My Hand is Cramping!!!!

johmica

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I quit playing for a while (mostly during and immediately following law school), but I got back into it in April of 2020. I got an all access pass to TrueFire, and I've played more diligently in the last two years than ever before in my life (I've been playing on-and-off for more than thirty years at this point). I've played (I'd guess), on average, at least three hours per day, and I'm constantly pushing myself with the lesson plans to learn new stuff and stretch my limits.

Over Christmas break, I bought myself my first acoustic in a while. It's a nice one - a lefty Gibson J-45 Studio. It's got low action for an acoustic, and I put 11s on it. I've been working on learning every song on Please Please Me, and even with the low action and light-ish strings, my hand starts to cramp after playing all those bar chords. I can usually make it about 25 minutes before my fretting hand is in knots.

Is this normal? Does this go away as strength builds? Or is this yet another wonderful by-product of nearing 50?
 

Resojazznblues

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Sounds like the muscles in your hand are "getting back into shape." Try loosening up by hand exercise before and after playing. Also, the .011's on what is probably a 25.5" scale may be somewhat stiff and you are gripping the neck harder. Try lightening the touch of your left hand. Once the muscles in your hand get used to playing again, muscle memory should return and you should feel less discomfort.
 

TokyoPortrait

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Hi.

I often get hand cramping. In my case, it is on smaller necks. Despite my wee short fingers and small hands, I don't do well comfort wise on modern thin necks. That's the main reason I bought my last guitar, with a bigger, soft V neck.

But I also suspect there are many possibilities why people get hand cramps.

What happens on other guitars with you, esp. if you play a lot of barre chords? How are your electrics' necks different? etc.

And yeah, as touched on above, I suspect a lot of us don't warm up, stretch our hands, etc. before playing / practicing / performing (including me). But I've seen a lot of musicians in the non guitar world warm up first.

Pax/
Dean
 

middy

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Ask a luthier if he can lower the action any further on the nut side. Use light strings.
 

fretWalkr

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Good advice above. Bar chords on acoustics can be cramp inducing especially if you're not used to it.

If a bar chord is painful for me then I simplify it and keep playing. For example I might play something like x33211 instead of 133211. Or even xx3211.

Also, don't feel obligated to use bar chords for everything. On acoustic I tend to use a lot of cowboy chords. The open strings ring and really gives that big acoustic sound and they're easier to play. On electric I approach things differently, few cowboy chords, more bar chords, more voice leading.
 

boxocrap

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I quit playing for a while (mostly during and immediately following law school), but I got back into it in April of 2020. I got an all access pass to TrueFire, and I've played more diligently in the last two years than ever before in my life (I've been playing on-and-off for more than thirty years at this point). I've played (I'd guess), on average, at least three hours per day, and I'm constantly pushing myself with the lesson plans to learn new stuff and stretch my limits.

Over Christmas break, I bought myself my first acoustic in a while. It's a nice one - a lefty Gibson J-45 Studio. It's got low action for an acoustic, and I put 11s on it. I've been working on learning every song on Please Please Me, and even with the low action and light-ish strings, my hand starts to cramp after playing all those bar chords. I can usually make it about 25 minutes before my fretting hand is in knots.

Is this normal? Does this go away as strength builds? Or is this yet another wonderful by-product of nearing 50?
try ( like a couple folks above suggested) a lighter set of strings..just go down one so the 11 becomes a 10 etc..you probably won't need to adjust your intonation that way..and i'm confident your hand will thank you for it
 

Toto'sDad

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Don't push yourself too hard. My wife got trigger finger from playing barre chords on her Taylor 314ce. She had to have her wedding ring cut off her finger, and only recently have we had the ring repaired for her to wear.
 

Milspec

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In addition to the advice regarding the action height, gripping exercises, etc., try drinking tonic water....the brand that still contains quinine.

Quinine is the drug used to fight malaria and one of the key symptoms of malaria are bad muscle cramps. I always drank it thoughout the day when competing in marathons and it stopped my many bouts of calf cramps at night. Maybe it could help the body not cramp up in your situation?

The stuff does taste like crap though, always had to mix it with cranberry juice.
 

tfarny

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Well I'm going to say that if you go lighter than 11s on an acoustic you are getting into kind of unusual territory. There needs to be a certain amount of string tension to really drive the top for ideal tone. Especially, I imagine, on a J45 with its shorter scale. 12s are considered pretty light for an acoustic, I have 13s on my dread and my resonator. I used to play 12s on a fingerstyle acoustic. I experimented with 11s and I found the feel too light. If you really want a more comfortable string, try a Silk and Steel set. They do sound different, but you might find you like it.

You can work on lightening your touch and on sometimes not playing the full bar if it's not needed. A lot of times we grip much harder than is really needed. It also might be the case that the neck just isn't a comfy shape for you.
 

stantheman

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Sounds like You gotta have a BIGGER NECK. If it's a Tele, I say an All Parts FAT with a 1" Diameter from stem to stern.
If You plan on playing strictly Acoustic try to find a Kay - Kay One 8901; You'll most likely need a neck reset and jumbo frets,
but if the Luthier is good the Guitar will rival any L-5, they're a Carved Spruce Top, no Truss Rod (hence the Neck reset) and the Frets ALWAYS need doing. Kay stopped building K-1's by 1960 I think. But when You find one and bring it up to date it may be all You want to play. It's a big box 17'' with a tree trunk. You will NEVER cramp again in the fretting hand.
 

radtz

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I was going to make a post saying "less self love and more guitar love" but then I remembered I am a much better person than that.
 

MilwMark

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Your strings are already too light for that guitar, arguably. Lower action? It’s an acoustic.

Loosen your death grip with both hands. Lighter touch and let things ring. Then play 15m pain free and take a break. After a week, try 20.

Don’t force it or do weird things to your guitar.
 

TRBonn

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Dec 31, 2020
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Michigan
Do some hand and forearm stretches before and after playing. As you build the strength up, the cramping will stop. In the meantime, stretch!
 




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