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Feb 3, 2011 - 8:23:57 AM

78 posts since 7/8/2008

This might sound weird but I use a tens unit. This has helped with my picking stamina. Also, with the picking hand, picking with concise, relaxed strokes will lead to longer lasting sessions. Dig when you need to. Work your dynamics. As for the left hand (assuming you play righty) you're just gonna have to build strength and that comes with time and practice. No shortcuts there. After you play, stretch your wrists and fingers. Shake em out. Drink lots of water (seriously). Sometimes I will hit the foggy mountain roll @speed over and over and over for as long as i can go. Then I shake it out and go again. It really is like working out. Conditioning, you know? Training for the jam. Or, hold that chord that gives you problems and don't even pick on it, just hold it until you can't hold it anymore, then stretch it out and go again. This is simply a strength/conditioning issue. I also take glucosamine for the joints. That has helped A LOT. I hope this helps

Feb 3, 2011 - 12:17:27 PM

86 posts since 12/6/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Z Daniels

This might sound weird but I use a tens unit. This has helped with my picking stamina. Also, with the picking hand, picking with concise, relaxed strokes will lead to longer lasting sessions. Dig when you need to. Work your dynamics. As for the left hand (assuming you play righty) you're just gonna have to build strength and that comes with time and practice. No shortcuts there. After you play, stretch your wrists and fingers. Shake em out. Drink lots of water (seriously). Sometimes I will hit the foggy mountain roll @speed over and over and over for as long as i can go. Then I shake it out and go again. It really is like working out. Conditioning, you know? Training for the jam. Or, hold that chord that gives you problems and don't even pick on it, just hold it until you can't hold it anymore, then stretch it out and go again. This is simply a strength/conditioning issue. I also take glucosamine for the joints. That has helped A LOT. I hope this helps




I want to thank all of you for some great advice!!

Royal

Feb 4, 2011 - 6:19:28 AM

Rysher

USA

155 posts since 9/3/2010

Thanks, also I am dealing with tennis elbow, any advice welcome.

Feb 4, 2011 - 10:08:20 AM

6403 posts since 10/13/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Rysher

Thanks, also I am dealing with tennis elbow, any advice welcome.

Tennis elbow. Ice the tar out of it. Put it in a 2 2pac cooler with 1/3 ice and 2/3 water and keep it there 12 -15 minutes at a time. At first you will not be able to keep it in there for over 2-3 minutes at a time but you will learn to love it.

Ice it several times a day. Do it right after any activity that might irritate it and do it an hour before the same kind of activity allowing it 30 minutes to warm-up after removing it from the ice. You have to start beating the inflammation/irritation syndrome/cycle.

Get someone to teach you cross friction message for the tendons leading into the elbow.

I have seen some good results with people called Active Release Therapy. They work with a lot of NFL players.

Not fun. Good luck,
Ken

Edited by - From Greylock to Bean Blossom on 02/04/2011 10:08:44

Feb 4, 2011 - 8:46:36 PM

Rysher

USA

155 posts since 9/3/2010

Lately, in this weather that is too much cold, though very effective. All these years of playing guitar and banjo have really torn my arms and hands up, and I meet so many other musicians with injuries like mine. The guitar bothers me the most and banjo seems much easier on the hands. It is quite frustrating on the bad days. Not playing every day will cause me to stiffen and the pain gets worse so I try and find a balance.

Feb 12, 2011 - 10:26:09 AM

1254 posts since 4/17/2009

Playing softer is one option. But, if you would like to play with a little more volume or "power," I suggest doing exercises.

Pain can relate two ways: it can tell you that you are doing something that you shouldn't, or it can be telling you that you are merely building strength. I equate it with strength training: didn't Arnie's body hurt some when he trained for the Mr. Universe competition? Of course it did! So, that should mean that pain is not all negative. The trick is to keep a balance. Extremes are something I frankly fear. To stop picking hard due to the fact of pain is not a reason to stop...it merely requires some technique adjustment and some common sense on your part.

For instance, when I first started wanting to pick harder, it was highly difficult for several reasons:

1. I had never done it before.
2. It requires greater strength in the hands and fingers which I obviously did not have as a beginner.
3. It meant I had to adjust my tactics for picking
4. It required a higher level of coordination so that I could keep steady while hitting the strings harder.

All things considered, no beginner or intermediate player has all those skills: they have to be acquired. And how do you do that? Well, you simply have to get used to playing harder for one!

The key for me is to keep an open mind. When I tackled the issue of harder picking years ago, I approached it this way:

I looked at it like any other muscle exercise: your finger muscles must develop a memory for picking that hard. If they don't, stronger picking will always seem to be more of a strain than it really is because you would have not built up endurance for it. That word "endurance" is important, because it implies exercise. To pick harder, you need to formulate regimens that help you to follow a pattern of exercise. DO NOT SIMPLY START PICKING HARD IN ORDER TO DO IT. That will definitely result in player's pain. And that kind of pain is not good. Instead, begin by picking slowly and as softly as possible. After a few minutes, pick a little harder. Continue doing so until you feel some tension in your fingers or forearm. When this happens, check to see how long you were able to pick before you got tired. Mark this, and calculate how hard you were picking. Then rest. And I mean rest. Don't lay it aside for a minute and then begin again; really rest!

A few hours later, come at it again, keeping in mind the last time you set, and try to get a little louder in the same amount of time. Continue doing so, stopping every time you feel a little pain. By this method, you will slowly, consistantly develop endurance. Endurance, NOT STRENGTH is the key to picking hard and fast. For instance, I do not have really big, muscular fingers. Some would consider this a disadvantage and pick softly as a result. Not me. The truth is that ANYONE can pick reasonably harder by increasing their endurance, not strength. Endurance is what gets you through FMB the whole way without tiring. And if I am correct, the pain you have been experiencing is a result of a great deal of tiring. Just like marathon runners who cramp up, your intense pain is the result of strain. And sports figures know that strain is eliminated by endurance.

Feb 19, 2011 - 5:53:19 PM
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RandyO

USA

5 posts since 2/19/2011

My suggestion is a bit different then the others. This has helped me considerably when I was experiencing the same problem. Practice the Rolls over and over, especially 5-2-1, this will help build strength in your arms and fingers.

The other thing that could be causing tension is trying to plant both of your fingers down. Though this is the recommended position taught by many teachers, it DOES NOT work for everyone. Try just anchoring your right pinky. I know that sounds controversial and I can hear the screaming already, but sometimes you have to do what feels best to YOU.
The other thing that helped me was lifting a light weight (5/10 LBS) to build strength in my forearm and arm by doing curls and alt curls. But as you lift weights, be sure to keep up your regular practice routine. Hope this was helpful. It did work for me.

Mar 27, 2011 - 3:10:14 PM

32 posts since 2/13/2011

Play it nice and slow and relaxed,memorize how it feels and build the speed to the point you are just starting to tense then stay at that pace until you can play it relaxed and so on,hope this helps.

Mar 30, 2011 - 10:32:14 AM

5 posts since 3/9/2011

Hi, I'm a newby, for about a month 1/2 now. Learning boil them cabbage down is my first song. To tell the truth, it really doesn't sound like a song. I hear it how it should be in my head, but when I play it, it isn't smooth and clear. My thumb pick hits the base, it seems my fingers won't do what is in my head. Any suggestions
Abi

Mar 30, 2011 - 11:38:56 AM

kb2dhg

USA

208 posts since 1/7/2011

I am also a newbe 3 months now and have all the same conditions... Abi, My first song was Boil Them Cabbage Down too and with time you will get it to sound right TIME is what I find to be your friend in all this. I am now working on Cripple Creek... It is a very slow learning curve and that is also key, play it slow even if it is not sounding just like the song...(look at me, I am no expert) BUT I have come to learn in these 3 short months that this BANJO thing takes LOTS of time. My question to you is this... ARE YOU HAVING FUN? I can't wait to get home and pick up my BANJO no matter how bad I play!

Mar 31, 2011 - 5:51:08 AM

5 posts since 3/9/2011




quote:
Originally posted by kb2dhg

I am also a newbe 3 months now and have all the same conditions... Abi, My first song was Boil Them Cabbage Down too and with time you will get it to sound right TIME is what I find to be your friend in all this. I am now working on Cripple Creek... It is a very slow learning curve and that is also key, play it slow even if it is not sounding just like the song...(look at me, I am no expert) BUT I have come to learn in these 3 short months that this BANJO thing takes LOTS of time. My question to you is this... ARE YOU HAVING FUN? I can't wait to get home and pick up my BANJO no matter how bad I play!

Mar 31, 2011 - 5:53:32 AM

5 posts since 3/9/2011

Yes , bery much, I find that it is relaxing, and I too can't wait to get home from work to practice. I try to practice at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours a day. But it is so fun, I hear it in my head.

quote:
Originally posted by abi




quote:
Originally posted by kb2dhg

I am also a newbe 3 months now and have all the same conditions... Abi, My first song was Boil Them Cabbage Down too and with time you will get it to sound right TIME is what I find to be your friend in all this. I am now working on Cripple Creek... It is a very slow learning curve and that is also key, play it slow even if it is not sounding just like the song...(look at me, I am no expert) BUT I have come to learn in these 3 short months that this BANJO thing takes LOTS of time. My question to you is this... ARE YOU HAVING FUN? I can't wait to get home and pick up my BANJO no matter how bad I play!



Mar 31, 2011 - 4:14:38 PM
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32 posts since 2/13/2011

I remember being at this point with my playing and as some have pointed out here keep playing it slow

what you want to do at this point is to condition the picking hand to gain accuracy

so work on the hand position first,i got this tip from an electric bass player and it works with any instrument

lay the banjo resonator side down on your lap and rest your hand on the head(playing position) as if you where about to enter the land of nod
take a note of how relaxed it feels.
lift the banjo into the playing position and place your hand on the head like how it felt when the banjo was laying down

your hand should never be any less relaxed than this

now play the easiest roll you know with your click track so slow that you cannot make a mistake for a minuite without stopping do this for a week as part of your practise daily then post up and let me know how you are going,it will help trust me.

this is the foundation for all of your playing so it makes sence lay the blocks straight eh?

the most important thing is to enjoy every minuite of it.



crawfordbanjos.com

Apr 4, 2011 - 8:05:26 PM
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inschok

USA

7 posts since 4/18/2007

I have been playing the 5 since 1978. Not a great picker but up until recently I could pretty much figure out a tune and play it just for my own enjoyment and to pick with friends. Then, inexplicably, my right hand started locking up and I completely lost any ability to do any of the rolls I had learned thru the years. I mean I completely lost my right hand. Then about a week ago it all started to come back again. I realize now that it was TENSION in my right forearm and hand that was causing me to lock up. I started to really try to relax that right arm and hand as I played in the past two weeks and thank heavens it's all coming back again. I'm telling you, I was so frustrated that I was ready to just quit playing. It was agonizing to realize that all the work I had put into the banjo had left me. And worse yet that all the fun would be gone too. It was definitely something mental that was going on there that was making me tense up. Honestly, I prayed for Jesus to give me back something that I loved so dearly and I give Him all the credit for giving it back to me. I know if you're not religious this sounds ridiculous but I cannot take any credit for my comeback. All of a sudden I can play again. Thank you Lord! I don't BS. I swear it's true.....

Apr 7, 2011 - 3:12:52 PM

850 posts since 9/24/2008

Irish whiskey gets rid of da tension!

Apr 26, 2011 - 10:39:08 AM

44 posts since 2/9/2010

Hello everyone,

I wish I had seen this post a year ago.  I almost quit playing because I tense and shake so much.  I have been to doctors who tried to put me on medicine, musicians who told me I need to practice more (which was correct),  then I finally went to a masseuse who showed me the muscles that make my fingers move are just under my elbow on the inside of my arm.  Nothing is better than practice but you can loosen yourself up a lot faster, so you will need to warm up less, if you massage those muscles prior to playing.  I can't believe how much it helped me.

Apr 30, 2011 - 9:38:19 PM

5 posts since 8/30/2010

Howdy, 

I'll try to be brief, or at least split it up some. 8 months ago the banjo claimed me. I had nothing to do with it. My banjological clock went off and that was it.  I knew of eastbound and down, the ballad of jed clampett, oh and dueling banjos. That was it.  After a week of waiting to see if it was a gas bubble I went and got a Deering Goodtime. I just read the last 2 years of posts and I think I have something new to contribute.

My gut told me in the beginning not to use picks. Practice without, it said. I have a very forgiving wife (tips hat) and 2 daughters, but to keep them that way I wanted to be quiet and considerate. The lack of picks certainly accommodated that notion. I was, and still am 8 months later joyfully obsessed. Sit in a chair, on your couch....watch tv or flip the pages of your favorite comic book or what have you. Pick that forward roll the whole time, as long as you care to. In my case I would fall asleep on the couch pickin' away. In my case, I learned to play softly, I learned my forward roll, and once you get that down you naturally start working on other rolls. Soon you be pinching strings and strumming bar chords. All simple stuff, but in the process I believe I built that muscle memory just getting to know my 5 string.

More on putting the picks on next time! 

All the best, folks! Play Banjo!

 

May 1, 2011 - 10:20:13 PM

5 posts since 8/30/2010

To continue, I believe the practice without picks trained me to play relaxed (that and playing until I would fall asleep), and playing relaxed helps with the cramping and fatigue, as most have gone on to agree. Once I put the picks on, there was no difference, no catching up or adjustments. Just pure picking pleasure. Ok, to be fair you'll figure out nuances of  wearing your picks the way they feel best, so there is a minimal adjustment but not in the sense of affecting my (and hopefully your) playing. It isnt a bad idea to know how to massage the muscles from your elbow to your wrist and fingers, and it can't hurt to keep some ibuprofen handy in a pinch (pun intended).

Lord I was born a banjo man.............just didn't know it until I was 43.  :)

Thanks to everyone who picks and posts!

 

 

 

 

May 5, 2011 - 11:13:50 AM

5 posts since 3/9/2011

quote:
Originally posted by banjbob1

I remember being at this point with my playing and as some have pointed out here keep playing it slow

what you want to do at this point is to condition the picking hand to gain accuracy

so work on the hand position first,i got this tip from an electric bass player and it works with any instrument

lay the banjo resonator side down on your lap and rest your hand on the head(playing position) as if you where about to enter the land of nod
take a note of how relaxed it feels.
lift the banjo into the playing position and place your hand on the head like how it felt when the banjo was laying down

your hand should never be any less relaxed than this

now play the easiest roll you know with your click track so slow that you cannot make a mistake for a minuite without stopping do this for a week as part of your practise daily then post up and let me know how you are going,it will help trust me.

this is the foundation for all of your playing so it makes sence lay the blocks straight eh?

the most important thing is to enjoy every minuite of it.



crawfordbanjos.com



 

May 5, 2011 - 11:16:38 AM

5 posts since 3/9/2011

quote: I've been practicing as you suggested and it helps a lot. I seem to be getting more relaxed and sure of my self.  My fingers are working better.  Thanks for you of your help and thanks to all who have imputed on this topic. abi
Originally posted by abi

 
quote:
Originally posted by banjbob1

I remember being at this point with my playing and as some have pointed out here keep playing it slow

what you want to do at this point is to condition the picking hand to gain accuracy

so work on the hand position first,i got this tip from an electric bass player and it works with any instrument

lay the banjo resonator side down on your lap and rest your hand on the head(playing position) as if you where about to enter the land of nod
take a note of how relaxed it feels.
lift the banjo into the playing position and place your hand on the head like how it felt when the banjo was laying down

your hand should never be any less relaxed than this

now play the easiest roll you know with your click track so slow that you cannot make a mistake for a minuite without stopping do this for a week as part of your practise daily then post up and let me know how you are going,it will help trust me.

this is the foundation for all of your playing so it makes sence lay the blocks straight eh?

the most important thing is to enjoy every minuite of it.



crawfordbanjos.com



 


 

May 7, 2011 - 7:19:26 AM

Julian44_4

England

822 posts since 3/9/2007

 

During my stay at Sore Fingers Summer School I attended a lesson given by Lucille Reilly (The Dulcimer Lady), on pain related experiences whilst playing a musical instrument.

The lesson concentrated on the fact that most people have an incorrect understanding of what various joints in our bodies do.

With the correct understanding, one can make subtle changes to all aspects of one's playing position, to obtain a pain free playing experience.

The current site of the pain one experiences is usually secondary to the site of the original injury or strain.

Whilst the link below is aimed at Dulcimer players, there is much of relevance to all instrument players.

http://www.thedulcimerlady.com/ouch.htm

David

 

May 10, 2011 - 8:55:26 AM

38 posts since 4/13/2011

This is a really good thread. I knew this young player in my town a few years back who was extremely talented. He learned in 2 years what it took me well over 10 years to put together. He also had the hand and finger physiology for playing any instrument he desired. Add to this that he was young, bright and motivated. Early on I noticed that his hand position was too flat, like his wrist was coming up from the armrest at about a 20 degree angle. It is not something he would have noticed in his playing because his fingers were quite long and he could reach under the strings at any angle and pull a pretty decent tone. Speed was also never a problem and it all seemed to fall into place very neatly. I'm sure that I did mention his hand position to him once or twice, but he was pretty much self taught like me and I was in no position to preach advice being no noted expert myself.

Word on the street was that he was practicing something like 10 hours a day, sometimes a lot more at weekends. Within no time at all he was exploring the outer realms of Jazz and doing things like 3 finger single string licks on the 4th string. Anyway eventually he developed severe tendon problems and actually kept playing when he was expressly told not to. He was actually playing through extreme pain on occasion. I think the issue eventually got resolved through surgery but he should count himself lucky. He was literally so motivated and enthusiastic that he was prepared to suffer for his art in the truest sense.

Pain exists as a general warning for us to stop doing something that may damage us. There is a certain threshold that can be breached without causing long term damage but when the clear warning signs are there one should take very big note.

Beginners should not be doing more than about 20 minutes a day at first and this can be augmented as experience increases because absolutely nothing is worth injuring yourself in music. Listen to your body and actually think about what you are doing and supplement your learning with regular exercise and a healthy diet.

 

Happy Picking.

May 13, 2011 - 12:17:14 PM

214 posts since 1/24/2003

I was going to reply with my own relaxation, speed, and accuracy quests and what I have learned.  When I saw Geoff's reply I decided to just quote him as I would be basically repeating what he is saying anyway.
Geoff is giving you pearls here.  He gets to the heart of the tension issue with this information. 
quote:
Originally posted by GHohwald

I have been around guitarist Curtis Jones for about 4 years and have played a lot of gigs with him. Curtis has a reputation as being the fastest cleanest guitar player on the planet. To see this you can go to the following:link

youtube.com/watch?v=Ff1hSDnCw9c

Why am I bringing a guitar player into a banjo discussion. Incidently Curtis can play Sweet Georgia Brown about 20% faster than on this video with accuracy, Basically I have never run into a guitarist that could play faster than I can. Curtis can play about 15 to 20% faster than I can. My goal was to find out how can this guy play so fast? One thing that is significant is that Curtis has had a lot of marshall arts training starting as a youngster which includes the ability to relax and meditate.

One of Curtis’ main secrets to playing fast is his ability to clear his head of all thoughts. The second is being aware of when he is tensing up. My tension usually shows up in clenched teeth which I am not aware of unless I focus on that. Basically to increase speed I take a 1 or 2 measure lick and play it over and over with the metronome gradually increasing speed no more than 5 numbers. If I start to tense up or think about anything I will hit a wall. The way around the wall is to clear my head. Sometimes I’ll be doing this and hit a wall around 165 That’s 4 notes per each click of the metronome. If I have previously played the lick at lets say 190 and can’t get by 165 I immediatley start clearing my mind and play softer. As soon as this clicks in the speed jumps to the 190. It is like riding on air.

A couple other points

1. There is speed and there is stamina. I may be able to play a particular lick at 175 but when playing a song can only play 10 or 12 measures before my speed slows down and I tense up. In this case I know that I can you can achieve 175 but also realize that the key is to play maybe 1 measure then 2 measures then 3 and so forth and so on.

2. Keeping clear requires checking in occasionally with yourself. You can start out the night playing very clearly and if other thoughts such as “Did I roll my windows up, It might be raining?” creep in your playing will loose it’s clarity.

3. When practicing, focus some of the time playing slowly and clearly. When playing fast be aware of your clarity also.

4. Isolate trouble areas and focus your attention on these.

5. My practice is about 85% exercises over and over and 15% actually playing songs. If you have all of the parts of a song down it is not necessary to play the song iover and over again.

6. If you can record yourself it will let you see problems and progress.


Geoff Hohwald
freebanjovideos.com
5dollarbanjolessons.com


 

May 18, 2011 - 6:35:30 AM

Cotton

USA

156 posts since 11/24/2009

I have problems with tension a lot. I developed a frozen left shoulder several months ago, and could not play. I went to a bone and joint doctor, had x rays and the tests. Outcome was therapy here at home.

I had to exercise the arm and use heat to relax and cold for the pain and swelling. In 2 months I have complete movement and am back playing as before. I now keep my arms and hands exercised before I play.

May 18, 2011 - 8:19:49 AM

10866 posts since 2/12/2011

I too have experienced upper bicep pain after super long practice sessions and holding the neck.  Nothing more than muscle tightness it seems. 

I have backed off the timeframes and gone to alternating between playing songs and just doing rolls with all strings open.  For that I just position the banjo between my legs crossing my feet to create a little cradle for the head - usually with a towel underneath for added comfort on the legs - and the banjo balances itself.  So I can leave the left arm off the banjo and simply practice the rolls.  It seems to work well.  I am finding that roll practice makes learning songs a lot easier too.

Many sources for rolls, but if you don't have much tablature for this, check out Ross Nickerson's banjo encyclopedia.  Excellent book and part of it is a litany of rolls.

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