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Hand cramps

Discussion in 'Ask Adam Nitti' started by Geri O, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Hi, Adam. Thanx so much for what you do, both on YouTube, and the online teaching and website.

    My history is that I spent the late 70s, all of the 80s, and the first part of the 90s playing. A whole lot. So I was a lot younger and my hands could stand some bad technique. I quit playing around 1994 and didn't play a bit until last July when the desire hit me really hard to play again.

    I'm playing on a fairly regular basis and I try to get in an hour of playing/practicing every day. The video on the movable-anchor technique was a tremendous help to my playing (and I LOVE that inlay between the pickups!!). But now, I'm running into hand cramps in both hands after I've been playing for an hour or so. It's not painful, but it does hamper the playing quite a bit! I'm holding my right arm slightly away from my body as I play and that has helped. But I'm not sure how to adjust my left-hand technique. And I'm wondering if I'm taking on too much too quickly. I'm trying to play slightly less hard and use less left-hand pressure when I play. Are there any other things I should be addressing that might help this situation? Back in "The Day", I could play for hours and hours without this problem.

    Thanx for any suggestions!
  2. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    hi geri! great to have you here with us. :)

    so glad that video helped out. if you're dealing with cramping, my first thought would be maybe you are carrying too much tension. in most cases, our tension starts in the shoulders and works its way down the arm all the way to the hands and can cause problems with endurance and even pain. first thing i would suggest would be to evaluate the level of tension in your shoulders before you lift your hands to the instrument. then place your hands on your bass while maintaining that relaxed state. every 30 seconds or so, evaluate the level of tension by stopping playing, dropping your arms to your side, and relaxing your shoulders. you might find that this is at least some of where your issues are coming from.

    hope that helps!

  3. jefkritz


    Oct 20, 2007
    iowa city, IA
    great technique advice above :)

    if you're not already doing this, you should stretch before (and after) playing. stretch at least your forearms, hands, shoulders, neck.

    p.s. adam, you're the man.
  4. Latitude94941

    Latitude94941 Supporting Member

    May 15, 2013
    Northern California
    Careful about stretching--you can actually make things worse if you don't know what you're doing.

    Always warm up on your instrument before playing. Harvey Brooks has a great chromatic warm up exercise that he explains in the back of Ed Friedland's book "Bass Grooves."

    Watch your playing time: take breaks with gentle stretching after every 45 minutes of playing.

    Agree with Adam's diagnosis of excessive tension. Also check out Gary Willis' info/exercises about not using excess pressure when depressing the strings.

    Like you, I have also found that I cannot get away with the things I did when I was younger. I try to rationalize this by telling myself that it's offset by acquired wisdom and experience.