third lesson

Last night my guitar lesson was an hour long because the next student didn’t show up and my teacher was on a roll. We covered a lot, and I’m not sure exactly how much I’m going to retain. Maybe thirty minutes is enough after all. It’s interesting to be the student again after years without taking a class.

The scales have become much easier with practice. After twenty years or so of doing what I’m used to doing on the guitar, it’s rewarding to learn how to do something new and actually be able to get better at it fairly quickly. One problem I hadn’t anticipated, however, is a stiffness in my wrists. Like Matt, I’ve experienced repetitive strain injury from keyboard use, but never from playing the guitar. I want to nip this in the bud, so I’ll be paying more attention to my posture, to warming up before I start playing with any speed, and to doing the stretching exercise my teacher taught me last night.

The exercise is a very graceful, yoga-like move in which you start with your hand curled into a fist in front of your heart and then gradually lower your arm, open and turn your fist, and raise your arm away from you until it is parallel to the ground with your palm away from you and your fingers pointing to the ground. The you drop your shoulder a bit and tilt your head in the opposite direction. You can feel the stretch from the tips of your fingers all the way to your shoulder.

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5 thoughts on “third lesson

  1. Musicians were the original RSI demographic, before computer users in the eighties. The combination of guitar and keyboard is definitely one to keep an eye on.
    That stretch you describe is one I do myself, and it’s every bit as useful for keyboarders as it is fingerpickers.
    George, to answer your question about the yoga (in your comment on my blog) we actually just came back from a class. My biggest gripe is the temperature in the studio, which always feels overheated.

  2. I had a general practitioner in Rochester who moonlighted as a specialist in the diseases and syndromes of musicians, RSI being chief among them (Rochester is the home of the Eastman School of Music, a prestigious affiliate of the University of Rochester).
    Didn’t you once say that you practice Yoga, George? I find it complements the swimming and stretching I already do to help control neurologic pain (the difficult legacy of a spinal cord tumor, as I think you know).

  3. Matt, are you sure you’re not signed up for a hot yoga class? ;-)
    Kari, I have fallen off the yoga wagon. L and I went to one session at a downtown gym this summer, and it was good, but I keep balking at the cost. I should probably overcome my cheapness in order to maintain my health.
    Just practiced for half an hour. Did the stretching first, then the slow practice scales, then the regular stuff, then stretching again. Still feels a bit stiff. Hmmm.
    Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood apparently suffers from RSI. Do a search on his name in the Google images search engine and see how many pictures show up featuring him with a splint on his right wrist.
    On music and RSI, a completely uncritical search on Google results in the following from
    Rock guitarists getting the (sore) finger
    LONDON (Oct 8) – Guitar hero wannabes frantically beating their sticks are not only at risk from their neighbors wrath, but could also be injuring themselves more directly in the process, British researchers said on Tuesday.
    A study undertaken at the Robens Centre for Health Ergonomics at the University of Surrey found that young and inexperienced electric guitar players could develop musculoskeletal problems, such as RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) because of their poor posture and excessive grip on the strings.
    “Performance anxiety and concern about their prospects of future employment as a musician were also seen as contributory to the problem,” the research team said in a statement.
    Researcher Kathy Lewis found that novice players often had poor posture because they had to look at their strings while playing. They also had a tendency to exert more pressure on the strings and frets than experienced musicians. The most common symptoms were neck, shoulder, wrist and hand pain.
    While the team found that fewer injuries were incurred when the musician chose to sit down, a sedentary stance seems unlikely to gain favour with would-be rock stars.
    But it is not just beginners who are in danger of injuring themselves for the sake of their music. British rock hand Status Quo cancelled three concerts last year after guitarist Rick Parfitt was diagnosed with RSI.

  4. Make sure you’re holding the stretch for 30 seconds.
    Didn’t know about Jonny Greenwood . . . that’s interesting.
    As for hot yoga, I’ve heard about it and it fits my definition of hell.

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