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Left hand cramps

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by dhosek, Jun 21, 2000.

  1. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    As I continue my return to upright, I've been working through some very simple exercises (I figure there's nothing wrong with going back to page one of Applebaum & working up all the way from the beginning, ah the joys of a slow scale in F). What I've discovered is that my left hand has been cramping quite painfully, although only when I play arco. Pizz doesn't seem to be a problem. Hmm, perhaps I'm pressing too hard on the fingerboard when I play arco. Any thoughts on what I can do to avoid this in the future?


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  2. Learn to stand with the bass so that the left thumb isn't needed to support any weight. Practice playing with your thumb off the back of the neck. That will serve two purposes.
    It'll help you not to rely on your thumb to
    support the bass. Secondly, but perhaps foremost importantly, it will force you to stop the notes from your shoulder and with the weight of your hand. You shouldn't squeeze to stop the note.

  3. DH, I used to have a the same problem when I started playing the double bass. The following exercises given to me by two different teachers helped me overcome this problem. The exercises even complemented each other.
    1) Learning to really feel the balance point of the instrument is important. Play long tones on only the open strings with the bow while standing. Do not hold the bass with the left hand.Do use you left hand to grab the bass if it is going to fall over! Practice playing 1st string to 2nd to 3rd to 4th. Then do 1st to 3rd etc. It becomes quite challenging when you are crossing from 1st string to the 4th string. After a week or so I found myself much more in tune with the balance of the instrument. This can help you to keep from from using your left hand to squeeze the neck for extra stability when playing arco.
    2) While sitting on a stool play 2 octave scales with the bow. Now try it without having you thumb touching the back of the neck. This will feel strange at first, (like ice skating for the first time!) This should help teach your left hand that it can play without relying on the thumb. Now try this standing using the balance of the instrument.
    I don't know if this will help you but it solved my problem. Good luck.
  4. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    By all means, follow the guidance of the preceding posts, but your words "my return to upright" make me wonder if you're simply trying to do too much too soon after a long layoff. You might restrict your time spent bowing to whatever leaves you pain-free even if that means 5 minutes a day; build up gradually. Increasing muscle strength does not require that you go to 100% effort every day
  5. Jake


    Dec 11, 1999
    There are many dexterity excercises that will help with stamina and efficiency. My favorite one is 1-2-4-2-1-4-2-1 (in thumb position substitue 3 for 4), this is a chromatic drill where you move that fingering from 1/2 position to as high as you can go. Try it on all strings. Shift up and down in half steps. If you start on Ab, shift to A, then to Bb, then to B, ect. Hope this makes sense.

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