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Fretting hand cramps

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

  1. Relaxed, but he definitely uses some strength behind the fingering. Otherwise it would not sound like that. He is not playing like 'just hard enough to push the string onto the fret', he puts more into it.
    TYoungman likes this.
  2. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    Okay, since some of you mentioned a picture would help here is the one which depicts the scenario I described, I try to keep my thumb relaxed, pointed to the headstock and my wrist straight. This picture is what happens when I try to play Billie Jean. You can actually se how I am unable to spread my fingers, which keeps me from playing the notes correctly. Also here is a pic of my technique up until all of this(the one that causes cramps) IMG_20181010_202109. IMG_20181010_202029. .
  3. Mastermold

    Mastermold Supporting Member

    Looks like your action may be a bit high.
  4. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    Oh and must add that I have used one finger per fret technique wich would make me use my index finger (7th fret) and my ring finger (9th fret) for Billie Jean bassline. And while trying to have my wrist straight my fingers get pressed together and I can only play with index finger and pinky, but it doesn't sound good because all 4 fingers go where index or pinky go.
  5. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    Well it's set to the highest setting at the bridge, I am not sure about the nut.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Practicing slowly and increasing tempo gradually is definitely one good way to work on it. But since your problem isn't that the line is too fast per se, but rather that you can't maintain that tempo for the duration of the song, here's something else you might try: Play at tempo, but only for (say) four or eight bars, and then drop out for a couple/few bars (or just play a whole note for each of those bars). Then play another set of bars, and drop out again, etc. Over time, gradually increase the number of bars you play in a row, and gradually decrease the number of "rest" bars in between. This method has the same goal of increasing stamina, but has the advantage that you're always practicing at tempo (and can play along with the recording if you wish without having to slow it down).

    Either way, keep in mind that the goal is ensure that your practice is always "perfect practice," as someone remarked previously. Every time you play a line sloppily you are practicing how to play sloppily. The idea of the gradual change across time, whether in speed or in number-of-bars-between-rests, is to make sure that when you are playing you are always correctly.
    TYoungman likes this.
  7. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It's possible that you need to adjust the relief in the neck using the truss rod. The reason the string height is set so high at the bridge might be that you or a previous owner tried to compensate for a neck that was too flat or back-bowed by jacking up the strings at the bridge. If you add a little relief to the neck you might then be able to lower the strings at the bridge to get lower action all up and down the neck.
    Blankandson and TYoungman like this.
  8. You will no doubt have less trouble if you lower the action A LOT. I don't think I have ever played bass a with such a high action as you. Ideally you want the action high enough to not have fret noise/buzz, but almost at the lowest point possible. A to low action besides fret noise will also make the notes sound a bit more flat so the lower the action the less room the string has to 'wave' around. Your strings are also fairly thick. You could give it a try with a bit thinner strings and see if you like it (lots of people hate to play with thin strings).
    OogieWaWa and TYoungman like this.
  9. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    I agree with you on this, but I think that practicing proper technique and developing finger agility with a straight wrist would be the major factor of keeping a tempo, also setting my height appropriately because with this setting I can't really play by pressing the strings lightly.Trying to press strings gently at this tempo and get a good sound is very hatd with this action height becauae it makes all sorts of buzzing sounds.
  10. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    I tampered with the bridge action few months ago when I was playing some faster rock riffs with a pick. The reason I did that was the buzzing sound I would get from picking the strings harder than I would with my fingers. I stumbled upon advice to raise the action height to avoid such problem.
  11. With a low action you often also need to adjust the neck curve itself to avoid the fret buzz.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    @TYoungman thanks for sharing those pics. It gives me a clearer idea what is going on. Here are my suggestions:
    1. Lower your action.
    2. Use your 1st and 4th fingers, not your 1st and 3rd fingers. (But maybe switch to the 3rd finger occasionally, to give your hand a rest, if you feel the beginnings of fatigue or cramping. You can also use your 2nd finger, occasionally, to rest your 1st finger)
    3. Drop your elbow down, so your forearm is at a more vertical angle.
    4. Don't be afraid to bend your wrist.
    5. Adjust your thumb so your palm doesn't look like "butt cheeks" (creased life-line). Widen your hand, so your palm is smooth and flat. Imagine you are reaching out to shake someone's hand, in a friendly gesture.
    6. Turn up your amp and play with a lighter touch.
    7. Lower your action!!!
  13. Dwight Trash

    Dwight Trash Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2015
    Perris CA
    The instructional video and the video of the master of the song posted above are excellent for learning. Truth is that man must have VERY large hands. He's fretting the low note with his thumb and the octave with his pinky finger. If the OP is fretting the octave with the ring finger and letting the pinky hang out of the way, there is where your technique needs to change.
    I learned this from First Lady of Bass while sitting in her living room:
    "The index finger has a tendon attached that runs all the way to the elbow.
    The middle finger also has its own tendon.
    The ring finger and pinky finger share one tendon, all the way to your elbow.
    Proper technique is the first finger plays the first note or fret, middle finger plays the second note or fret and the pinky plays the third note or fret. The thumb remains behind the neck and is used to pivot to the fourth note or fret."
    I am a skydiver so after that unforgettable lesson I took a small fat rubber band and isolated the pinky and ring finger by bonding them together. I practiced this way until the pivot of the thumb to play index, middle, pinky, pinky became natural. I can play longer, faster and smoother without any cramping or pain. I paid Carol about what I make playing a bar gig for teaching this. Do this for two weeks and you will be a better player, if you don't have any parachute rubber bands you can use a hair ponytail band or use tape but don't cut off circulation.
    If the above helps you to be a better player please subscribe to the monthly payment here on TalkBass.com and commit to making this site forever available for everyone. No pressure.
    TYoungman likes this.
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    So you think you should just keep going when your hand is cramped or otherwise in pain? Not a very good idea.

    I didn't mean stop forever, dude. :banghead:

  15. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    I'm definitely taking my bass to a professional, I really need a proper setup, thanks for the pointers. ;}
    Dwight Trash, bass12 and Lobster11 like this.
  16. All this except point 6 :) Be a dynamic player. Play hard and pressure the string to shape 'that tone' when needed and play soft and lightly to shape 'that tone' when needed.
    TYoungman likes this.
  17. Danm900


    Dec 3, 2013
    I've had issues with cramping with thinner neck basses. I feel less crampy on a big phat neck that fits my hand.
    TYoungman likes this.
  18. When the pain comes along with it comes the oppertunity to progress and increase your limit. If you just stop with a little cramp or pain then you are limiting yourself and stopping yourself from braking existing boundaries. And of course you need to do it in a sensible way and not overdo it. Thats why I refer to a workout in a gym where you want to increase your muscle capacity. You don't stop when it gets heavy and a bit painful. You push through to reach the next step on the endurance ladder.

    (edit: typo's)
    TYoungman likes this.
  19. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I partially agree, that we can get a wide range of tones on the bass, by plucking harder or softer with our right hand. (Assuming a right-handed player.)

    One of the hardest things to do, which takes a lot of practice, is learning how to vary the attack with our right hand, while maintaining a consistent pressure with our left hand. Fretting with more force than is necessary doesn't change or improve your tone at all. Best case, it is just wasted energy, and worst case, you risk pulling the pitch sharp.

    Dig in with your plucking hand if you find it's necessary to reach your tonal goals, but try to keep your left hand relaxed at all times. :)
    Lobster11, Nashrakh and TYoungman like this.
  20. Sorry to disagree again but, I can hear a lot of difference in tone depending on the pressure with the neck hand. Some people here are suggesting to play as lighlty as possible just enough to push the string onto the fret. I hear a difference between that 'light pressure' and a strong pressure that sounds somehow more confident and 'there in time' when I hear it. It is always a combined effort from both hands to produce a tone and sound, but pressure on the neck hand matters.
    Mushroo and TYoungman like this.

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