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  #1  
Old 12-15-2009, 08:19 PM
justroth16
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Default Hand Cramps

Hey guys,

I have played the drums for over 10 years, and I just experienced something for the first time. I'm playing with a band that calls for harder hitting than I am used to, and I am experiencing painful hand cramps. When it starts cramping up my grip goes from loose to extremely tight. We had a gig the other night and half way through my right hand was killing me, I made it through but I could have played better had my grip not altered . I play pretty much every day so its not like my hands are out of shape or anything. Is there an exercise I can do to alleviate this pain? or could it be an issue with my technique? Thanks guys
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  #2  
Old 12-15-2009, 08:22 PM
Boomka Boomka is offline
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

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Originally Posted by justroth16 View Post
Hey guys,

I have played the drums for over 10 years, and I just experienced something for the first time. I'm playing with a band that calls for harder hitting than I am used to, and I am experiencing painful hand cramps. When it starts cramping up my grip goes from loose to extremely tight. We had a gig the other night and half way through my right hand was killing me, I made it through but I could have played better had my grip not altered . I play pretty much every day so its not like my hands are out of shape or anything. Is there an exercise I can do to alleviate this pain? or could it be an issue with my technique? Thanks guys
Let me guess, the cramping is in the muscle between your thumb and index finger?

Two things: first, check that you're using appropriate sticks. I've experienced problems in the past when I tried to up the volume level using small sticks which can be harder to control when you're leathering the kit. We tend clamp down to hold on for dear life in that situation. A bigger stick will let your hand relax when really digging in (and generally, in many cases)

Second, you'll need to practice playing relaxed at higher volumes. You may need to change your technique. For instance, when I'm playing loud backbeats, I'm often holding the stick with my back fingers, rather than at the front of the hand. The "exercise" to alleviate pain would be practicing endurance and relaxation at ever higher volumes.

Okay, a third thing - why not just play at a lower volume and make the other guys turn down?
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Old 12-15-2009, 08:35 PM
justroth16
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

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Originally Posted by Boomka View Post
Let me guess, the cramping is in the muscle between your thumb and index finger?

Two things: first, check that you're using appropriate sticks. I've experienced problems in the past when I tried to up the volume level using small sticks which can be harder to control when you're leathering the kit. We tend clamp down to hold on for dear life in that situation. A bigger stick will let your hand relax when really digging in (and generally, in many cases)

Second, you'll need to practice playing relaxed at higher volumes. You may need to change your technique. For instance, when I'm playing loud backbeats, I'm often holding the stick with my back fingers, rather than at the front of the hand. The "exercise" to alleviate pain would be practicing endurance and relaxation at ever higher volumes.

Okay, a third thing - why not just play at a lower volume and make the other guys turn down?
First off, thank you for your non-pretentious response. I am impressed, that is exactly where I am experiencing the pain..I've always played with 5a sticks, and I havn't changed the size so I don't think that's the issue...I imagine i'll just need to work on my endurance, and work on playing relaxed but still with power. Would you suggest moeller?
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Old 12-15-2009, 09:13 PM
Boomka Boomka is offline
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

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Originally Posted by justroth16 View Post
First off, thank you for your non-pretentious response. I am impressed, that is exactly where I am experiencing the pain..I've always played with 5a sticks, and I havn't changed the size so I don't think that's the issue...I imagine i'll just need to work on my endurance, and work on playing relaxed but still with power. Would you suggest moeller?
You're welcome. As for the sticks - not changing them could be the problem. That's my point. In order to get more volume, you're hitting harder and trying to get more out of the stick than it'll give. There's a reason a lot of players who play heavy/loud music tend to use bigger sticks. Try a pair of 5Bs on for size and see if it helps somewhat. That's not to say that you can't play loud with 5As, but a bigger feeling stick might help both physically and mentally with the transition to the music you're playing.

Technique-wise, yeah you might try "Moeller", but I find that means a lot of things to a lot of people. Your best bet is to find a qualified teacher/player in your area who can help you develop the technique you need to play the sort of music you want to play.
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  #5  
Old 12-15-2009, 09:38 PM
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ahector ahector is offline
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

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Originally Posted by Boomka View Post
Your best bet is to find a qualified teacher/player in your area who can help you develop the technique you need to play the sort of music you want to play.
ding ding ding

This is by FAR the fastest and most efficient way that you will overcome your problem. Even if you don't continue with regular lessons, pony up the cash for one or two sessions with a professional teacher.

Also, set up mirrors near your kit so you can see yourself play and/or video tape yourself. It will be a real eye opener. Since you are experiencing pain, you know now that you are exerting too much energy to accomplish what you want on the drum kit.

When you practice with the band, do an experiment. Instead of focusing on your playing or your bandmates, try to focus on what you're doing with your body while you play. You may notice a lot of things (and not just with your hands... maybe you tense up in other parts of your body) that you can fix.

Spend some serious practice time trying to play loud and/or fast while trying to exert the least amount of energy possible.

Also, you may find that your practice or gig monitoring is not sufficient. For instance, if you can't hear yourself very well, you're naturally going to want to play harder and louder to compensate. Do you use sound-isolating headphones or in-ears when you play? That can help a ton if you don't. Sometimes bands get into a volume-war situation where everyone keeps upping their volume and it snowballs.

Watch some videos of really good drummers who play loud or fast music. You'll notice that most of them are very relaxed when they play and use efficient motions to make the drumsticks do what they want them to do.

Just throwing some stuff out there that you might want to think about.

I was in a very similar situation about 3 or 4 years ago. I used to play extremely hard. A lot of people used to come up to me after a gig and say "wow you play really loud!" I always thought that was great since I was playing in a rock/metal kind of band. But I had a gig like yours: I was in the middle of the first song and my right arm was getting tired because I gripping too hard. My entire body was pretty tense. To compensate I gripped even harder which only made it worse. For a while I was thinking that I might just drop the sticks in the middle of a song and not even be able to make it through the set. Fortunately that didn't happen, but my playing definitely suffered that night.

Anyways, I made a lot of changes to my technique and grip and I also came to the realization that I didn't need to hit as hard as I was to get the kind of sound I wanted.
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  #6  
Old 12-15-2009, 10:07 PM
justroth16
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

Yeah, I agree that finding a teacher is essential at this point...
I try and be aware of my technique, and monitoring my looseness while playing, but with this group a large part of our shtick so to speak, is a lot of stage energy, so I guess the extra moving around is throwing off my focus...our next gig is in 1.5 weeks so I really want to nip this in the bud while I have the chance, and focus on sounding the best that I can
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Old 12-15-2009, 10:10 PM
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TimSimmans TimSimmans is offline
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

The best method I have found for changing the way in which I play whether that is technique/tone or in your case volume is to start off at a low tempo, adjust your playing to how it is and to gradually build this up. It is very important to do this to a metronome as this dictates the speed you are practicing at/ensures you are not speeding up yourself but most of all lets you know the tempo that you feel comfortable playing at!

Id suggest playing single strokes at say, for example, 16th notes at 60 bpm (or even less depending how comfortable this feels) and concentrating on increasing your volume.
STAY at this tempo until you feel completely comfortable and then up the tempo by 2/3 bpm at a time ensuring that you are comfortable at each tempo!

You could also try using a rimshot for a stronger backbeat if the problem is the band hearing the tempo.

Remember these things take time to change though and dont expect to notice the changes overnight ;)

Just out of curiosity, why do you have to play louder for this band?
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  #8  
Old 12-15-2009, 10:55 PM
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ahector ahector is offline
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

Quote:
Originally Posted by justroth16 View Post
Yeah, I agree that finding a teacher is essential at this point...
I try and be aware of my technique, and monitoring my looseness while playing, but with this group a large part of our shtick so to speak, is a lot of stage energy, so I guess the extra moving around is throwing off my focus...our next gig is in 1.5 weeks so I really want to nip this in the bud while I have the chance, and focus on sounding the best that I can
Well, think about it this way: that stage energy is not coming from your grip or your wrist/finger technique... it's probably coming mostly from your arm movements and your facial expressions and things like that.

You should be able to develop a loose, relaxed technique while still being able to have big, exaggerated arm movements and that sort of thing.

Since you've identified the problem, you're already on your way to getting through it. Just being mindful of it will make a big difference.
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  #9  
Old 12-15-2009, 11:35 PM
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Ian Williams Ian Williams is offline
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

Besides all the outstanding drumming recommendations, it will be good to have yourself check by an physiotherapist.

In addition, a drum will only give you 100%, the harder you hit it, its not going to get any louder. Regarding drum-sticks I moved from 5A to 5B -> 2B (I enjoy them). Also, If you want to work on your endurance, I suggest you - John Bonham.
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  #10  
Old 12-16-2009, 01:53 PM
justroth16
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

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Originally Posted by Ian Williams View Post
Besides all the outstanding drumming recommendations, it will be good to have yourself check by an physiotherapist.

In addition, a drum will only give you 100%, the harder you hit it, its not going to get any louder. Regarding drum-sticks I moved from 5A to 5B -> 2B (I enjoy them). Also, If you want to work on your endurance, I suggest you - John Bonham.
Thanks everyone for your outstanding advice...Ian, it's funny you mention Bonham, I recently got a 1970 Ludwig in Bonham sizes, that just screams to be beaten on. But joking aside, I think I may have gotten a little carried away with my playing...I can still have the stage energy, as well as relaxed technique..they're not mutually exlusive
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  #11  
Old 12-16-2009, 11:58 PM
ace76543 ace76543 is offline
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Default Re: Hand Cramps

Stretch! Stretching relaxes you muscles and releases tension. helped me loads.

http://www.sportsrehab.com/drumminghealth.htm
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