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Cramp and old men

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by PhilH, Aug 20, 2007.

  1. PhilH


    Jul 16, 2007
    I'm an old man (58)who's been an air guitarist for years. Last month I decided to buy a Squier Vintage Modified Precision Bass and Warwick Blue cab 60 to learn enough to play along with some of the more basic CD's I have at home. Practisiing the index/middle finger plucking technique like crazy and have discovered a problem, which is I get terrible cramps in the area of the palm of my hand at the top of my thumb. Have others experienced this, will it go when my hands get used to this exercise or is it an age thing? I am not going to give up on this, and would like to learn proper technique, so am reluctant to stop using this method for my right hand. BTW I wish I'd done this y-e-a-r-s ago as it is so much fun!
  2. Rune Bivrin

    Rune Bivrin Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    Huddinge, Sweden
    Well, without seeing how you play it's hard to say anything specific. Cramps usually come from tense muscles. Judging from where your pain is, I'd say you're just playing too hard, and using your thumb as balancing force.

    My advice is that you look into floating thumb technique. The earlier you start with that, the easier it is to get into.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Try and make sure your wrist is straight and your hand relaxed. A little muscle soreness at first can be expected when you first learn to play bass, but cramping is bad. Since we can't see you play, you should probably consult with a teacher.
  4. PhilH


    Jul 16, 2007
    Thanks for the replies. Thinking about the floating thumb technique, and my problem, I've also realised that the tip of thumb is also getting very sore from resting it very 'rigidly' on the pickup. I think that I am not being fluid enough in my wrist action, trying to hold everything too stiffly. I take on board the suggestions about a teacher, would love to and have looked into it but given current local fees charged I'm afraid its just not feasible. (I live in the UK btw) Anyway, thanks again for the advice, its much appreciated.
  5. spindizzy


    Apr 12, 2004

    Spin here at 56 and I feel your pain even though I have played for over thirty years. Yes to floating thumb and even more emphatically for you I will say keep in tune with how you use and keep relaxed your joints and bones.

    I play through a lot of pain these days but most of it now is inherent in my bones and the result of natural progression of arthritis. I have used the Floating techniques since back in the early eighties when I first started recognizing the early symptoms of joint pain and was told by my doctor that I showed signs of deteriorating joints.

    First thing I had to lick had nothing to do with my bass technique but how I held the steering wheel on my car. I had pain in particularly my thumb joints and although I was sure it was how I played my bass observing the way I held my steering wheel made me realize that I was putting extra pressure on my thumb joint by holding the wheel with opposing thumb and fingers rather than resting it in the palm of my hand. The constent pressure cause my early joint pain and once I stopped holding the wheel in the fashion the pain stopped.

    Your planting of your thumb on a pickup or thumb rest will, if you are using enough pressure, have the same result. FT is a more efficient way to play and avoids this kind of abuse to your hands. I also find that it has, as I have adapted it every year to compensate for declining joints, kept me playing years after it would have put another person out of the business.

    Have no fear though; if you treat your hands right (avoid tension, always wash your hands in warm water before you play, warm up slowly with some breaks to get your hand is shape and ready to play, see your doctor if you need anti-inflamitories to help with joint pain, etc.) I believe you can keep playing for years.

  6. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Sound like normal process of training and building strength in muscles not used like this before. I recently started playing double bass and going thru same thing working on bowing. Just have to take what you can then stop for a minute or two and start again. As days go by the muscles get used new task and longer time before cramp starts and eventually go away.
  7. PhilH


    Jul 16, 2007
    Again...thank you very much for taking the trouble to reply.
  8. chasfr


    Jan 4, 2005
    One thing that has helped me (another old guy of 52) is to watch video of experienced players, paying particular attention to their right hand technique. Even if they're not using the floating thumb (which I've adopted too), their right hand generally looks quite relaxed. Check out Bob Babbit in "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" if you can. The bass lines are amazing, and his right hand looks completely free and relaxes.

    Good luck!
  9. rosanne


    Sep 30, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    I started playing bass at age 62 and have had arthritis for many years but I found several things helpful. Some have been mentioned before. Here's what helped me:

    - floating thumb technique
    - keeping my hands warm - excellent advice about washing hands in warm water before playing!
    - someitmes I wear a hand brace while sleeping.
    - give your hands a break every now and then while practicing.
    - minimize tension all over your body, not just your hands - one of the best bits of advice I got from my last teacher was to locate the places in my body where tension resided and relax those. This made it much easier to keep my hands relaxed.
    - breath deeply while playing.

    Good luck!
  10. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    Nobody's mentioned it yet, so I'll add, play with a light touch and let your amp do the work.

    An important part of floating thumb is raising your elbow so your wrist is fairly straight, this reduces tendon strain. Your shoulder muscle will get sore at first, but that will pass.
  11. PhilH


    Jul 16, 2007
    Again all good points. Much appreciated.

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