penis until it gets blue, if you aint into bdsm etc. =)

    Remember that you got a shoulderband to keep your bass up if your afraid to drop it.
    (And yes, this is quite serious)
  9. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    Do you practice unplugged?

    I find that when I can't hear myself, I tend to play harder. Practicing with an amp helps, and using good monitors live helps.

    Beyond that, just relax and be aware of it. Take a page from classical guitar and adjust your technique so it's lighter. Scott Tennant has a DVD called "Pumping Nylon" that has some *great* exercises for proper left-hand technique, which can easily be applied to bass guitar, as well as Gary Willis:

    Hope this helps!
  10. Marley's Ghost

    Marley's Ghost Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    lift weights. get in shape. and relax when you play.
  11. SnappyFerret

    SnappyFerret What it is, what it is Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2009
    Quinine is actually good for preventing muscle cramps of all sorts. You can't buy it at the drug store anymore, but it is still an ingredient in tonic water. I drink an 8 oz. glass each day. At 65 cents for a liter bottle it's a cheap way to help.
    Also, watch that you don't bend your wrists much at all when you play. If you keep the neck of your bass pointing up at around a 45 degree angle, you can keep your left forearm, wrist, and the back of your hand pretty much in a straight line (assuming you are playing right handed). A straight wrist avoid cramping and developing carpal tunnel as well.
    I definitely agree with the advice to keep your grip and finger pressure light. If your action is low, you shouldn't have to press hard at all. That's why I had to give up the upright bass - it requires too much pressure, which aggravated my tendonitis and carpal tunnel. The electric bass gives me no problems.
  12. I think it took me a good 8 years to figure out I didn't need to put the kung fu grip on the bass. You have taken the first step by realizing the problem. It's a conscious effort now. Really concentrate on relaxing and playing easy everytime you practice, eventually it will cary over to your performances.

    Try turning your amp up and letting it do the work and play softer, instead of letting your fingers and hands do all the work.

    Also, working on finger permutation exercises helps to build strength.:)

    A good low action setup on your bass doesn't hurt either.
  13. PBass101


    Jul 3, 2008
    I had too strong a grip when I first started out. I got over it by spending alot of time concentrating on how I was holding the bass, plucing/picking the strings, and trying to remain conscious of how comfortable my grip was.

    Anytime I felt like I was tensing up too much, I'd stop playing for a few minutes and shake my hands out. Once you get a cramp, just lightening up won't make it go away - you need a short break.

    You can force your body to "learn" how to handle certain things over time. Forcing myself to play with a loose, comfortable grip felt strange at first, but after a few weeks it became natural for me and I get no more cramps today.
  14. akaTRENT


    Jan 10, 2009
    New Jersey
    i always practice first unplugged :)
    Ive been playing for 8 years now, and I am basically knit picking my playing now.


    Feb 1, 2009
    Chico, CA
    I second that, I dig in even more if im playing with my fingers.

    If the volume is right and your not at war with your guitarists, then you wont have to grip and play so hard...for me, it works
  16. akaTRENT


    Jan 10, 2009
    New Jersey
    I use a vox amplug for bass! exact same idea!
  17. akaTRENT


    Jan 10, 2009
    New Jersey
    Pick player all the time for me! gee guys your insights are killer. i really mean that.
  18. Realizing you are wasting energy that could be used on better things like tone, nuances, speed, style, etc. is not knit picking:smug: It really can take your playing to the next level and beyond. It's worth the effort!
  19. akaTRENT


    Jan 10, 2009
    New Jersey
    whoops. i meant knit picking in effort of the goals your speaking of! :)
  20. Like anything, you just have to practice it. You are half way there by realizing the things you need to work on. There is no easy way around it, and there is no substitute for time on the bass (or even better on the bandstand with better players!)

    Try some of the things that are being sugested here, and find what works best for you to get the results you are looking for. :bassist:
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