Hey fellers, newb advice/question -The Claw!

So some of you may have seen my last thread. I’m brand new to bass playing at 40 years old. My brother is teaching me, plus bought the B2B lessons, and Fender Play lessons. I been trying to put in at least 20 mins practice per day. My bro taught me some songs and exercises I been doing. I have small fat hands with short fat fingers, and after like 20 mins of playing, I find I am getting a wicked bad, debilitating case of hand cramps. I straight up get a “claw” thing going on my left hand, and I have to stop. “The Claw” continues to bother me all day, and affects other things like typing, too.

I’m pretty sure this is just a matter of having newb “b*tch hands” and I need to keep going and working it and power through, because it will get better eventually. Nobodies hands were meant to work this way from the factory. Does everyone go through this? What can be done about it? Ice? Heat? Exercises?

My brother has got me doing this one exercise he says will help condition my hand, where I just walk down the frets playing on a single string, trying to get 1 fret per finger, and then walk back up them again. He can do it easily. I can’t even get close to 1 fret per finger. I am more like 2.75 frets with all 4 fingers. It seriously F’s up my hand after trying to do it for a while too. I get “the claw” bad from it. I was trying to do some mechanical work on my truck today after playing, and it was brutal.

Anything I can do to help with this? Or just tough it out and quit being a baby because its part of the process?


Take it slower on the stretching, and adopt microshifting. Basically, you are using “one finger per fret” but you move along the fretboard a little sooner than once every four frets.

So like… Index finger on first fret, middle on 2nd, shift and ring on third fret, shift a little more and pinky on 4th, etc.

Also, your pinky might not be super strong right now, so you can also support it with your ring finger.

Don’t worry, nobody has too short of fingers or not enough reach between frets. A 9yo little girl on YouTube plays 30" and 34" scale basses :smile:

It just takes time to build up more and more “stretch” because as you said, we weren’t made to do this from the factory.


I have short fat fingers too which sucks on guitar but really doesn’t matter much on bass because you rarely need to stretch. I suggest that in the first 5-7 frets you either use the simandl technique (index, middle, pinky) or you shift your hand. You want to emphasize economy of motion, play slowly and relax as much as you can as stress in your hand requires more energy and will end up causing you pain.

Whenever I play root/5/8ve I generally use my index and pinky fingers. If there’s a good reason to use one finger per fret and shift my hand, I’ll do that instead. I suggest you experiment with both and use what allows you to play with the least amount of stress. Also you can practice fretting as lightly as possible, some people will practice fretting without using the thumb at the back of the neck.

I still get pain/tension in my left hand from time to time if I’m working on a song that’s new/fast or a technique I’m not used to… Sometimes when I play with a pick, I find my hand getting really sore after a few minutes because I have a death grip on the neck :laughing:

I have pretty strong hands from the gym and paddle boarding; ymmv :slightly_smiling_face:

This is almost assuredly technique.


Good to know there are other chubby stubby nubbin fingered players out there. I’m rocking a handful of polish sausages over here.

Don’t get discouraged on account you dont got the long, skinny surgeon fingers-you can do this.

Some people got things others of us don’t. Like Sweet a.f. hands and talent and ability. I dont have any of those things. What i do have is a monster work ethic. Meaning for me, it’s effort to make this happen. I can do effort. It takes some work, so I’ll work harder.

That being said, this shouldn’t ever hurt. Maybe dial back the intensity a bit? Nobody says you gotta bleed for it. Maybe instead of crushing it, you can go the other way. Attempt to use the lightest pressure possible to fret the note correctly ( this is actually addressed later in the course )

I love playing my bass, i really do. But does that mean i need marathon practice sessions and cramps and string burn on my fingers? No, it doesn’t. Breaking up practice helps some.

You can do this. If i can do this anyone can. Go slow, take it easy. It’s there, it really is.


“You sir, have the muscular stumps of a bass player”


Try this
Sit with bass on your thigh, right forearm resting on top to hold it steady. The neck out at an angle (about 45) not against your chest.
Use third and fourth fingers together (simandl or upright fingering)
Now lightly pull the strings into the fretboard with your thumb off the back of the neck. It doesn’t take much. Use index finger on one fret middle on next and ring finger and pinky together on next fret.
Start in the middle of the fretboard where your hand easily connects with it.
You want to get the feel of pulling the strings into the fret without clamping.
Then bring your thumb back for balance

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Stamina will come with time and as you start playing more relaxed you won’t cramp up anymore. Don’t overdo it at first as it may lead to injury. When you cramp up, take a break and get back to it later.

I would also recommend picking one course and seeing it through. Then go on to another one. B2B really works.

It happens to me sometimes when I have taken a few days off or if I’m trying too hard…. When you catch yourself doing it, stop, and consciously let go, I take my thumb of the back and play slowly to relax… this is an ongoing thing for me, clamping like that slows me down, and makes jumping strings sloppy… the key is in relaxing your hand, not in making your muscles stronger… it’s a mental thing mostly

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Play comfortably!
There are ways to shift the hand instead of stretching fingers.
@howard had the nice link to the Death Grip forum thread which probably has me saying the same thing…

Play for comfort and relaxation.
As you get stronger and more comfortable playing, you’ll be able to explore the stretches and the reach for different fingerings.
But I’d play with the 3-fret reach for now, and not worry about it.
That’s how I set up for most practical playing.

The 1-finger-per-fret thing has great benefits and qualities, but if your hand is suffering, then leave it alone for a bit.


There is one more thing worth checking: action (and proper setup in general)
I left my bass with a pro guitar engineer recently, as I wanted to learn on a properly set up instrument.
I was not complaining about my bass before. But man, this guy made it so much more comfortable to play. He even adjusted the nut height.


Absolutely! A pro setup is worth its weight in gold. The ease of playability after a good setup is a must-have, for a beginner or a seasoned pro.


I play a modified version of left hand double bass fingering. It’s hard to describe without being in person to show how I do it.
One example is when playing root to fifth, I use my index finger for the root and my pinky for the fifth. I shift using for different positions such as playing the root-fifth for Bb major, then root-fifth for D minor, etc. Instead of using my middle finger and pinky for the Bb major, then index finger and ring finger for the D minor, I just shift and keep using my index and pinky finger.
It would be easier to show this in person…….:face_with_spiral_eyes:
Maybe I should consider advertising to teach………in person makes explanations so much easier.
My point is feel free to apply what you are learning as a “newbie”, but if you think of a better way FOR YOU to finger, then don’t be afraid to use what is comfortable for you.
Remember, you are playing the bass……no one else……….so play it with what is most comfortable for you.
Trust me, no one in the audience is going to look at you and say, “Holy crap!!! He just used his middle finger to play the root of a D minor in the key of Bb major!!! What the hell was he thinking!!!”
I learned in the prehistoric days before the internet and YouTube, so a lot of what I do playing my bass was developed through simple necessity, ease of playing, and what I was comfortable doing. It’s not right or wrong because I still play the correct note at the right time…….it doesn’t matter. I learned the basics, of course, but did what I had to do to make it easy on my hands and keep from getting carpel tunnel!!


That is hilarious I was going to say the same exact thing, I have polish sausages attached to a hunk of ham myself. haha.


+1 on what everyone has said: do some warm up & stretch, get the action checked by a pro & it’ll lessen over time.

I’d get the claw like crazy when I gigged out many many moons ago. In a 12-15 song set, around song 7 or 8 I’d start to feel it. By song ten it hurt and I’d play the last songs with one finger, usually very poorly, hoping the end was near. Basically I was pressing down on the strings unnecessarily hard because I was hyped up playing a live gig. I should have done stretching and warm ups, and position my hand as instructed by B2B. Good luck, don’t stop.


Hey @Soids, glad you’re with us. You ought to jump on https://forum.bassbuzz.com/t/introduce-yourself to introduce yourself to the group! As you have seen, we are a bunch of players with diverse experiences, and we love to help each other however we can. Keep thumpin’!


Ellen Alaverdyan…cute as a button, just started School of Rock in Vegas. She rose to prominence when Geddy Lee showed her playing Tom Sawyer. She’s on Facebook (her dad Hovak runs the page since she’s only 9).


that’s the one.

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I’m not sure which one she plays…it’s either an actual Musicman or it’s a Stingray…she changes the strings a lot. Her dad has a home studio (he’s a guitarist in a band) so she gets a lot of practice in. Oddly enough, she’s only been playing since summer 2020.

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She is EXTREMELY good for a young girl without much experience. I am amazed! I just checked her out.