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Thread: First gig cramps.

  1. #1
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default First gig cramps.

    Hi folks, Here in the tiny town of Cochiti Lake NM, we have a remarkable number of talented people. In our second annual art fair we assembled a bluegrass group consisting of a man / wife singer /guitar duo plus a man on African drums, and me on the mandolin. The weather was chilly( 50's)and threatening rain all morning. We had 18 songs in three sets lined up. The first set went ok. After a 2 hour break we got almost through the second set when my fingers started cramping up. During an Everly bros song they stopped working altother and I had to sit out the last song. No third set. I was done. I think the combination of cold and tiredness caused it but I'm not sure. This happen to anyone else?
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    I'm susceptible to finger/hand cramping if I don't drink enough water the day before or if I over practice prior to playing. It's a freaky feeling for your hand to quit on you while playing.

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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    You played Everly Brothers on 2 guitars, a drum and a mandolin and called it bluegrass?

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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Keep hydrated, and maybe wear gloves between sets to keep your hands warm.
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Hydrate, yes. Also, work up to playing those songs consecutively without a break for a couple of weeks prior to the gig. The last time this happened to me it was because my left hand just wasn’t in shape to play as much as I had to that day, esp with a couple songs being all three and 4 finger chop chords...
    Chuck

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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    When first started playing in public, my nerves and technique gave my hands trouble. I was working way too hard, and I remember at one point I couldn't hold the pick anymore.
    Learn to keep it all loose, stretch before and after each song, focus on how your moving and working, and refine your technique.
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    Registered User Roger Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Hi from Magdalena, NM! I have had my left hand cramp up to the point of becoming uncontrollable - not fun! I play both Mando and Banjo, and most instances have been while playing the banjo. In my case, I think it is impacted by having used my hands to work around the place, lifting and carrying etc. Not as young as I used to be, and manual labor was never my forte! LOL That said, I will be the first to admit that I don't drink enough water - an important factor in this country.
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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Also, when you practice, be conscious of how hard you are pressing on the fingerboard. Experiment a bit to understand what the minimum pressure you can use in fretting. Practice playing with that level of pressure and no more. On a gig, we tend to get nervous and/or pumped up and tend to press harder, which is tiring and will also slow you down. Being aware of how hard you are pressing may help prevent some fatigue.
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  11. #9
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    You played Everly Brothers on 2 guitars, a drum and a mandolin and called it bluegrass?
    Afro-grass
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    This seems to call for a double blind test with mando players in different states. If there is a statistically significant concentration of cramp in NM, you're on to something.

    But the story has weird parts in it. Why does one need a 2 hour break after a set? What is so athletic about playing? - I play 4 hour sessions, no problem, but then I play melody with constant finger motion and warm hands. Warmth is essential for any muscle operation. I wonder what the audience was like - motionless, frozen to their chairs? Just say no to concerts in the cold.
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    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    This seems to call for a double blind test with mando players in different states. If there is a statistically significant concentration of cramp in NM, you're on to something.

    But the story has weird parts in it. Why does one need a 2 hour break after a set? What is so athletic about playing? - I play 4 hour sessions, no problem, but then I play melody with constant finger motion and warm hands. Warmth is essential for any muscle operation. I wonder what the audience was like - motionless, frozen to their chairs? Just say no to concerts in the cold.
    Well I was trying to make a long story short but I guess it needs some explanation. The main event was an art fair featuring local and area artists. We held it on the town green in very iffy weather. The sky was gradually getting worse through out the day. Our band played on a small stage providing music for the booth customers wandering around. Not too many chairs were set up, so it wasn't really a concert. There was food and a "raku" demo done by our drummer. It needed 2 hours. We played a variety of C&W, old timey, gospel, "love is a rose". You get the idea. and I was doing double stops on "All I have to do is dream" I was cold. And probably under hydrated considering all the labor involved in the stage setup. The sky started to rumble and everyone packed up early. I had a great time and I'll do it again in a heartbeat. Best first gig!
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    For long outdoor gigs during the cold season here, aside from our instruments, seating and enough sound equipment to get by with if the venue's sound equipment is not sufficient, we've started carrying 2 or 3 (depending on the number of people in the band) "Mr. Heater Portable Buddy" propane catalytic heaters. These work remarkably well. Best case is 1 heater per person, but 1 heater per 2 people will get by.

    Another thing that can help is half-gloves where your fingers are exposed. Higher quality thin leather "biker" half gloves tend to work better for instrument playing. Just remember to practice with them on, so you'll be used to them when you're on stage.

    As has been mentioned, practicing for long gigs helps. Jams may be the easiest way to practice for long periods.

    Also, there may be a stage fright component involved. There are many discussions about how to solve stage fright, but your own personal experience is going to be the best teacher related to that.

    Lastly, there comes a point where it's just too cold or too hot to play outside. The instruments and voices start sounding horrible. Then it's either time to go inside and continue playing, or time to put things away. Outdoor gig agreements need to take these conditions into consideration.
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    I played guitar last night in similar temperatures for about a half hour or 45 minutes with no problem. Which hand was cramping? I have had right hand stop working on guitar because the inside of my elbow was pressed on the sharp edge of the guitar too hard shutting off nerves. That would probably not be the case on mandolin but still might be worth looking at.

  16. #14
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Stage fright is something I'd rule out in this particular case. It can paralyze you in the first, say, 15 minutes of a gig, but after that, adrenaline supplies tend to be exhausted, and you're either relaxed or dead.
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  17. #15
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    Stage fright is something I'd rule out in this particular case. It can paralyze you in the first, say, 15 minutes of a gig, but after that, adrenaline supplies tend to be exhausted, and you're either relaxed or dead.
    I was surprised by my lack of stage fright. It might be because we were playing to an audience of friends and fellow artists. And we weren't getting paid. Kind of a community affair, with everyone doing their part. I think if we were onstage at another larger affair and getting paid, I'd be scared to death. Being 72, and a novice, I'm not sure I want to go in that direction. Just want to have fun.
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    The usual culprit is over gripping the pick or the noting hand. Enough water is always a concern, too much caffeine can also cause cramping. See about lowering the bridge a hair and relax..... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    The usual culprit is over gripping the pick or the noting hand. Enough water is always a concern, too much caffeine can also cause cramping. See about lowering the bridge a hair and relax..... R/
    This.

    I experience almost total grip failure ( not cramps pers se) after about three hours, even with 45 minute sets and breaks.
    Live performance can cause tension.

    Never had this with guitar, but mando takes a lot more transfer of energy, especially with a heavier pick.

    I find when im putting my best out, high energy, faster tempo, it happens.

    The only thing i can recommend, is a guitar pick with a thumb loop, but simply, when your muscles are spent from gripping, thats it. I also use a picmax pick ,which i dont love, but it too helps when im overly fatigued. Good for chops, less so for single string work.

    I carry one of these in my cases as a last resort. I recall one xmas market gig when i could barely hold my pick without fear of dropping it. Three hour gig. Moderately cool.

    A lighter grip would do it, but........i simply dont seem to be able to do this when i perform. Maybe if im accompanying, more passively, , but not when im singing, leading, or driving a song rhythmically. Fast tempo adds to this.

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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    If you drink too much water before the gig, you will need to take more breaks

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  24. #19

    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cochiti Don View Post
    . . . The weather was chilly( 50's) . . . .
    Fifties? Chilly? Don't come to Maine!

    My wife, her daughter, her daughter's boyfriend, and I - all northerners - were at a Santa Fe hotel a few years ago, having breakfast out on the patio on a gorgeous fifty-something morning. One of the housekeepers stopped to chat (briefly!) about the weather - or more exactly, why in the world we were out in it. She was miserable and thought we were insane.

    She wouldn't know a nice morning if it ran out and tripped her!

    As for your question: I'd do exactly what you did. It's physically impossible to play with cramped fingers. So don't. Tomorrow is another gig!

    PS -

    We have a friend from Pakistan who phones her grandmother there a lot. Last spring she asked her grandmother what she was planning to do that day. Her grandmother said she wasn't going out at all, it was too cold.

    How cold? 81.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    My friend gets hand cramps, so he wears fingerless gloves.. keeps the tendons in the hand and wrist warmer..

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  28. #21
    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    My left hand cramps up sometimes; that's when I pull out a harmonica. You might try taking it up, it's not difficult to play passibly (playing it well is a different story...)
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  29. #22
    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Fifties? Chilly? Don't come to Maine!

    My wife, her daughter, her daughter's boyfriend, and I - all northerners - were at a Santa Fe hotel a few years ago, having breakfast out on the patio on a gorgeous fifty-something morning. One of the housekeepers stopped to chat (briefly!) about the weather - or more exactly, why in the world we were out in it. She was miserable and thought we were insane.

    She wouldn't know a nice morning if it ran out and tripped her!

    As for your question: I'd do exactly what you did. It's physically impossible to play with cramped fingers. So don't. Tomorrow is another gig!

    PS -

    We have a friend from Pakistan who phones her grandmother there a lot. Last spring she asked her grandmother what she was planning to do that day. Her grandmother said she wasn't going out at all, it was too cold.

    How cold? 81.
    Yeah, I figured I'd get a response like this. The deal was that I was never inside for hours on end. It was my event. I organized it.
    I love the weather here in NM. I spent the last nine years in SD. I know nice weather when I see it. But........sigh
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    Registered User mandowilli's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Don is way down there at 5500 feet.
    willi

  32. #24
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Quote Originally Posted by mandowilli View Post
    Don is way down there at 5500 feet.
    You think he was suffering from oxygen poisoning, willi? (I'm at 7200 ft.)

  33. #25

    Default Re: First gig cramps.

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    When first started playing in public, my nerves and technique gave my hands trouble. I was working way too hard, and I remember at one point I couldn't hold the pick anymore.
    Learn to keep it all loose, stretch before and after each song, focus on how your moving and working, and refine your technique.
    Happy pickin
    That is my issue as well. My hands tense up when I'm nervous and it starts to hurt like crazy. I'm probably squeezing too tight. Next thing you know my hands stop cooperating and I can't feel my fingers anymore.

    It helps me to keep doing jams knowing that it only gets better after that first bad experience. I don't know if nervousness was the cause for you but I'm sure the other advice about dehydration and stretching could go a long way as well.

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