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Physical problems playing instruments?

JennieG 01 Apr 01 - 01:42 AM
Bernard 01 Apr 01 - 09:17 AM
Mike Byers 01 Apr 01 - 09:28 AM
gnu 01 Apr 01 - 09:34 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 01 Apr 01 - 09:36 AM
Big Mick 01 Apr 01 - 09:53 AM
JennieG 04 Apr 01 - 06:59 AM
Whistle Stop 04 Apr 01 - 08:37 AM
kendall 04 Apr 01 - 09:17 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Apr 01 - 01:36 PM
JennieG 05 Apr 01 - 08:08 AM
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Subject: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: JennieG
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 01:42 AM

My friendly acupuncturist told me yesterday that the elbow pain I have been having for a while is actually from my shoulder, not the elbow, and that playing guitar is the major cause because of the angle of the shoulder while I hold the guitar. He suggested exercises to strengthen my shoulder which I will do. Does anyone else have any suggestions? I'm short (just over 5 ft tall) and usually sit down to play which seems to be the problem.
Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: Bernard
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 09:17 AM

A good playing position is essential to good, comfortable playing, but finding that position can involve trial and error.

However, the 'classical' position generally works best when sitting, although using a 'dreadnought' or 'jumbo' folk guitar makes this impractical.

With a standard classical guitar, sitting on a straight chair or stool, you would need a footstool (adjustable) under your left foot, with the guitar supported on the left leg.

The 'nut' of the guitar would be roughly at shoulder height, and the right upper arm would balance the guitar to prevent it moving when playing.

You haven't said which elbow/shoulder is causing the problem - my guess it is the right (assuming you don't play 'left-handed').

Most people have some discomfort brought on by playing, and there isn't always a solution. But you can go some way to minimising it.

If you play a 'jumbo', classical position doesn't work, you have to compromise. A shoulder strap is necessary, but it should be attached to the body of the instrument, not the top of the neck!!

Few 'jumbo' guitars are made with a strap button fitted where the neck meets the body - but I fitted all of mine with them. The strap then supports the instrument which is now on your right thigh instead of the 'classical left'.

Whichever method you use, the right arm should move mainly from the wrist when strumming, with just a little elbow movement. If fingerpicking, the elbow shouldn't move much at all.

I always taught my pupils to hold an imaginary orange (a real one at first!) to position the right hand fingers correctly, so they all 'present' to the strings at the same length; the thumb should pass outside the index finger as if tightening a wing nut (butterfly bolt?) to avoid collision!!

Phew! Don't I go on!!


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: Mike Byers
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 09:28 AM

A few years ago, I met a woman who had back problems and played the guitar. She had a rig sort of like a big music stand that held the guitar at the height and angle she wanted, and supported the weight of the instrument (she played standing up, but it looked like the stand could be adjusted to any height). I don't know if this would help in your case, but it worked just fine for her.


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: gnu
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 09:34 AM

Please do. I'm sure it will help many, including me. I just got another guitar after over twenty years of never picking one up and it's a good time for this old dog to learn some new tricks.

Funny thing happened, too. I can play a lot of the old tunes I use to, but I can't remember the words !

Anyway, thanks for sharing.

gnu


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 09:36 AM

My classical guitar teacher sits at a table, puts a soft cloth on the corner of the table and rests the guitar on the cloth. He claims that position causes the least strain on back, shoulders, hips, and legs. I plan to try it as soon as I have a table in the room where I practice.

By the way, I used to play a dread in classical position. It is possible and not that uncomfortable; but now I have changed to a 000 meeting the body at the 12th fret. That is a lot more comfortable in classical position.,

Murray


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: Big Mick
Date: 01 Apr 01 - 09:53 AM

So, Jenny G, tell us about your guitar. Brand, model, etc., so we can be of more assistance. We have many honorable, eager to assist type folks here that love to give other folks a hand.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: JennieG
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 06:59 AM

Thanks for the replies so far! I can also play classical guitar so I know about sitting position etc. I'm right handed and it's my right arm that is the problem. I play my steel string with the strap at the end of the neck, not attached to the body....it's a girl thing (we have breasts you know); it seems to fit my body better. My steel string guitar is a Rokkomann, it's gorgeous but it is big and I'm small. I often play it sitting in the classical position but that is hurting my elbow, so I am going to try playing standing more than sitting.
Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 08:37 AM

Some folks have problems like that because of the size and depth of the guitar body, which forces their arm to away from their body at a fairly extreme angle. A smaller guitar could help -- or maybe more to the point, a shallower guitar. To deal with this problem some luthiers have experimented with building guitars that are assymetrically wedge shaped, with the side towards your chin being much shallower than the side towards your feet (I hope I'm explaining this well). This allows the right arm (assuming you're right-handed) to hang down more comfortably, reducing repetitive-motion strain on your right shoulder and elbow. However, these guitars are hard to find, generally have to be custom ordered, and therefore might be prohibitively expensive for most of us.

A simpler solution, potentially, might be to hang the body of the guitar lower in relation to your body (only really works when you're standing). You'll still need to keep the neck high to avoid other problems (such as carpal tunnel syndrome in the left wrist; I had a painful episode of this a few years ago). The result is sort of an exaggerated classical position. Not sure this will help, but it might be worth a try.


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: kendall
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 09:17 AM

Arthritis in my left wrist.


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 01:36 PM

I play sitting down, and I do two things to make myself more comfortable:

I put my right foot on something about 3 -4 inches thick.

I put a soft pad on the front edge of the guitar to keep it from digging into the flesh above my elbow and stopping circulation there.

Here are some other observations:

Some people press the little finger of their picking hand on the top of the guitar. Why!? It feels awful and locks your hand up.

Using a pick for a long time is bad for your hand. Switch to fingerpicking or give yourself a rest.

I have seen guitarists whang away at high speed for an hour at a time (say with a high-energy Irish band.) Surely they are asking for a case of tennis elbow.

After you do a song, stand up, flex your arms, move around a bit. Don't stay in one position for a long time. Human beings evolved to be in constant, slow motion. That is why there is no such thing as a perfect chair or mattress.


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Subject: RE: Physical problems playing instruments?
From: JennieG
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 08:08 AM

Whistlestop, I like the sound of that wedge shaped guitar, it sounds as though it would help. I might put my big guitar away for a while and play my classical guitar more, it is smaller and a bit shallower. It doesn't have a strap though.....perhaps I'll just alternate between the two instead. I'll try that and let you know if it helps.
Cheers
JennieG


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