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mangotango

Owwwww!! Cramps in plucking hand

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On Saturday, I played the Xmas gig for the Workshop band in which I play EUB as well as bass guitar. We did 20 tunes, of which I played only 3 on the bass guitar.

Had a 3-hour rehearsal in the morning, a few hours break, then back to it, soundcheck by 7.30,  2 x one hour sets with a half-hour break.

Part-way into the 6th song of the second set (Poinciana, uptempo a la Shelley Manne, rocking along at around 180, not laid-back like Nat Cole), my right-hand plucking (index) finger totally seized up. With a definite "twinge" right down into the inside of my wrist, it curled up into a hook and wouldn't undo. Worse still, my middle finger didn't feel great either. I finished the tune playing with my last two fingers.

Before the next piece, I took hold of those two fingers with my left hand, rubbed them fiercely to give a bit of warmth and pulled gently on them to stretch them out. Next 2 tunes were on bass guitar and by the time I got to the last tune, everything was OK.

However, the whole experience was more than a little unnerving!  Anyone else had a similar experience and if so, any advice to prevent it recurring? I don't want to do any permanent damage. Appreciate your thoughts.

Please note that normally I use a single (index) finger to pluck, though on faster pieces I will alternate between index and middle. Occasionally, for a big fat tone, I will use index and middle together (which is how I finished out the last tune so that the middle gave the index some support), but I have less speed/facility like that.

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So you'd done three hours of rehearsal, three hours break, a one-hour set at full gig speed, and then your finger started to protest?

Can't say as I blame it!

If you find yourself under that sort of pressure again, try doing stretches more or less randomly through your breaks ... concentrate on the fingers but also work on the forearms, the upper arms, and the shoulders (in that sequence).

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

So you'd done three hours of rehearsal, three hours break, a one-hour set at full gig speed, and then your finger started to protest?

Can't say as I blame it!

If you find yourself under that sort of pressure again, try doing stretches more or less randomly through your breaks ... concentrate on the fingers but also work on the forearms, the upper arms, and the shoulders (in that sequence).

 

 

Well, kind of. Rehearsal 10am-1pm, back to the gig by 7pm; set-up and warm-up until 7.30, then soundcheck. 8-9pm, set 1; 9.30-10.30 pm, set 2. It was six songs into the second set that everything went pears.

Appreciate the point on stretching during breaks, and I suppose even between tunes on longer gigs - I guess now that I'm getting older (bah!), I need to be a little more aware and take care of myself a bit better.

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I had this after a couple of hours of rehearsal on Saturday - I was alternating between bass guitar and EUB (which I’m still really getting the hang of) and we went into an uptempo Latin number and the first two fingers of my fretting hand on electric just locked into a claw, and nothing I could do would make them move properly. Managed to play root notes for most of it and it sort of relented. I think it was down to the fact it was probably the longest I’ve played EUB and I hadn’t stretched or really warmed up beforehand at all. 

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Could be dehydration or low salt/potassium (eat a banana).   Has happened to me a couple of times when I've played a lot longer than usual (e.g. long rehearsal in a cold room followed by gig with no/little break).

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Bananas are the answer. I grade the challenge of a gig by the number of bananas. These days I often turn down a 3 banana gig......

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I'd have said carpal tunnel and a need for more stretches plus maybe a visit to a physio ( I once had the same from typing at a computer all morning then eating lunch with chopsticks ... Lived in Seoul at the time).  But if Phil says bananas ... who am I to argue.  Try eating bananas!

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Lots of good advice. I would add that it is very possible, if not likely, that the cramps you describe could be aggravated by not playing in a relaxed enough position. We often hold far more muscle tension than we need to when playing, especially so after a couple of hours of playing. When playing, make a conscious effort to take focus on your breathing, allow the weight of your arms to do the heavy lifting rather than pushing down, shift your weight from leg to to avoid tensing up. It helps, not just physically but also with concentration on the music. 

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3 hours ago, Peter Michael said:

I had a similar problem back in August and got some good advice here about stretches. Trying to keep up with  strerches before playing and it is helping.

 

Great stuff, thank you.  And I have to say - my right hand looks very much like yours in your video, except that I tend to anchor my thumb on the side of the neck - which probably doesn't help either.... My cramps really started after a good few tunes on the spin up around 160 on the metronome, sixteen songs into the evening (though a break after the first 10).

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All good advice. 

Relax the right hand as much as possible. I'm a pro player on double bass and I never practice for more than an hour on the day of a gig because as sure as anything I'll (wrongly) play two or three times as hard as I do in practice. I'm working on endurance, playing in a more relaxed manner and breathing. Bananas!? Sounds good, I'll check that out on the next "three banana" gig!

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Hope you get it sorted, I’ve had to adjust my fretting action due to osteoarthritis in my ring finger (can’t bend it much), I can only use the other three now.  Unfortunately I can only see it getting worse....

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