Painful fret hand cramps

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Amara, Feb 2, 2014.

  1. Amara

    Amara Fumble-Fingered Beginner

    Jan 13, 2014
    I've been practicing for a couple of hours after work lately, and I spent about four hours on and off yesterday working on some new songs. Today, I woke up with a sore hand, and had to stop playing after just a few minutes. It's worst at the base of my thumb (on the palm side) and around my little finger; the latter I can probably chalk up to repeated practice of a fast riff where I'm reaching for one note with my pinky rather than shifting my hand.

    I've been stretching a little before practice with many of the same exercises I use in warming up for martial arts. Is there a particular set of stretches I should be doing? Or something to help my hand recover? I'm assuming that I should rest it and read about music theory instead tonight.
  2. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    if you're not used to play for that long ... well duh! and your technique may be ok for short period of time but on a long stretch it is asking too much

    also a good warm up and a cool down is very important
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    You say you were practicing "on and off". So you are obviously taking breaks during the long practice session. This is important IMO.

    I dont know what stretches you use for martial arts, but here are some for the bass. Spend two or three minutes doing these, then pick up the bass and ease in gently and slowly with some chromatic exercises high on the neck. Do the stretches before and after each practice session.

    Make sure you are well hydrated and are not playing on an empty stomach.

    You may also need to have another look at your technique.

    For now, I'd rest the hand for a day or so. When you start back, take regular rest periods if playing over a long time.

    Hope this helps. :)
  4. I've just been playing bass again after years of not much guitar and my hand fitness is not up with what I'm able to play. Do you know 'Elegantly wasted' by INXS? It's the simplest line of all time and it's got a great groove. First time I tried playing that again recently I couldn't make it past the first chorus. Holding a finger on the first and third fret for five minutes needs a bit of local muscular endurance - it took a few days before I could play the whole thing through and even then the back of my forearm and sides of my fingers were screaming with lactic acid! Lol it's become a regular finger workout for me... Great tune too :)
  5. Low_Ryder


    Feb 13, 2012
    Wrist control is very important in martial arts. Perhaps you could use some of the same techniques?:p

    Just joking around... I can't pass up an opportunity to mention wrist control. Hope your hand feels better soon.
  6. jj4001


    Dec 27, 2010
    Providence, RI
    Try to keep the palm of your hand from touching the underside and the back of the neck. Usually when my hand cramps up from playing, it's because of this.
  7. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Practice playing slowly and with the minimum pressure needed to fret the note.
    Hand cramps are caused by using more muscle than is needed.
    For a lot of beginners, and I know I was like this, we focus on how fast we can play instead of slowing down and focusing on what's happening in our hands themselves.
    Focus on control first, speed will come on its own.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
  9. I am not familiar with that specific song, but I've always found that repetitive grooves in 1st position (at the 1st fret) can be very challenging from an endurance perspective!

    The two secrets that work best for me are:

    1. Use 1-2-4 fingering and don't over-stretch the hand. (i.e. if you have to move from the 1st fret to the 4th fret, shift, don't reach!)

    2. Keep the thumb outside the hand and pointing toward the headstock, NOT crossed over so it's opposite your palm. Thumb-opposite-palm=insta-cramp!

    If I follow both those tips, then I can keep my left hand/wrist/fingers in a totally relaxed and neutral position. Give it a try! :)
  10. bnolsen


    Jan 30, 2014
    denver area
    I had similar pain at the base of my thumb when i first started. I stopped playing for 5 days until any sign of pain was gone. Then I started watching a few youtube videos about "safe" left hand technique, etc. Funny how so many players use so many different left hand positions. So I restarted up and consciously have been making effort to try to find a consistent way of relaxed playing that works for me.

    In addition to trying to find good hand positioning, another thing that seems to have helped was for me to replace my crappy practice 10w guitar amp with a real bass amp. The crap amp wasn't giving me jack for feedback when I was playing softer which added to the problem. My new amp gives good sound even when I play with a soft touch. Yeah, its overkill for just practice (15" @300W).

  11. Yep - I naturally found that thumb position by trying not to have to press my fingers so hard. The fingers I use are 1-3-4 because it's G--B-C-G-B-C-G-B-C. It's easier to get the groove holding the G (3rd finger) on the E, and the B on the A string (1st finger) rather than hammering it on the E string (4th finger).

    What I didn't mention was I was playing it with anytune and when I realised the endurance factor I dropped the key by a semitone so I only had to use two fingers (F#-A-B#). Once I got used to that I bumped it back up - I love this app it's like cheating :)
  12. Also I've been reading on here about tone coming from your fingers, and my right hand is coming along really nicely as for lightness, but just in the last few days I've found how important having a really firm hold on the frets is for a smooth sound. My action is set up really low so it's easy to get a buzz on if I don't fret hard enough. I should probably lift it up a bit but I'm going to keep it for a while to force a bit more discipline into my playing. Thoughts?
  13. There is some truth to this, but the strength/force doesn't need to come from your fingers/hand, it can also come from your arm/elbow/shoulder.

    Imagine you are taking a glass out of the cupboard, picking a fruit, reaching for the shower curtain, sliding open a drawer, or similar motion. If you extend your arm, put your fingers around the object, and drop your elbow, you can pull it toward you in a controled motion with barely any tension in your hand at all.