#1
I just started learning barre chords only because I've heard it's necessary. But I literally can't do one chord before I get a bad cramp at the base of my thumb. It's making it really hard to learn them. Is there anything I can do?
#2
If you're on any kind of "Statin" type medication, (Lipitor, Lovastatin, etc.), these can lead to muscle cramps. Calcium and potassium deficiencies can also cause the problem..

In most cases, it's a combination of strings too high, and hands too weak from lack of practice.

The guitar tends to use muscle groups in odd places, that are not developed in everyday life.

I have no idea what kind of guitar is giving you this problem. If we're talking about an acoustic, most of them could benefit from a good "set up", and perhaps lighter gauge strings.

If we're talking about an electric that already has a low "action" and light strings, you need to stop complaining and practice.

My instructor once told me that playing an acoustic with a little bit high action, would toughen you up for the easier and faster playing electric guitar.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 18, 2013,
#3
Chance are pretty high you're just pressing down far too hard, which quickly causes your hands to cramp up, practice playing the chords very lightly, it will help you sound in tune as well. With barre chords, you want your thumb parallel to your middle finger on the back of the neck, don't put pressure on it, just relax.
#4
Quote by Velcro Man
Chance are pretty high you're just pressing down far too hard, which quickly causes your hands to cramp up, practice playing the chords very lightly, it will help you sound in tune as well. With barre chords, you want your thumb parallel to your middle finger on the back of the neck, don't put pressure on it, just relax.
I do think this needs a little elaboration applied. First, I'm absolutely certain that experienced players don't know their own strength when they give this advice. So, if you think you're "pushing down lightly", those muscles have built up quietly over time, and you're actually pushing pretty darn hard.

Second, I play a 12 string a lot of the time, and if you don't clamp down on a barre chord for all you're worth, all you get is buzz. So, "just push down lightly and relax", really doesn't always apply. And yes, I do make sure my index finger is bent to the curvature of the neck.

One enemy of the short time player, is trying to hold constant pressure through a measure, or hell, with some progressions, several measures. You can release the tension a bit between beats, which will help with the cramps.

But, I'm still waiting for TS to describe his guitar(s). An ill adjusted acoustic, will give a beginning player shit fits, not to mention hand cramps.
#5
Quote by Captaincranky
I do think this needs a little elaboration applied. First, I'm absolutely certain that experienced players don't know their own strength when they give this advice. So, if you think you're "pushing down lightly", those muscles have built up quietly over time, and you're actually pushing pretty darn hard.

Second, I play a 12 string a lot of the time, and if you don't clamp down on a barre chord for all you're worth, all you get is buzz. So, "just push down lightly and relax", really doesn't always apply. And yes, I do make sure my index finger is bent to the curvature of the neck.

One enemy of the short time player, is trying to hold constant pressure through a measure, or hell, with some progressions, several measures. You can release the tension a bit between beats, which will help with the cramps.

But, I'm still waiting for TS to describe his guitar(s). An ill adjusted acoustic, will give a beginning player shit fits, not to mention hand cramps.


I barely put any pressure at all, just enough to hold the string against the fret, it's kind of like practicing on a scalloped fretboard. Oddly enough, I found 12 strings a bit easier, it's hard to explain, but it just felt like there was more surface area.
#6
I have been playing for 8+ years and can make any barre chord but I get these cramps too. It is a cramp between my thumb and second finger. It takes me about 20-30 min of soild barre chord playing to get them though and it will go away if I stop playing barre chord for a while.
#7
Yeah I think it's mainly due to a lack of practice and slow warm up... kind of like being a fat bastard and training for marathons... slowly.

I have BIG hands and I get AWFUL cramps in the thumb "gripper" mucle, like when I hold small potatoes when peeling them etc..

I guess practice makes perfect.....

I suppose GENTLY stretch the muscles before hand, and start playing for 3 minutes once or several times a day... and then build it up over time.....

4 minutes the next week, 5 minutes the week after, etc..

Give yourself like 4 months to get up to 16 minutes.... once or twice or three times per day....

That is the only way I can see of getting around the issue.

Hand massages are nice too...