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Fretting hand cramps

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

  1. OogieWaWa


    Mar 17, 2013
    Oak Harbor, OH
    Dang, Blankandson, 70 and almost still playing TNUC? Proud of you brother!!!!

    Geez, OP, you could fit the end of a yardstick under those strings!!! That's just too much like work!
    WhenTheDrumsStops and TYoungman like this.
  2. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    Yeah, I know, I already found few people to set my bass. This time I'll have a professional do it, but after that, when it will be necessary again, I'll do myself.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  3. And while we are giving advice, you need to be aware that some fret buzz is never heard through the speakers. I have all five of my strings set at 0.6 cm which is almost touching the frets. I get a very low fret buzz on about 5 frets on either the B or E string, all five being around the 12th fret. None of these buzzes ever make it through my amp or into the FOH when playing DI, so I don't care about them and just play on.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
    TYoungman likes this.
  4. ezstep


    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana
    I carry a "squeeze" toy in my truck. Think of a thick, semi-inflated rubber ball. While driving from job site-to-job site, I pick up that ball and squeeze, relax, squeeze, relax, etc., for a couple of hours per week (not necessarily in a row). I haven't have a hand cramp in quite a while, but when I do, it is usually on my "plucking" hand.

    Our guitarist quit on the last song Saturday night. Just stopped playing. Strange. He then told everyone that his hand was cramping up on him. It happens. lol
    WhenTheDrumsStops and TYoungman like this.
  5. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    Yea, I read that on the internet, I will have my bass setup and see how it goes.
  6. Ralph Manak

    Ralph Manak Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2017
    Austin, TX
    Two thoughts:
    1. Practice the line slowly just fretting, without using your plucking hand. Focus on playing the line as lightly as you can. Breathe. Work up to tempo over a period of days. When that is effortless (by this I mean, as others have suggested, light touch), return to the slower tempo and re-introduce plucking hand and focus on that aspect (you may discover that you have some stress here, too, which exacerbates the fretting stress—kind of an additive effect as far as your body is concerned). This may take a week, or it may take a month. That part doesn't matter.
    2. After trying different fingerings, including Louis Johnson's brilliant thumb-over to get the low F# accents (although I'm generally playing 5-string for the gig that includes Billie Jean), I came to play the line at 7th fret, with pinky for the F#, ring for the C#, and first for the E and B (just pinky and first also works). I also palm-mute and pluck with the thumb, use an octave pedal (Aguilar Octamizer, with the octave just barely on and clean level at unity), and accent the F#s. I find this to be relaxed yet dynamic.
    TYoungman likes this.
  7. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Pressing your thumb against the neck is a no no. The thumb is an anchor for you to use your fingers, by way of your large muscles (forearm/shoulder) to pull the strings into the fingerboard. You don’t move the neck forward, you move the strings backwards. I don’t know if what I’m saying will make sense, but your setup is a big part of this...try holding the strings down without using your thumb. Keep the tension off your thumb, just use it as an anchor/pivot point.
  8. Bubble


    Apr 17, 2013
    Watch Mark King of Level 42 in some live videos. He is one of the first and greatest slappers and fast complex rhythmic bass players in Pop music. His stance isn't cool like a low slinger, he actually plays with it rather high up on his chest. But that is great for the wrist and finger span.

    This guy just keeps chugging along for a whole concert like this, actually mid chest but just looks higher because of so many that play too low slung.

    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
  9. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    The whole “work through the pain” idea is nuts, that’s how people end up with repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel. The scale and structure of your hands bears no relation to a bicep or quad that can be exhausted into growth, your hands are pretty easily damaged. When I get a cramp, I stop, drop my hand down to get some blood in there to wash out the lactic acid, stretch a little, and try to relax. I usually do about 20 minutes of scales before even trying to play a song, 35 years playing, no injuries, no carpal tunnel.
    TYoungman and Lobster11 like this.
  10. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Yeah, getting a proper setup is definitely the first step, and having a pro do it will (hopefully) ensure that it's done well. And if your current setup is as bad as it seems like it might be, fixing that might actually eliminate some of your technique problems -- e.g., you might find it easier to maintain a straight wrist, relax your hand, and control your thumb position when you don't have to squeeze so hard to fret a note. Please be sure to report back and let us know!
  11. 30 years of playing through pain and cramps... no injuries either. I did improve myself and gained lots of endurance and with that also better timing and feel.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Good god, that sounds awful. :(
  13. TYoungman


    Oct 10, 2018
    I am counting on partially solving the problem by getting a proper setup, but I have so much more to learn and practice. I got so many great advices in this thread and they are so helpful and motivating, I'll definitely try out many of those.
    EatS1stBassist and Lobster11 like this.
  14. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Also keep in mind, "Billie Jean" is not a normal/typical song. Most bass lines that you learn will not be quite so repetitive and cramp-inducing. :)
    Lobster11 and TYoungman like this.
  15. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    If you want to take chances with your own hands, that’s cool, but peddling advice that any physical therapist or neurologist will tell you is hogwash to new players is not too cool. Do we have to actually cite the nearly unlimited articles and sources contradicting your point of view, or would you prefer to read up on it yourself first? There are thousands of well known former pro athletes who “played through the pain” with ruined bodies and permanent disabilities to show for it. You can play hard and smart, with no pain, by paying attention to your body. Pain is the bodies unmistakeable signal that something is wrong. Please don’t waste time responding, I won’t be reading it, but when virtually everyone else responding to this thread, and every medical professional I’ve ever read about disagrees with you, you might want to consider the obvious: you are wrong.
  16. Liam Wald

    Liam Wald Supporting Member

    May 17, 2011
    California Coast
    Get some potassium dietary supplement and take as directed.
    TYoungman and EatS1stBassist like this.
  17. I don't really play normal bass lines (much), I am always looking for the edge of my ability. Hence why even after years I can still play through pains and cramps to improve myself. It is not aweful, it's a pleasure. Last 5+ years though I had some cramps just because I don't play enough anymore. My endurance is in a downwards spiral for some years because there are only 24 hours in a day and there is so much else to do than playing bass. Keeping those muscles trained and strong is so important.

    I stand by what I wrote btw. No pain, no game. And in all fairness, it is all about what you want to play on the bass. If you want to be a country genre bass player then you won't need endurance. If you want to be a groover then you better train those muscles and step up that ladder of endurance.
    TYoungman likes this.
  18. It's all not that difficult, you just have to listen to your body, your own muscles. If you don't push those muscles then you won't gain anything other than muscle memory. You won't get that endurance and with that partially you also won't get 'that tone' in your fingers. There is playing bass as in playing notes on an instrument.. and there is 'playing bass' as in your whole energy and soul runs through that bass. You won't get that if you listen to failed doctors (physical therapists), you get that by putting your soul into practice and exceeding your limits and push the boundaries of your physical abilitiy. Be like Rocky Balboa on bass :)
    TYoungman likes this.
  19. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    OK, I give up...sorry for trying to be helpful. :whistle:
    TYoungman and Lobster11 like this.
  20. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I was wondering if I was the only one who thought playing bass requires some strengthening exercises. I play Billie Jean on bass with a Barre chord on the second to play the Gb on the 2nd and 4th strings together. The rest of the riff I play with ring and small finger. It took some practice to build up the intrinsic muscles in my hand. This is a different kind of pain. It is akin to going to the gym and being sore after.

    I am currently trying to play Mr Sandman by Chet Atkins on guitar. The chords make my hand tired and sore, but everyday it is a little easier. Especially the F#/B Dominant 7th & 13th...
    TYoungman likes this.

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