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Cramps in my right hand.

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Ben Mitchell, May 18, 2011.

  1. I really feel it in between my thumb and my pointer finger. I've considered that my bow grip is wrong (I play french), or maybe I'm gripping the bow too hard..

    Ideas and suggestions?

    Thanks in advance,
  2. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    Not that I'm an expert on bowing, but I usually find that when I get pain like that it's because the object I'm trying to grip is too small.
  3. That could be it, I do have quite large hands.
  4. There should be no grip at all. It's a bow hold. Any amount of squeezing or flexing that lasts more than a few seconds is going to be fatiguing and can possibly lead to injury. Use the weight of your arm and gravity to your advantage. Find a more relaxed way to play.
  5. You probably have a handle on it... gripping too hard will do that. If it's that the bow is too small for you to comfortably grip (or your thumbs are too short), well, you can put a soft grip on it. Or, if all that fails, try German bow... which is my solution, so I can't really advise on technique fixes with French bow.
  6. chris1125


    May 14, 2007
    on my second bow that I ever owned, I had this problem that every time I sent it out for a rehair or something, it was painful to play the bow when it came back, I had to reajust or something to the bow and it took a couple weeks. I never found out why that happened. I would just give it a few days and if it keeps happening try a different bow for a few days and see if that fixes your problem.
  7. I'm reprinting this from an earlier post of mine on the topic in the hope that it will help.



    "Steve Boisen started a thread on this topic on 01=01-2004. There may be others if you trawl back.

    My post then may be of some help still?

    Since adopting these ideas years ago I have not suffered tiredness or pain in my bow hold or arm despite a full-time job in an orchestra.

    When your hands hang loosely by your side they are cupped, with fingers and thumb bent. You only have to move your bent thumb across until it opposes your second finger and keep your fingers slightly separated to have the basis for a very relaxed French Bow hold.

    Two things are important to me. Thumb opposes second finger and is bent, and little finger is bent. These keep your hand cupped, muscles in your thumb and heel of hand relaxed, and wrist free to rotate in any direction.

    Try these tests for wrist freedom. (1) Press your index finger against your thumb and rotate your hand in all directions around your wrist - feel the tension and clicks in your wrist (2) repeat between little finger and wrist - worse tension (3) Now press between second finger and thumb _ tension disappears and wrist is free to rotate in any direction. You can press as hard as you like and the wrist is still free to move.

    Try these tests for muscle relaxation. Keep your thumb and opposing fingers straight and push them together by bending the big knuckles together - your hand forms "Kermit the Frog" shape. Feel your big thumb muscle - it will be rock hard, so to will the heel muscles (like a karate chop). Now again cup your hand and oppose the second finger with the thumb (as in bowing) and test the muscles again - the muscles are now soft and flexible.

    I see the French bow hold as a balancing act between leverage (how far ahead of the thumb the index finger advances) and comfort. If you strike the right sort of balance there is no need for muscle to tense and tire, giving that "red hot golf ball" pain in the big thumb muscles. You will have plenty of leverage for all but the heaviest of plying, when you can temporarily change anyway. Spread your fingers too far and your hand stiffens. Don't advance your index finger far enough and you work like a dog, causing your hand to stiffen! I like natural spacing between fingers, just as they are when your hand hangs loosely by your side.

    I drop the above hand shape over the stick, looking for the front edge of the ferrule with my second finger and the front corner of the frog with the end of my thumb. Then my thumb opposes my second finger in the bow hold!! Also it won't slip off the corner. I could put my thumb in the corner between the end of the frog and the stick but pain is caused when flesh is trapped between nail and stick.

    The thumb is the fulcrum around which the bow will rotate if it wasn't supported by the strings. I think of the first finger and thumb being a hook that transfers the weight of my arm to the string. If I turn in my arm carefully by rotating the right elbow (a hinge joint that only works in one direction) up and out slightly my elbow is free to move in the same direction as the bow and there is no conflict between weight and freedom of movement.

    The fingers will point back slightly and the back of the hand is higher than the index finger (and the last pad of the little finger) is just hooked over the stick (not straight!!!) The hand is still cupped and thumb bent but turning the hand in has thrown weight forward into the string without distorting anything. Most of the bending of fingers is with the second line of knuckles to avoid "Kermit The Frog." The hand, side on, looks more like a snake's head.

    Looking down your bow arm you should see a line of power going undisturbed from your shoulder to your index finger through a fairly straight wrist that shouldn't have to pronate too much. Play with a "long arm." (I too am short at 5' 7")

    I use the above "package" of bow hold and arm set-up to connect my brain to the strings with as few "road blocks" as possible. Via Tom Martin the ideas come originally from a must-have still available book by William Pleeth, famous English Cello teacher, called "Cello" ( a paperback commissioned years ago by Yehudi Menuhin )

    The key word to distill from the above blah blah is "alignments."

    Best Wishes

    Last edited by David Potts : 02-17-2011 at 04:37 PM.
    #14 "
  8. rbkbass


    May 20, 2011
    I have had success with both beginning students needing to learn how to form a relaxed bow hold, and continuing players with cramping issues that need alleviating, with using, for a time, the CelloPhant bow accessory on a short cello bow. Maybe the extra bulk of this device would help you too. It shouldn't hurt to play.
  9. Ross Kratter

    Ross Kratter Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2010
    New York, NY
    Artist, RS Berkeley, La Bella Strings and Phil Jones Bass Amplification
  10. Short term fix - put your thumb under the frog when you feel the pain coming on.

    Long term fix - get a few lessons from an expert and follow their instructions.
  11. Excellent post from David.

    About the thumb under the frog... I know one of the NZSO players who does that as a matter of course. She's really tiny, but makes a huge sound that way and it doesn't seem to hurt anything either physically or technically.

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