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Aug 7, 2017 - 5:25:56 AM
Players Union Member

Boadicea

Australia

146 posts since 6/28/2014

This book might be of interest to some Banjo Hangout members.

"Body, Breath and Being: A New Approach to the Alexander Technique" by Carolyn Nicholls
D & B Publishing, 11 Jan. 2014 - Health & Fitness - 176 pages
New fully revised and updated edition, complete with 2 brand new chapters on Chronic Pain and Well-being

Since I bought the book I have been using the audio files that you can listen to or Download Audio files in mp3 format:
http://www.dandbpublishing.com/book/body-breath-and-being-2nd-edition

This book is really worth buying in my opinion.
Cheers,
Kate

 

Edited by - Boadicea on 08/07/2017 05:26:31

Oct 1, 2017 - 1:57:35 AM
Players Union Member

Boadicea

Australia

146 posts since 6/28/2014

I am still struggling with this, so I am doing extra exercise, and doing constructive rest/semi supine. It is not easy.

Oct 1, 2017 - 4:47:34 PM
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Halfadrop

Italy

5 posts since 10/1/2017

it's so, so important to play relaxed

Oct 2, 2017 - 1:11:06 PM
Players Union Member

Boadicea

Australia

146 posts since 6/28/2014

I hadn't thought about it that way @Halfadrop! But you are right! Playing relaxed is important. 

Oct 12, 2017 - 5:36:59 PM
Players Union Member

Boadicea

Australia

146 posts since 6/28/2014

My problem @Halfadrop is that I rarely relax. So to be able to play banjo I am going to have to learn how to relax.

AndyW and WayneConrad you might find this discussion of interest.

Cheers,
Kate

Oct 12, 2017 - 7:09:23 PM
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25 posts since 10/12/2009

Remember, Have fun. That's why we play. When you practice, play slower to get the progression you want down. Play softer. No tension. Speed will always come with practice. Just make sure you are the best you can be. There will always be someone that has played the song 100 times, or more. Jams will usually let you slow down to your speed. We all love working with newbies. There is no embarassement in not being the fastest. There is so much good advice in this thread. Relax, have fun, and and pick your heart out.

Oct 13, 2017 - 8:36:20 AM
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517 posts since 10/21/2012

Boadicea I relaxed once. It was a very strange feeling. It would take some getting used to.

Oct 13, 2017 - 1:06:40 PM
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Players Union Member

Boadicea

Australia

146 posts since 6/28/2014

What is this crazytalk that you are engaging WayneConrad ? ;) I am sure such a state would never be possible to get used to!

Oct 19, 2017 - 7:11:13 PM
Players Union Member

Boadicea

Australia

146 posts since 6/28/2014

Thanks texaspickr ! I will aim to have more fun and relax.

Oct 20, 2017 - 3:21:06 AM
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14 posts since 11/30/2012

quote:
Originally posted by peghead59
Hi,

I seem to be tensioning up a bit when I am trying to play at a faster rate or even if I'm trying to play a new tune accurately. The tension is in both hands and my left forearm. This sometimes results in getting the shakes.

What practice tips have you got to get me out of this.

RELAX. This is the cardinal rule in banjo pickin. RELAX. In the book. Earl Scruggs and The 5 String Banjo, Earl Scruggs talks about this very thing. RELAX. The picks do all the work with the fingers on your pickin hand. Your frettin hand needs to be relaxed also. RELAX. You are playing music not killing a banjo by choking the life out of it. RELAX. This is the one key word. RELAX. Speed will come to your playing. 

Oct 21, 2017 - 8:55:36 AM
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pbart

Canada

1 posts since 9/14/2014

My two cents worth: When I was starting out playing banjo about five years ago and doing my best to catch up to others by playing probably two hours a day, I found that within six months, my arm was developing some chronic tension and pain issues. I was playing at that time in a very pressured and tense way, thinking I needed to in order to become the fast and hard banjo player I wanted to be. I turned to this thread and took the advice about playing relaxed. Within a few days of mindful relaxed playing, the tension and discomfort went away and hasn't returned at all, while my playing didn't suffer at all and continued to progress. I think you need to mindfully play relaxed and, within a short while, it will become automatic and habitual.

Dec 19, 2017 - 8:02:47 PM
Players Union Member

Boadicea

Australia

146 posts since 6/28/2014

 

RELAX. This is the cardinal rule in banjo pickin. RELAX. In the book. Earl Scruggs and The 5 String Banjo, Earl Scruggs talks about this very thing. RELAX. The picks do all the work with the fingers on your pickin hand. Your frettin hand needs to be relaxed also. RELAX. You are playing music not killing a banjo by choking the life out of it. RELAX. This is the one key word. RELAX. Speed will come to your playing. 

 



LMAO You are playing music and not killing a banjo by choking the life out of it! That is great! That should go in to a book "Wisdom of the Banjo Players"

Dec 19, 2017 - 8:06:39 PM
Players Union Member

Boadicea

Australia

146 posts since 6/28/2014

quote:
Originally posted by pbart

I found that within six months, my arm was developing some chronic tension and pain issues. I was playing at that time in a very pressured and tense way, thinking I needed to in order to become the fast and hard banjo player I wanted to be. I turned to this thread and took the advice about playing relaxed. Within a few days of mindful relaxed playing, the tension and discomfort went away and hasn't returned at all, while my playing didn't suffer at all and continued to progress. I think you need to mindfully play relaxed and, within a short while, it will become automatic and habitual.


Thanks for your feedback @pbart  . I will look into playing more Mindfully. 

Dec 20, 2017 - 5:20:25 AM
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lab_dad

USA

184 posts since 5/14/2004

I find I get so relaxed playing I can only play for about an hour. By then I am so relaxed I just want a nap!
Also, playing lowers my blood sugar levels! (a good thing as long as not too low).
Stress raises it like a Snickers bar!

Martin

May 9, 2018 - 9:30:24 AM

2144 posts since 4/5/2006

This has all been said before so I'll just kind of skip across the top of it as a reminder, about this "relaxed" thing. Ron Block told how he does it. Others might say something along the lines of Zen Buddism. However you get there, you have to be in your happy place. Like Brer Rabbit & his briar patch.

When I was starting out, the banjo itself was my escape from reality, all the bs I had to contend with during the day.  I would play something I knew very well, over & over & over. As my hands loosened up, I could play a little faster. The mind became more acute, tuned in. The faster I played, the more relaxed I became & the deeper I got into my happy place. LIke yeah, I can do this! I found I could lock everything else out, nothing mattered but the music. Once I got into that state of mind, I was able to play stuff I would have stumbled on earlier. When it's just you & the banjo, the road blocks are swept aside, you are on cruise control. Of course, if somebody yelled "Dad XX is on the phone" the spell was broken. Today we have airplane mode & voice mail to make sure that doesn't happen. 

May 11, 2018 - 12:43:18 AM
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BuckM

USA

25 posts since 11/20/2013

I have not read all 13 pages but here are some fundamentals from one of the greatest plucked-string teachers who ever lived.

The Journal of the Lute Society of America recently published a transcription of 3 hours of guitar lessons by the late Patrick O'Brien, whose claim to fame is that in about 1970 he cured himself of tendinitis and spent his 40+-year career coaching guitarists, lutenists and banjo players how to play according to principles of hand anatomy that he had discovered with intense study. He also cured a lot of musicians who had given themselves tendinitis, focal dystonia, or carpal tunnel syndrome by faulty technique.

First, move the right hand fingers from the base (metacarpophalangeal) or middle (proximal interphalangeal) joint, NOT the tip (distal interphalangeal) joint. A lot of banjo players, maybe most, do this wrong. Distal flexion can be a killer, and I suspect it may be why Ralph Stanley couldn't play 3-finger style the last 20 years of his life and why Eddie Adcock had surgery twice and still can't play like he used to. This is because if you play from the tip joint you are involuntarily co-contracting the finger's flexor and its extensor muscle at the same time which confuses the brain and can lead to focal dystonia, a serious degrading of muscle control that is very difficult to overcome and has ended careers. So keep right fingertips relaxed. This may be tricky to master if you've played from the tips for a long time. But if you don't change, you may eventually get snakebit by cocontraction.

Secondly, in both hands, relax any finger immediately that you are not using. This is also a key ultimately to playing very fast.

Third, keep your shoulders relaxed and let the left arm hang loosely, straight down from the shoulder.

Fourth, practice slowly in short segments till mastered, then you can gradually increase speed.

The Lute Society will be publishing three more volumes that contain a lot more insights by O'Brien and his former students, and new members will get at least three of them. See lutesocietyofamerica.org

Nov 7, 2018 - 9:19:27 AM

81 posts since 11/27/2017

I find that my right arm and shoulder tense up when practicing roll patterns. What works for me is a trick that was taught to me when I was expecting my first child. It goes like this:

Sit in a totally relaxed position, perfectly still. Deliberately tense your left foot, then relax it. Now tense your right foot, then relax it. Now your left calf, then the right. Move on to the left thigh, then the right. Butt cheeks next, then belly, back, shoulders, neck, and down each arm.

The order isn't important. What is, is that you methodically tense, hold for a few seconds, then relax one section at a time. This teaches you to focus on a specific area and learn to will it into relaxation....which is harder than it sounds! It also teaches you to be more in tune with WHEN your body is tensing up, or a part of it is. You will notice and catch it faster, making it easier to relax it.

Hope this helps!

Nov 7, 2018 - 10:55 AM
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2144 posts since 4/5/2006

The ability to relax, on demand, I think is a valuable skill to have in your bag of tricks. Whether it's playing in front of your banjo instructor or speaking to an audience. For some it seems no problem at all, others involuntarily tense up at the very thought of performing in front of anyone.

It's all in your mind. As such, you have the ability to trick the mind into ignoring it. It's called positive thinking. Sounds simple, but it has to be learned. You need to sweep away all the obstacles, road blocks. Let's start with your instructor. His job is to guide & help you learn. He is your friend. Were you as good as him, you wouldn't be paying for lessons. Right? Therefore mistakes or other issues are expected, they come with the territory, so don't worry about it. You studied & practiced your lesson material, you are proud of yourself & the progress you have made. It's show off time, bask in your glory, you have earned it!

Playing at your first jam session can be intimidating. Just remember, they too were all beginners once. When it comes around to your turn, just explain that you're new at this. You get to choose the song, and set the pace. Relax & go for it. If you make a mistake, you have to jump back in, the music does not stop. So you missed a few notes, maybe even a measure or two before you regained composure, no big deal. They've all btdt. It will become easier as you get to know everyone & feel more at home.

The first time you get up on stage, maybe at an open mic night, you're probably going to be terrified. It's called stage fright. You've got to get past that or it'll kill you. Just realize, #1 you've got seasoned musicians backing you, #2 no one in the audience is a banjo picker so they will all be amazed by anything you do. This too will become easier the more you do it. Just relax, take a deep breath, get into your happy place & just play you heart out.

Jan 7, 2019 - 6:17:39 PM

21 posts since 8/13/2014

This thread has changed my mantra. Focus on relaxation, not speed. ALWAYS stay relaxed. If you watch great performers, including Ron Block (thank you so much for your insight here), you will see a lot of smiles, concentration, and a fluidity of motion. Relaxation can be developed with practice so it becomes a seemingly natural way of playing. I think drugs produce a facade of relaxation but do not cut to the core of the problem. I speak from experience in this regard and am now approaching the instrument from the perspective of mindfulness rather than "mindlessness". So to all here, I want to say thank you in leading me to a new direction in my journey. Pick softly and carry a loud banjo.

Jan 30, 2019 - 7:56:54 PM
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Players Union Member

KDBanjo

USA

77 posts since 2/25/2018

quote:
Originally posted by monstertone

This has all been said before so I'll just kind of skip across the top of it as a reminder, about this "relaxed" thing. Ron Block told how he does it. Others might say something along the lines of Zen Buddism. However you get there, you have to be in your happy place. Like Brer Rabbit & his briar patch.

When I was starting out, the banjo itself was my escape from reality, all the bs I had to contend with during the day.  I would play something I knew very well, over & over & over. As my hands loosened up, I could play a little faster. The mind became more acute, tuned in. The faster I played, the more relaxed I became & the deeper I got into my happy place. LIke yeah, I can do this! I found I could lock everything else out, nothing mattered but the music. Once I got into that state of mind, I was able to play stuff I would have stumbled on earlier. When it's just you & the banjo, the road blocks are swept aside, you are on cruise control. Of course, if somebody yelled "Dad XX is on the phone" the spell was broken. Today we have airplane mode & voice mail to make sure that doesn't happen. 

 


Wow, this advice was perfect. I have really been tensing up trying to play faster. I followed this advice and even closed my eyes while playing and my focus on the music and just feeling what I was playing was very relaxing. My speed and accuracy improved. Thanks for explaining it this way. This entire thread has some really great advice. Thanks to everyone for the great advice!

Edited by - KDBanjo on 01/30/2019 20:02:24

Jan 30, 2019 - 9:54:08 PM

Rysher

USA

155 posts since 9/3/2010

I used to practice Jazz guitar 8 to 14 hours a day through my twenties for a decade and eventually got tennis elbow in both arms, had years of physical therapy and had to change how I played. I simplify everything. I find things all the time that Bela plays harder than it needs to be, he says he does this as a form of practice. It makes sense for him, but not me. I’ve worked in musicals where I have to play for 14 hours in a day, I had to figure out how to survive it. Use as little energy as possible through relaxation. Have a clear mind.

Jan 30, 2019 - 10:24:52 PM

2144 posts since 4/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Boadicea

This book might be of interest to some Banjo Hangout members.

"Body, Breath and Being: A New Approach to the Alexander Technique" by Carolyn Nicholls
D & B Publishing, 11 Jan. 2014 - Health & Fitness - 176 pages
New fully revised and updated edition, complete with 2 brand new chapters on Chronic Pain and Well-being

Since I bought the book I have been using the audio files that you can listen to or Download Audio files in mp3 format:
http://www.dandbpublishing.com/book/body-breath-and-being-2nd-edition

This book is really worth buying in my opinion.
Cheers,
Kate


My good friend Paul Hawthorne (RIP) was a big fan of the Alexander technique. Now Kate brings it up again. Hey, for $10, what have you got to lose? Go back to the top of the page  & re-read all these comments about being relaxed. Like said,  "relax, you're  playing music, not chocking the hell out of the banjo" There is a time to hit it hard, & a time to go easy. As in speaking, talk softly & people will shut up & listen, otherwise they will miss something you said. When you want to make a point, you raise your voice (come it like a ball of fire), that's when you lean on it. Just enough to get their attention, then you can back off, to cruise control. smiley 

If playing into a mic, learn to use the mic's field, step up to the mic & lean on the banjo. Back off after your initial entry, but stay on the mic till you finish your break. back out of the mic's field when you're backing another musician. Make the mic do the hard work, so you can just relax & play.  And watch all those starie eyed hotties drooling over you & your hot licks. ROF laugh

May 29, 2019 - 5:10:55 AM
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19 posts since 5/28/2019

I have the exact same problem.
Maybe it's worth mentioning I have Tourettes.
It takes me up to half an hour get into the relaxed mode I need to release most jerkiness in my hands/fingers. I have to keep reminding myself to relax or muscle tension and jerkiness take over again.

The best way for me to relax is to play roll excercises. Just focusing on technique at a pace that alows me to play all notes clearly. And when afterwards, while playing regular songs, jerkiness or muscle tension set back in, I revert back to the roll exercises until I'm completely relaxed again.

I hope my 2 cents worth of advice are somewhat helpful.

Edited by - Langson on 05/29/2019 05:11:31

Aug 9, 2019 - 12:26:53 PM

Merlin72

France

2 posts since 8/8/2019

Hello,
I am Franck and I live near Le Mans in France.
I go back to Banjo after 20 years of interruption. As I had not managed to learn correctly I had given up. I had also taken very bad habits and curiously, they are still there ...
Maybe you can help me.
The problem lies in the right hand: every time I play with the thumb, the index rises to the sky what I do not want obviously wink. My fingers are not independents ...
Is it a good idea to tie the index and middle finger together with an elastic band for example?
This time I really want to resume good habits !

Thanks for your help.
See you soon
Franck

 

Edited by - Merlin72 on 08/09/2019 12:32:10

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