Focal Dystonia

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 1259
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by Blondie » Fri Jan 24, 2014 5:17 pm

guit-box wrote:What Ronjazz was saying is there are world class players who DO brace fingers on the strings sometimes.
Thanks, yes I know he said that and I know there are. Not really relevant though, this thread is about FD, and it was in this context that I addressed Ron's observation. World class players get FD, that's the whole point :) What Manuel does might be a terrible idea for someone susceptible to FD (many believe a genetic pre-disposition), or it might not depending on how this approach was utilised.

The rest of your post - the issue of pedagogy vs observed technique - I'd rather leave to the other long thread on the subject, because again its not on topic to Kate's thread, as you mention. I would just make the point that, like many others in that thread, I disagree with some of your observations and conclusions. If I have time i'll post in that thread.

guit-box
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:57 am

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by guit-box » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:13 pm

I know he said that and I know there are. Not really relevant though, this thread is about FD
Well, I certainly don't want to be off topic on Kate's thread, but I disagree that issues of technique are not related to retraining and FD. There are a lot of people who disagree with my observations, I'm used to it, but I've found others who agree too. I've had FD for over 20 years and have made the most progress in the last year because of observations from the videos, questioning traditionally accepted pedagogy when teaching and observation don't match, questioning some of my own beliefs and biases about technique, and also a lot of practice. It takes a lot of time to compile all these videos and post my observations, and I'm not gaining in any way from doing so. I don't make any claims the videos and observations will help anyone else, but I hope they will. But if Kate thinks my posts are off topic, then I won't post any more on this thread.
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

Post by Blondie » Sat Jan 25, 2014 8:25 am

guit-box wrote: Well, I certainly don't want to be off topic on Kate's thread, but I disagree that issues of technique are not related to retraining and FD.
So would I, don't put words in my mouth.

Ron says he discovered resting his A finger on 1st string and is clearly talking about this in the context of FD retraining. I probe this with several points/concerns to see what Ron thinks, again from an FD perspective, and then you post saying famous players do it (which is actually how Ron started) and then go on to talk about pedagogy vs observed technique.

I didn't see your post as relevant (some famous players do this - so what?) as it provided no contextual linkage with FD that I could see and indeed there was a risk it would become a mirror of the agenda in your other thread.

guit-box
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:57 am

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by guit-box » Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:50 am

Blondie-- I really don't understand your hostility towards me. I was actually not even responding to your post at all, my post was only in reply to Ron and Kate's follow-up. I'm sorry if you think my post is irrelevant to focal dystonia, or that I have an agenda, but I really don't care what you think, I'm entitled to my opinion just like you are. Life is too short to keep replying to this kind of nonsense--added you to my forum filter.

Like I said, I don't want to be off topic on someone else's thread since I hate it when people do that on my threads. Kate-- If you tell me that my content is off topic or unwelcome on your thread, then I'll gladly stop posting here. I personally feel my post was directly related to my experience with focal dystonia and retraining -- which is how I read all the other posts in this thread. I'm less interested in just focal dystonia since I've "been there, done that" for a long time, I'm more interested in what actions I can take to not have focal dystonia anymore.
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

Post by Blondie » Sat Jan 25, 2014 3:49 pm

guit-box wrote:Blondie-- I really don't understand your hostility towards me.
:?:

User avatar
benessa
Posts: 833
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2010 6:24 am
Location: Colorado

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by benessa » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:28 pm

guit-box wrote: I'm less interested in just focal dystonia since I've "been there, done that" for a long time, I'm more interested in what actions I can take to not have focal dystonia anymore.
I'm sure you didn't mean that to sound as flippant as it came across. Obviously, this is a FD thread so the people who read it are very interested in specific details from anyone who has successfully retrained. It is such an emotionally painful disorder, as well as a kind of spiritual crisis, that even if I can completely retrain, I don't think I'll ever think, "been there, done that". I guess that's one of the purposes of my blog: empathy.

It can be helpful to look at videos of fine players, although I've noticed that many players I like don't have a flawless technique and if I emulated them my FD would be exacerbated. I do know that one of the guitarists featured on the other thread later did develop FD, so I take a very cautious approach to "learning" from videos. The concept of the pinky resting is interesting however. For those of us who have studied Body Mapping, I wonder if it could tie to the idea of pinky orientation. Consider also how lutenists rest the pinky on the soundboard. Food for thought.
ronjazz wrote:
I think that the major reason is tension buildup. Releasing tension is the key to avoiding dystonia.
Definitely this is too simply put to be of help to anyone just starting to deal with FD. I did not believe I had any tension buildup in my technique. I had a strong, smooth, easy and fast tremolo, that never tired - in order to accomplish that there can be no tension building up or the hand would be a claw by the end of the piece.

But, of course, tension is an issue. Through Body Mapping, yoga, and especially Feldenkrais, I have discovered many places I was holding tension that I was completely unaware of. And it's unrelated to guitar, it's just the build up of life, tension and holding in the shoulders, the hips, etc.

But I think changes or adjustments in the hand position should be addressed, in addition to tension. I'm really looking for exactitude. Many people play as much tremolo as I did, but never develop FD. Was it something in my position? Is there something universal we all can benefit from?

Think of how many people read this forum and how many have developed FD. Can we make it a source of useful information? In my blog I've tried to be as exact as I can. So far I've addressed mostly what hasn't worked, or the limits of my progress. Ultimately, here's what I'd like to see: instead of spending 13 years experimenting with different approaches like I have done, could we streamline the retraining process so that future sufferers could identify FD, make adjustments, retrain, and be back to playing in less than a year?
...plain Kate...and sometimes Kate the curst

guit-box
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:57 am

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by guit-box » Mon Jan 27, 2014 8:35 pm

Ultimately, here's what I'd like to see: instead of spending 13 years experimenting with different approaches like I have done, could we streamline the retraining process so that future sufferers could identify FD, make adjustments, retrain, and be back to playing in less than a year?
It would be great if someone like that could be found, I agree. I probably didn't phrase my comment about not being that interested in focal dystonia as clearly as I could have. I'm interested in new developments about focal dystonia from a medical standpoint, but there's so much that is unknown medically that coming to any definitive conclusions about this side of dystonia seems like guesswork. Of course any retraining ideas are guesswork too, but that at least involves actions, and I'm more interested in FD retraining and the technique side of retraining. I have empathy for everyone with this condition, but for me since I've had it for 20 years, it's less pressing and emotional than it once was, and if I don't play classical guitar again I'm okay with that. I perform more in public as a jazz musician than I ever did as a classical musician, so I've found other outlets that help me enjoy playing music again. I've tried many of the treatments that other guitarists with FD have. I've also been a Guinea pig in several university studies and treatments and I've talked with focal dystonia researchers about the condition. The university researchers along with the dystonia research foundation all told me there is currently no "cure" in the medical sense of the term, and that the best chance for playing again involves careful retraining. I feel that my analytical approach has helped my retraining and observations about how concert players are really moving their fingers is a big part of that. I could hardly play anything a couple years ago with my right hand and the other day I gave a 30 minute concert for myself. This was on a good day and some days my playing is not as good, but it's consistently better. I don't believe I have any definitive answers, and I've always said that I could be wrong about anything I say. If I'm proven to be wrong about anything, that's great, since then I get to learn something new. My main point is it's worth questioning our assumptions about everything technique, and FD, since sometimes our assumptions can be holding us back. For me, I was all about playing from the knuckle and getting a full, loud sound. I suspect playing this way, along with too much tension, played a part in getting dystonia, but that's really just conjecture since there's no way to prove why anyone gets dystonia. My problem started in my index finger and I have noticed that folks with FD in the ring finger seem to have a different experience with their hand, and what works, than what seems to help my hand. Maybe someone who played more with the middle joints pre-FD gets more relief from feeling more of a sensation from the knuckle, but my observation in all the videos is that no one is pushing through the string from the main knuckle, it's the middle/tip segment that pulls through the string and the knuckle is releasing at the moment. It can still feel like a play-relax or a slight twitch at the knuckle, but involves more middle and tip movement and the knuckle moves away from the palm and repositions. That's just one concrete idea that has helped me. I've found some methods/writing by Philip HIi to have some interesting ideas along these lines. (I saw that RonJazz found them useful for him as well) Also Pepe Romero's book La Guitara talks about orbital finger movement, and Christopher Berg's book talks about developing the timing between the knuckle and middle joints. For me though, just observing how my left hand plucks (If I play left handed) and observing the videos helped my retraining the most--and that's all free, except for the hours spent practicing.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

ronjazz
Posts: 1029
Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:10 pm

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by ronjazz » Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:31 pm

I guess that the "cure" is in developing the new neural pathway around the affected cells. In my view, once the new pathway is established, then the real retraining can begin in earnest. While I have been pronounced "cured", to me that just means that I can now consider myself a dystonia-free beginner, although a very rigorous (but relaxed and aware) practice regimen for the past 8 weeks has moved me to intermediate. As far as something like bracing the c finger or even the a finger while using the other fingers is concerned, I see it as a tool, and have already started to move away from those potential crutches once things are rolling along. The brilliant young players such as Caballero, Vieaux, Hii, Vidovic and Tamaya are all excellent models for us geezers to emulate, both by observing their playing and by listening to their theories and ideas. In any case, I am now playing things I never thought I'd play again, and it looks like the sky is the limit. I have learned the value of a good warmup, and of the Alexander and related techniques. I'm just looking for it to be fun again, and that's starting to happen. I think that Jerald Harscher is in the vanguard, and may well be the person that designs a program that can indeed fix FD in a year or two, but it's clearly a complex and difficult assignment.
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

Izaac

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by Izaac » Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:32 pm

There are a lot of great observations on this thread regarding Focal Dystonia. I am currently finishing my certification in a trauma healing modality that I believe may be highly effective as part of a regimented strategy to help overcome this condition. I'd like to extend a hand (no pun intended) to anyone in the Los Angeles area who is suffering from Focal Dystonia, and offer a free consultation. I'm not sure if this post violates the terms of use of this website, but I'm not soliciting for money. I will meet with you and treat you for free, and I will follow up with you for free as well. My only purpose is to add to the research and development of a complete strategy to benefit all.

jmaulz

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by jmaulz » Wed Aug 06, 2014 4:55 pm

One of the contributing factors to my condition was studying right hand technique with a student of Aaron Shearer in the 70’s. Every finger movement was accompanied by a corresponding movement in another finger. For example, when i flexed, m extended. I think these associations led to the involuntary finger movements that are characteristic of fd. Now some 40 years later I continue to unlearn this technique in order to foster greater independence between the fingers, which feels more natural, less restrictive.

Craig

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by Craig » Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:51 am

benessa wrote:Think of how many people read this forum and how many have developed FD. Can we make it a source of useful information? In my blog I've tried to be as exact as I can. So far I've addressed mostly what hasn't worked, or the limits of my progress. Ultimately, here's what I'd like to see: instead of spending 13 years experimenting with different approaches like I have done, could we streamline the retraining process so that future sufferers could identify FD, make adjustments, retrain, and be back to playing in less than a year?
Well, my humor tells me I've an excuse to not practice arpeggios ... But this is a heart rendering subject and can barely type from emotions. I do not have FD nor am a skilled player. However I have suffered extensive neurological damage a few years ago which messed up fine motor control and also started to go functionally blind. The diagnosis is toxic encephalopathy and is not the same as FD.

However there are features regarding neurology (and even the whole effort to get help) that can be shared if you wish. But this thread was started years ago and would first like to ask about your current status.

Have you made improvements besides using splints and gloves?

Have you tried any medications ... and how did they affect you?

FD seems mainly defined as 'over-exercise' with neuroplasticity changes. And seems to match how people get it in the first place. However more is likely involved and perhaps things can be learned from other neurological situations.

Am so sorry that you suffer this. The many years it takes to get skill with CG and then have it start to breakdown would cause great emotional upset. But we can make some recovery and, as you suggested, pass down info to help others.

Appreciation your humor, "I can play slower than you can". It is vital for mental health.

Gman77

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by Gman77 » Sun Aug 24, 2014 2:27 pm

Blondie wrote:Yes when players visited the FD forum with FD in the left hand I used to ask them if they practiced a lot of Holdsworth/Satriani/Van Halen left hand big stretch legatos, it was surprising how often it came up. Well actually not that surprising to me, I used to play rock guitar and it makes perfect sense - hand held rigidly with a wide stretch, all notes played rapidly in sequence with fingers fixed in position. You have to practice it a lot to get it right and have to put tension into the fingers to get the notes to snap out cleanly.
That's me.... I've been a part time pro guitarist for several years--meaning that I had a non-music related career that thrived next to my music career in which I played roughly 150 shows a year.

January of last year, I was laid off from the day job and my first idea, naturally, was to go back full time into music. Since I had some extra time on my hands, I devised a lenghty practice routine similar to the one I had when I was off from school for summer vacation while in high school. The one area that I really needed improvement on was my legato. I was listening heavily to Holdsworth and Richie Kotzen. I spent hours upon hours practicing these legato phrases that stretched across 6 frets--putting emphasis on my pinky and having it "hammer" the fretboard with the authority that my other fingers did.

I got darn good at it!!! I finally had a kick butt legato..... But one day, on a show last April (2013), I noticed that my pinky kept dropping down and hitting strings that I didn't want to hit while playing chords. Before long, my whole left hand was just useless for playing chords..... I even have trouble playing the basic cowboy C chord that most of us learn within weeks of picking up a guitar for the first time.

Oddly enough, I can still play single lines and still have that kickbutt legato.... But, I have trouble playing power chords sometimes. If I had it to do all over again I certainly wouldn't have sacrificed my chording ability and rhythm chops for some flash legato licks......

It's been over a year now---had chiropratic treatment to release a pinched ulnar nerve, had nerve tests...etc as I first thought it was Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. A specialist finally said that my nerve tests results weren't bad and that he thought it to be something called Focal Dystonia and here I am.....

I will admit that I've seen some improvement...but still..... what an experience.

User avatar
GeoffB
Chief moderator
Chief moderator
Posts: 35493
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 3:37 pm
Location: UK

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by GeoffB » Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:50 am

Hi Gman77, welcome to the forum. Could I ask you to introduce yourself here?

Geoff
Classical Guitar Forum.

"Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it." - Steven Wright

User avatar
benessa
Posts: 833
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2010 6:24 am
Location: Colorado

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by benessa » Sun Jan 25, 2015 6:48 am

Craig wrote:
benessa wrote: But this thread was started years ago and would first like to ask about your current status.

Have you made improvements besides using splints and gloves?

Have you tried any medications ... and how did they affect you?

Am so sorry that you suffer this. The many years it takes to get skill with CG and then have it start to breakdown would cause great emotional upset. But we can make some recovery and, as you suggested, pass down info to help others.

Appreciation your humor, "I can play slower than you can". It is vital for mental health.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Craig. I'm sorry to hear about your own neurological challenges. Across the board, these things suck!

My current status, I'm happy to say, has improved greatly. I never tried medications: I figured if my brain got me into this mess, it could get me out. Splints and gloves did not create any lasting improvement. It seems that anything that is tried that is new opens a channel, but only briefly. I found some general help through Body mapping and Feldenkrais, and while both are extremely valuable for better functioning of the entire body, their effect on focal dystonia was limited.

I met another player who had developed his own approach after much research, and he shared it with me. Not wanting to be evasive, I hope that posting this will motivate me to finish writing down my experience and exercises in detail (and add video), so I can post the entire approach in one big lump. I think it may help many people and I'm committed to making it accurate and free. So, more to come soon....
...plain Kate...and sometimes Kate the curst

Craig

Re: Focal Dystonia

Post by Craig » Mon Jan 26, 2015 1:44 pm

Good to hear of your improvement. It is best if one doesn't need meds, which are rather a sledgehammer approach. If needed then one must acquiesce. It's just that hammers and guitars are best keep far apart. Had to deal with numerous meds and they alter fine movement control. Since CG requires precise and delicate control, it can send one back to the starting line which is frustrating.

Still, am grateful for the benefits received. Am particularly interested in feedback from members who have needed levodopa and/or D2 agonists as these are linked with dystonia is some cases.

Look forward to hearing of further success for you as well as exercises that have helped.

Return to “Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists”