Focal Dystonia Retraining

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
bchi123
Posts: 140
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:54 am
Location: NYC

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by bchi123 » Wed Nov 11, 2015 3:30 am

Ronjazz, I have taken a lesson with Jerald right when I was diagnosed with fd, but I didn't continue. I would be interested in in hearing your thoughts on what you are seeing in my playing that is setting me back.

Guit-box, I've actually started trying to go from the middle joint and it does seem to feel easier to play!

I'd also be interested in hearing how you all over came your fd movements.
When words leave off, music begins. ~Heinrich Heine

bchi123
Posts: 140
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:54 am
Location: NYC

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by bchi123 » Wed Nov 11, 2015 3:30 am

Ronjazz, I have taken a lesson with Jerald right when I was diagnosed with fd, but I didn't continue. I would be interested in in hearing your thoughts on what you are seeing in my playing that is setting me back.

Guit-box, I've actually started trying to go from the middle joint and it does seem to feel easier to play!

I'd also be interested in hearing how you all over came your fd movements.
When words leave off, music begins. ~Heinrich Heine

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Blondie » Wed Nov 11, 2015 11:42 am

bchi123 wrote:Ronjazz, I have taken a lesson with Jerald right when I was diagnosed with fd, but I didn't continue.
It would be interesting to hear why. I have nothing against the guy and it is vital that we have guitarist teachers who promote better body/movement awareness, Alexander technique and so on, but one must know one's limitations. He specifically advertises 'Focal Dystonia Lessons' and I come across a lot more people who gave up/had one lesson with him than I do people who stuck with him and saw improvement, let alone fully recovered.

User avatar
BugDog
Posts: 1149
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:07 pm
Location: Northern KY USA

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by BugDog » Wed Nov 11, 2015 5:19 pm

This is a little off subject, but has anyone heard of focal dystonia effecting vision?

A coworker is out with a veritgo that seems to be vision related. They can't find anything organic wrong. His doctors are setting him up with some special glasses. As I understood the second hand explaination, it seems like these glasses are supposed do for vision what the above described treatments are doing for hands, that is retraining the eyes away from a faulty functionality to something that works.
BugDog
There's one in every crowd.

User avatar
Les Backshall
Luthier
Posts: 2890
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:12 pm
Location: Aylesbury UK

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Les Backshall » Wed Nov 11, 2015 5:39 pm

For anyone who might be interested, on Gerald Garcia's latest blog there is an interview with David Leisner, where he talks about Focal Dystonia and how he overcame it.

http://www.geraldgarcia.com/wordpress/?p=135352

Actually, I would recommend Gerald's blog to all classical guitarists as he publishes a wide range of interesting articles.

Les
Lester Backshall, Guitar Maker - Aylesbury UK

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 7417
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Michael.N. » Wed Nov 11, 2015 6:24 pm

He doesn't elaborate on it much but Leisner seems to suggest that FD is a tension/posture issue.
Historicalguitars.

guit-box
Posts: 1384
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:57 am

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by guit-box » Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:40 pm

I took 3 expensive lessons with him at one point and found it to be mostly hocus-pocus. What he describes in the above video is basically all that was to it, we spent 3 hours swinging from my arm to pluck the notes with a sort of side stroke, first with single notes, and then eventually trying to play Villa Lobos Etude No 1 with this swinging from the arm. I feel comfortable advising people that it's a scam and don't waste your money. Sure, you can play some things with this whole arm approach, but it's really just a work-around. He doesn't play the way he teaches. Did it help him to relax his hand by using "larger muscle groups"? , maybe, but there's no way anyone can truly play the classical guitar repertoire this way. If his cure really worked there would be many people who studied with him talking about it, but I've heard from no one who is back to playing at a high level who studied with Leisner. If someone wants to post some names, I'm glad to be proven wrong. It has the elements of a great scam, there is some truth to it (using larger muscle groups) that sounds like a good idea and it can't be proven wrong, but the claim is often over stated. It's kind of like infomercials that make claims about how you're going to prevent cancer by juicing. Well, cancer is more complicated than just drinking green smoothies, but no one will deny that eating more vegetables is a bad thing, so it works to make people get out the credit card.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 7417
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Michael.N. » Thu Nov 12, 2015 11:12 pm

There's certainly some merit in what Leisner says, even if it's just a form of visualisation that treats tension issues. Whether it can be used to treat FD might be another matter though. There's probably any number of people genuinely thinking that they have some sort of cure. It would be nice to have some sort of statistical success/failure rates.
Historicalguitars.

Dofpic
Posts: 1356
Joined: Sun May 08, 2011 6:14 pm
Location: Whitefish, Montana

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Dofpic » Fri Nov 13, 2015 1:17 am

I took the 4 lessons with David two summers ago as he was in Montana for a summer workshop. I would agree with Guit-box but not with as strong as language. I am willing to use strong language cause lord knows a lot of my comments have been deleted.I do think his talk of tension and trying to take the focus off of your hand can help and alexander technique and playing with the right amount of body tension is correct but of course easier said than done. I spoke with Mark Ashford who is a fine british guitarist who had it and now does not. He did Leisner's thing but said his real breakthrough was when he worked with therapist named Katherine Butler in London. it is a similar approach I am going thru now but a bit different but used a splint and exercises developed partly from Dr Candia from Germany. IMO leisner''s approach will not get the job done at all. I think he is good with music and effective practice habits but curing FD will not happen with his approach only.
2006 Greg Byers(fan)2009 Eric Monrad(maple) 2018 Simon Ambridge Model 40 Satinwood. 2003 Tacchi Simplcio satinwood 2017 E. Bottelli 52 Hauser, 2002 Jeff Elliott spruce, 2017 Richard Reynoso, spruce/maple, 2015 Herman Hauser III(Cedar)

ronjazz
Posts: 936
Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:10 pm

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by ronjazz » Fri Nov 13, 2015 1:22 am

It's unlikely that there is a "cure", per se, because it affects each person differently, and it has been narrowed down to a neurological problem on the cellular level. My take is that one has to create a new pathway around the offending clump of short-circuited cells, taking care not to get them misfiring again. This takes a knowledge of how things work, then the patience to effect change on a micro level and on a daily basis for quite some time, but I'm pretty old, and my age may be a limiting factor in my rate of improvement. Much of the reason I've stuck with Harscher for the past 3+ years is because he has introduced me to several brilliant authors and theoreticians in the sports medicine world who have a deeper understanding of the body-mind relationship than most instrument teachers do. Because pro sports is such a huge industry, elite athletes receive many hours of one-on-one training in the smallest details, unlike we musicians who generally have to settle for an hour a week of instruction from somebody who may not have a clue as to how the body-mind connection really functions. I know that in the lessons I've had (many years ago, for sure), nobody ever mentioned many of the essential movement forms and positions that are now more-or-less standardized through Shearer, Berg, Iznaola and others. Harscher is familiar with all of the most recent research, and is a good diagnostician, and I found (finally) that if I followed his instructions to the letter, I fixed things. I also learned not to treat myself as a beginner, through reading Berg, who comments that change is the important constant in developing a perfect technique. Slight changes in positioning, attitude, striving for tone are essential to recreating a technique that won't let you down. Now that I've given up the ego fight and the old patterns, I find myself spending hours at a time just moving the index finger to create a round, dark juicy grape of a note; once I can do that repeatedly, I find that my index finger is much less of a problem than it was. This is applied to each digit singly, then in various combinations, and in a few short weeks, I am playing things i had given up for lost. I have created very personal goals that may be quite different from anybody else's, for professional reasons, but the achievement of each goal helps to unify the overall technique, and, especially, the CONFIDENCE that progress is being made, and that progress NEVER has to stop until one is dead or decides not to play any more.

As far as Leisner is concerned, I investigated his approach with curiosity until I heard him play, and I could hear FD in his playing, so never went in that direction. On the other hand, Jerald Harscher was a dystonic, and can now play his ass off. The stuff happening overseas is impractical for me, although it may well be very effective. There are lots of smart folks working on this, so there are more than a few capable instructors, most likely. It's important; as it turns out, recent studies posit that some 75-80% of conservatory and music school students are playing with pain and injury. These are the dystonics of tomorrow.
Lester Devoe Flamenco Negra
Lester Devoe Flamenco Blanca
Aparicio Flamenco Blanca with RMC pickup
Bartolex 7-string with RMC pickup
Giannini 7-string with Shadow pickup
Sal Pace 7-string archtop

guit-box
Posts: 1384
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:57 am

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by guit-box » Fri Nov 13, 2015 1:49 am

Maybe my language sounds strong to some, but I've been around the block with this for over 20 years and have seen a lot of scams. If you go to youtube and search focal dystonia, I think you may be shocked by all the videos claiming to have a cure...for money of course. Either they're selling a pamphlet, or a natural cure, or lessons, or training, etc. The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation has a musicians with dystonia forum. I talked with the moderator of the forum and he told me they were dealing with a lot of the forum members who were probably selling treatments but disguising themselves as focal dystonia sufferers. I think they had to ban some folks who were doing this. I'm not saying that is occurring on this forum, but the moderators should definitely have a heads-up that this is a real issue. Be cautiously aware of anyone advocating treatments or specific practitioners for FD.

I've had some luck getting back to playing after a long battle and I've posted pretty much everything I've tried/learned on this forum. For me it has been mostly about playing more from the middle joint since I had focused for years on the large knuckle and used too much tension. That said it was also a lot of slow repetition over several years, and while I probably could play some intermediate level music in public, I'm not comfortable performing classical guitar in public yet. I teach and play professionally for 25 years and have never charged anyone to talk about focal dystonia since I'm not so arrogant to think I could fix someone else's dystonia. This is one of the problems I have with Leisner, he even says his technique doesn't work for some, (I'd argue it doesn't work for anyone as far as we know) and yet he charges money for it.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Blondie » Fri Nov 13, 2015 7:51 am

Dofpic wrote:I took the 4 lessons with David two summers ago as he was in Montana for a summer workshop. I would agree with Guit-box but not with as strong as language. I am willing to use strong language cause lord knows a lot of my comments have been deleted.I do think his talk of tension and trying to take the focus off of your hand can help and alexander technique and playing with the right amount of body tension
Yes completely agree. It offers a 'way in' to retraining, nothing more. If you are barely able to touch the strings without fingers tensing up it offers a gentle way to touch and strike a note by using muscles similar to a cellist drawing a bow. The 'threat' and anxiety of playing with one's fingers is removed. However, one simply has to learn to control the tip, middle and knuckle joints in the long run as guitar playing is all about fine control.

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Blondie » Fri Nov 13, 2015 7:57 am

Dofpic wrote: I spoke with Mark Ashford who is a fine british guitarist who had it and now does not. He did Leisner's thing but said his real breakthrough was when he worked with therapist named Katherine Butler in London. it is a similar approach I am going thru now but a bit different but used a splint and exercises developed partly from Dr Candia from Germany.
To be honest you are much better off as your retraining is much more guided. I saw Katherine too, had a splint made but was pretty much left to my own devices to 'practice' with it. I made little progress, the best thing I got from her was the Sakai paper on slow down therapy, that was a big turning point.

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Blondie » Fri Nov 13, 2015 8:32 am

guit-box wrote: The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation has a musicians with dystonia forum. I talked with the moderator of the forum and he told me they were dealing with a lot of the forum members who were probably selling treatments but disguising themselves as focal dystonia sufferers.
Sheesh that place is useless, no-one posts there any more.

I talked to Estrin several times too, he is exasperating. The logic goes like this: there is no cure for focal dystonia, therefore anyone suggesting they can help is a fraud, therefore they won't allow posts from anyone recommending a coach to 'protect' people becoming victims of this fraud. They now vet all posts to the board, don't allow discussion or criticism of their policies, unless you want to discuss botox (the only medically approved 'treatment') its hopeless.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of people who have returned to playing at a professional level, either via their own means or
after coaching from people who really do understand the condition. People like Joaquin Farias in Toronto have had huge success coaching people with FD ('treatment' and 'cure' are inappropriate terms) and his site includes testimonials from (named) instrumentalists all over the world, several of which hold key orchestral positions.

There are of course some fraudsters, there was this guy selling a potion made from algae claiming a cure, that was one of the funniest.

The Facebook MFD group has nearly 600 members and with that level of scrutiny and feedback it is quite clear which practitioners out there are getting positive results. No approach is 100% of course, there is no 'cure', yes, but it is certainly possible to recover and there are people who are effective are guiding this process.

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: Focal Dystonia Retraining

Post by Blondie » Fri Nov 13, 2015 8:57 am

.
Last edited by Blondie on Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

Return to “Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists”