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Overuse Injuries Caused by Finger Picking?

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Sep 22, 2019 - 4:33:36 AM
348 posts since 6/12/2017

So I've been moving from clawhammer to 3-finger.

Yesterday I just spent an hour, as I often do, replaying the tune over and over again. Today my fingers feel just slightly sore. I was wondering if there is any safety precautions I should be aware of in picking?

I ask because I used to bicycle for miles several times a week and eventually wore out my knees while only in my 20s.

Sep 22, 2019 - 4:44:39 AM
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Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

39793 posts since 3/7/2006

Several three-finger pickers seems to get problems with carpal tunnel syndrome. They hold the hand in a stressed and unnatural position, especially if anchoring the pinky and ring finger to the head (of the banjo).  So be careful to hold your right hand in relaxed position.

Sep 22, 2019 - 4:54:05 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23287 posts since 8/3/2003

Try taking a break after about 15 minutes of playing the same thing over and over. That way your muscles will get a time out and hopefully not get sore at all. It could be that your fingers are tense instead of relaxed, which is normal when you're trying to learn something new. Try to relax your fingers and if you can't, again, take that break, do something else for a few minutes, then come back and practice again.

Sep 22, 2019 - 6:58:43 AM
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843 posts since 8/7/2017

Playing over and over is *useless* for a beginner unless Each repetition is perfect. I've found that 3 perfect repetitions, played slowly enough to Be perfect, is enough for Next practice session to show improvement. That's the key: Perfection, and letting the perfect movements "sink-in" . But if the 4th rep is flawed, guess what...your brain is going to store the mistake, and you completely wasted your time. You have to start over, e.g. play the 3 perfect then Stop.

The sink-in period can be overnight, or shorter (couple hours), depending on how much time you've spent retraining your brain to improve our natural ability to learn this way. Read Josh Turknett's "laws of brainjo" for a brain surgeon's take on the subject.

If you are just playing for fun, not for improvement, then play however you like, as long as you like. But know that each mistake becomes a stone in the road for improvement.

Sep 22, 2019 - 9:39:09 AM

350 posts since 11/21/2018

There are many helpful online videos and descriptions that show how to shake out your wrists, let them hang for a minute, stretching in several planes, etc. They really helped me after I got rather severe tendonitis years ago. They only take a minute or two. They should be your lst level of protection to avoid repetitive injury .

Keep your wrist as straight as you can when picking. Use only a ring finger or pinky to anchor if your hand size, shape, angle doesn't allow the "mandatory" two finger anchoring.
As a clawhammer player you were used to not anchoring at all and that's possible with Scruggs style but not many people feel that they can maintain their picking height on the strings, etc.

Doing those exercises faithfully has kept my flare ups down to an infrequent minimum. I also do heavy weight lifting (barbell) and increasing grip strength and arm strength via deadlifts, rows, etc. has almost completely eliminated it and I'm 67 so a moderately slow recoverer.

I (we?) get into the trap of playing many many repetitions in order to memorize a tune, etc. and that's often hard to resist but taking a break every 15 min. as Sherry said  will still get you there, just takes a bit longer. 

I agree with Brooks. I was a public school band director and stage performer for two decades and I always had my students stop on a "perfect" moment so that it was programed into their ears and brains before taking that break.  Your brain's gonna keep on "singing" that last repetition or tune phrase while you're making that cup of coffee/tea/ snack so it might as well be one of the good ones!

Edited by - northernbelle on 09/22/2019 09:44:47

Sep 22, 2019 - 1:14:34 PM

gtani7

USA

927 posts since 3/22/2017
Online Now

A lot of things could go wrong with your posture, tension in shoulders, how you hold/strap the banjo on, sitting w/hips crooked (not uncommon in classical guitar) breathing, breaking your wrists or fingers at funny angles, etc. Try to have a teacher watch you play, OR: a pic or video would hlep,

Maybe you've seen Leo Kottke's warning, but that was from a player that probably played 8+ hours everyday w/fingerpicks

guitarmusic.org/kottke/ggpn87.html

Edited by - gtani7 on 09/22/2019 13:15:51

Sep 23, 2019 - 8:23:55 AM

348 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by BrooksMT

Playing over and over is *useless* for a beginner unless Each repetition is perfect. I've found that 3 perfect repetitions, played slowly enough to Be perfect, is enough for Next practice session to show improvement. That's the key: Perfection, and letting the perfect movements "sink-in" . But if the 4th rep is flawed, guess what...your brain is going to store the mistake, and you completely wasted your time. You have to start over, e.g. play the 3 perfect then Stop.

The sink-in period can be overnight, or shorter (couple hours), depending on how much time you've spent retraining your brain to improve our natural ability to learn this way. Read Josh Turknett's "laws of brainjo" for a brain surgeon's take on the subject.

If you are just playing for fun, not for improvement, then play however you like, as long as you like. But know that each mistake becomes a stone in the road for improvement.


Hmmmm. Seems someone was castigating me for not practicing enough in the thread about not being able to learn Lil Black Train. I try to practice 1 hour every day, though often only play half or none at all depending on time constraints. 

 

What you say makes sense, but I figured most people just get good because they just play all day and put in the hours. But now you seem to be saying if you just play 3 repetitions a session and quit that is enough if it the proper technique. I'm a relative nube, and don't even know what is the proper technique. 

I've gotten to playing Country Blues in Art Rosenbaum's other book now. I can play it fast, but just as with Lil Black Train it doesn't have drive they way it should. I figure if I just play it enough, I will get better. 

Can you resend the link to the laws of brainjo. I think someone sent me before, but I didn't get around to it. 

Sep 23, 2019 - 9:06:28 AM

348 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by northernbelle

There are many helpful online videos and descriptions that show how to shake out your wrists, let them hang for a minute, stretching in several planes, etc. They really helped me after I got rather severe tendonitis years ago. They only take a minute or two. They should be your lst level of protection to avoid repetitive injury .

Keep your wrist as straight as you can when picking. Use only a ring finger or pinky to anchor if your hand size, shape, angle doesn't allow the "mandatory" two finger anchoring.
As a clawhammer player you were used to not anchoring at all and that's possible with Scruggs style but not many people feel that they can maintain their picking height on the strings, etc.

Doing those exercises faithfully has kept my flare ups down to an infrequent minimum. I also do heavy weight lifting (barbell) and increasing grip strength and arm strength via deadlifts, rows, etc. has almost completely eliminated it and I'm 67 so a moderately slow recoverer.

I (we?) get into the trap of playing many many repetitions in order to memorize a tune, etc. and that's often hard to resist but taking a break every 15 min. as Sherry said  will still get you there, just takes a bit longer. 

I agree with Brooks. I was a public school band director and stage performer for two decades and I always had my students stop on a "perfect" moment so that it was programed into their ears and brains before taking that break.  Your brain's gonna keep on "singing" that last repetition or tune phrase while you're making that cup of coffee/tea/ snack so it might as well be one of the good ones!


 

 

Yes I didn't know to anchor my pinky, and learned Lil Black Train without anchoring, whily my not very accurate version of it anyways. https://youtu.be/6VP16bDRkWI A few people told me that I couldn't play that way. IDK cuz I did. I could really dig in that way, but was experiencing wrist pain, in a way I never did from clawhammer. Now I have been anchoring my pinky but some pain in my pointer and thumb now even though I only play for about 25 min today, and an hour yesterday. I really need to post a vid of Country Blues, because I'd like some tips, but in a new thread. 

What do I do during the break? Just go watch TV? I'm not a very disciplined person, and I really have to force myself to sit down and play in what lil free time I have for banjo. It won't be so easy do repeat 4 times. I have developed the habit of just playing the same thing over and over for about 1-1.5 hours without stopping no matter how boring or repetative. I'm still not a good banjo :(

Sep 23, 2019 - 9:10:24 AM

348 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by gtani7

A lot of things could go wrong with your posture, tension in shoulders, how you hold/strap the banjo on, sitting w/hips crooked (not uncommon in classical guitar) breathing, breaking your wrists or fingers at funny angles, etc. Try to have a teacher watch you play, OR: a pic or video would hlep,

Maybe you've seen Leo Kottke's warning, but that was from a player that probably played 8+ hours everyday w/fingerpicks

guitarmusic.org/kottke/ggpn87.html


Yikes. So the potential for injury is real! Good to know. the darn things don't come with warnings. Maybe an experienced player could write up a useful tutorial on how to play the banjo safely! You know when you're 20 something you think you are invincible, and never think just riding  a bike can wear our your knees, but I did it. So at 36 I'm a bit wiser, and figured I'd ask. Glad I did. 

Sep 23, 2019 - 9:20:01 AM

348 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

Try taking a break after about 15 minutes of playing the same thing over and over. That way your muscles will get a time out and hopefully not get sore at all. It could be that your fingers are tense instead of relaxed, which is normal when you're trying to learn something new. Try to relax your fingers and if you can't, again, take that break, do something else for a few minutes, then come back and practice again.


How long do you practice for overall? I thought playing an hour a day would get me somewhere. It has, but with a sore couple of fingers, and not nearly as good as I wanted to be after playing hour longs sessions for sometime now.

Sep 23, 2019 - 11:11:55 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23287 posts since 8/3/2003

6stringedRamble When I first started, years ago, I also practiced hours on end and had sore fingers. It took me a long time to get familiar with all the basics and learn timing, tone and technique. Speed was very slow to come to me. In fact, learning to jam with others helped me more than about anything else; that, and understanding chords, chord structures and playing by ear. Speed came with jamming with others and then being in a band. Being in a band forces you to hone your skills and take a good look at any of your short comings.

Now, I practice maybe 30 minutes at a time. It's not my fingers, it's my back, even sitting down, that's about all I can do. At this point, I'm retired and just play strictly for enjoyment.

Sep 23, 2019 - 3:01:39 PM

843 posts since 8/7/2017

Josh Turknett on how long to practice:
banjohangout.org/blog/33294

"Brainjo Law #8: When practicing new skills on the banjo, quality beats quantity. Twenty to thirty minutes of focused, distraction-free practice is sufficient to ensure consistent progress. "

The laws of brainjo archived thread:
banjohangout.org/archive/298553

Sep 23, 2019 - 10:26:23 PM
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Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

39793 posts since 3/7/2006

If you intend to play Old-Time three-finger, you should study the hand posture that classic banjo players use. Almost whole hand in the air except the pinky that are slightly attached to the head near the bridge. It seems to be a relaxed and unstressed position, which enables a lot of advanced playing. You can watch videos by Joel Hooks, for example this one: https://youtu.be/HpHh-waf3v4.

Edited by - janolov on 09/23/2019 22:32:14

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