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 Pinky problems...
Author: Erin :) 
Date:   1999-09-20 23:54

After I have been playing for a while, my pinkies begin to lock up at the middle joint, making it difficult to use them. It is also painful if I continue playing without taking a break. Does this happen to any of you? Is there anything that can be done to correct this? My professor says that it is probably because I keep them pretty much straight when playing, instead of slightly curved. Unfortunatly, if I curve them, I can't reach the keys at all. (my hands are fairly small and my fingers are short... everything is a reach for me!) Thanks for any info on this subject!

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 RE: Pinky problems...
Author: Sara 
Date:   1999-09-21 02:02

I never had that problem and I'm a really small person but if it's hard to reach the keys you could look in to trying out and E11. I think the pinky keys are smaller on the bottom joint making it easier for people with smaler hands to curve they're fingers so they can play more naturally. Hope I could help!
Sara :)

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 RE: Pinky problems...
Author: angella 
Date:   1999-09-21 02:16

what's helped me a lot is practicing scales and technique in front of a mirror. you'd have to have very very very small hands to not be able to reach "at all" using correct hand position. it can be corrected with practice- it takes a lot, you have to think about them all the time. i've improved my wild pinkys a lot in a year. good luck

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 RE: Pinky problems...
Author: michael 
Date:   1999-09-21 03:39

Hi Erin, if your middle joint is really locking up it could be a tendonitis (it's called a trigger finger.) An Orthopedic hand specialist may provide an answer. Michael

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 RE: Pinky problems... - watch your thumb, too!
Author: Arnold the basset hornist 
Date:   1999-09-21 06:58

This problem may be caused by the thumb and thumb rest, too.
Since I'm playing basset horn (with floor support all the time, so I only need to keep the instrument in ballance with my thumb - or actuate the four thumb keys) I got my fingers (esp. index, middle and ring finger) more curved and the little finger touching the keys (the rollers between the two ones on german sys) all the time, and I got a 'free feeling' in the fingers not known before.
Try to play with the bell hold between the knees and the thumb 'just pushed into the air, not touching the instrument at all' a few times for 10 or 15 minutes. If this helps for your pinky problem, do not hesitate to look for other (and adjustable) thumb rests, neck straps, or even floor support (if you can find one for a Bb clarinet).

Arnold (the basset hornist)

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 RE: Pinky problems... - watch your thumb, too!
Author: Chris Hill 
Date:   1999-09-21 15:17

I agree that it might be a thumb-related problem. You might need to move the thumbrest in order to arrange the hand so that you can keep the pinky rounded. (Your teacher is correct, the pinky must be kept rounded.) I had similar problems which went away after I had the thumbrest moved up towards the mouthpiece, so as to be almost directly across from the index finger. It was moved 3/8's of an inch towards the mouthpiece, after which time I was able to position my hand correctly. An adjustable thumbrest (which was not readily available when I encountered my problems) would be a good one, provided it is attached so that it can be moved to a position higher than the original. I haven't had pinky problems since this point (1985 or so), and I play full-time, sometimes as much as 6 or 7 hours in a day. This also helps with arm tendinitis.

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 RE: Pinky problems... - watch your thumb, too!
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   1999-09-21 19:55

Astute observations, Arnold and Chris, I have had the tired-finger problems as well, and usually just "shake them out" and try relaxing overall. The floor support for bass cl really helps me [with neck strap for security]. As I have described before, I have inverted all thumb rests , using the rubber thumb-savers to take care of the curvature, instead of just relocation or adjustables. Teachers, I see this "reach" problem troubling beginners as well. Don

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 RE: Pinky problems... - watch your thumb, too!
Author: Chris Hill 
Date:   1999-09-22 05:15

I used to invert the thumbrests, also. It drove the local repair techs crazy- they'd always turn them around again! It does work well, however. Right now, I don't really have to deal with it. For some reason, it seems that almost all 10 of my private students can palm a basketball!

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 RE: Pinky probs... - more info to watch your thumb
Author: Arnold the basset hornist 
Date:   1999-09-22 07:33

Where at your thumb lies the thumb rest of your clarinet?

What I read, was:
The muscles moving the first joint [?] (the one with the nail) of your thumb (resp. holding it up) are located in the hand inself, while the muscles moving the second joint are located in the forearm. The anatomic problem is, some nerves or tendons go <u>through</u> the mucles located whithin the hand. If not trained enough theese mucles operate 'like a brake' for ring finger and pinky. Also, the training may have to be done carefully.
So: A <b>huge</b> cork pad at the thumb rest (perhaps supported with a small metal plate, extending it to the width) could help, too, if you carry your clarinet then mainly with the first knuckle (counted from the nail).
Do not forget to insert a notice into your case, you need <i>this special setup</i>, if you give it to a repairs shop.
An indicator of a so called 'collapsed hand' was described to be the position of the thumb's second knuckle (counted from the nail) relative to the third knuckle of the index finger, also some tendons which step forward. (But I couldn't see it on the pictures clear enough.)

Arnold (the basset hornist)

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 RE: Pinky problems...
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   1999-09-22 17:35

Erin :) wrote:
-------------------------------
After I have been playing for a while, my pinkies begin to lock up at the middle joint, making it difficult to use them. It is also painful if I continue playing without taking a break. Does this happen to any of you? Is there anything that can be done to correct this? My professor says that it is probably because I keep them pretty much straight when playing, instead of slightly curved. Unfortunatly, if I curve them, I can't reach the keys at all. (my hands are fairly small and my fingers are short... everything is a reach for me!) Thanks for any info on this subject!


Erin -

DON'T PLAY IN PAIN. Your fingers are talking to you, and what they're saying is "stop before repetitive stress injury happens."

Professional players all talk about relaxed hands. My old teacher Alexander Williams (principal in the NBC Symphony) said that when he was in top condition his fingers felt almost weightless. When you do this, your fingers will feel "nervous" at first and will fly all over the place. Just think about using less and less effort.

Many excellent players have small hands. Michele Gingras, for example, is barely 5 feet tall, with tiny hands, yet she plays with almost no apparent effort.

The first thing to do is to see a physical therapist who works with musicians. The one I went to saw immediately what was wrong and showed me what to do.

An immediate solution could be a neck strap. That way you don't use your hands to hold the instrument up. You could also rest the bell on your knee (even if your teacher says not to). The second step is to move the thumb rest to a position where at least your right pinkie is comfortable.

A more heroic solution is to have the little finger keys extended. Rosario Mazzeo, in his clarinet method book, shows his *very* extensively customized instrument, on which almost every key had been changed to fit his hands. More than half of french horn players have their valve touchplates lengthened (usually by soldering on dimes). Jeanne Baxtresser (former principal flute of the NY Philharmonic) had a number of keys extended to avoid hand pain. The New York repairman Perry Ritter is said to make good clarinet key extensions.

Another possibility is to try a Leblanc clarinet with the "jump key" design. The keys are at different and (for me) more convenient angles than those on Buffets and Selmers.

Whatever you do, though, your first priority should be to find a way to play without pain. It's not a contest to see who can withstand the most pain. It's about getting the most enjoyment and playing with the most beauty.

Go to the best physical therapist you can find. It's a one time investment that will benefit you for the rest of your life. Then go out there and relax, sing every phrase and knock 'em dead.

Good luck.

Ken Shaw

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 my solution
Author: Beth 
Date:   1999-09-23 01:13

Sorry if this has been posted already as a response, but I too have short fingers and my pinky's lock up all the time - even typing here - esp the right one. After an absence of playing for several years and getting back into it I no longer curve my pinky to hit the bottom keys. I just push with the joint of my finger. I have actually been able to play passages quicker this way. Is there anything written in stone that says we must curve our fingers?
Beth

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 RE: my solution
Author: Mark Charette 
Date:   1999-09-23 01:57

Beth wrote:
-------------------------------
Is there anything written in stone that says we must curve our fingers?
----------------
No, but there are general principles that work for the large majority of people. Varying from the "norm" should be done with some trepidation - the "norm" got there for a reason. There are certain positions of our arms and fingers that can cause trouble later, and undoing bad habits is so much harder than learning the right way.


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