1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
     
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Fretting hand cramps

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by TYoungman, Oct 10, 2018.


Tags:
  1. TYoungman

    TYoungman

    Oct 10, 2018
    Hi, I started playing bass half a year ago and have trouble with my fretting hand. Recently I've been playing Billie Jean bassline a lot, and have trouble keeping the tempo. I play it at regualr tempo and my fretting hand wrist bends when I play it. I start to press really hard against the neck with my thumb, my playing gets sloppy and my fingers get slower and slower. This makes it hard for me to play the bassline longer than a minute at a regular tempo. I realise that my wrist should stay straight throughout the playing but I just can't play at a regular tempo when my wrist is straight because the neck of the bass just falls into my palm and half of my thumb crosses the top of the neck and it can't stay around the middle of the neck. This is a problem because when I practice staying in sync and keeping the tempo with a drummer I cramp up and just can't continue. I would very much appreciate some advice regarding this problem.
    Also I am new to this forum and if anything like this was already answered(I didn't notice) I would be grateful if you let me know so I can remove this thread.
     
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  2. Nashrakh

    Nashrakh

    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    In cases like these, the first thing I would make sure of is a proper setup. The simple reason being that the higher your action is, the more pressure you need to exert with your fretting hand. So make sure your nut is filed correctly, and your action is sufficiently low. That may already do the trick. You don't need to press with your thumb to fret a note - also try to find the point of minimum pressure you need to fret a note. Make a conscious effort not to use more pressure (this may vary from string to string in my experience, it takes getting used to)

    It also sounds like your neck has dive issues. Do you need to hold the neck up so it stays in place?
     
    whero, BobDeRosa, pcake and 4 others like this.
  3. TYoungman

    TYoungman

    Oct 10, 2018
    I noticed that my action is at it's highest setting, that goes for all four strings. I am going to set it to appropriate height when I get the right tool.

    When I say that neck falls into my palm I am talking about my palm fully wraping around the neck so I can't reach multiple frets normally and my thumb is sticking over the neck, so the problem is in my attempt to keep my wrist straight. Sorry for the confusion.
     
  4. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Is this an issue when you're both standing and sitting? Which position are you playing the line in (if you are playing in Gb/F# in the correct octave then you could either be playing in second or seventh position on a four string bass)?
     
    tradernick, TYoungman and Nashrakh like this.
  5. Nashrakh

    Nashrakh

    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    All right. That clears it up a bit. How high are you wearing your bass, or does this problem also occur while sitting down? If you wear your bass too low, it's easy to get into a sort of "pistol grip" with your left hand. You don't need to wear it like a T-Rex, but a little might already help. Maybe you could get us a picture of your left arm/hand if you're comfortable with that?

    Sorry if this all sounds like the most obvious things one could say.
     
    GroovyBaby and TYoungman like this.
  6. TYoungman

    TYoungman

    Oct 10, 2018
    I'm playing it on 7th and 9th fret of the E and A strings and I wear my bass quite high actually so the position is roughly similar to the sitting down position.
     
  7. TYoungman

    TYoungman

    Oct 10, 2018
    I actually wear it quite high, so there is no notable difference when I am sitting or standing.
    I'll try to upload a picture in few hours when I get to my bass.
    Don't worry, at least you're trying to solve my problem.
     
  8. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    This should, ideally, be a fairly effortless line to play in seventh position. The first thing I'd do (as already suggested) is adjust the action on your bass. From an efficiency standpoint, your goal should be to remain as relaxed as possible when playing. Tensing up will lead to decreased mobility and an increased likelihood of fatigue and pain. If I look at my hand when playing the "Billie Jean" line in seventh position, my wrist is fairly straight and my fingers are curved. Taking my hand away from my bass, my fingers and thumb are in a similar position to what they'd be in if I was lightly gripping a ball, except that my thumb is collapsed somewhat (hitch-hiker's thumb). My thumb has a tendency of bending back when I connect with the neck, but I try not to push into the neck with my thumb, as this will cause me pain over the course of a song. I don't have to exert much pressure on the strings because my action is low enough that only minimal fretting pressure is required.

    +1 to providing a photo of your fretting hand.
     
    GroovyBaby, Larchi and TYoungman like this.
  9. TYoungman

    TYoungman

    Oct 10, 2018
    You are on point with this tensing up part, I press frets harder, my thum pushes harder against the neck and everything is sloppy... I press harder because I tend to hear my strings buzz, but that might be because of the action and the fact that I get tense when playing. I'll definitely post a pic later in the day.
     
    bass12 likes this.
  10. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    By the way, a year-and-a-half is not a long time to have been playing. If you can successfully address the issue of relaxing while playing now then you'll be ahead of the game. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
    Wasnex, avvie, CalBuzz51 and 2 others like this.
  11. Whippet

    Whippet

    Aug 30, 2014
    Just slow down.
    Cramp = Tensing.

    Tensing from trying to play beyond ability. Slow down. Increase speed little by little as you play longer and longer.

    You can learn a lot from classical music musicians. Playing slowly till you can play faster and longer is a musical discipline than many of us lack.
     
  12. TYoungman

    TYoungman

    Oct 10, 2018
    This makes me feel better, thanks, I know that Billie Jean is not that hard to play at regular tempo but I guess I need to get used to maintaining it.
     
  13. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Static lines where your hand remains in the same position (especially if you are using just your index and pinky for the majority of the line) are the worst when it comes to fatigue and cramping. I'm not surprised that you're experiencing some difficulty.
     
    Wasnex, TYoungman and Nashrakh like this.
  14. TYoungman

    TYoungman

    Oct 10, 2018
    Yes, well, I start playing normally and after few cycles it all just collapses, so I guess getting used to maintain the rythm is a key. But also my speed is, obviously, not nearly as developed, but I am working on it.
     
  15. TYoungman

    TYoungman

    Oct 10, 2018
    Yes, you are completely right about that, and I prefer more dynamic basslines, as probably the most, but can't escape the static ones.
     
  16. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Building up stamina takes time. The best way to get there (as mentioned above) is the slow and steady route. I have thirty years of bass playing under my belt but static hand positions can still be problematic for me. Whenever I play a Jewish wedding the band does about ten minutes of traditional music where almost everything I play is root-fifth (index finger and pinky). After that the band plays a fast, galloping disco version of a traditional song where, once again, I'm basically just using my index and pinky fingers (octaves). Sometimes I get through it fine. Other times my hand cramps up and I wonder how I'm going to get through to the end of that last song.
     
    TYoungman and Nashrakh like this.
  17. eJake

    eJake

    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Very good info above. Another thing to avoid cramping is to stay hydrated. Drink lots of water!!! Also bananas help avoid muscle cramps. The OP sounds more like technique and setup issues but staying hydrated never hurts!!
     
    gitfiddl likes this.
  18. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
  19. It sounds like you are wrapping your thumb around the neck like a baseball bat. You need to place your thumb on the center of the neck and keep your wrist straight. With your left hand, make a thumbs up, rotate it to the left and place the thumb on the neck and your wrist straight. You may be pressing a little too hard on the neck which most new bass players tend to do, myself included when I started playing again. Ergonomics are very, very important and an instructor can help you with proper technique. You may be playing your bass a little too high. Try playing it at a 45 degree angle with the right hand down by your waist and your headstock up level with your eyes. Take deep breaths and relax your forearm. You can also try to press closer to the fret. This will also cut down on fret buzz. Good luck.:thumbsup:
     
  20. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    * Get your bass set-up properly first. Play smarter, not harder.
    * Set your strap properly first. Work with that first, then as you grow/learn, you'll find "your" sweet" spot.
    * RELAX! Don't worry about almost playing "at tempo" until you can play it all SLOWLY. Gradually increase tempo ONLY as fast as you can ACCURATELY play. Imprinting bad habits early are a mo fo to break after you have done it for long. Just trust me on this one.
    * Search the net for proper/acceptable stretches for the entire body IMO, and focuses on hand/arm warm-ups/stretches for playing.
    * RELAX!
    * Watch your posture as best as possible.
    * BREATHE as you play, try NOT to skip breathe or hold your breath. It increases tension throughout the entire body, particularly in the playing hands, and will also decrease blood flow...which can lead to cramping; lessening the exchange of CO2 and Oxygen which leads to increased acidity of and within the muscles...factor in cramping.
    * Drink water, or at least try to stay hydrated. Related with ^.
    * I learned the hard way when I first started also.
    * Did I mention to RELAX?
    Have fun, and welcome.
     

Share This Page