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"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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July 22, 2006 | Stop the pain

Do your hands or fingers ever hurt from playing or practicing?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is not just a problem for the old. In the today's cyber-culture of repetitive small-motor tasks such as typing at a keyboard, or in our case, practicing a mandolin for extended periods, some simple principles of physical therapy can go miles in helping you prevent or slow permanent damage or discomfort to your fingers and hands.

Remember your junior high PE coach telling you about opposing muscles? When you exercised at a chin-up bar, you were strengthening your biceps, but to balance this development, you'd do pushups to enhance the triceps. These are muscles that work in tandem or opposition and you need to keep in mind most of your muscles will work this way, including your fingers on the fretboard.

Ever feel a sharp, isolated pain in your wrist or upper hand after extended practicing? What you lose track of is the tremendous amount of "one-way" pressure you exert on such a small set of muscles. This begs for worsening problems if you don't balance by tackling the "opposing" muscles your body has to balance them.

Another issue is the support of large muscles in your body that your small muscles depend on. Since mandolin playing is so isolated, you can feel similar pain in your upper forearm where the finger muscles attach. What can you do to thwart discomfort (let alone damage) to this area?

Handmasterplus The GHS "Handmaster Plus" is a perfect tool for balancing your mandolinning muscles. This small rubber exercise ball with stretchable rubber cords that attach to your finger ends can give you a more complete practice, balancing the pressure exerted on the 9 muscles that open the hand. This puts pressure as you practice these very simple hand extension exercises.

We use this before and after practicing for 5-10 minutes (instructions are on the package inside). Using it prior stimulates blood flow and limbers up your hand. You'll find yourself playing warmed up in a shorter period, so it's a good investment of time. Finish your practice session with a few more minutes to warm down and limber tightened muscles. Your hand will feel tired but very good!

We suggest keeping one in the car for times you are traveling, too. You don't need to overdo these exercises, a little goes a long ways.

The GHS Hand Master Plus Exerciser should be available any place you purchase GHS strings.

Read more about these on the GHS website.

Posted by Ted at July 22, 2006 12:50 PM

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