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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000366.txt from 1994/05

From: Jim Freeman <collnjim@-----.EDU>
Subj: Re: Exercises (physical)
Date: Sat, 21 May 1994 14:47:51 -0400

On Fri, 20 May 1994, James Langdell wrote:

> Victor Wyman (WYMANVIC@-----.COM) wrote:
> >Can someone recommend some exercises to make the hands more supple? Any
> >clarinet playing physiotherapists? My right hand is a little tight (result of
> >age? Argggguh!) and right pinkie a little too short. I end up pulling the
> >ring finger off the G every once in a while when reaching with the pinkie.
> >Sometimes also get cramped hand.
> I have some suggestions, based on what helped me.
> ---Take a good look at anatomical illustrations of hands, particularly
> the bone structure. You might notice far more bones in each hand
> than you imagined. The set of bones for each finger extends well
> into than hand, and there's a mess of little bones nested
> together towards the wrist.
> Keep in mind that there's probably potential for more space around
> all of these bones. Seeing what the bones are will help sort out
> what parts of your hand *aren't* supposed to be rock solid.
> ---Try using one hand to massage the other. In particular, work on
> opening up the space between each pair of fingers down into the
> palm. Do this as well between the thumb and first finger, all
> the way to the wrist.
> ---Try playing the clarinet in a way that changes your hands' expectation
> of gripping the instrument. For example, lie on your back while
> playing, and support the instrument with your thumb on the other
> side of the thumb rest. Or, sitting upright, brace the bell of
> the clarinet against a pillow and try playing without the hands
> needing to support the instrument at all.
> The advice some folks gave about changing the clarinet to fit your body
> is good too.
> --James Langdell
> Sun Microsystems Mountain View, Calif.
These are all good suggestions (especially the last one).
However, exercises and stretches all seem beside the point if the problem
is squeezing the clarinet. I know from my own playing that my hands are
at their most tense when I'm playing something that I haven't practiced
slowly enough. Playing with relaxed hands is fairly easy when the tempo
feels unhurried. The hard part (for me) is practicing with enough
patience so that, even at a fast tempo, the same unhurried quality can be
Also, a poverty of air flowing through the clarinet sometimes
makes me want to compensate by gripping the clarinet in a way that, on
some level, makes me feel more secure, without actually blowing through
the damn thing. Arnold Jacobs' "breathing bag", slowing down the tempo,
increasing the dynamic level (typically less sound=an increased
possibility of tension), and concentrating on the speed of the air
flowing through my clarinet, are all methods that I've experienced some
success with.
Lastly, a neckstrap can greatly reduce hand tension and increase
endurance. Several years ago, I noticed some twinges of what I took to
be tendonitis. At the time, the only clarinetists I knew who wore
neckstraps were the ones who, after their tendonitis opperation and six
months away from their clarinets, were recovered enough to play with the
aid of a neckstrap. Since I don't have health insurance (ahh, the life of
a freelancer), I decided to skip the opperation and the prolonged
recuperation, and just buy a neckstrap before a doctor told me I had to.

Jim Freeman

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