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Left Hand Cramping

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by bobbykokinos, Mar 9, 2005.


  1. Hey Guys,

    I've recently got back into DB play after about a 1 1/2 off because I had no access to a bass.. Well, I play my last gig with the DB.. I played about 3 tunes and my left hand started cramping up. I switch back to electric for a tune and it loosened up a bit but still hurt.

    Other than the standard "play more", are there any excersizes or stretches (playing or non playing) that will help me loosen up a bit so I can play a bit longer?

    Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.
     
  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    I would think it takes time for your muscles to get back to the point where you can play longer. Doing too much too soon can be very bad and damaging.

    I've played piano since 5 and type for a living (software engineer) & play guitar and bass, and I've never have any RSI/Carpal Tunnel issues. Anyhoo, the stretching exercises that I learned while doing Aikido have helped a ton. I stay pretty limber and my wrists are pretty strong. Check out these stretches and give them a try.

    http://www.labs.agilent.com/personal/Danny_Abramovitch/wrist/wrist.html

    The descriptions are sorta okay... it can be kinda confusing even if someone is there to show you, so feel free to PM me about questions. Doing them once or twice a day can help alot.
     
  3. Are you squeezing the neck or using the weight of your arm and shoulder to depress the strings? It takes a while to learn this, but when you do, cramping will become a thing of the past. There are several old threads that feature detailed discussions of the technique. Do a search of the technique forum using the word "squeezing" and see if any of those threads help any.
     
  4. Yeah, thats the problem I had in college.. I would always squeeze the neck instead of using the weight of my arm. It was also suggested to me to use the weight of the bass to lean it into the fingers.. Im assuming letting the bass lean forward a bit?? Not sure...

    Not playing for a year and a half really got to me.. I know it takes time but I have a 3hr gig coming up this friday. Ill probably just take both upright an electric and switch off.. I dont want to push it and cause any hand damage.
     
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Man, why don't you just take the electric and shed DB til you can do a whole gig? That way you don't have to schlep.

    Practice smart, do what your teacher says, start playing sessions, when you can make it through a 3 hour session with no probs, drag it to a gig.

    You don't want to have to lay off another lengthy period cause you do something stupid, right?
     
  6. I totally I agree.

    I've been practicing for several hours a day the past couple days and, suprisingly, its getting better already. I practiced infront of a mirror and noticed my posture was horrible.. Once I straightened that out and became more aware of it, things started ironing themselves out. It nots 100%, but its also not as bad as it was,
     
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'm not in line with Ed on this one. Take 'em both. That's how you build stamina. My first gigs were a 5-hour marathons and I took only the fiddle and suffered until I could make it -- which was pretty quickly. These were the days of all "amped, all the time" due to the era and the size of the room that I was playing, etc., and I could turn up the amp a bit for the last set or two as I fatigued.
     
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    But dint you have soem CTS concerns? Or was that later?
     
  9. Now that I think about it, I kind of agree on both sides.

    1. I agree that working on stamina at home is important. Its gives me the chance to play a bit and then sit it down if its becomes painful. The problem with this situation is I dont want to become lazy. At the slightest burn, I dont want to put the bass down. No pain, no gain.

    2. I also agree with taking it to a gig. This will force me to play through it and deal with it. Although I'll just have to tough out the pain, it SHOULD build stamina. Also it would force me to adjust to be comfortable to get through the song atleast until I can switch to electric. Draw back: pedal through alot of chords :)

    I think I will take it to the gig with me and try it out for a bit. I'll stretch for several minutes before we start to limber up a bit..

    My concern is, will extended amounts of pain lead to physical problems down the road?
     
  10. I personally didnt have any CTS concerns right now. I work on a computer all day and when I'm not on the computer, I'm playing bass. I'm not saying it isnt a possibility but its hasnt happened in 14 years of bass playing and about that long on computers.

    Edit: sorry, I thought that question was for me..
     
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    About 18 years later, and for different causes. It was tendinitis and not CTS, though.
     
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    When I first got a DB, I sorta just jumped in, too. But I didn't have any weird cramping or muscle pains. Just blisters. Cramping just strikes me as an "incorrect usage" rather than a "lack of usage" event, hence my caution.
     
  13. In my experience, and I break my own rules often here, I HAVE to warm up. Sometimes I can warm up on the first couple of numbers, but if its something repetitive played near the nut I've had it - pain and breakdown. However, I can ride out a quite bit of ache and then be fine for the whole gig and feel nothing, but if anyone calls Cataloupe Island for the first number and I haven't been able to warm up they're playin' it without me.

    Brian Brompberg is quoted as saying he reckons he's damaged himself from lack of warm-up. I note Bobysocks says he stretches at least before playing. In case anyone's wonderin' I'm on a pc all day and playing a lot of bass in the intervening times too - one of those cases where YMMV I guess.

    IMH eperience when on a gig I'm usually thinking about anything but whether I'm using my hands properly and if I'm not, this will (has) of course manifest itself later on in the gig. Ray's talent/training got him round this.

    There is pain I know I can ride, and through experience I know there are twinges that travel right up my arm and I must stop immediately to avoid damage/long term problems even though I could carry on at the time. Some people are prone to this CTS/RSI WRULDs - call it what you will - and have to take special care to use good technique and some are not - you could be lucky. Personally, I induce cramps from my left hand being tense - I find it is in dynamic tension - trying too hard to hold a certain span ready instead of being relaxed - its something I've had to work on (relaxing that is).

    And finnally, if you're goin' to ride out a lot of pain on the no pain no gain principal, IMHO the following day I'd play very lightly. You need to let your arms recover in my view, just like any training.
     
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Bobby,

    Try practicing without letting your thumb touch the back of the neck - this way, you KNOW you're using arm weight instead of clamping. Part of my practice routine involves practicing this way for a short period every session just to keep me honest, and to help build in the "larger muscle groups are better" mantra.

    Back when I used to do Aikido, our sensei used to occasionally make us do front rolls with our arms at our sides. That tended to clean up bad (uncentered) technique REALLY fast. :D Bass is no different - the power is in your trunk, not your hands.
     
  15. lownotes02

    lownotes02

    Jan 19, 2005
    Melbourne, Fl
    For those of you guys who normally stand up when you are playing, and you practice the technique of not letting your thumb touch the back of the neck, do you practice this sitting down?

    If Im sitting, it seems doable. If Im standing, forget it.

    For those of you that practice this standing up, do you let the bass lean forward to help you depress the string?
     
  16. Suprisingly I played a 3 hour gig this past Sunday with no pains.. I guess it just took a little bit to iron things back out.
     
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm a sitter, and this is one of the main reasons why. :)
     
  18. lownotes02

    lownotes02

    Jan 19, 2005
    Melbourne, Fl
    Thanks Chris. It also seems some arco guys like the way the weight of the bow sits on the strings while sitting with the bass leaned back towards them.

    I find I "get into it" more when I play standing up (a habit carried over from my EB years) but the practicality of sitting certainly looks like it has its merits. I will ck it out.

    Your playing on "Ive never been in love before" is NAILS. That piano player is a roaster as well. I listen to that and Ray's "Pedal Pusher" and "In the absence of..." all the time.

    Thanks for your input.
     
  19. 5stringDNA

    5stringDNA

    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    I haven't tried playing sitting either, and if I don't use my thumb I risk dropping my bass very quickly. Leaning the bass away from me when playing arco seems to work better though, haha.
     
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Including my teacher, and his teacher, and HIS teacher...:)



    Thanks for the positive review! Playing with Harry is great, and I find that I benefit from the "centeredness" of playing seated more in his group than in many others. Regarding the "thumbless" thing, think of the arm weight part of it as akin to being in TP all the time, even when you are down in 1st position. The leverage is pretty similar in that you can feel the weight transfer straight from your shoulder to the string. The longer I play, the more I realize that the next step is feeling how the trunk feeds the shoulders, and how the whole center of balance is really down in the area of the hips, just like in Aikido. Playing from the shoulder/body also helps get good strong LH stops, which helps a lot in terms of sustain and tone. Good luck!