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Aug 9, 2019 - 5:36:31 PM

26 posts since 7/15/2010

Franck, what style of banjo are you playing? If it is three-finger Scruggs style I don't see how you could bind your fingers together. From what you are describing, especially since you have come back to playing after 20 years, you may have focal dystonia, like me. It has ended my playing, both Scruggs style and clawhammer. You might want to check it out with a neurologist.

Aug 10, 2019 - 1:06:58 AM

Merlin72

France

3 posts since 8/8/2019

Hello Jeffreynolds,

I (am trying to...) play Scruggs style. I will look what is a focal Dystonia and I hope I could play my brand new banjo.

Thank you for your answer
Franck

May 6, 2020 - 7:20:08 PM
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Martinkenny

Ireland

103 posts since 4/23/2020

Why not try to play a roll at moderate speed try to change into C then back to G then D to G. Instead of trying to play a Melody. At least you can get both hands coordinated You must crawl before u walk..

May 21, 2020 - 2:47:52 PM

74 posts since 5/20/2020

I clinch my teeth when doing the 2-1-2-1 5-2-1-5 for a world record ........when you figure how to not be a psycho I need this information 

May 21, 2020 - 2:52 PM

74 posts since 5/20/2020

quote:
Originally posted by jeffreynolds

Franck, what style of banjo are you playing? If it is three-finger Scruggs style I don't see how you could bind your fingers together. From what you are describing, especially since you have come back to playing after 20 years, you may have focal dystonia, like me. It has ended my playing, both Scruggs style and clawhammer. You might want to check it out with a neurologist.


this is today known as repetitive stress disorder. Carpal tunnel syndrome  is part of this as is tennis elbow, other ulna nerve disorders, and my thumb is what kills me when playing too much. Usually the finger tips let me know when I wake up, but the thumb acts up every time I play now

May 21, 2020 - 10:09:03 PM

26 posts since 7/15/2010

Focal dystonia is very different from the other ailments you mentioned. Those are all located in the muscle or tendon that is affected. Focal dystonia is a neurological condition that is a miscommunication in the brain. It is common among musicians and is believed to be caused by rapid, coordinated movements of the digits or other parts of the body. The brain gets confused and wires the signals together. There does not seem to be a confirmed cause, but this tends to be the generally accepted theory in the neurological community. In my case my right index finger does not work totally independently any longer and bends with my middle finger when doing certain motions or tasks, especially when picking the banjo. The signal to the index finger fires often and firmly, resulting in the finger curling into the palm and it is very difficult to extend it again. This quickly causes fatigue from the cramping. It is considered to be incurable, and the only relief that the medical profession offers is Botox injections that need to be repeated every six weeks or so.

May 29, 2020 - 10:55:06 PM
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58 posts since 9/13/2018

Hi Folks, I think I have read all the responses here but please do excuse me if this has been covered. I've been playing around 18 months now. And I have practised a lot and made some headway. Now, I play a Deering Goodtime banjo and noticed the Nickle plating is rubbing off on the armrest. Got me thinking!! ....And my conclusion was that I have tried to gain stability not only from anchoring fingers on the head but pressing too hard on the armrest. This seems to inhibit nerves/ tendons/stuff going to the fingers!! ...
Just a thought.

Rich

May 31, 2020 - 10:42:15 PM

829 posts since 8/6/2004

“Our guitar player who is also the lead vocalist occaisionally gets cramping in his hand. The fingers of his left hand will cramp so hard they actually deform and become unmovable. It's so wierd to see when it happens and very painfull for him. When it comes on he can't play at all and has even necessitated us canceling mid way in a gig. Hard to explain to the person that hired us but there's nothing we can do when he gets one of these attacks. He's been to the Dr. and been diagnosed as possibly having a form of arthritise. It can last a day or so but so far goes away eventually and he is fine for many weeks then it comes on again. He's 58 and never knowing when it will happen has been extremely had for him to deal with mentally. I'm the same age and I feel so lucky to not have anything like that affect me but I feel so bad for him.

PD
There''s so little time and so much room to experiment, why choose to play like someone else? If I were Earl, I wouldn''t play it like me either.”


I have had this happen as well. In both my hands and my legs. Tell your guitarist to lay off the caffeine. It can cause dehydration which promotes cramping. Also, if you get it, go into the restroom. Run your hand under hot water but not scalding until the muscles unknot. Then start rehydrating with plain water or Gatorade.

Jun 12, 2020 - 10:24:08 AM

98 posts since 11/27/2017

I don't know if it will help anyone else, but it helped me. When I was pregnant, (many, many moons ago!) my doctor told me some relaxation exercises. It sounds counter intuitive, but it works. You deliberately tense certain muscle groups, hold it, then relax them. Focus on your calm breathing and on that one muscle group. Feel it tense, feel yourself holding it for 30 - 45 seconds, then FEEL it relax. Then go on to the next muscle group. Do the same thing.

What this does is gets you focused on the feeling of tension and the feeling of relaxation. It makes you better able to control both.

Aug 3, 2020 - 7:55:50 AM

3 posts since 11/29/2019

Hey All,

I recently moved to the North Georgia mountains staying at Geoff Howald's place near Dahlonega GA. Sure is nice up here. I recently experienced tension in my right hand and it got to the point when I woke up one morning with a very sore hand. I took a few weeks off the let it heal. Geoff informed that I needed to relax and was pushing myself toooooo hard. Granted, using Geoff's tried and true techniques, I was able to go from a true 50 BPM to 100 BPM within the last few months. Well I have to admit by relaxing, not thinking about what I am doing, letting my hand go into "automatic mode", I am past the tension and playing better than ever. I joked with Geoff telling him I am doing yoga to Ralph Stanley :)

Geoff and I also have an internal joke between us when he told me engineers can never make banjo players. Well he is right. For me I kept trying to analyze what I was doing not letting my brain and hands go into "automatic mode" while being relaxed. Well I can say this works well and has for countless banjo players I see attend Geoff's banjo camps here in Dalonega.

One of Geoff's instructors is Curtis Jones. He has recorded in Nashville having people such as Alison Brown and others play for him. Curtis is a master musician and rightly so. He has helped me dramatically developing my skills is a short period of time with allot of fun along the way. I can truly say that I really look forward to playing my banjo when I get up in the morning more so than ever because of Geoff and Curtis's techniques and proven training.

Please keep in mind I am not trying to stand on a soap box here or trying to promote anyone or anything. I just want you all to know what has worked for me (and others I have met). The Banjo is great gift in my opinion for everyone's enjoyment, player or not :)

More to come on my Banjo journey the good Lord has given me.

Dec 28, 2020 - 7:40:13 AM

3 posts since 11/29/2019

Hope you all have had a great holiday,

Made up to my folks place in Michigan. Since my last, post, I am now playing at 115 using Jeff's techniques. My playing is much more relaxed and my timing is getting really good. Using my Tascam machine with the cards that Jeff's provides has really paid off. Recording against the tracks found on these cards and listening to the results really helps fine tune my playing. It even has uncovered things I was not aware of which are now fixed. What can I say, this stuff just works.

Have a great banjo day...

Dec 31, 2020 - 6:01:14 AM

1 posts since 12/31/2020

Daylatedollarshort,
New picker, new to posting. So many awesome thoughts and ideas regarding tension. Mindfulness and being tuned in to whole body relaxation is the key for me. The most reliable tension killing response for me is to just laugh at yourself when you goof. Banjo is the fun stuff of life. I find just picking up my crappy old Chinese banjo (hey $25 bucks and new strings and bridge, it works) makes me chuckle! I think if someone watched me practice they’d think me a bit loony, but it works. Smile, laugh at yourself and all the glorious sounds you make! If the dogs are howlin’ Next door, i’m Winning!


Dave

Jan 8, 2021 - 7:52:17 AM

48 posts since 1/25/2019

Hi,
I was given advice to take a couple of days off from playing/practicing, ensuring I stretch my fingers and wrists during my break. When I do this my playing becomes much smoother and I make fewer mistakes. I seem to take a leap forward in my ability to play the tunes/licks I am learning at the time. I also received some great advice from members of Banjo Hangout instructing me to keep my picking hand/fingers as relaxed as possible as I increase the speed of my picking hand. I have also taken advantage of some great videos on the internet (???tube.com) giving instruction on stretching for musician's hands.

Jan 8, 2021 - 8:22:07 AM

48 posts since 1/25/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Richj

Hi Folks, I think I have read all the responses here but please do excuse me if this has been covered. I've been playing around 18 months now. And I have practised a lot and made some headway. Now, I play a Deering Goodtime banjo and noticed the Nickle plating is rubbing off on the armrest. Got me thinking!! ....And my conclusion was that I have tried to gain stability not only from anchoring fingers on the head but pressing too hard on the armrest. This seems to inhibit nerves/ tendons/stuff going to the fingers!! ...
Just a thought.

Rich


I've been playing since Sept 2018. this is exactly what I have experienced also. I was constantly having to tell myself to slow down. This has all gone by the wayside. Now my picking is smoothing out and much more enjoyable. Everything you are experiencing seems to be normal for those of us in the beginning stages of 3 finger style. Take a day (or 2) off from practice. Look at some videos of other 3 finger style banjo pickers. Take notice of the "position" of their picking hand, wrist, and forearm. Look at how their strap is adjusted and the body position of their banjo. Also, I play for my own enjoyment and you should be playing for your's. Whether or not I ever have the opportunity to play with or in front of other people doesn't really matter to me. Thinking like this has taken my banjo picking to a much more personal place in my life.  

Jan 8, 2021 - 9:30:28 AM

58 posts since 9/13/2018

Hey thank you for that!
'Trying too hard' has been a constant problem in my life....And you've nailed it!! Relax and enjoy!
Thank you..

Jan 27, 2021 - 9:55:53 PM

Frostback

Canada

1 posts since 1/27/2021

Muscle tension has not been a problem for me EXCEPT after a few hard days of physical labor in the cold (Canada you know!) and a stiffness sets into the tendons and forcing to overcome that is a strain.

I find warm water and stretching helps.

As for the mental angle, we all make mistakes in any 500 note string and once the confidence arrives that you can recover seamlessly, the worry of mistakes evaporates. Remember, "The perfect is the enemy of the good" and the insistence on perfection is a fool's game. It is unobtainable. Even listening closely to early, Courtney, Bobby, Sonny, Ron and Sammy will reveal occasional deviations or errors or unlikely emphases that they never repeat later. Giving yourself permission to err, and forgiving yourself even in advance goes a long way toward relaxing. Alternatively, one can choose to "not give a natural damn" and get most of the way there but it doesn't mesh well with caring deeply about your art. Still, when relaxed and playing by yourself can produce some your best playing. What was different? You were not distracted by thinking of someone else judging you.

A trusting supportive band can help you relax tremendously. If you know the guitar player is right there with you and if you get lost or break a string, he or she will step right up to the mike and cover for the last half of your break. It is a great chemistry and reassurance that helps one relax.

I also know that audiences have a tremendously short memory and they are imminently forgiving because few would trade places with a performer. You don't have to be great, just better than them! That is why auditioning for professional musicians or even trying out banjos at Gruhns or Elderly can be daunting because some of those boys can really pick. Of course, they are tring to sell instruments so they are full of flattery too!

Lee

Feb 3, 2021 - 12:02:28 AM

Merlin72

France

3 posts since 8/8/2019

Things are going quite better but I keep that tension in hand while playing. When I move my thumb the index and middle fingers stretch out straight
My hand opens as if I wanted to grab something.
I don't think it's a disease. Maybe it's due to the fact that at this precise moment I would dream of stopping playing the banjo to drink a good glass of beer. ;-)

Feb 13, 2021 - 8:42:55 AM

94 posts since 10/5/2019

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to play loudly and comfortably without being tense. My suggestions would be make sure your right hand position is ok. Avoid fingers in the bridge and never rest your wrist on the head above the bridge. Also make sure your shoulder is relaxed. While playing fast or loud your shoulder can tend to rise causing tension. Stop and drop your shoulder so it’s totally relaxed. Hopefully these help a little.

Feb 26, 2021 - 5:43:02 AM

tohorse

USA

116 posts since 1/31/2014

Dave your friend the guitar player, may have what my husband has and it is caused by not drinking enough water, this sounds strange but the Dr. told him to try drinking some pickle juice when he feels it coming on, his fingers even go into some really unnatural positions. If he is outside in the summer mowing grass or in the heat for very long when he comes in he just pours some dill pickle juice in a glass and drinks and he doesn't get it very bad or even at all. Don't understand why but it works,

Mar 28, 2021 - 3:52:49 PM

770 posts since 7/23/2004

Try relaxing your forearms. This seems to send the message to relax to the wrist, hands and fingers..works for me.

Apr 6, 2021 - 3:03:13 PM

1 posts since 4/4/2021

quote:  Don't work so hard.  Sit back, smile and don't let your learning get in the way of your education.-  Pete Seeger
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.
Jul 12, 2021 - 12:14:32 PM

kg4muc

USA

31 posts since 3/11/2006

Upon reading all the tips and ideas on this topic I realized the root problem is eerily similar to a problem I'm currently experiencing. I have noticed that since this pandemic thing is lifting albeit slowly and things are starting to open up I have noticed a strange problem with my right hand. I realize I didn't get the practice time I really should have gotten during all the downtime. My right and acts as if the hand, in general, is swollen and larger in size although it is not. Also, my third finger ( counting right from the thumb) seems to want to land between the strings. I know this sounds very crazy but I don't think I forgot or lost the abilities I have been using for a good part of my life so far during this pandemic downtime. I use a foam ball to squeeze each night and do many reps but it doesn't seem to make any difference. I guess a specialist is next in my future but since my doctor has no answers I thought it wise to ask the brain trust here smiley Thanks for any suggestions.

Jul 30, 2021 - 9:28:46 PM

74 posts since 5/20/2020

practice more, right hand ONLY , and just any old melody you can do. Try multiple rolls, 5-3-1, 5-2-1, 4-3-1....etc, anything, but get that right hand really going before you fret anything.

Aug 5, 2021 - 4:36:51 PM

74 posts since 5/20/2020

slow melodies are the trick to playing way too fast. After a while of practicing slow, you will have to slow it down.

Trying to play faster than you can actually do it, at the time, is the source of tension in your body parts

Aug 15, 2021 - 6:40:56 PM

kg4muc

USA

31 posts since 3/11/2006

Well after much work and exercise I have an appointment with a hand specialist tomorrow. I definitely hope that he can do something without using a knife, I don't want to end up like Hot Rize's Hector Brown. Between the doctors and myself, I have been whacked on enough I think LOL.

Thanks for the suggestions all !

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