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#2262435 - 04/16/14 01:45 AM Tired Fingers
adanepst Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/14
Posts: 6
Hello all,

I'm wondering if someone might have advice for me. I'm a conservatory-trained pianist, and ever since I practiced the Brahms 51 exercises, rather intensively, daily, during my last two years at the conservatory (which at the outset improved my technique by leaps and strides), I have suffered from chronic/intermittent fatigue in my fingers, often seemingly independent of how much practicing I have been doing. There is no pain and no ostensible injury; at the time I went to a famous doctor who specializes in musicians' problems and he didn't find anything wrong. When this fatigue is present, it completely sabotages my technique and I can hardly play, or play very poorly (this problem ruined my exams at the conservatory). My fingers are simply very tired, and my dexterity is accordingly drastically reduced.

I have never met another pianist who had this problem of fingers getting tired so readily and then being practically unable to play. There are many moments and even periods when I am able to play normally, but this recurrent fatigue makes it extremely difficult to attain any kind of stable level in my playing.

(My technique is otherwise all right in terms of playing without tension, or without excessive tension)

Does anyone have an idea of what I can do to heal this problem?

I have very recently expermented with doing various improvised slow and gradual stretches of my fingers, hands, and wrists, and this is the very first thing I have ever tried that has helped. Are there stretches specifically for pianists that anyone knows of and that they can recommend?

I would be very grateful for anyhelp.

Many thanks in advance,
adanepst

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#2262436 - 04/16/14 01:55 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
phantomFive Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1333
Loc: California
Sometimes my fingers get tired, and I lift heavy things. It drastically decreases my recovery time. Just getting your hands muscles doing something different.

Get yourself a gym membership and lift some weights with your hands. Like curls, or pullups or bench press, whatever involves carrying a lot with your hands.

There's a lot of isometric contractions going on when you play the piano, it feels good to get your hands doing full contractions for a change.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2262439 - 04/16/14 02:00 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
The sensation of tired fingers is almost certainly caused by depletion of fluids; there are no muscles in the fingers.

Does it happen after practicing for some hours, or right away?
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262442 - 04/16/14 02:07 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Atrys]
adanepst Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/14
Posts: 6
Thank you for your replies. An interesting suggestion about doing some other kind of physical activity with my hands. I do pushups every day, but I might consider a more extended workout involving my arms and hands.

Atrys: it generally happens after practicing for some hours, but if I have practiced for some hours the previous day, the tiredness can be there the following day at the very beginning of my practicing.

I am interested: could you explain to me something about depletion of fluids?

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#2262444 - 04/16/14 02:28 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
Originally Posted By: adanepst
it generally happens after practicing for some hours, but if I have practiced for some hours the previous day, the tiredness can be there the following day at the very beginning of my practicing ... could you explain to me something about depletion of fluids?

If you've been practicing for too long your playing muscles will fatigue and begin to deplete their fluids. If not enough time is given to them to recover, this sensation won't go away.

There's also the possibility that you may be using playing muscles in such a way that isn't healthy for human physiology (our old friend tension).

Do your fingers also feel cold when they get tired? What exactly does the sensation feel like, and exactly where do you feel it?

This might be something to investigate with your GP.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262445 - 04/16/14 02:39 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Atrys]
adanepst Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/14
Posts: 6
Thank you, Atrys, for your detailed reponse. (And, by the way, for the wonderful Emerson quote in your signature)

My fingers do not feel cold when they get tired; the sensation is similar to other kinds of muscle fatigue after exertion - a general feeling of tiredness in the muscles (anatomically speaking, I don't know if in this case it is muscles, or tendons, or ligaments...), and the fingers being able to do much less at the piano as a result: decreased dexterity and agility.

Perhaps there is a way to speed up recovery time of the muscles fatigued and depleted of their fluids?

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#2262446 - 04/16/14 02:45 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
phantomFive Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1333
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: adanepst
Thank you for your replies. An interesting suggestion about doing some other kind of physical activity with my hands. I do pushups every day, but I might consider a more extended workout involving my arms and hands

The important thing is gripping with your hands, so that's why I suggested the specific exercises I did.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2262448 - 04/16/14 02:53 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
Originally Posted By: adanepst

Perhaps there is a way to speed up recovery time of the muscles fatigued and depleted of their fluids?

I'm not claiming this to be the cause, but drink lots and lots and lots of water. Refrain from using the muscles too. The likelihood that this is caused by unrecovered muscles is pretty low unless you play for a very long time every day. Even then, the probability is little-to-none, as your muscles will have built up and adapted to the demand long ago.

Originally Posted By: adanepst

My fingers do not feel cold when they get tired; the sensation is similar to other kinds of muscle fatigue after exertion - a general feeling of tiredness in the muscles (anatomically speaking, I don't know if in this case it is muscles, or tendons, or ligaments...), and the fingers being able to do much less at the piano as a result: decreased dexterity and agility.

There are some members here with far better education than me on this stuff; hopefully they chime in later. If this isn't caused by unrecovered muscles, it may be unhealthy proportional use of playing muscles that drains your fluid compartments apart from blood (since your fingers stay warm). I'd visit your GP or a specialist and bring it up.

If you stop playing for a couple of days, how long until it's back?



Edited by Atrys (04/16/14 03:20 AM)
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262452 - 04/16/14 03:48 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Atrys]
adanepst Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/14
Posts: 6
Thank you again for your replies! I will consider gymnastic or weight exercises that involve some gripping.

And I will keep this in mind about drinking a lot of water.

If I don't play for a couple of days, usually the fatigue is gone.

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#2262479 - 04/16/14 07:01 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 962
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
If you have gotten a thorough medical examination of the problem (and it sounds as if you did), I would strongly suggest getting a consultation from a specialist in ergonomic piano technique. They may be able to identify a possible cause in what you are doing at the keyboard.

The best I know of are the teachers of Taubman technique at the Golandsky Institute (www.golandskyinstitute.org)
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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#2262520 - 04/16/14 09:34 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5059
Originally Posted By: adanepst
Thank you again for your replies! I will consider gymnastic or weight exercises that involve some gripping.

And I will keep this in mind about drinking a lot of water.


Don't over-drink - fatigue in your fingers isn't due to dehydration: the advice Atrys gave you is plain wrong. You can get seriously ill from excessive drinking due to hyponatremia, so don't do it. Be guided by thirst and the color of your urine as to the state of your hydration. (If it's darker than pale yellow, you might need a drink - but not alcohol wink ).


It's the build-up of lactic acid in your muscles that's usually the cause of acute fatigue (which often manifests as a burning sensation, familiar to most athletes). The muscle glycogen stores get used during anaerobic metabolism when you work hard enough to push past the aerobic system, and lactate is a by-product, which needs clearing.

However, fatigue or pain that persists for the next day or two isn't due to lactate (which is cleared quickly) - it's due to delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which is from muscle damage. Playing the piano hard enough (especially with repetitive movements, as in practising the same difficult exercise incessantly) for long enough can cause it.

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#2262526 - 04/16/14 09:50 AM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4794
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Good suggestions above. If they don't work, I'd see a neurologist.
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Best regards,

Deborah

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#2262574 - 04/16/14 12:08 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
It's not lactic acid that's the problem, this would be very obvious to the OP. It's also not the infamous DOMS, as this too would be very obvious.

bennevis doesn't seem to understand fluid depletion very well. Let's also remind him that there are no muscles in the fingers. His input here is too naive to be taken seriously. One ought to stay away from the uninformed things he says (he still believes that "strong fingers" are the key to scales, which is nonsense).

Drink lots and lots of water OP, but this is certainly something to bring to a professional.


Edited by Atrys (04/16/14 12:14 PM)
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262593 - 04/16/14 12:56 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Atrys]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5059
Originally Posted By: Atrys

Drink lots and lots of water OP, but this is certainly something to bring to a professional.

Atrys, you need to realize when your advice is simply stupid and when your advice is dangerous.

You give a lot of the former, but when you start on the latter, I feel obliged to step in.

Have you never heard of the saying: "When you are in a hole, STOP digging"?

You've dug yourself several holes in almost as many posts, but instead of admitting your mistakes, keep attempting to justify them. (Others have shown you up.) It's time you crawled back into one of them.

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#2262594 - 04/16/14 12:58 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Atrys]
phantomFive Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1333
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Let's also remind him that there are no muscles in the fingers. His input here is too naive to be taken seriously. One ought to stay away from the uninformed things he says (he still believes that "strong fingers" are the key to scales, which is nonsense).

The OP didn't say what part of his fingers are getting tired; if I had to guess, I would say it's probably the muscles in his hand around the first knuckle, because there are muscles there
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2262599 - 04/16/14 01:16 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
adanepst Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/14
Posts: 6
Hello all,

and thanks again for your ideas and suggestions.

bennevis and atrys - I appreciate each of your ideas; even if they might seem to contradict each other, for me this is not a problem. I think truth is very big and inclusive, permits seeming oppositions, and includes them! So all ideas are welcome.

bennevis: I am interested to learn of DOMS for the first time. I just did some reading about this on the internet. Usually "soreness" is spoken of, but sometimes also of "stiffness." I don't have soreness, but this still might be the same, or a related, phenomenon.

phantomFive: the feeling of fatigue is generalized; I simply notice that the whole mechanism is tired and that my dexterity is greatly reduced, I can't play things I can usually play, or not as well.

I'm looking forward to looking into all the suggestions that have been offered here. Thanks again.

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#2262602 - 04/16/14 01:26 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5059
Originally Posted By: adanepst


bennevis: I am interested to learn of DOMS for the first time. I just did some reading about this on the internet. Usually "soreness" is spoken of, but sometimes also of "stiffness." I don't have soreness, but this still might be the same, or a related, phenomenon.


As I'm a runner and climber, I've had lots of personal experience of DOMs - not to mention 'hitting the wall' in the latter stages of marathons and long exhausting climbs (when your glycogen stores run out). As for lactate, it's something that all athletes get used to, and train for, to increase tolerance to it.

My experience of DOMS is of ache coupled with stiffness. Frequently more of the latter, and often the ache itself is hardly noticeable. It isn't localized, so sometimes it may not be evident how it came about, apart from the fact that it appears a while later.

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#2262619 - 04/16/14 02:23 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
Svenno Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/25/14
Posts: 138
Loc: Estonia
Bennevis, in order for someone to experience severe or possibly even lethal hyponatremia due to excess water intake, one would have to drink vast amounts of water, and doing so by accident is very, very rare. A lethal amount of water per day for a fully grown person, is about 10-15 litres. Drinking more than 4 litres of water per hour is definitely lethal, but drinking so much occurs only during stupid acts such as water drinking contests.


Edited by Svenno (04/16/14 02:26 PM)
_________________________
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.”

― Plato

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#2262628 - 04/16/14 02:37 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
MarkH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/08
Posts: 855
Loc: Seattle, WA
Originally Posted By: Atrys
The sensation of tired fingers is almost certainly caused by depletion of fluids; there are no muscles in the fingers.


Highly trained medical professionals have difficulty diagnosing many orthopedic conditions after running tests in person. Keep that in mind any time a person gives you health advice over the internet with certainty.
_________________________
Currently Studying: Bach - English Suite No. 5; Beethoven - Op. 27 No. 1; Chopin - Op. 27 No. 1; Chopin - 3rd Scherzo

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#2262634 - 04/16/14 02:54 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: MarkH]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
Originally Posted By: bennevis

Atrys, you need to realize when your advice is simply stupid and when your advice is dangerous.

Svenno has already refuted your silly claim. You really don't have much to offer the OP (per the usual). Your advice is rarely relevant and is usually ill-informed as well as plainly untrue. *yawn*

Originally Posted By: phantomFive
I would say it's probably the muscles in his hand around the first knuckle, because there are muscles there

I agree that it may be possible that OP is fatiguing his interossei muscles, but the probability is low considering his level of experience.

Originally Posted By: MarkH
Keep that in mind any time a person gives you health advice over the internet with certainty.

Absolutely. Despite what us strangers can offer you (OP), it's no replacement for seeking professional help.


Edited by Atrys (04/16/14 02:55 PM)
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262670 - 04/16/14 04:05 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7587
Loc: New York City
I can feel another Atrys flame war coming on.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2262674 - 04/16/14 04:15 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Polyphonist]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
I can feel another Atrys flame war coming on.

Your limbic system must be dysfunctional thumb
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262687 - 04/16/14 04:47 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Atrys]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5059
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Originally Posted By: bennevis

Atrys, you need to realize when your advice is simply stupid and when your advice is dangerous.

Svenno has already refuted your silly claim. You really don't have much to offer the OP (per the usual). Your advice is rarely relevant and is usually ill-informed as well as plainly untrue. *yawn*


Atrys, yet again, you tried to backtrack slightly (no doubt after Googling), but just not enough to admit you've offered stupid advice.....for the nth time.

Next time, just admit you've been stupid, OK? Or else shut up before you dig any deeper into your hole.

You're a danger to people.

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#2262688 - 04/16/14 04:54 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: bennevis]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
Originally Posted By: bennevis

Atrys, yet again, you tried to backtrack slightly (no doubt after Googling), but just not enough to admit you've offered stupid advice.....for the nth time.

Next time, just admit you've been stupid, OK? Or else shut up before you dig any deeper into your hole.

You're a danger to people.

Haha, you sound hilariously mad. It's okay to be mad, just try not to let it affect the advice you try to give people. It really shows.

Better yet, you may just want to study up on the material before you spew nonsense as usual.

Don't get so mad kiddo wink


Edited by Atrys (04/16/14 04:55 PM)
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262691 - 04/16/14 05:08 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Svenno]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5059
Originally Posted By: Svenno
Bennevis, in order for someone to experience severe or possibly even lethal hyponatremia due to excess water intake, one would have to drink vast amounts of water, and doing so by accident is very, very rare. A lethal amount of water per day for a fully grown person, is about 10-15 litres. Drinking more than 4 litres of water per hour is definitely lethal, but drinking so much occurs only during stupid acts such as water drinking contests.

I don't like to point out anything as obvious as this, but excessive drinking of fluids occur very easily in some sporting activities, when people mistake fatigue for dehydration. It makes no difference whether the fluid is water or a sports drink like Powerade/Gatorade: the amount of sodium in the latter is minimal.

A case in point is in marathons. No doubt you'll be able to find out for yourself how the guidelines for runners have changed in the past decade, following a spate of deaths. I've personally seen runners collapsing from it, while participating as a runner.

Short-term dehydration (as occurs with all fast marathoners) doesn't kill; hyponatremia can, and does. I've never heard of water-drinking contests, but I'm sure they exist grin; however, some obsessive people can easily drink copious amounts of liquids to excess (especially when advised by so-called 'experts') and don't realize how dangerous it is.

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#2262692 - 04/16/14 05:13 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
That wasn't a refutation at all. Svenno's point stands, yours does not. OP ought to drink plenty of water (as we all should).

Yet again, just more nonsense.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262694 - 04/16/14 05:15 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Atrys]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5059
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Originally Posted By: bennevis

Atrys, yet again, you tried to backtrack slightly (no doubt after Googling), but just not enough to admit you've offered stupid advice.....for the nth time.

Next time, just admit you've been stupid, OK? Or else shut up before you dig any deeper into your hole.

You're a danger to people.

Haha, you sound hilariously mad. It's okay to be mad, just try not to let it affect the advice you try to give people. It really shows.

Better yet, you may just want to study up on the material before you spew nonsense as usual.

Don't get so mad kiddo wink

Atrys, you need go get some life experience, before you do more damage. Like seeing someone who's collapsed with hyponatraemia, and the frantic efforts of the medics to save him.

I'm normally quite light-hearted in internet forums, and don't take some people's posts too seriously (especially some of your frankly laughable ones, which are good for a chuckle grin), but I DON'T joke when to comes to life and death.

Do you get it now?

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#2262697 - 04/16/14 05:23 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: bennevis]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
Originally Posted By: bennevis

Do you get it now?

There's nothing to get smile Your posts are often filled with words, but no substance.

It's obvious you're still mad, but that's okay.

You also seem to be upset with knowledge and often resort to a "Google" argument which is a fallacy on its own. If one studies well enough in school, one learns material.

Anyways, your petty rage-filled posts are hilarious! Even more so when they're coupled with misinformation and irrelevance. Luckily there are some of us here to "fight the good fight".
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262703 - 04/16/14 05:40 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: Atrys]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5059
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Even more so when they're coupled with misinformation and irrelevance. Luckily there are some of us here to "fight the good fight".

So, you're hoping to dig yourself out with a bit of levity now? grin

What was it that Arnie said: "Levity is good. It relieves tension and the fear of death".

He always did have the best lines.

But for you, I suggest more education. In the context of this thread, in biochemistry and medicine (- no, I'm not suggesting that you study to be a doctor, as that's obviously way beyond your capabilities). Maybe in a few years' time, with more maturity under your belt, you'll start to appreciate the difference between crass stupidity and the potentially dangerous when giving misinformation, of which you are evidently a master, judging from your posts.




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#2262708 - 04/16/14 05:51 PM Re: Tired Fingers [Re: adanepst]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
@bennevis
You never really have a point in your posts; it's just "words, words, words" fueled by obvious frustration (even here, still).

You consistently resort to attacking the person instead of their proposition, another fallacy.

Your advice should never be taken seriously. Brothers and sisters, this is a man who truly believes that "strong fingers" are important for piano play. Your lack of education (or otherwise misunderstanding of many things) does not warrant sound advice. I'm happy to say that what you spew is typically so outrageous that a thinking person would not heed you.

I expect more unwarranted rage and nonsense from you, it speaks volumes about your ability to engage in discourse wink
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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