terrible hand cramps, please help ty

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Das reich88, Oct 24, 2011.

  1. Das reich88

    Das reich88

    Oct 24, 2011
    hi, i am very new to talkbass.com, and i do love playing bass and guitar. however i have a terrible problem, i get very intense handcramps in the spacing between my thumb in my left hand "fretting hand", this causes my hand to lock up and become much slower and of corse very painful, i play music like iron maiden, which has songs like phantom of the opera which go on for 7 minutes of non stop 3 finger galloping at 190bpm. if anyone knows if their is a medical solution to this musicans cramp please let me know, thank you all very much, james.
  2. bThumper38

    bThumper38 brian ebert

    Could be a number of things, like is your wrist bent when you are playing. That can cause cramps. How low do you where your bass?
  3. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    Maybe a nice warm soak and a massage in the effected area before playing may help.
    If you are new to bass (you dont say), it may just be a matter of building up strength in your fretting hand. Continued practice will help. Stop playing when it gets painful - dont push it.
    If you have been playing many years and are just now starting to have pain, you may need to re-evaluate your fretting hand technique. Possibly you have strained it with the way you hold the neck. If the pain doesnt get better, seek medical attention.
  4. tk4207


    Sep 25, 2010
    I know exactly what you mean by "locking up"! The good news is that it's definitely not medical (or at least it shouldn't be). It's mostly down to stamina and technique. Wrist placement (and hand placement in general) is pretty much the most important thing for playing comfortably and playing well. Good technique is usually pretty hard to learn right off the bat, and I highly recommend finding a local teacher that teaches either electric or upright, or both. Even one quick lesson can be eye-opening, and can provide a solid foundation to build upon as you keep playing bass.
  5. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Make sure you have a good left technique.

    Sometimes I get left hand cramps and it is usually from hooking the thumb on my left hand over the top of the fretboard. So when I play demanding songs I make sure my left thumb stays on the back of the neck.
  6. Rockman


    Mar 2, 2006
    How long have you been playing? It probably took me 2 years before I could play a bass with absolutely zero discomfort or residual feeling from practice.
  7. Sounds like you are "rocking out" and squeezing the @%#$ out of the neck. Only use as much finger pressure as it requires to close the string. It doesn't take that much. Our smaller muscle groups ( like the hand) can get tiered when we hold too much tension in the larger ones like the arm and back. Breathing keeps oxygen flowing and tension down as well. This is stuff we think about on the upright that often gets overlooked on the BG. Think about relaxing the string down instead of squeezing if you want to be all "hippy" about it. :)
  8. Das reich88

    Das reich88

    Oct 24, 2011
    i have been playing for about a year and half, i spend quite alot of time playing, how ever the cramps have never left, my guitar/bass teacher doesn't understand why i get cramps, thanks all for commenting and helpling. oh and yes i will play with a straight wrist, stangely enough its a crampin the muscle between my thumb and index
  9. Das reich88

    Das reich88

    Oct 24, 2011
    i have my bass relatively low, the top is level to belly button haha, but not super low like you see some metal bassists have it at their knees almost literally :)
  10. Das reich88

    Das reich88

    Oct 24, 2011
    oh and i also switched to very thick steve harris signature strings their 50 g and 110 on the E string, and they have worsend the cramping due to the increased pressure needed. sorry for the sloppy posting, thanks for the help :)
  11. Das reich88

    Das reich88

    Oct 24, 2011
    one last question, in time whe i have saved up the whopping 1400 dollers, i plan on perchasing a steve harris precicison bass, their known for the very thick necks, do you think that would increase stain on hands and increase cramping?
  12. tk4207


    Sep 25, 2010
    It could potentially, but if you correct your technique there should be no (or little) pain playing any bass on any song, as others have said.
  13. Rockman


    Mar 2, 2006
    Itll probably do the opposite. A thicker thing is easy to grasp than a smaller thing. When your playing a trick I learned from playing a lot of upright is that you aren't using your hand to apply the pressure, meaning your thumb is just there to position things correctly. Try playing without your thumb on the neck att all and applying all the pressure using your upper back. It'll feel really weird at first but if you keep practicing this kind of thing your hand cramps might go away.
  14. Epidrake


    May 24, 2011
    +1 on the thicker neck. It will definitely help stop some of the cramping but in the meantime it sounds like you have to switch to lower tension strings. Right now I have my right hand wrapped in an ace bandage because I haven't let my wrist heal from an injury. The injury was from using a trowel and heavy tar to fix my roof. Then lots of bass playing and computer work just made it worse. Take care of yourself!
  15. whodom


    Mar 3, 2006
    Summerville, SC
    If you get these cramps soon after you start playing, I can't help. If you get them after playing for an hour or more, eat a banana. Bananas contain lots of potassium and work wonders in stopping/preventing hand cramps, especially late in a gig, and they work fast.

    Both guitarists, me, and the drummer (the drummer for leg cramps) swear by this.
  16. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona
    Ahhh, you beat me to it.....

    There IS actually a physical ("medical") reason for some muscular cramping. Low electrolyte (mineral salts) in an individual (sweating frequently without replacement) is not uncommon.
    When an individual swims for a lengthy period or intensely they don't notice the water loss becasue they are IN water. Running in the desert will often make individuals unused to that, cramp up bad.
    The LIKELY cause IS inappropriate wrist positioning but I would have thought the Bass teacher would have said something about that.

  17. I cramped up at my gig this past saturday..... which sucked.

    I normally have great stamina, we practice for 4 or 5 hours at a stretch. But, in the past few years due to my corporate **** job, I've been having intermittent issues with carpal tunnel and this has caused me some weakness.

    Now, we had a 6 week or so hiatus, and I practiced with my other band thursday night and went crazy, and at 41 I might have overdone it a little.

    But I do think perhaps dehydration / electrolyte might have had something to do with it. I don't think I drank much water saturday with the load in and all... Wasn't drinking alcohol though...

    I'm going to make sure for this saturday I'm hydrated and take it easy, no practice with other band.

    To the OP - if this is the first song you are learning, you may need to work up to it.

    It's like a marathon - you can't just get off the couch and start running 26 miles. You have to work up to it.

    We were playing a song a while back where the bass is pumping every quarter note in the entire song. Pumping quarter notes is easy, but in an uptempo song for 5 minutes it might take more out of you than you think if you're not conditioned for it. In contrast, take a kind of lazy blues song and there's nothing to it - you could do it for 25 minutes without breaking a sweat.

    So you might need to work your way to it. Play some scales with a metronome and build your endurance.


  18. younggun


    Jul 19, 2008
    San Antonio
    That position still sounds too low if you are holding the neck pretty much horizontal to your body...its going to cause an extreme right angle bend in the wrist of your fretting hand. This means the large muscles in your forearm are not allowed to do the work of pulling tendons as they are designed to do.
    Here are a couple of videos by Gary Willis talking about technique.
    The first one is concentrating on right hand technique, but check out the first couple minutes...the principles are the same for the left insofar as how the muscles of the hand work:
    Gary Willis - Progressive Bassics Pt. 2 - YouTube

    The second video is about the overuse of finger pressure in the fretting hand. Also pay attention to his wrist position. Might be helpful to you:
    Gary Willis On Finger Pressure - YouTube
  19. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona

    To the best of my knowledge (I obviously am not a doctor) electrolyte balance in each individual can be a complex issue depending upon diet, age, existing conditions, genetics, etc.

    There ARE some basically harmless tests you can try. Everyone has seen "multi-minerals" (just like multivitamins) in grocery or health-food stores. try taking a single normal tablet (don't over do it, obviously) for a period of several days while you continue to practice & play as you normally do. Sports drinks don't often have the same selection of minerals & are often a load of caffeine and sugar (the caffeine will blow your electrolytes out in short order by itself!) - so don't go that route.

    Then play a serious gig and see if you still get cramped. You know how to play, you been doing it for years, but cramps in a player may really be a loss of minerals. If you're cool and the cramps are gone, you know what happened. Too much coffee, tea, or even normal adult stress can deplete you. as long as you don't go overboard, it's a very harmless way to check that issue out. I've sat behind a desk too w/ a ****- job often myself & it's nasty.
    Good luck.
  20. Das reich88

    Das reich88

    Oct 24, 2011
    thanks to everyone who was replied to my post, i am very greatful for the smart and helpful answers to my ailment. i have been trying them and they have certainly helped although they have not completely gone away.:)