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Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested

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izzy 31 Jul 03 - 08:06 PM
katlaughing 31 Jul 03 - 08:23 PM
Sorcha 31 Jul 03 - 08:32 PM
Bassic 31 Jul 03 - 09:04 PM
NicoleC 31 Jul 03 - 09:47 PM
Malcolm Douglas 31 Jul 03 - 09:58 PM
katlaughing 31 Jul 03 - 11:09 PM
GUEST,Bryn 01 Aug 03 - 04:26 AM
Frankham 01 Aug 03 - 02:20 PM
Kim C 01 Aug 03 - 02:27 PM
Cruiser 01 Aug 03 - 05:11 PM
Frankham 01 Aug 03 - 07:45 PM
izzy 02 Aug 03 - 08:51 AM
GUEST,John Hardly 02 Aug 03 - 10:01 AM
Raedwulf 02 Aug 03 - 12:25 PM
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Subject: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: izzy
Date: 31 Jul 03 - 08:06 PM

Hallo, this is for all you experienced fiddlers out there. I've been fiddling seriously for about a year and a half, but I have a problem with my wrist. It's OK if I fiddle slowly, but as soon as I start to go fast I get quite a lot of fatigue and pain in my wrist. I've noticed that some fiddlers wear a kind of a wrap or a brace-like structure around their right wrist when they fiddle, a bit like what pro tennis players wear. Would it weaken the muscles in my wrist if I were to wear one? Should I wear one, and if so what is it called and where can I get it (or how could I make it)?

Sorry for all the questions, but I'm strictly an amateur, never 'ad a lesson in me life, and what I don't know about fiddle paraphernalia would fill several large tomes!



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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: katlaughing
Date: 31 Jul 03 - 08:23 PM

Do you tightly grip your bow a lot? If so, loosening your grip, giving it a "light" touch may help. Also, warm up exercises for your hand and wrist. Watch that you don't hit your elbow on anything as the ulnar nerve runs right down through your wrist to your fourth and litte fingers which can cause a lot of pain, too.

My aucpuncturist warns me not to wear any kind of braces, rather to treat with tolerable heat, such as one of those small husk-filled pillows put in the microwave. I also use a Chinese topical tinccture calledf Zheng Gui(sp) Shui when my wrist or some other part gets sore from repetitive motion.

I am sure the others here will have a lot more info for you than this, though. Keep checking's a good place to find answers!


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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: Sorcha
Date: 31 Jul 03 - 08:32 PM

Are you locking your wrist? Rt. wrist should be very loose and flexible. See if you can find a violinist who has a proper bow grip and get some advice. Don't trust self taught fiddlers for this.

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: Bassic
Date: 31 Jul 03 - 09:04 PM

Pain for string players almost always comes through tension, Sorcha and Katlaughing are saying the same. Try to relax your "grip" on the bow. The "hold" should be simply to direct the bow with occasional momentary presure from the first finger to provide accents. If you find yourself "Sawing" at the strings, with a firm grip, that is where your problem comes from. Yes it looks very "traditional" and "folksy" but it can lead to the problem you are having. If you cant develope the propper "hold" for yourself, have a couple of lessons, the teacher should be able to point you in the right direction fairly quickly but be aware that it may take some time to rid yourself of a well established habbit. Good luck.

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: NicoleC
Date: 31 Jul 03 - 09:47 PM

Ditto on the recommendation for lessons. The fiddle seems purposefully designed to mess up your body, and proper holding techniques are essential to preventing injury.

It's hard to learn that the bow is not going to fly out of your hand if you don't have a death grip on it, and we seem inclined to grip harder when trying to play fast or double stops or anything more difficult. So I'm going to recommend:

1) Rest. You are *injured.* As a sufferer from periodic (non-fiddle related) RSI, I can tell you that it will never go away for good unless you give it a chance to heal. You've been playing long enough that it won't all vanish from your head if you take a week off and then take it easy for a few weeks after that.

2) Ice if swollen or puffy looking, heat if not. If it hurts, you may wrap your wrist loosely to help retain body heat when away from heating pads and such, and kat is right -- Zheng Gu Shui is awesome stuff! I agree not to keep it wrapped tightly. It's one thing if you are a pro and you need it to get you through a session; yet another if it keeps you from giving your injury the rest it deserves.

It also helps me to do a thick but not tight wrap at night to keep my wrist mostly straight while sleeping, else I tend to wake up in paid. During the day I leave it be.

3) Evaluation by a trained instructor. You know, you might have injured yourself doing something else and your technique may be fine. But if you have developed a bad habit, it may take a lot of work to break it. In the meantime, don't push. If you can't play fast without hurting yourself, don't -- play correctly. The speed will come.

4) Have your instructor evaluate your bow as well. A poorly balanced or poorly made bow may be making a very minor problem worse. If this is the case, a fairly cheap but well made bow is the Coda Aspire, around $225 -- it's a composite, so they are all pretty much 'carbon' (hahaha) copies of each other -- you'll get more bang for your buck than you will from a Brazilwood bow for the same price.

Just my 2 penny prescription.

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 31 Jul 03 - 09:58 PM

All good advice. I'd particularly echo Nichole's final point; a better bow will require far less effort to achieve the same effect. I bought a Coda a year ago (a Conservatory, the next grade up from the Aspire) - it cost nearly as much as my current fiddle, but it was worth every penny. I can hold it with a far lighter grip than I needed to use on my previous, cheap bows, and I no longer have consequent wrist or finger problems in the right hand. It's also improved my playing no end.

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: katlaughing
Date: 31 Jul 03 - 11:09 PM

Here's a good link for the tincture: click here

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: GUEST,Bryn
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 04:26 AM

I'll add when you are playing, don't keep going if your writsts start to ache. Fiddle playing is very physical, and you can strain things. If you start getting aches, tension or sluggishness in either hand, put the fiddle down and shake wrists, hands, arms about a bit to loosen up. Play for shorter periods - don't spend long hours at the violin in one session, you may be overdoing it! I started out classically trained (ish) and started folking a few years back (I'm no professional, but I play a lot)thre are proper 'classical' ways of holding a bow, which many self taught peeps don't know about/bother with. There are better ways of holding a bow, but I don't beleive in the 'one true way' theory. The important thing to do is make sure that the way in which you hold your bow is relaxed and balanced. Pay special attention to what you are doing with yourlittle finger - if you hold the bow of its centre of balance, you can put a lot of strain on that finger as it applies pressure to keep the thing in balance, and that impacts on the rest of the hand, and the wrist.

I would suggest though, treat fiddle playing like you might any athletic sport - warm up, take time for breaks, don't overdo it and be very wary of any injuries and treat any occuring with a lot of respect.

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: Frankham
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 02:20 PM

If it's the left hand that's giving you trouble, hold the wrist straight, that is don't bend the wrist inward toward the neck or outward either. Support the neck with the upper part of the thumb and the pad of the first finger right below the first joint. You should see a "v-shaped window" between the thumb and index finger and the palm of the left hand. The reason that the so-called classical technique is used is to avoid such problems.

The bow hold should be flexible enough to allow some finger motion to occur. Mark OConnor recommends using the thumb below the frog rather than inside the bow stick. This might free up your bow hold a bit.
This is an old Texas fiddle hold used by one of Mark OConnor's influences, Benny Thomasson.

Frank Hamilton

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: Kim C
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 02:27 PM

Have someone who knows, show you the right way to hold the bow. There's more than one right way, of course, but there's about a million wrong ones.

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: Cruiser
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 05:11 PM

I would second what Frankham stated.

I use the thumb below the frog when playing fast tunes and "rocking the bow" between strings.

When playing airs, waltzes, slow tunes, etc, I use the classical bow hold with the little finger lightly touching the top of the bow.

Then I sometimes change the above procedure by switching the bow hold during a single song, for variety.

The most important thing is "to develop a relaxed, fluid, flexible wrist" (Aerobics for Fiddlers by Carol Ann Wheeler, Mel Bay) She has a check list of things to consider, but I think the most important one is to "change strings by using your wrist, not your arm".

I exercise my hands and wrists before and after fiddling and through out the day whenever I can think of it (like sitting here at the computer). Especially do simple wrist stretching. This is as basic as making circles and figures-of-eight and LIGHTLY bending the wrist of one hand, GENTLY down and back, with the other hand. The same exercises recommended for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome will help prevent problems with your wrists while fiddling.

I am strickly a self-taught amateur fiddler who thinks the fiddle is the most sonorous instrument in the world.

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: Frankham
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 07:45 PM

Great advice Cruiser! Also, you might want to look into the website for Julie Lyonn Leiberman. She has devoted much study to the physical problems associated with violin or fiddle playing.

The Wheeler book is very useful I think.

Frank Hamilton

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: izzy
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 08:51 AM

Thanks very much for all the advice! I knew that mudcatters were forthcoming, but I didn't expect so much help so quickly. Unfortunately I don't have access to a 'pro' fiddler where I live who could tell me where I'm going wrong, but I shall certainly look into all those other suggestions (might be able to get correct position from a book or video). Perhaps a better bow might just be the answer too!

Cheers and thanks for all the info,


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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: GUEST,John Hardly
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 10:01 AM

Old athletic injuries taught me the wisdom of what Cruiser shared -- exercise. Many activities, whether they are running or fiddling, excercise one set of opposing muscles to the exclusion of its "matched pair" (for instance, biceps/triceps or quads/hamstrings). The reason this leads to injusry is that the excercised half of the pairing remains shortened and "tugging" on joint and bone, thereby causing stress to the skeletal structure and joints -- not to mention that tightness of the exercised muscle itself.

One can usually deduce which half of a pairing they are overusing and come up with a suitable counter-exercise (as a potter -- always pushing inward -- I keep a set of weights in the shop and do "butterflies" to keep soreness out of my shoulders). Or, as Cruiser said, exercise the whole muscle group -- it will keep the pairings closer.

You may have to lay off and treat the inflamation for a time, but once you can start in again, remember that excercise will make the whole activity less effort as well.

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Subject: RE: Fiddle wrist problem --advice requested
From: Raedwulf
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 12:25 PM

An exercise from classical guitar may be relevant. It's specifically for the neck hand, rather than the picking hand, but it should be adaptable to your bow hand, if tension is the problem. Oh, plus some perceptive introductory remarks!

(excerpted from The Guitarist's Hands by Duarte & Zea) "Very many guitarists tire & stiffen their left hands unnecessarily by pressing too hard on the strings... [the independence of each hand] is easily suppressed when both hands are used together... The dominant hand tends to take control & the other to become subservient. The more strongly we 'attack' a string with the R-hand, the more firmly we grip with the left; ...tension is easier to increase than to relax...

Hold down in turn a variety of L-hand [neck hand] dispositions - single notes, intervals, chords - in various places on the fingerboard. For each one, play the appropriate string(s) loudly & repeatedly. At the same time, slowly & deliberately relax the pressure of the L-hand until the sound is no longer clear & the string buzzes on the frets; at this point stop the exercise.

Conversely begin with the fingers merely resting lightly on the strings, and gradually increase their pressure while playing fortissimo; when the sound becomes clear, stop. [One] hand thus learns to recognise the minimum pressure needed to respond to the maximum demand from the [other]."

The same exercise works just as well playing quietly as loudly & is just as essential. Start with loud, though, because the effects are more audible & obvious! As to adapting it to the bow hand, I would suggest start with the bow gripped tightly. Then play & relax until the quality of your tone is no longer reliable. Next, reverse the exercise - start with the bow practically falling out of your hand & play & tense *only* up to the point where your tone production becomes 100% reliable.

There is such a thing as muscle memory, & this exercise will teach both hands where the balance of optimum tension/relaxation lies. too much relaxation results in a crap, buzzy/scrapy (take your pick) sound. Too much tension can do the same, but mostly inhibits speed & stamina. All of this I know through bitter experience & I've trained my own hands through exactly this exercise.

I am, of course a guitarist/lutenist, rather than a man on the fiddle; nevertheless I hope this of some little help! :)

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