Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

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Stephen_A

Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by Stephen_A » Wed May 27, 2015 9:10 am

I practised badly and before I realised it I found my right hand fingers have developed a habit of 'shooting out' straight instead of remaining in their gentle curve ready to pluck the next note.

Practising correctly does not seem to be fixing the problem. When I attempt Brouwer's Simple Etude 6 my hand feels like a stiff claw and I seem to be putting in most of the effort to preventing the fingers from 'pointing straight out.' I can no longer attempt Recuerdos de la Alhambra because fingers just seem to want to 'spring out.'

Christopher Davis suggested the following:
I would suggest, you do a lot of plain, boring arpeggio practice. Focus on moving very gently -- play quietly, keep a light touch. There's some good stuff about arpeggios in the introduction here: http://www.classicalguitar.org/freemusi ... ani120.pdf You don't need to go crazy and do the Guiliani 120, just play some arpegios in the different combinations -- drop the left hand completely and focus on the right.

And then stop playing everything you've been playing. Pick some new, extremely simple things (think Carulli or some of Sor's collections of small pieces) and focus on playing them with your new technique. Practice is small bursts where you don't build up tension. The goal is to avoid the muscle memory you have on the other pieces as well as create some new muscle memory. Give it a while (think in terms of years) before you go back to your old pieces.
Tried doing this but nothing is improving, at all. If anyone else has any other tricks, I'd warmly appreciate hearing about them.

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Stephen Taylor
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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by Stephen Taylor » Thu May 28, 2015 4:05 am

Hello Stephen_A,
Sorry to hear about your situation- Perhaps you could schedule a consultation with a specialist to obtain a proper diagnosis and subsequent treatment options. You mentioned that your practice regimen possibly got you into this condition. Read about " Neuroplasticity" and "Focal hand dystonia".
As an experiment try this: Using a metronome, play very slowly without your right hand displaying any unusual movements. Then increase the speed one click at a time until the unusual movements occur. Do not play at or above this metronome setting (at first). Practice makes permanent- so re-teach your right hand to remain in its natural playing position at the slower speed settings. Gradually, over time- you will be able to increase speed. Good luck!
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BugDog
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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by BugDog » Thu May 28, 2015 4:14 pm

Not having had the problem, I can't recommend anything that I know will work.

Thinking about it though, I wondered if a "damping attack, staccato note" type exercise might help. The concept is to place your RH fingers on the strings, i on the G string, m on B, a on E. Pluck a note then immediately damp by putting the finger back down on the string. You could do this while doing what Chris Davis suggested. This might train the fingers not to go rogue and shoot out since they're on the strings.

Good Luck.
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lagartija
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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by lagartija » Thu May 28, 2015 5:53 pm

Stephen_A wrote: If anyone else has any other tricks, I'd warmly appreciate hearing about them.
There are no tricks, really. Just a lot of hard work to retrain your hand, assuming that your problem is not Dystonia. It would be a good idea to go to a specialist to make sure that is not the problem as Stephen Taylor recommends. If it is the problem, the sooner you find professional help the better.

If not, then what Chris Davis recommended (start with all new pieces) will be of great assistance in your retraining. If you don't have a teacher, you should find a qualified one as soon as you can so you can learn a proper way to practice and have someone monitor you.

To fix this problem, whether dystonic or not, you will need to build up your awareness of the physical sensations in your hand. If you feel dysfunctional tension, then you are operating at too high a speed and the tension will become ingrained in your playing of a piece. That is really hard to undo. It would be easier to learn a new piece with the proper awareness of tension.

Can you feel the sensation of tension in the back of your hand when you play arpeggios and your fingers shoot out? Can you play slower and ALLOW your fingers to relax after plucking ? If you can play slowly without dysfunctional tension, then you have a chance at succeeding at retraining on your own.... but if you can't, then you really should get professional assistance before attempting to retrain on your own.
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Stephen_A

Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by Stephen_A » Sat May 30, 2015 1:32 pm

Thank you very much Stephen, BugDog, and Lagartija for your consideration and well-informed replies, and the care you've taken with your answers. If nothing else I just hope this serves as a warning to others... I feel much better now that I at least know what it probably is. As far as speed is concerned, with Recuedos and Romance d' Amour, the stiffness is there no matter what the speed is. With Recuerdos it's like trying to play with splints.

It does appear to 'Focal Hand Dystonia.' Just searched around (Hong Kong) and I think it's going to be pretty hard for me to find a specialist for this.

Funny. Slow arpeggios in Bach's prelude in C feel normal.A few other pieces feel normal. I'm just going to have to put Recuedos on the back burner and re-learn stuff.

Many thanks again for your responses. I don't feel so alone now.

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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by D.Cass » Sun May 31, 2015 3:38 am

My guess is you have a lot of tension in your right hand. One thing you have to be mindful of is your follow through, this relieves tension in the flexor muscles. Try to stretch your hands before playing and make sure you have minimal tension in your back, neck, and shoulder. Prepared stroke is very beneficial too.

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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by oriventura » Tue Jun 30, 2015 8:39 am

Stephen, if you go to instiutart in terassa, spain - they can help you. I just came back from there and there is hope. My hand is not fully recovered but it's like a new hand.

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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by Blondie » Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:26 am

Stephen_A wrote:Thank you very much Stephen, BugDog, and Lagartija for your consideration and well-informed replies, and the care you've taken with your answers. If nothing else I just hope this serves as a warning to others... I feel much better now that I at least know what it probably is. As far as speed is concerned, with Recuedos and Romance d' Amour, the stiffness is there no matter what the speed is. With Recuerdos it's like trying to play with splints.

It does appear to 'Focal Hand Dystonia.' Just searched around (Hong Kong) and I think it's going to be pretty hard for me to find a specialist for this.

Funny. Slow arpeggios in Bach's prelude in C feel normal.A few other pieces feel normal. I'm just going to have to put Recuerdos on the back burner and re-learn stuff.
Lots of discussion on this board about FD. A few suggestions if this is your problem:

-Worst thing you can do is fight it, which is what you describe you are doing earlier ('I seem to be putting in most of the effort to preventing the fingers from 'pointing straight out.') . This will make matters worse and result in a more complex range unwanted movements that are harder to untangle.

-Forget trying to play all repertoire where you have these problems, don't even try to play them slowly. You need to reprogram your hand and the dystonic movements are embedded in the programs your brain uses to play those pieces, if that makes sense. The fact that you can play other repertoire without problems is good, but you need to proceed carefully to avoid your symptoms getting worse and spreading.

-Brouwer etude 6, Romance and Recuerdos are all PAMI. However simple you think this is, it is actually a complex sequence of tiny movements and inter-relationships which you have to build from scratch doing a great variety of different exercises, arpeggios, rh patterns, very easy studies etc, all avoiding unwanted movement and staying below the threshold at which you experience unwanted tensions.
Tempo and pressure applied are two critical factors in that threshold, learn to control both so you are always experiencing free movement.

-You will progress better if you have a good understanding of what exactly is happening in your hand - a good starting point is to pluck/release with each finger individually, slowly, and observe/feel what happens elsewhere in the hand. If that all works fine, try pairs of fingers alternating (IM, MA etc, use P too)
You should be able to narrow things down to a dystonic finger (in guitarists, usually M or A) which is the cause of the trouble and whose lack of control is causing the unwanted reflexive, compensatory movements elsewhere.

Anyway, big topic and that's probably enough info to start you off.

twisterguitar

Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by twisterguitar » Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:12 am

BugDog wrote:Not having had the problem, I can't recommend anything that I know will work.

Thinking about it though, I wondered if a "damping attack, staccato note" type exercise might help. The concept is to place your RH fingers on the strings, i on the G string, m on B, a on E. Pluck a note then immediately damp by putting the finger back down on the string. You could do this while doing what Chris Davis suggested. This might train the fingers not to go rogue and shoot out since they're on the strings.

Good Luck.
+1

Hubert Kappell and Zoran Dukic will tell this to any student. You have to play the note as staccato and loud as possible though. Don't aim for speed, aim for control.

I'd like to add that you have to do the opposite as well: as legato as possible and completely empty the finger of any form of tension and without the full planting. When done correctly, you will notice that you slow down more and more. Do this for a year or so and you'll definitely see results.

I also suspect, although I can't be sure of course, that your right hand position is not really ideal. Now there is no such thing as only 1 right hand position but in case yours is wrong, tell yourself that really have to start from scratch. You can't have an ego here, just tell yourself that it isn't good enough, accept that and start all over again. It's the "only" way to get rid of your limitations and reach your full potential.

Have been playing with a lot of rest strokes? I suspect your finger was never relax....or never really rested against the next string. After each stroke, the finger should come to rest as soon as you don't not need to use energy anymore, I think you have forcefully removed your finger from the string it was resting on and that is why you play with an outward motion. Anyway, this is just a wild guess but I had a student like that, no coincident here that she was a really agitated and restless person anyway and it showed in the way she practiced.
Last edited by twisterguitar on Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by ronjazz » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:41 pm

Also, as a clarifier, muscles have no memory. Everything we practice is training the brain to control the fingers. We need to be careful to create an accurate "map" of the movements needed to play the guitar. The good thing is that the brain responds quite quickly to repeated motion, and programs the movement in a matter of a couple of hours of repetition over a few days. That is, of course, also the bad news.

Check out Jerald Harscher's blog "The Poised Guitarist", and think about taking a few Skype lessons from him. He is a very good dystonia diagnostician, and can help you get on the path to fixing your problem.
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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Sun Aug 16, 2015 12:45 am

Planting exercises? (Again, assuming it's not FD.)

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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by ronjazz » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:32 am

Planting exercises using staccato are even better. Plant, push, release, immediately plant the next finger (or the same finger) to cut the note short. The stroke is not the problem, getting to the string is the problem. Playing V-E-R-Y slowly (mm=40, for example), plant, push, release, rest, repeat. 2 or 3 minutes with each finger, then 2-3 minutes with i-m, i-a, m-a, i-m-a, etc. Next day, increase mm by 10% or so. In a couple of weeks, "muscle memory" is much improved.
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Re: Right Hand 'Muscle Memory' Problem

Post by Dofpic » Thu Aug 20, 2015 6:03 am

As someone who is recovering from FD this sure sounds like FD to me. If so, many of the suggestions here will actually make you worse as it appears your brain has attached itself to some bad movements in your hand. Stay away from all the patterns that give you problems. If you can play other things that do not give you problems then by alL means keep playing them. However be careful not to over practice the patterns, do not overuse the metronome and always mix up what you are doing. Do not practice planting! This works great for someone without dystonia but if you have it it will make you worse. If planting or staccato playing held you for a short period and then you start to get worse then you definitely have FD. Also do not try and "control or work on staccato exercises too much this again is like planting and while it works great for those without FD to help you improve. But with FD it will make it worse! If you do them at all maybe only a few times before you do them legato.

for you freedom of movement is way more important than control or efficiency of movement. If you have dystonia attempting to control or make your hand efficient is likely to cause you bigger problems down the road.

I am 9 months into the program that oriventura is also undertaking. IMO they are the best on the planet at curing this as they have done it with guitarist, pianist, violinist, cellist, flute players, rock guitarist(left hand). It takes a minimum of 9 months and as long as 2 years to completely get over it. I got it in four years of over practicing certain patterns with a metronome using planting, staccato, speed bursts etc tremolo and trying to develop the perfect right hand in a very condensed time. If these methods initially help you then you find yourself going backwards then you have FD.

I went to spain for two weeks for the initial training and now do checkups via Skype once a month. I am not over it yet but confident I will get there.

I pray you do not have it but I fear you do from what I have read. Feel free to PM me if you want more info.

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