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#1133700 - 01/12/06 11:30 AM Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
This week I've started to practice 12-bar-blues progessions using various chord patterns in the left hand while improvising melodies with the right. No problems with the right hand but all that constant pounding with left hand chords is taking its toll on my wrist.

For example;

I use a pattern of Root-5, Root-5, 6, 6 in a swing pattern with the pinky on the root and index on the 5, and the thumb on the 6. I need to keep my hand pretty stiff so the pinky will play at the same time/volume as the index finger. My teacher suggested using the bounce from the thumb as the opportunity to relax the wrist which seems to help a lot, but I eventually get tired and the wrist just locks up. Once this happens, it's only a matter of time before the wrist begins to ache.

Any suggestions???

Rodney

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Piano & Music Accessories
#1133701 - 01/12/06 11:42 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
Hobie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 475
Loc: Rocky Mountains
Don't pound...play more quietly.

Also try using your thumb to play the 5th and the 6th in you LH swing. You are probably carrying too much tension in yur hand. Take a look at your LH next time you are playing. If there is visible tension...white areas of your hand or obvious rigidity...stop and shake out your hands, reposition them and focus on keeping them as supple and loose as possible while still being accurate.

This type of LH boogie pattern requires some physical stamina, so give it some time, too.

Hope this helps, I love the blues. Have fun!
_________________________
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Groucho Marx

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#1133702 - 01/13/06 01:19 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
virtuosic1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/05
Posts: 523
Loc: NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rodney:
I need to keep my hand pretty stiff ...
Rodney [/b]
That's a no-no! Any undue stiffness of the hand will eventually cause discomfort and impede your execution.

Try playing the first C-G with the 5-2 fingers on an initial light drop of the forearm from the elbow, the second C-G with the 5-2 fingers with a wrist articulation downward as you are slightly lifting the forearm for the next forearm downstroke on the C-A with the the 5-1 and last C-A of the 4 stroke half note repeating pattern with the wrist articulation downward on the forearm upstroke.

You can also try this forearm/wrist "wave-like" motion in reverse (the first stroke being up forearm / wrist downward) and see which feels more comfortable with the goal being complete relaxation of the mechanism (your entire arm, hand, and fingers) during articulation of the pattern.
_________________________
My version of Lennie Tristano's "Scene and Variation":

http://d.turboupload.com/d/1410287/R1_0010.MP3.html

A downloadable file with examples of my jazz improvising (Accompaniament on Fender Rhodes, lead lines on Acoustic piano):

http://d.turboupload.com/d/229801/R1_0001.MP3.html

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#1133703 - 01/25/06 02:52 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1492
Don't hit the keys so hard, play softer with a lighter touch: Play relaxed, drop your arm weight onto the keys, do not press the keys. You can use a slight bouncing motion.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#1133704 - 01/25/06 02:57 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1492
Root-5, Root-5, 6, 6
is very tiring...

I play: Root-5, 6,
in quarter notes instead of the stressful double eighth notes.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#1133705 - 01/25/06 04:40 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
gregjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 316
Loc: CA
The reason your hand gets tired is because the motion is coming from the wrong place. As soon as you start playing louder (I.E. pounding \:\) ) you try to use your hand and fingers to handle all of the movement, and that's why it's easy to tense up.

However, if the movement originates entirely from your upper arm and your shoulder, you can play for hours. Also, you'll have no problem with playing loudly, because your arm muscles are much stronger than your hand muscles.

Personally I'd advise to keep it quiet. Put the emphasis on beats 2 & 4 when you're playing the 6th in the left hand--it'll sound much groovier that way.

As soon as your hands/wrists begin to hurt, STOP PLAYING, because you're not doing something right, you're tensing up or something.

I think I wrote an article that brushes the topic of relaxing when playing:

http://www.gregjazz.com/index.php?page=Articles%20-%20Performance%20Tension

It's at the very bottom of the page.

EDIT: Here's a way to think of the whole "initiate movement from your arms/shoulders":

Piano keys > fingers
Arms > Piano!

;\)
_________________________
Greg Schlaepfer
Orange Tree Samples
http://www.orangetreesamples.com

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#1133706 - 01/25/06 05:53 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Hi Rodney,
You helped me with some advice a while back regarding ways of adding outside sampled piano sounds to my Kawai CP175 digital, so I will return the favor. Besides being a pianist, I am also a Physical Therapist. Your problem may be sourced from numerous possible structures in the forearm/wrist. If the pain is purely muscular, then, indeed, relaxation of the musculature in the forearm and hand will assist in flushing the tissues of metabolites and improving blood flow in and out of the area, thereby providing oxygen and glucose to the active muscles, and pulling away lactic acid and other by products. This would be perceived as a "cramping" feeling in the musculature of the hand or forearm. This might be due to a muscular imbalance between the intrinsic muscles of the hand or the extrinsic muscles of the forearm, ie: the pronators/supinator, for instance. In this case you are probably attempting to compensate for the imbalance/weakness by overworking surrounding muscles. The key here is to identify the imbalance and consistently work on strengthening/endurance exercises to bring the weak link/links into relative balance with the others. The pain can also be emanating from the area commonly known as the "carpal tunnel", where you have the three tendons that control the thumb, second and third digits neatly enclosed in a confined space with the median nerve, which innervates a portion of the palm. When you perform repetitive movements, especially with the wrist in a realtively "flexed", (hand pointed downward), position, these structures get crimped and a chronic tendinitis begins to develop. The tissues swell and impinge on the nerve lying between them. The answer here is to reposition the wrist and hand to a slightly "extended" position, in other words, "uncrimp" the tendons. Also, freqeunt stretching of these structures by straightening the elbow and pulling back the fingers/wrist with the opposite hand, then holding for at least 30 seconds several times a day will help. Take frequent breaks from the keyboard to do this. Finally, if your pain is due to instability of the bony articulations, (joints), of the carpal bones in the wrist, then splinting/bracing and strengthening of the musculature around the area, for stability, is the solution. In most cases, these pains are telling us that we are over stressing one of these structures in some way, either due to poor postures/positions or imbalances in strength/structure. The key is to identify the source and address it before you wind up with a chronic malady. Here is my Caveat: This was NOT meant to diagnose your condition over the internet, but, rather, to give you some insight into the possibilities. You might want to get a prescription to visit a certified Hand Specialist Physical Therapist, who can evaluate how you are playing and suggest a diagnosis and solution to the problem. Hope this helped!!!! Dan
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#1133707 - 01/25/06 10:38 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
I think the problem is entirely due to a weak pinky in the left hand and the tension caused by trying to hold it firm while playing the 1-5. What's strange is that my pinky seems strong enough when played alone (i.e. arpeggios), but when combined with any other finger (especially the 4th finger) it lacks any real strength/rigidity. The key seems to be a cycle of a stiff hand for the 1-5 and then relaxed for the 6 which is fine for a while but eventually I loose the ability to relax the hand between the two motions and the wrist/forearm just lock up and begin to get REALLY tired.

I've been spending a lot of time on working it this past week and have already seen some improvement.

BTW:

This only seems to manifest on a weighted keyboard. I can play the pattern for hours on a synth with no tension at all.

Thanks to everone for their help.

I'm going to add Dan's stretching suggestion into my daily practice routine as well.

Cheers,

Rodney

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#1133708 - 01/25/06 11:13 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Hi Rodney,
Glad to be of some assistance. Sounds like the problem lies in your inability to dissociate the pinky from the other fingers, so you may want to begin an exercise that works each finger individually for increasing numbers of repetitions, and then alternates individual fingers, (5-4, 5-3, 5-2, 5-1, 4-5, 4-3 4-2, etc). Since the pinky and fourth finger will always be weaker than the others, make sure you do twice or more, the work with them as you devote to the others in your routine, being careful NOT to overtrain, and to do plenty of stretching in between. You can also add a substantial "pinky ring" of some sort to add resistance as you strengthen it. Let me know how you make out with this.
All the best,
Dan
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#1133709 - 01/25/06 05:59 PM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
Theodore Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/05
Posts: 335
Loc: San Antonio, Texas
Try playing Diminished 7th chords with both hands, as:

LH: A-C-D#-F#-A
RH: C-D#-F#-A-C

Where RH, 1st note C is Middle C. Move each finger independently, up and down 10 times in a row, all ten fingers. Thunbs together, indexes together, third fingers together, 4th fingers together and fifth fingers together. Once you have that down, move the entire chord, all ten keys up 1/2 step and continue the same until you move up one octave and return. Stretch your hand and thumb through pinky dexterity. Good luck.
_________________________
Theodore
Alamo Music Center
San Antonio,Texas

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#1133710 - 01/25/06 11:45 PM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
virtuosic1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/05
Posts: 523
Loc: NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by CC2 and Chopin lover:
Hi Rodney,
Glad to be of some assistance. Sounds like the problem lies in your inability to dissociate the pinky from the other fingers, so you may want to begin an exercise that works each finger individually for increasing numbers of repetitions, and then alternates individual fingers, (5-4, 5-3, 5-2, 5-1, 4-5, 4-3 4-2, etc). Since the pinky and fourth finger will always be weaker than the others, make sure you do twice or more, the work with them as you devote to the others in your routine, being careful NOT to overtrain, and to do plenty of stretching in between. You can also add a substantial "pinky ring" of some sort to add resistance as you strengthen it. Let me know how you make out with this.
All the best,
Dan [/b]
What about fascial stretching? Possibly an ART practicioner can release the triggers that the prolonged periods of exercise are exacerbating.

I would be very hesitant to add resistance by weighting the fingers themselves. History shows that some pianists have completely wrecked their technique with such added resistance devices while actually playing the piano in an effort to strengthen individual fingers, though I thoroughly condone exercises done away from the keyboard that will strengthen the grip, forearms, and muscles of the upper arm to improve your playing mechanism's strength, stamina, and speed!
_________________________
My version of Lennie Tristano's "Scene and Variation":

http://d.turboupload.com/d/1410287/R1_0010.MP3.html

A downloadable file with examples of my jazz improvising (Accompaniament on Fender Rhodes, lead lines on Acoustic piano):

http://d.turboupload.com/d/229801/R1_0001.MP3.html

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#1133711 - 01/26/06 06:16 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
 Quote:
I would be very hesitant to add resistance by weighting the fingers themselves. History shows that some pianists have completely wrecked their technique with such added resistance devices while actually playing the piano in an effort to strengthen individual fingers, [/b]
Several comments on this: First, I am NOT recommending "resistance devices", I suggested a pinky ring, which would add a few grams of additional weight to the finger. Secondly, I was very clear in warning against over training. Strengthening the muscles away from the keyboard will do nothing to develop them specifically for the task at hand (no pun intended). It is well established in Medical and Physical Therapy literature that the best training programs for developing muscles for a particular skill are "task specific". Lastly, the reference you make regarding history showing that "several" pianists have ruined their technique by weighting their fingers and playing is interesting. I know of only one who has done that, according to the history I have read, and he did so because he was OBSESSED with his weak digits and, consequently, could not stop attempting to strengthen them....ultimately grossly overtraining and destroying his function. Can you name "several" of these pianists who have ruined their technique by simply applying minimal weight for short periods of practice time several times per week? If you can, I would appreciate it so I can research it further. Quite frankly, it would be the equivalent of a pianist who is normally used to playing on a very "light" action now having to practice several times per week on a piano with a much "heavier", more resistive action. Will you argue that that would then ruin that pianists technique? The bottom line here is that it isn't what you do, but HOW you do it that makes a difference. ANYTHING done obsessively will ultimately be detrimental.
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#1133712 - 01/26/06 08:07 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
nickd Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 146
Loc: France
 Quote:
Strengthening the muscles away from the keyboard will do nothing to develop them specifically for the task at hand (no pun intended). It is well established in Medical and Physical Therapy literature that the best training programs for developing muscles for a particular skill are "task specific".
Hi Dan,

I have no professional knowledge of the subject whatsoever, so I can only speak from experience (I've recently taken up piano after a 20-year absence and, boy, did I suffer in the beginning \:\) ).

I wonder if the problem is one of stamina and control rather than absolute strength.

I've found that overall gentle strengthening of the arm, particularly the forearm, has helped me considerably. I've mainly been using one of those spring-loaded thingumies with a button for each finger while I'm in traffic jams, and I also have a range of physiotherapist's putty. I go for high-reps medium-force and it seems to have helped a lot. Once I'd built the initial strength I found that the high reps were what really made the difference.

When I was younger doing karate I had a finger strengthener that consisted of a large metal ring with five spring-loaded finger loops. The idea was to enable you to strengthen the opening of the hands so as not to get imbalance in the muscles . I seem to remember that I found it made a difference.

Any professional thoughts or comments on all this?

I also do a lot of stretching and massaging of the hand and wrist (I badly damaged them in an accidient so I do this anyway). I also spent ages finding the right height for the stool and the right distance from the keyboard. This on its own made a huge difference.

For the control, 15 minutes of Hannon twice a day makes a big difference.

I play mainly R&B, boogie woogie etc, so I know exactly what you're talking about.

nick

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#1133713 - 01/26/06 08:31 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Hi Nick,
You are absolutely right in your comment about stamina. If you backtrack to my first post in this thread I talked about just that. I suggested increasing repititions and working on endurance. regarding your question on the "karate finger loop strengthener", if you were bringing the fingers into a flexed position at the MCP, PIP and DIP joints, (sorry for the technical lingo), which is how I understand that particular device to operate, then you were actually strengthening the muscles that CLOSE the hand, since the resistance was being applied INTO flexion, and the spring tension was actually pulling the fingers back into the extended position. I would highly recommend Alan Fraser's book on developing piano technique. He takes a very unioque and holistic approach to the many components involved in the complex movements associated with playing. Go to his website and check out some excerpts from the book. By the way, the massage and stretching, if done properly, can only be beneficial.
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#1133714 - 01/27/06 01:59 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1492
 Quote:
Originally posted by gregjazz:
The reason your hand gets tired is because the motion is coming from the wrong place. As soon as you start playing louder (I.E. pounding \:\) ) you try to use your hand and fingers to handle all of the movement, and that's why it's easy to tense up.

However, if the movement originates entirely from your upper arm and your shoulder, you can play for hours. Also, you'll have no problem with playing loudly, because your arm muscles are much stronger than your hand muscles.

Personally I'd advise to keep it quiet. Put the emphasis on beats 2 & 4 when you're playing the 6th in the left hand--it'll sound much groovier that way.

As soon as your hands/wrists begin to hurt, STOP PLAYING, because you're not doing something right, you're tensing up or something.

I think I wrote an article that brushes the topic of relaxing when playing:

http://www.gregjazz.com/index.php?page=Articles%20-%20Performance%20Tension

It's at the very bottom of the page.

EDIT: Here's a way to think of the whole "initiate movement from your arms/shoulders":

Piano keys > fingers
Arms > Piano!

;\) [/b]
You can still get sore wrists even when playing with correct technique: ie. playing from the arms and shoulders. Some folks are prone to wrist pain no matter how correct their technique is.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#1133715 - 01/27/06 02:47 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
virtuosic1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/05
Posts: 523
Loc: NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by nickd:
I go for high-reps medium-force and it seems to have helped a lot. Once I'd built the initial strength I found that the high reps were what really made the difference.


nick [/b]
You're on the right track. Developing a greater degree of upper body and arm strength is an asset to any pianist that will yield increased balance, stamina, and to a surprising degree, speed. Power is speed, balistically speaking. Strength being the ability to overcome a resistance, power being the ability to overcome a distance or line of resistance more rapidly (strength + speed). Athletes train specifically to be explosive (powerful) in movements encountered in their sport (they must not only gain strength in those movements, in those ranges of motion specific to their performance, but they must be able to exert that strength rapidly. Pianists are athletes as well. Ignore the conditioning of your total playing mechanism will result in compromised technique, and make no mistake about it, in playing the piano, your entire body is involved.

The higher rep scheme with medium resistance is vastly more suited for pianists than lower reps with high resistance, since a high degree of resistance is not necessary to depress piano keys.

Increasing your power (speed + force capability) using medium resistance and high reps will increase your stamina, the lack of such stamina resulting in forcing at the keyboard causing undue tension in the playing mechanism. Increasing your power and efficiency of your total mechanism will allow you to play more effortlessly, relaxed (tension is the enemy), and with improved stamina.
_________________________
My version of Lennie Tristano's "Scene and Variation":

http://d.turboupload.com/d/1410287/R1_0010.MP3.html

A downloadable file with examples of my jazz improvising (Accompaniament on Fender Rhodes, lead lines on Acoustic piano):

http://d.turboupload.com/d/229801/R1_0001.MP3.html

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#1133716 - 01/27/06 06:43 AM Re: Wrist tension and pain (any advice)
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Rodney,
An addendum to my previous comments in this thread. You should also experiment with the placement and height of your piano bench, as this may be putting you in a mechanically disadvantageous position.
Dan
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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