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Improving concertina technique, finger a

The Sandman 20 Jul 12 - 01:51 PM
KathWestra 20 Jul 12 - 03:10 PM
Anglogeezer 20 Jul 12 - 03:59 PM
Charley Noble 20 Jul 12 - 08:52 PM
GUEST,Uncle Jaque 20 Jul 12 - 11:16 PM
Guran 21 Jul 12 - 03:38 AM
Paul Davenport 21 Jul 12 - 03:53 AM
The Sandman 21 Jul 12 - 05:04 AM
Guran 21 Jul 12 - 07:51 AM
The Sandman 21 Jul 12 - 09:23 AM
Brian Peters 21 Jul 12 - 09:33 AM
The Sandman 21 Jul 12 - 10:07 AM
Guran 21 Jul 12 - 10:17 AM
Charley Noble 21 Jul 12 - 11:16 AM
The Sandman 21 Jul 12 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,Uncle Jaque 21 Jul 12 - 05:47 PM
Guran 22 Jul 12 - 01:44 AM
The Sandman 22 Jul 12 - 03:59 AM
Guran 22 Jul 12 - 04:39 AM
Guran 24 Jul 12 - 06:53 PM
Brian Peters 25 Jul 12 - 03:06 PM
The Sandman 25 Jul 12 - 03:19 PM
Guran 26 Jul 12 - 03:46 AM
Guran 26 Jul 12 - 03:58 AM
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Subject: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 01:51 PM

it is my opinion a good idea to work on finger attack on the anglo, as well as the english and the duet.here is an extract by none other than John Kirkpatrick, who appears to agree with my opinion
please note his refernces to finger attack and staccato, Linked pages: How to Play the Anglo - Part 1
How to Play the Anglo - Part 3

How to Play the Anglo - Part 2
by
John Kirkpatrick

From The Concertina Newsletter, Issue No 10, February 1973

By now you may have reached the conclusion that to do the Anglo full justice you could do with a few more fingers on each hand. No doubt the day will dawn when a race of concertina players can be specially bred with as many fingers as you care to order, but meanwhile let's see how to make the most of what nature has provided. To save space I won't bother to specify the left hand or the right hand unless it isn't obvious from the context. You can tell from the number of the button which side is under discussion, 1-5 and 11-15 on the left, 6-10 and 16-20 on the right.

Whatever style you adopt eventually (and more about styles later) your best bet to start with is to give yourself confidence by becoming fully acquainted with the way the Anglo behaves up and down the major rows. So assuming you're going to play a tune in one of the two major keys, and perhaps have a basic position for your fingers, and this is the way I rest mine when I pick up the instrument: little finger (L) on button 1; ring finger (R) on 3; middle finger (M) on 4; index finger (1) on 5; and on the right hand, I on 6, M on 7, R on 8, L. on 9.

If you push the bellows with your hands in this position you get the major chord of your main key, C on my box. When you want to play in the second key, G in my case, you get the same effect by resting L on 2, R on 13, M on 14, I on 15, I on 16, M on 17, R on 18, L on 19. You'll avoid a lot of initial fumbling about if you keep your hands in the basic position for the key you're playing in and always press the same button with the same finger. When you need to play any note which lies on a button not immediately covered by a finger, just give it a poke with the nearest digit at your disposal and return your hand to normal as soon as possible.

As your playing develops then obviously your fingers will become more nimble and increasingly accurate at hitting buttons that lie off the beaten track, and you may well find that you can manage better with some other basic position, or even without one at all. This will depend on the size and weight of your box, the number of buttons you have to cover, the style you adopt, the key or keys you play in, the length and thickness of your fingers, whether you bite your nails and how sweaty your hands get. In any case you'll soon experience enough situations calling for a vital decision about which finger to use to realise that this is only a general guide for the uninitiated rather than a hard and fast rule, and to prove it here is the first main exception.

With the position I suggested, the seventh of the upper octave - B in the key of C, , F in G, , - is left exposed to the elements with never a friend in sight save a rather weak little finger on the next button down. As soon as you try a run from the dominant upwards the little finger has to cope with , , , , , , - obviously too much to expect of a member so feebly endowed. So if you need to reach the seventh, move all your fingers up one button - I on 7, M on 8, etc., and for going over the top of the scale, move up another button, I on 8 etc. It's easier to jump a long distance with the index finger or middle finger than the others so leave that part of the work to them and make sure the weaker fingers don't have far to travel.

Once you're happy sticking to the one row try crossing the rows and find where alternative notes lie. For example another way of playing the high notes in the C scale is to play them on the G row. A scale of C could go like this:
C (I); D (M); E (M);
F (R); G (I); A (M);
B (M); C (R); D (R);
E (L); F (R); G (L)

The little finger seems better going up this run than coming down, so on the way down try:
G (R); F (M); E (R);
D (M); C (M); B (I);
A (M); G (I)

I find I often press a button with one finger and then, still holding it down, slide another finger onto it, leaving the first finger free for the next note. Hence the change in fingering on button 17. This might seem awkward at first but it's a useful trick to cultivate and one that will help you out of some nasty situations.

The sequence I've just described will be especially useful when a tune in C leads up to a chord on the dominant (G) and you need a sharpened fourth ( - F in this case). Tunes that do this are Jockie to the Fair and Happy Clown, at the end of the A music, and Bellingham Boat at the end of the B music.

Another run involving crossing the rows comes in useful when you're playing a tune in G which goes down the scale below G on 16. Instead of playing the lower notes on your left hand you can do this: G (I); F (I); E (M);
D (M); C (I); B (M); A (R); G 6c (I). The A on comes in handy when you're playing in C too, if you need a run from E the tonic (C ) down to the dominant (G ). These runs help you keep your left hand free to do whatever it likes by way of accompaniment, whether you want to play the tune in unison on both hands, or a counter melody a sixth lower, or just bash out chords.

It's worth trying out every possible combination of buttons and fingers, especially over difficult passages, till you find the most economical one with the fewest wide stretches. This isn't quite so crucial when you just play a single-line melody, but when it comes to adding counter melodies or chords or both, or whipping off four-part fugues, then the less jumping around you have to do the better the music will flow. It only needs one or two missed notes or slips in timing caused by a finger getting lost in mid-air and your concentration and confidence will suffer and your audience will begin to cringe. There are enough people trying to knock the Anglo as it is without you encouraging them by making a careless mistake which could have been avoided by more intelligent practising.

Once you can get the right notes without too much trouble, it shouldn't take you long to realise that you accompany a slow ballad in a different style to what you would use if you were playing for a morris dance. So try out different ways of sounding the notes and see what effect you can get. For a song try a legato approach, holding each note on till you play the next one, but being careful not to run notes into each other. You can get a gradual sounding of a note by holding the bellows still, pressing the button down, then moving the bellows very slowly. Try this with one note, then with two and three, then with a handful of notes. See how quietly you can play and try playing a tune or an accompanying chord sequence through as quietly as possible. This requires much more control than loud playing and is a good practice exercise even if you never want to play in the gentle, subtle style that a lot of songs demand.

At the other extreme dance tunes need to pack a lot of punch, and the best way to achieve this is to keep the finger action strong and crisp. To get a powerful staccato effect hold your finger over the button and start moving the bellows in the required direction so that they are under pressure before you play any notes. Then hit the button quickly and take your finger off straight away. This will give you a loud, clean note and is the sort of procedure you should bear in mind if you want to produce good dance music. It's especially effective, and fairly easy, to vamp chords in this manner, which not only provides a strong rhythmic basis but also leaves enough space between each vamp to allow the tune to come over clearly whether you're playing it yourself on your other hand or accompanying some other instrument. Try doing this quietly as well - it takes some getting used to.

One exercise which helps strengthen the fingers and therefore makes this staccato technique easier to perform is to tap each finger separately as quickly as you can and for as long as you can bear to on any hard surface - a chair arm or table or a friendly knee - and develop the hammer action involved. You might get some funny looks if you indulge in this indiscriminately but it's all in the cause of Art.

This will also help prepare your fingers for jumping from button to button over the keyboard as we mentioned earlier. Ultimately it's possible to play a tune fairly quickly with just one finger by athletic leaps in all directions, and while I have my doubts about advocating this as a regular feature of Anglo playing it is a useful ability to have and is bound to affect the rate of your progress as soon as you try and play more than one note at a time on one hand.

Next month, chords and where to put them!


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: KathWestra
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 03:10 PM

Great stuff. Thanks!
Do you have live links for the linked pages referenced in the article, or are those too old to find? (1973 was a while ago!!)


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Anglogeezer
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 03:59 PM

Here, from JK's website is the page containing links to his 'writings'.
There are three pages on how to play the Anglo, the Prince of instruments!!
JK's pages

Jake


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 08:52 PM

Too much to digest on a Friday evening but I do need such help. It's a pity there is no one in my immediate neighborhood who could demonstrate what I could be doing. I still do primarily melody on the Anglo with occasional chords at the beginning or end of a line. I should be making more use of chords.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: GUEST,Uncle Jaque
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 11:16 PM

Sounds like you and I are about in the same place with the squeezebox. Having no one to show me how to do it right I just noodle around with it playing by ear and trial and error (mostly the latter).

That's probably the utterly WORST way to learn the instrument, but I reckon a lot of Sailors picked it up that way, and a lot of improvisation probably went on.

My favorite time to practice is sitting out on the porch waiting for the barbecue to cook and annoying the dogs with the Anglo trying to scratch out a chanty or an old Foster tune.

One trick I notice is to not run out of air in the middle of a phrase or interject a pregnant pause while I hit the "breathe" button with right thumb.

We love it up here in Monmouth but I surely do miss jamming with you folks.


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Guran
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 03:38 AM

"One exercise which helps strengthen the fingers and therefore makes this staccato technique easier to perform is to tap each finger separately as quickly as you can and for as long as you can bear to on any hard surface - a chair arm or table or a friendly knee - and develop the hammer action involved."

RE: I simply have to comment a little on this. Despite the idea of "strengthening the fingers" sounds attractive - in practise it may be rather fruitless.
1)You don't need extra strong fingers at all for playing concertina.
Guitar ( left hand) may be different.
2)It is not so easy to improve individual finger strength as it sounds but it IS possible of course.What you actually may improve a little by the described exercise is coordination of muscle activity but *that* may be more efficiently carried out by suitable pieces of music !
3)There is much misunderstanding that by practise all four fingers may aquire "independencý" and equal abilities. This is anatomically and physiologically not correct. The greatest problem in practise is the fact that 3rd finger ( ring finger) is unevitably dependent on 2nd and 4th. For most people the capabilities of fingers come in this order 1,2,4,3 disregarding that the 4th mostly is handicapped by its shortness ( and sometimes crookedness..)
4)For most people general hand strength is so much more related to everyday work that extra "work-out" may only improve gripping force and that doesn't help for concertina-playing


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 03:53 AM

That's probably the utterly WORST way to learn the instrument,

It is, however, the way the majority of traditional musicians learned.


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 05:04 AM

sorry Guran, strengthening fingers is important for any instrument, my ring finger was weak but by using it alot i have strengthened it.independence of fingers can be achieved via practise. a simple exercise that pianists use, enables this to happen.
rest all fingers on desk, as if you were playing piano, then whilst keeping others down lift one independently, this really helps to strengthen fingers and enables independency to develop. please heed the words of john k not guran.the proof of the pudding is in john ks playing


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Guran
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 07:51 AM

Schweik/Dick/21 Jul 12 - 05:04 AM
"sorry Guran, strengthening fingers is important for any instrument.."

Don't be sorry by all means - let's sort it out instead."Strength" in everyday language *may* mean both 1)maximal (instanteanous) power AND 2)endurance for a)static force b)dynamic/repetitive movements 3)effects from coordination = neuromuscular effectiveness

In physiology strength is usually = 1) above or possibly 2) but has to be defined in a specific example.So:
- Increasing 1) is of NO importance for concertina playing *unless* you have been victim to some injury or disease and need rehabilitation
- Increasing 2) may be of some importance but is likely best carried out by structured exercising of the specific instrument
- When you "strengthen" your fingers by various exercises you *may* get some measurable effects for that particular task but it is very doubtful whether that is of any importance for playing abilties and most likely playing itself offers more efficient effect on all 1-3.

Coordination IS important for concertina playing. "Strengths" 1 and 2
are sufficient anyway for all people, even children.Playing a concertina is no hard labour.

You can NEVER achieve the same capability of the ring finger as of the others whatever exercise you frantically carry out !


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 09:23 AM

we must agree to disagree


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Brian Peters
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 09:33 AM

"playing by ear and trial and error (mostly the latter).

That's probably the utterly WORST way to learn the instrument"


I hope not, because it's exactly what I tell my beginner students to do. Reading music directly on to an Anglo is quite tricky, since the instrument has a different logic to, say, a piano or a fiddle. I'm not a great fan of complicated schemes of symbols either, since you have to indicate which button, which end, which finger and which bellows direction. It becomes very laborious and inserts a layer of extra complication between brain and music.


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 10:07 AM

I agree with Brian, furthermore using a system of trial and error isthe best way to develop the ear, however spending alittle time on reading musicis also good and is the development of another useful skill.
much traditional music is played in a situation where playeers pick things up by ear , therefore devolping that skill is of major importance


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Guran
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 10:17 AM

Schweik/21 Jul 12 - 09:23 AM
"we must agree to disagree"

RE: Must we?? Sorry hearing you say so. There are moments in life when it may be more fruitful to learn than to disagree...

Concerning strength:
Strength no 1) (maximal power).The maximal pressing power usually is (surprisingly) equal for all fingers.Test it if you are curious and you probably will find something like 3-10000grams for all of them (if you are not very athletic).
Strength no 2) (endurance) You may perform a power of ca 10% of your maximal power for a longer period without getting strain problems and accumulation of waste products. To execute static or repetitive finger pressing movements as with concertina playing you need a force of 100gram or usually less (button pressure usually is 50-80g) while your capacity according to the above is expected to be 300+grams (10%)
Consequently you can expect NO need for additional "strength"

Now to widen the perspective a little I can admit that IF your aim is extreme performance, like playing extremely fast and for extremely long periods without any break, or setting some World Record, there will probably be some advantage for the "stronger" individual.I willingly "agree" on that point

Concerning coordination:
The 3rd finger/ring finger can NEVER get the same capacity as the others ( even if having equal strength) since it is tied up by connective tissue links to the tendons for 2nd and 4th finger.The related disability can NOT be eliminated by training.Maybe by surgical invervention but that is hazardous and maybe the nervous function will not be good enough anyway.Possibly there are individuals not having these tendon links by anomaly but I haven't seen it or heard about it.


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 11:16 AM

It's taken me years just to reach the point where I might profit from lessons!

Might I strengthen my fingers by hanging from them? Maybe that would lengthen them as well!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 11:29 AM

guran , i do not agree, i am talking from my own experience


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: GUEST,Uncle Jaque
Date: 21 Jul 12 - 05:47 PM

Gee; I wonder if keyboarding this computer helps with concertina fingering any? Since my body isn't up to much else these days I get a fair amount of that "exercise" in.

One nice thing about the concertina is it's fairly portable.
Much more so than a piano, for instance.

Used to play harmonica, but every time I played it I'd catch a cold, so after a while I gave it up. Even soaking it in beer like some of the Blues players suggested didn't help.

Concertina seems a bit more hygienic at the very least.

Practicing is a great way to pass away idle time, for sure - and it does not annoy Domestic Management nearly as much as the banjo.


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Guran
Date: 22 Jul 12 - 01:44 AM

Schweik/Dick/ 21 Jul 12 - 11:29 AM
"guran , i do not agree, i am talking from my own experience"

RE: Well,repeating that you don't agree doesn´t bring us much further.Learning from experience is always important however so please tell us instead exactly *what* your experience is and *what* it is you disagree about in what I said.


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Jul 12 - 03:59 AM

my experience is that i have improved the strength and independence of my ring finger by using the piano type finger exercises i mentioned, i have also strengthened my weaker fingers by using a grip master


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Guran
Date: 22 Jul 12 - 04:39 AM

Dick/ 22 Jul 12 - 03:59 AM
Many thanks, a bit more substantial, so let us sort it out a bit more:

D: "..my experience is that i have improved the strength.."

RE: WHAT "strength" 1) maximal power or 2) endurance ?

D: " and independence of my ring finger"

RE: In WHAT respect? What is it that your ring finger can do that it didn't manage before?

D: ".. by using the piano type finger exercises i mentioned"

RE: You mean you "tap(ped) each finger separately as quickly as you can and for as long as you can bear to on any hard surface" ?
Some questions: How fast did you tap? For how long did you bear it?
Did you measure results before and after? For how long period did you carry the training program out?

D: " i have also strengthened my weaker fingers by using a grip master"

RE: "strengthend" according to 1) or 2) ? Measured before and after ?and how? Did you do that some other period than the tapping? When?
What is your present individual maximal finger pressing power?


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Guran
Date: 24 Jul 12 - 06:53 PM

Dick, you haven't answered and maybe you won't.I make a preliminary summing-up anyway.You see - the tapping exercise as described can not be expected to improve the "strength" 1) (momentary maximal power) at all.It may possibly improve "strength" 2) (endurance) a bit but hardly any better than playing the instrument itself. The same
regarding 3) coordination.
The Gripmaster may possibly be efficient for improving 1) up to its highest grade which seems to be 3,5kg resistance - not very much.For improving 2) it likely may be more useful.I have found no objective evaluation of its usefulness neither in rehabilitation, nor in sports or musical activities.
There is no reason to believe that this kind of "fingerstrenthening" exercises have any significant positive effect for concertinaplaying that you can not achieve by systematic playing of the instrument so I mainly see it as wasted time unless the primary aim is to relieve your neighbour from listening to frantic scale exercises...


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Brian Peters
Date: 25 Jul 12 - 03:06 PM

What John Kirkpatrick wrote, nearly forty years ago, was:

"...hit the button quickly and take your finger off straight away. This will give you a loud, clean note and is the sort of procedure you should bear in mind if you want to produce good dance music... One exercise which helps strengthen the fingers and therefore makes this staccato technique easier to perform is to tap each finger separately as quickly as you can and for as long as you can bear to on any hard surface - a chair arm or table or a friendly knee - and develop the hammer action involved."

It seems pretty obvious to me that what JK was talking about was not 'strength', but the ability to make rapid, repetitive movements of the fingers involving both the adductor and abductor muscles working alternately. I must admit I've never felt moved to do it, but tapping them on a table seems a reasonable suggestion for enhancing this ability, and something that could be done at any time, whether or not an instrument was available.


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Jul 12 - 03:19 PM

exactly Brian, This technique is also used by classical pianists, but fear not Guran knows best,nevr mind John K, silly old DickMiles,BrianPeters, franz list, no Guran is your man


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Guran
Date: 26 Jul 12 - 03:46 AM

Brian/25 Jul 12 - 03:06 PM
"What John Kirkpatrick wrote, nearly forty years ago, was:(quote):
"..One exercise which helps strengthen the fingers... and develop the hammer action involved."

Brian:"It seems pretty obvious to me that what JK was talking about was not 'strength', but the ability to make rapid, repetitive movements of the fingers.."

G:Is that obvious when he literally says "strengthen"?? and "hammer action" ?? We better speak to JK to know what he was "talking about" maybe...

Brian:".. involving both the adductor and abductor muscles working alternately".

G: We ARE dealing with as I said before 1) momentary muscle power 2) endurance and 3)coordination/precision
" the ability to make rapid, repetitive movements of the fingers.." engages all 1-3 and to understand the motive for training of it we need to separate the factors clearly

Brian:".. tapping them on a table seems a reasonable suggestion for enhancing this ability, and something that could be done at any time, whether or not an instrument was available".

G:I can agree with you on that point BUT keep in mind that what you achieve is:
- a training effect on 3)(coordination) while this likely is more efficient by true *playing*. I don't deny that the possibility that training on your work desk or dinner table may add something to it...
- a possible training effect on 2)(endurance)but this likely is more efficiently ( and pleasantly) done by playing too
- NO effect whatsoever on 1)(momentary power)

What JK meant by "strengthen" may sound a bit obscure but it was 40 years ago. Can he be brought around to comment?


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Subject: RE: Improving concertina technique, finger a
From: Guran
Date: 26 Jul 12 - 03:58 AM

Dick/25 Jul 12 - 03:19 PM
" This technique is also used by classical pianists.."

There are always people who use this or that with more or less reason.
"Strengthening" exercises has been a matter of fashion with pianoplaying on and off. What I said above is basically the same for concertina playing and piano playing. For the average and healthy individual there is not much reason trying to improve "strength" by any extra "work-out". For extreme/competitive performance having some extra finger power and endurance of course may be beneficial but always keep in mind that for all performance with musical instruments problems from over-use and strain are a lot more important and frequent than any "strength" issue.
Some specific exceptions do exist. For the left hand guitar ( or similar) work which may be *static* to a major degree strength 1) may be of importance and grip training may thus be motivated.


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