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SPECIAL FOR SENIOR BANJO PLAYERS: Finger Exercises to Increase Strength & Mobility

Thursday, July 18, 2019

One of the biggest issues I've found as I've aged is loss of strength, dexterity, and even "reach" of my fingers, both right and left hands (NOTE:  In my case I've had to deal with some finger and wrist injuries which have exacerbated the symptoms - PB).  If you are well into "seniority" (65 or older), haven't suffered serious injury to your hands and fingers, and don't yet have debilitating arthritis,  and *IF* you are practicing regularly - and by that I mean EVERY DAY for at least 20-30 minutes, or two-or-more-a-day 15-minute sessions - then chances are good that your fingers stay in fairly good shape for playing.  If, however, you are lax in practicing or have been on "hiatus" for a while, you may have found that your fingers have lost some dexterity and strength - and two or three practice sessions no longer puts you back on track like it did when you were, say, 30 years old.  

This can be frustrating, and frustration can lead to dissatisfaction with playing at all, which can lead to longer stretches between practices, which can lead to even more decline in ability, etc., etc.  In other words, it grows on itself.  What to do?

I recently ran across the slideshow shown at the following link when I was researching how to improve dexterity and "stretch" in the right-hand thumb joints, deterioration of which causes me to sometimes "drag" my thumb onto the 4th string when I hit the 5th, especially when playing in the upper registers.  Most annoying!

Try these exercises and see if they help you.  And if they do, get in there and practice more!  Don't let Father Time rob you completely of something you always loved to do!

"When I was younger, I could play banjo really fast.  Now I guess you could say my playing is kinda half-fast." - Paul Bock


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Playing Since: 1956
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Paul Bock has made 3 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

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Occupation: Retired Navy (E-9) and retired electrical engineer.

Gender: Male
Age: 78

My Instruments:
Circa 1982 "Snowflake Special" hand-built flathead 5-string Bluegrass resonator banjo. Victor 5-string Banjola serial # 9. Gold Tone CC-100+ 5-string openback.

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Most everybody is a favorite now, especially Tom Adams & Craig Smith, but Don Reno was my first favorite back in 1953. Also into classic-style bare finger picking of ragtime, etc.

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Created 2/23/2005
Last Visit 8/13/2019

Born in Richmond, VA, and raised on a farm. Started teaching myself banjo in 1956, won the North Carolina State Fair banjo contest in 1963. Played with local groups between 1960 and the late 1980s but had to quit due to injuries to the fingers of my right hand. I've been trying to get back into it since 2005 but it's slow going because of arthritis in the finger joints. I jam occasionally and for almost two years played a number of gigs as half of the Bluegrass Duet "Lost Corner" but it was too time-consuming. At present I am dabbling with classic finger-style using a Gold Tone CC-100+ with nylon strings. My instruments include a 5-string banjola by Victor (formerly EVD) Instruments which is a lot of fun for folk music, jazz, classical & Irish pieces. **************************************************************************** In the real world, I'm a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9) and a retired electrical engineer with over 20 years experience in radio broadcasting, defense electronics and telecommunications. I have B.S. and M.S. degrees, am a Life Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and co-holder of a patent in electronic design. I also hold several commercial radio operator licenses (Radioelegraph, General Radiotelephone, and GMDSS Maintainer, all with the Ship Radar Endorsement. ***************************************************************************** My other hobbies include Amateur Radio (licensed as K4MSG since 1957 and have always been an avid radiotelegraph operator). I've also spent time dabbling in various digital modes including meteor scatter and Earth-Moon-Earth (aka "moonbounce") communications. I'm also a sporadic amateur astronomer. I love to read, especially history, and have dabbled in historical research on topics of interest including evolution of the 5-string banjo, development of certain types of telegraph keys, wireless telegraphy, the Revolutionary War involvement of my ancestors, etc. My wife & I enjoy travel, especially cruising on Princess Cruise Lines (15 cruises so far, including 6 transatlantic crossings).

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