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left hand strength and flexibility

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by hernameisrio, Jan 26, 2012.


  1. hernameisrio

    hernameisrio

    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    I've noticed that particularly in the past four months or so, my left hand has gotten considerably stronger. I basically went from noodling around once in a while, to playing at least two hours a day and playing in a few different bands on top of that, and the difference is pretty significant. :D

    However, it seems like there are certain repetitive bass lines that always give me a huge cramp in my hand. I start out strong and then I get tired after a verse. "Billie Jean" is one. "I Travel" by Simple Minds is another...I was trying it tonight and it was just like, argh! No matter what I do to try and give my hand a break, I cramp up either in my forearm or at this weird spot on my palm that's sort of like my thumb muscle...it's hard to explain. My wrist has finally become strong and flexible enough that I no longer feel any ache there even after playing for 3-5 hours. But this thing with my thumb is kind of a new one. I've tried different fingering, I've tried holding my thumb different ways against the neck (including not at all), and for whatever reason, certain lines just totally kill my left hand in that one spot.

    I guess my question is two-fold: what are some other ways to work around fatigue like this? And also, is this an issue of just not having the stamina yet, or could it happen to anyone at any point in their bass-playing career/existence?
     
  2. How high is your action? The forearm tensing up could be normal after playing a difficult passage for a while, but the thumb is throwing a flag. Either your action is terribly high or you need to play with a lot less pressure. If you are using the correct amount of pressure you should be able to fret indefinitely. Look up Gary Willis' instructional video on YouTube for a clue on fretting hand pressure.
     
  3. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    In such issues we have to consider hand use.
    So you i assume you use your hands in many other ways than playing bass?
    So let us assume that playing is not the cause of the problem....yet.
    If you have a job that invoves constant use of the hands then the problem may be that playing just highlights the problem not causes it.
    if you have a job such as carrying, lifting, driviing etc.then un wanted tension may be the issue.

    For those that do not use there hands for playing using them for other purposes may cause problems, especially as we get older. So consider the task of playing as a new use....so lets get rid of any left over issues with what went before.

    Stretches and warm ups for 3-5 mins before playing will help get the hands ready to play and release un-wanted tension.
    Drink lots of water, so being correctly hydrated is a must, muscles are water based tissues to he extent of about 60-70% and are one of the most varied and as well as largest tissue groups in the body. Also diet make sure you have eating correctly in enough time to allow the digestion system to have dealt with the intake of calories for energy.

    For info on these points see the health sticky for warm ups and the energy foods available.

    If after a few week you still have problems then a bit more background detail on what you do and how you use you hands will be needed.

    Next point check you set-up, make sure you are not causing problems through being poorly set up. and then your bass set up, make sure it is set up correct for you so it is easy to play.

    Address these points and see what happens.:)
     
  4. hernameisrio

    hernameisrio

    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    Hey Fergie, believe it or not, I never even thought of that...maybe it IS something else I'm doing, and bass playing just aggravates it. But like I said, it's not my wrist at all, and it only happens with certain, specific movements that I don't think have anything to do with how hard I'm playing. My action is actually set really low, too, and the height of my bass is just right. I think I might just need to start stretching more or something. When I first started getting seriously into bass, I was worried about my left hand because of an injury to my left shoulder which I believe might have caused that arm to become slightly weaker than my right...possibly even some minor nerve damage. So it's actually kind of a milestone for me to finally feel like my strength has built up to this level in the first place. Anyway, I'm going to change up my practice routine to include stretching my hands and hopefully this will help. Thanks for the tips!
     
  5. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Also have a look at grip pressure then, maybe you are not supporting the fingers properly, grip pressure is an un-seen element that can go past un-noticed and un-checked.
     
  6. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    How is your neck hand grip? Ask another player or watch some youtube clips, could be bad form catching up with you.

    I have to warn all my students though they can play stuff like that in the short term, do it all night, with harder stuff and see how long your hands keep up.

    Just a thought.
     

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