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Sep 17, 2010 - 11:22:29 AM

Rysher

USA

155 posts since 9/3/2010

Corky Siegel has a book out called Let Your Music Soar. His novel approach is brilliant. Focusing on dynamic variation automatically addresses technique issues of muscle tension. Micro Dynamics is the constant awareness, and variation of dynamics in your playing. Because different muscles are used at different dynamics you can rest. i.e. if you play as loud as possible at a constant high dynamic your muscles will eventually get tired, vis versa if you play at a low dynamic level you will eventually get tired e.g. since less energy is required you could play a lot longer at a quiet level. Constantly changing dynamics allows the muscles to rest. If you ever feel tense while playing focus your mental energy on dynamics and you will be amazed at what happens to your technique. Check out his book or workshops, it is well worth it.

Sep 17, 2010 - 6:27:14 PM

225 posts since 4/23/2009

How are your picks striking the strings? For example if your picks are going too deep in the strings there will be more pick drag on the strings, which in turn creates stress on your fingers. This may sound funny, but if you can play beside a mirror where you can watch your fingers this may help you see how they are striking the strings. Happy Picking!

Sep 28, 2010 - 8:06:05 AM

kjcole

USA

1228 posts since 4/21/2003

Corky Siegal - Siegel-Schwall (sp?) band??? Loved that band.

Sep 28, 2010 - 8:15:59 AM

724 posts since 9/1/2008

After 30 + yrs. of playing, I am just learning to will myself to relax. When I play a hard driving tune I just think, play smooth, clean and RELAX. It's working and there is less tension and fatique in both hands. I am also less tired after a 3 or 4 hour gig.

But I can not play at a low dynamic level or softly, thats not Bluegrass for me. Fiddle tunes fine, not Bluegrass.

Edited by - archtop717 on 09/28/2010 08:20:07

Sep 28, 2010 - 11:10:46 AM

21 posts since 7/2/2010

If you can hang your right hand in front of you and play comfortably on your shirt but cannot do the same thing on the banjo, it may have to do with how you position your hand on the banjo, how you wear your picks, and how you position the banjo. If it feels awkward, something is wrong and speed will be a problem. Try making those adjustments so you can duplicate on the banjo what you're doing comfortably without the banjo. This worked for me. I was putting the picks on and letting the picks determine my hand position. It was awkward. Turn the picks to work with your most comfortable hand position. The right hand should have a very small range of movement. I think it helps to think about just moving your fingertips. It seems like the players who have most problems with speed also have the largest range of movement.

Oct 4, 2010 - 12:45:39 PM

1 posts since 10/4/2010

Hi,

Im a bit of a jonny come lately with this reply but I just thought I'd say, I used to get the cramps in my hands too on the guitar when I play. I totaly agree about practice, however, and this might sound odd, but I really believe it is a mental problem too. After I began getting the cramps, i worried whenever i played live, and as soon as i started panicking about it, the cramps came on, totaly psychsomatic! The same hapened with Banjo. I thought long and hard and decided the best thing to do was 'relax' my mind, since i realised that was the root of my physical pain/hinderence. I developed a mental game where i would start to concentrate on something completely unrelated to what i was playing. For example , I would think of a scene in a film, or sing the words to the song or count backwards. I know this sounds rediculous since you should be listening to what you are doing but as I said, it was this uptight thinking that really held me back. I realised I could actually bring on my hand pain at will !! I hope that makes sense, i can ramble.
Good Luck!

Grandutero!

Oct 24, 2010 - 11:25:33 AM

huggie

UK

84 posts since 8/26/2009

great tips guys,
thanks for the advice,I hadn't realised that this problem with being tense was so common,thought it was just me.
regards,
huggie

Oct 25, 2010 - 6:14:25 PM

Milli2

USA

677 posts since 2/26/2010

It is truly such a relief to read that this happens with practically everybody at some point.

I have to mention something that happened a few times while practicing, a few times, over the last few weeks. On days that I have been practicing for like 3 - 4 hours there have been moments that I could play a lot faster than I can normally. Don't know exactly how to describe it, the moment I realized it was happening I couldn't continue in that speed and at those moments I clearly realized it is a mental blockage. And it is frustrating because I now wait for that moment that it will go fast and of course, it doesn't happen .

Did I read somewhere: '... Banjo, Beer, Backyard...' ? Hmmmm. Would '.... Banjo, Smoke, Backyard...' work...?



At any rate, it does give me enough faith that I will get there, one day. And that is a good feeling.

Oct 27, 2010 - 6:26:26 AM

172 posts since 4/9/2010

I noticed this weekend that counting out loud, "one and two and three and four and one and ..." really took my mind off the mechanics of my hands and let the muscle memory take over. I was playing much more relaxed and quicker.

Oct 27, 2010 - 2:41:40 PM
Players Union Member

Dwayne Elix

Australia

186 posts since 6/1/2010

I was doing this. I got over it just by playing a song slow and speeding up as I went. As soon as I stiffened up I would slow down. Now I don't have that prblem.

Oct 30, 2010 - 1:00:07 PM

3941 posts since 7/8/2010

Banjo, beer and backyard. It is true for me. I will not hide it. Now, like everyone else, I have faster times and other times I crawl like a snail. Usually in the morning after a little coffee, things go a little faster. I think sometimes that after working all day my mind is mush and so are my fingers.

Oct 31, 2010 - 12:23:12 PM

Milli2

USA

677 posts since 2/26/2010

quote:
Originally posted by dflowers

Banjo, beer and backyard.



Okay okay, I get it but I'm substituting the beer with a screw driver and the backyard (in VT this time of the year..) with the basement.

Nov 3, 2010 - 7:26:16 PM

Mudpie

USA

320 posts since 9/17/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Old git

Thanks for opening this thread up Colin. I have done exactly as I've been told by reading tutor books and from the lessons on here. Its got to the point were I can play about six tunes. The timing, chord changing and all the other bits we have to learn as taken shape. The tunes sound great as slow ballads, but they are bluegrass tunes. Each time I try to get any speed my hand starts to freeze, then my fingers just hit where they happen to be, it turns into a complete mess and is very, very disheartening. I have spoken to a couple of people both in the States and here in England and they are suffering the same. I am willing to try anything to play a tune and play faster to make it sound bluegrass.
I am not trying to run before I walk. But I am disheartend, it seems like all my hard work and many hours practice count for nothing. I wonder why we are not taught about how to speed up by any of the tutors. The only thing Ive heard on the subject is, it will come. Well its not coming and I'm getting desperate. Help!

Terry



This has probably been said already but if you get used to playing with a metronome or beat track, you can speed it up just a little at a time. Make sure you are playing comfortabley with no tension before you up it just a little more. I do it one beat speed setting at a time and I'll play for a week or more at that level. Eventually you'll be playing at bluegrass speed and playing in time as well. I'm just a novice player with the same learning problems as the rest of you folks, but this works pretty well.

Nov 16, 2010 - 4:32:07 AM

phb

Germany

3052 posts since 11/8/2010

This is a very interesting discussion. I haven't been able to read everything because I'm lacking the time so I don't know whether this has already been mentioned:

Everybody can walk down a flight of stairs without watching. But try watching your feet hit the right step in the middle of a stairway you are walking down and you will inevitably stumble. Don't hold me responsible for any bruises you get actually trying this... :)

I notice my muscles tensioning when I watch my fingers. This is something my guitar teacher taught me: never watch your fingers, your fingers have to find their way to the right string and fret all on their own. When I occasionally glance at my fingers, it all breaks apart. I mean, I may concentrate on some part that doesn't come out right playing that part slowly and watching my fingers to see what problem there is (probably a bad selection of fingers for the notes to be played) but when I play something I am supposed to know I never (consciously) watch my fingers. Even when moving up and down the neck you should try to hit the right spot without looking. If you don't hit it, just say to yourself "that arm movement was too far/short, next time it needs to feel shorter/longer" and try again remembering that actual feeling in your arm. You will be surprised at how little you need to visually control what your fingers are doing.

Nov 24, 2010 - 8:46:33 PM

Rysher

USA

155 posts since 9/3/2010

I find myself looking at my fingers and am going to try both tricks of looking at feet on the stairs and not looking at the hands. The interstate could be another bad way to test this out which supports this idea. Thanks. I have also been dealing with a lot of finger pick noises lately as well. It comes and goes but I can't seem to pin down the problem and am getting frustrated. Suggestions welcome.

Nov 29, 2010 - 9:24:43 AM

Mudpie

USA

320 posts since 9/17/2010

My hand tension seems to come from trying to maintain position of my anchor fingers. When I first started, I only had books to rely on to learn banjo. They all stressed the importance of the anchor fingers. I learned by making myself rest both the pinky and ring fingers on the head. I'm so used to that now, I can't even go to just resting the pinky; but I can feel that's where my hand is getting it's tension. Then I look at someone like Reno Picker (YouTube) play and his hand is really not anchored much at all--and he's a fantastic player. I wonder if I cursed myself by overstressing the anchor fingers. I sure wish I had started out with a good teacher--couldn’t afford one back then.

Dec 1, 2010 - 11:05:27 AM

4299 posts since 7/16/2004

I think if you feel tension your body is trying to tell you that you are doing something wrong. It's not necessary to anchor both fingers. Play in such a way that it is relaxed and effortless.

jodyhughesmusic.com

Edited by - Jody Hughes on 12/01/2010 11:05:51

Dec 7, 2010 - 5:40:20 AM

Mudpie

USA

320 posts since 9/17/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Matthew Wyatt

How are your picks striking the strings? For example if your picks are going too deep in the strings there will be more pick drag on the strings, which in turn creates stress on your fingers. This may sound funny, but if you can play beside a mirror where you can watch your fingers this may help you see how they are striking the strings. Happy Picking!



I never thought of that. I have concentrated on striking the strings flat on rather than at an angle; so I know I'm doing that correctly. I didn't even consider how deep I'm striking 'em. I'll do as you suggest and check it out. I know every once in a while my thumb pick gets caught up on a string; but from what I've read this even happened to Earl.

Dec 14, 2010 - 5:29:19 AM

86 posts since 12/6/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Rich Weill

Play softer. That's what my teacher always tells me. It relaxes the hand muscles and allows you to maintain a better rhythm (and probably to play faster, too). His standard advice: "Find the loudest banjo you can find, and play it as softly as you can." [Besides, it's always louder to everyone else but you, because you're sitting or standing behind it.]





Now that is advice I can use!!

Jan 4, 2011 - 6:43:29 PM

250 posts since 10/23/2010

Hey great thread and lots of good advice.
I just wanted to throw one more thing out there. Just food for thought.
One thing that I found through experience, that helped me tremendously to relax....and be in a better mental state....and therefore, play better......is.....EXERCISE.
Yeah I know, that dreaded "E" word. And yeah I know....we never have enough free time to practice our banjos, much less work-out.
But anyway, I'm also a Novice banjo player, but unfortunately a back-slider when it comes to staying in shape. Well with the New Year and the Resolutions etc. I decided that it was time to MAKE some time to get some exercise (besides just going to work)
So anyway yesterday evening I got my gumption up and spent about 15 minutes spinning away on a stationary bike I have (I'd planned on going 20 but just couldn't wait any longer to quit that nonsense and get that banjo in my hand) and hey, I figured I better start off easy ;)
Well anyway, after grabbing a quick shower I tuned up the banjo and got situated, and low and behold, I noticed something as I was playing......I was totally RELAXED and I was playing MUCH better and even FASTER than I normally do.
Now some of that may have come from the actual physical exercise itself, and some of it may have come from my mental state, (the satisfaction that I'd actually taken a step in right direction at getting in better shape) ? I don't really know the answer to that, but I do know that I noticed a difference in my physical and mental attitude and my playing ability.
I just hope I can keep it up ! :)

Jan 13, 2011 - 10:46:10 PM

315 posts since 10/13/2010

well i have played bass in punk bands for years. my for arm tensice up if i don't stretch out my fingers, i drop pick and so on because my hand becomes like a claw. i found if you pull your fingers back by grabbing the tip so you can feel the tendon stretch in your for arm for about 10 seconds one at a time. this will loosen up your arm a bit,
works pretty well, i hope i explained this so you understand, it has really help me out through the years

Jan 14, 2011 - 5:12:53 AM

86 posts since 12/6/2010

quote:
Originally posted by staronjeff

well i have played bass in punk bands for years. my for arm tensice up if i don't stretch out my fingers, i drop pick and so on because my hand becomes like a claw. i found if you pull your fingers back by grabbing the tip so you can feel the tendon stretch in your for arm for about 10 seconds one at a time. this will loosen up your arm a bit,
works pretty well, i hope i explained this so you understand, it has really help me out through the years



Thanks, I will certainly try it.

Royal

Jan 26, 2011 - 9:06:32 AM

Vance

USA

4 posts since 7/22/2006

Someone may have already mentioned this, but I believe ONE of the medical definitions for people who have similar problems with their hands turning into mush or claws, etc. is called FOCAL DYSTONIA. There is even a Musicians Dystonia for people that tighten up while playing--especially trying to play faster. This condition has caused many musicians to stop playing or switch hands, or restructure their playing methods (if lucky). Certainly all problems with tensing up are not of this level, but I was somewhat relieved to find that their is a medical reason (though psychosomatic). I'm trying to work through this issue myself--mostly with mandolin, but somewhat with banjo and guitar. Luck to all who are trying to tackle it.

Jan 26, 2011 - 9:06:51 AM

Vance

USA

4 posts since 7/22/2006

Someone may have already mentioned this, but I believe ONE of the medical definitions for people who have similar problems with their hands turning into mush or claws, etc. is called FOCAL DYSTONIA. There is even a Musicians Dystonia for people that tighten up while playing--especially trying to play faster. This condition has caused many musicians to stop playing or switch hands, or restructure their playing methods (if lucky). Certainly all problems with tensing up are not of this level, but I was somewhat relieved to find that their is a medical reason (though psychosomatic). I'm trying to work through this issue myself--mostly with mandolin, but somewhat with banjo and guitar. Luck to all who are trying to tackle it.

Feb 1, 2011 - 12:02:12 PM

kb2dhg

USA

208 posts since 1/7/2011

WELL, I just started a week ago so I am far from any experenced player... In fact I personally may never get to play fast at all due to a motor controll problem in my right hand due to a spinal cord injury BUT in only a week, I have been able to maintian 3 rolls fairly consistant. Aftger an hour of streight practice i too develope tensions in both my wrist. From what I see in all this, is taking very little steps at a time. I go as fast as I can untill it falls apart then I back it down a few notches.
I go very slow untill I can roll without looking at the instrument. Then I keep going and try getting a little faster with time.
It is said over and over PRACTICE PRACTICE AND THEN PRACICE MORE! All in all I am enjoying it! good luck

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