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Author Topic: Ouch, my thumb  (Read 1909 times)

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Angienever

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Ouch, my thumb
« on: June 05, 2017, 04:29:51 AM »

Hey, players!  I did a two hour busking session on Saturday and my right thumb paid the price.  When I practice, I often feel a little discomfort in my right thumb because of the effort it makes to stabilize the box, but in that long session of playing at times it was so ouchy I felt like I would have to stop.  I've tried adjusting my straps and that helped a little but has not completely taken the movement out - I find I'm bracing my right thumb against the edge of the keyboard whenever I'm pushing the bellows back in.  I'm also trying to work around my right breast, so I'm arguing with tucking my thumb behind the keyboard or resting/pressing it against the edge.

Is there something I'm missing here?  Is there something I should be looking for that would make this easier? 

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
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Daddy Long Les

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2017, 07:58:45 AM »

Something that you could try is placing your thumb round the back of the fingerboard and not on the edge.  If the thumb is on the edge there can be a tendency to bend it back especially when pushing the bellows in. At least in this way there is virtually no strain on the thumb and it simply gets towed up and down as you move your fingers to the various positions to play the treble notes.   I started with the thumb on the edge position and fairly quickly changed.  I guess others on here would suggest this or maybe something else.  I hope you get this sorted out.
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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2017, 07:59:33 AM »

Suddenly going out busking for a couple of hours is a big difference from playing/practising at home or playing in a pub session.

Busking outdoors tends to make you play louder in order to be heard against the inevitably higher background noise, and if you are not careful you can end up 'fighting' the box, which I suspect is partly what has happened in your case. Also, when busking, you are performing and there is a nervous energy associated with that, which can make you tense up, and also there can be an expectation on yourself to keep going without sufficient rest times. I think you have simply over-done it and you now need to give your thumb (and the rest of your body frame) some time to settle down and heal. Next time, try to build up your stamina over a couple of days first, like an athlete in training would.

Regarding thumb position and general posture, straps, etc. many people would say that bracing the thumb against the edge of the keyboard is best, allowing you to help minimise the movement of the right-hand end of the box, whilst maintaining flexibility to run up and down the keyboard. But - and this is what I teach my students - there are no rules; you must find out what works best for you. So if that involves using the thumb behind the keyboard in the so-called 'morris musician's grip' then so long as you can still reach all the buttons, that's OK.

Experiment with positions, straps, etc., and find out what works best for you. And take it easy for a few days!
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jorden

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2017, 08:03:46 AM »

I agree with Steve. After first focusing on all kinds of different positions, straps etc. I settled with just trying to relax while playing and not pushing myself too much. There is a lot of material on the net on playing music and relaxation (and the importance), not only in relation to preventing injury but also for better playing in general.
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playandteach

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2017, 08:47:35 AM »

Did you stand to play, but normally sit to practise? Because that can have a difference. When you say you've tried adjusting the straps - are you playing in a position where the box is slightly towards your left hand side so that your right hand has more room?
You've had lots of good advice here so far, so I don't want to add much, but I don't think that has been suggested  yet.
Good luck.
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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2017, 11:12:54 AM »

I suspect you've got a lot of scope to improve matters before you give up on "thumb on edge position".  As the previous post says, playing stood up is an entirely different matter to playing sitting down.  If you were standing up to busk, consider getting a lightweight folding stool.  They weigh next to nothing and cost about £5 at discount stores.  Easy to carry on a sling.  I keep one in the van for venues where there isn't a suitable chair to be had.
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Bob Ellis

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2017, 12:47:38 PM »

There may also be something in your comment of needing to work around your right breast. As somebody who doesn't have this problem, I can't be sure, but I do remember having a conversation with a student I taught many years ago in which she mentioned something similar when I commented on her tense and unnatural playing position. I suggested, rather tentatively, that wearing a sports bra when playing might help. That, together with concentrating on playing in a more relaxed manner, seemed to overcome the problem in her case.

The other thing I would suggest is that when you begin to feel pain in your thumb, stop playing. It is a warning that you ignore at your peril. Give your thumb time to recover and then resume. With injuries like yours, prevention is better than cure.
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Angienever

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2017, 07:08:20 PM »

Thanks for all these great responses.  I think you got at the heart of the problem.  I wouldn't have said I was nervous, but I noticed I was clenching my teeth through most of it and had to keep reminding myself to relax my jaw.  I probably should have sent some relaxing vibes to my hand as well.  I also played standing up the whole time because I didn't have a stool that was suitable, and I always play seated in my practices at home.  Thanks for pointing all this out so it feels better when I try again.   (:)
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robotmay

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2017, 12:27:56 AM »

It might be worth looking at some continental players for possible improvements to how you hold the box. As a bonus, quite a lot of them are women, which might be helpful. I find a single strap much easier on the thumb, but I mostly play heavier boxes, which generally require less force to keep in one place. I would think it would make it more comfortable with boobs too, but I can only speculate at that (:)

Here's some different positions the French/Belgians play in:

Single strap, braced against the right leg. I play like this sometimes, it's very comfortable. Need to be on the edge of your seat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGvBnANmp9U
On the rare times she stands up, she does use two straps, but has the straps longer than most people: https://youtu.be/c32Qb4sWyUM?t=1m36s
This style helps compensate for the weight of these large boxes, but it does make it harder to see what you're doing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRfFAYWyzmg
Long right strap again, lets him brace the grill against the outside of his left leg (I see quite a lot of Irish players with a similar placement): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGTrpaIGiRw
Another one who uses her right leg to brace the box, but only when pushing the bellows in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irfWl4DamI8

Bonus uncommon video of Andy Cutting standing up. If you need to stand up, only use one strap, and don't put your thumb behind the keyboard, this is the most comfy way I've found: https://youtu.be/o_P3QY4cCoo?t=1m1s

Obviously there's loads of other ways to hold the box, but these guys all look quite relaxed and there's not a lot of pressure being put on the thumb. Also it's certainly possible to learn to play in multiple hand positions; I vary between thumb behind the keyboard, to thumb flat on the side, to pushing against the side with the top of my thumb, depending on which box I'm playing, what type of music, and whether I'm stood up/sat down. Varying it can definitely help alleviate strain on one particular area (:)

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2017, 08:34:04 PM »

I've just been looking at Sharon Shannon on YouTube - the box just seems to sit on her left thigh and doesn't get anywhere near her body on the clip I was watching.  Her left thumb's doing a lot of work though
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george garside

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2017, 10:49:59 PM »

some players  work differently according to playing standing or seated  and if playing exlusively seated a single strap and resting the box on left knee and against right knee  can help to keep it stable but with the same strap settings playing standing requires a fair amount of thumb pressure for stability purposes.

My personal preference  set up I use on boxes large and small is two carefully adjusted padded shoulder straps which  require no change between standing and sitting.  With this setting the thumb can rest lightly on or under the keyboard and is used to help locate the hand/figners in relation to the buttons but does not play any part in locating the instrument. In fact it is possible to occasionaly use the thumb to play a note or two if required.

The basic 2 strap adjustment ,i.e. the  starting point , is to set up the right strap a bit longer than the left strap so the keyboard is roughly below the chin. Once this setting has been established both straps are adjusted by the same amount to bring the top of the box about a stretched handswidth below the chin when standing to 'attention' i.e. looking straight ahead rather than down at the box.  From that point small adjustments can be made over a period of time to take into account individual shapes of anatomy so to speak!

Another cause of problems with keeping the keyboard still is over enthusiastic pulling and shoving the bellows and also having the bellows far  wider open than is necessary for most of the time.   Keeping the bellows as near closed as possible ( depending on the particular part of a particular tune) enables better control of dynamics ( volume variation) and enables individual notes to be 'highlighted'  by a very short quick increase in  pressure.  It also greatly facilitated fast runs played on the row eg in Harvest Home.

 A single strap can and does work fine for many players when seated  but  results in some strange anatomical contortions if playing standing--
-- says he while  awaiting Lesters swift response in defence of the single strap!

george ;)
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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2017, 08:07:25 PM »

I think the matter of anatomy will be crucual here, and only Angienever will be able to judge the suitability of any remedy suggested. 

My own approach is to fasten the box as closely and securely to my the centre/left of my chest as possible, using two shoulder straps (with the left strap actually passing underneath my left arm when I'm sitting down - over it when I'm standing) and a backstrap.  I take up the last inch or two of slack using the buckles that secure the strap ends to the top bracket.  This arrangement takes a lot of the load off my right thumb (which rests on the edge of the fingerboard) and makes it easier to move my right hand freely around the fingerboard at will.

I don't think this arrangement would be at all comfortable for a lady and I've nothing better to offer.
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Huw Adamson

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2017, 12:57:56 AM »

I often have the very same problem, although mitigated with often changing strap or thumb positions. I don't know what box you are playing, but if it is a pokerwork or erica, you could do what I hope to do soonish and get a replacement fingerboard with the edge concave rather than convex. http://www.acorninstruments.co.uk/listing.cfm?accessories
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Angienever

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2017, 02:05:08 AM »

I really appreciate everyone continuing to offer advice and suggestions.  I don't have a teacher here, so everything I know I have to piece together from videos and your knowledge!  I watched all of the videos included in the link above and tried some of them.  Unfortunately, the Pokerwork I'm playing has a very pointy edge on the keyboard and I couldn't get it to comfortably rest against my leg.  I am relieved to see from what everyone has shared that there is more than one way to hold and stabilize the instrument, and maybe I just haven't stumbled on mine yet.

I did watch a video of myself playing, and I felt like it looked like I have the box too high and too far to the right.  I played a little with letting the strap out and keeping it farther away from my body, and that seems like something that could work for seated in the long run.

I also played another two hour busking session this past weekend, seated this time, and my thumb pain was almost nothing during or after.  A win!
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Lyra

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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2017, 07:39:19 AM »

I have been pondering the implications of lady parts for positioning - I think they do influence what's possible/comfortable but possibly not more than beer parts. Just differently (and according to the individual concerned).
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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2017, 07:45:48 AM »

I have been pondering the implications of lady parts for positioning - I think they do influence what's possible/comfortable but possibly not more than beer parts. Just differently (and according to the individual concerned).

This also appears to be a factor in where 'bellows rub' occurs  :|glug
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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #16 on: June 14, 2017, 09:19:03 AM »

hence the  notion of adjustings straps(2) or one long strap so that the right hand keyboard is more or less under the chin. for most people it is then possible to fine tune the adjustment so that  the bellows don't touch  ones parts which is of great benefit not only to said parts but also to the welfare and general well being of the bellows

george
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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2017, 09:16:49 PM »

Then there's this which I found somewhere (it may have been even these August pages). It is sexist, or so I was told.
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Re: Ouch, my thumb
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2017, 11:36:14 PM »

I knew a bloke who played a large 120 bass box with the straps adjusted the wrong way ,i.e. the right strap short and the left long so the keyboard was well over to his right hand side and the bellows about midships. 

I advised him on several occasions to adjust the straps  t'other way  aand it was not until the bellows acted as nut crackers that he  headed my advice!

george ;D :o
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