(Yet another!) hand cramps thread.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Rockin John, Dec 6, 2005.

  1. I thought long and hard before posting because this subject has been covered many times before. But there didn't seem to be a adequate answer for me in previous postings.

    Anyways, here goes...

    My fretting technique is almost classical with thumb on bcak of neck pointing 45 degrees headstock / sky.

    I get hand cramps in my fretting hand. It happens within a few minutes of starting to play.

    Without a picture of where the cramp is to show you, please try this:- put your fingers together and point your thumb out at roughly a right angle. From the gap between first and second fingers sort-of trace a line down the fretting hand until you come to the fleshy part of the thumb. Stop tracing down when you get to the spot where the thumb arches away from the hand. That's exactly the cramp spot.

    The only sure-fire way to get rid of the cramps is to switch technique where thumb is 'over-the-top' and the fingers point approx down the neck at approx 45 degrees.

    Apart from looking quite ugly - as if that really matters - it's almost impossible to correctly intonate on my fretless.

    So, it seems the upshot is I either continue with the cramps or I switch fretting style to over the top. Unless anyone knows different.

    I've resolutely adhered to classical for (on and off) for some 30 years.

    Wisdom appreciated.


  2. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Well, don't go over the edge of your neck with your thumb, that's for sure.

    Other than that, use light touch, low action, relax while playing, ehm, that's all I can come up with.
  3. Earthday


    Sep 22, 2005
    New Hampshire
    I experienced a similar pain a while ago. First, try raising your strap. If that doesn't do it, chances are you're applying too much pressure with your thumb. Your thumb should be a guide, not something that helps your fingers fret. Try using your arm and back to power your fretting fingers. Your thumb shouldnt need to be on the neck at all to play, it's just a convenient place to put it. Its a very bad habit to rely on your left thumb for pressure.
  4. C-5KO


    Mar 9, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    My upright teacher had me do exercises where I didn't use my left hand thumb at all. It translates great for electric. Do all your fingering without your thumb as an anchor for exercises.

    +1 on the strap also.

    2 other suggestions, hydrate, and warm up. These help me alot.
  5. These guys are absolutely right. Your thumb should play no part in fretting. It's just there to tell you where the neck is.
  6. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    I get cramps in my fretting hand sometimes still. I have found that most of the time it comes from pressing to hard. Usually when the guitars are screaming so loud I cannot hear myself. We have always called it muscleing the neck. That is where I find I get my cramps in my fret hand from.
  7. See a doctor. Maybe then we'd get a solution to all these hand cramp problems. :)
  8. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    Well I did find a solution to mine. At least for now. I have to play more to see. Check out this other thread. Hand Cramps
  9. No offense - but a Dr. will tell you to stop playing. They're not stupid like us bassists! ;)
    Either that - or you'll get a large medical bill after all the x-rays and ultasounds and physio, with the explanation of "there's nothing wrong"
    I'd just try stretching a lot, and (funnily enough) if you're game - go for a short run before you start playing to get the blood pumping, it'll help to reduce the onset of cramps for a while at least.
  10. This way you hit two birds with one stone! Fitness and music incorporated into one. Huzzuh!

    *Invisions self running a marathon with bass in hand* :p

    Also, you could always try Tylenol etc. for a temporary fix if you wish to continue playing through a session, but I believe the others are a much more logical approach.
  11. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    My doctor told me to rest as much as possible. Something like Tennis Elbow or Carple Tunnel. Swollen tendons is probably causing the pain. I tried repositioning my bass on my body. It helped alot. The position of your wrist will make a big difference.
  12. macintushy


    Dec 8, 2005
    I'm kind of a newbie and I 've got similar symptoms from time to time too. After trying to fret without the thumb just made me realize what you guys said was really helpful. Thanks a lot!!!
  13. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
  14. In my experience, most cramps - especially ones that happen within a few minutes of playing are strap length related. Fine, laugh or scoff, but let me tell you, if your strap is too long, or too short for your style of playing (it comes down to ergonomics, and the way YOUR body moves) you will get cramps - either in your left or right hand or arm...

    wearing your bass too low can cause cramps in your fretting arm, and wearing it too high can cause cramps in your other hand.

    OR maybe thats just me... take it or leave it. strap length is not just a fashion statement...
  15. whitedk57


    May 5, 2005
    Franklin, NC
    Does the pain only come while playing? I had tendinitis once (before starting bass playing) and it hurt exactly where you describe. The difference is that the pain would occur anytime I would bend my thumb back.

    After several visits and advice on how to self-heal, they finally offered up the magic injection - problem solved within a day. :meh:
  16. bassmanUK


    Dec 16, 2005
    Tamworth UK
    i moved my strap up one notch and solved the cramp in my left hand. Ive also order a MM bongo so I have something with a better action to stop me squeezing the neck hard with my thumb
  17. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    Better action on your abss will certainly help. Playing your bass too low or to high will also cause the stress on your hands. What I have found is that moving the bass to the left or right while I am playing makes a big difference. What I did not realize I was doing was being lazy with my right arm and I was resting it on the bass itself. By moving the bass more onto my body and lifting my elbow just slightly, I stopped my hand troubles.