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Old 07-30-2008, 08:19 AM   #1
Bill from MA
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Default Curing Slow Fingers

I've been told that my fingers are too slow. What exercises can help me increase my digital nimbleness? I'm planning of picking up a "stress ball," but are there other techniques?
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:35 AM   #2
bugz
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

The only way I can think would be to gradually play both exercises and tunes with an ever so slight increase in tempo, and keep notching it up until you can no longer play with accuracy.

When learning a new tune, I will start playin it at a low tempo on a metronome, say 40 beats/min, and when I have everything correct at that tempo, I'll kick it up to 41 beats/min, then 42, and so forth until I start losing accuracy. This also helps in memorization.

Exercises, such as in McGillivrays 'Rhythmic Fingerwork' can also do a lot to tighten up your technique with embellishments, which should also help.
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Old 07-30-2008, 09:34 AM   #3
Bruce Wright
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

Other than just practicing a lot and working on getting the technique in tighter, one thing to think about is that very often slow fingers result from hands that are too tight. Not only if you're gripping the chanter too hard, but also if you're holding your fingers stiffly straight - they should be relaxed but straight. Any kind of muscle tightness can be deadly for speeding up your technique.

Another thing that can cause problems is moving the fingers too much - you do need to lift them somewhat off the chanter or you'll get squeals (more so on the pipe chanter than on the practice chanter which causes some players a bit of an adjustment when starting on pipes) but any more than somewhere between a quarter inch to (at most) an inch is just extra unneeded movement. Sometimes I see novice pipers move their fingers as much as 2 or 3 inches even for grace notes! Remember that the higher you lift them, the more they'll have to fall when you want to put them back down!

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Old 07-30-2008, 09:36 AM   #4
madpipertn
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

I have used a very, well... unorthadox approach. I believe the key is to increase the effectivness of your "fast-twitch" muscle fiber. Each person is born with a certain amount of "fast-twitch" and "slow-twitch" muscle fiber. There is no way to increase the number of fibers, but you can increase it's operating effeciancy. It all comes down to exercising those neuropathways. Which you can definately accomplish from doing the above advice. But to exercise these nerves and fibers as a supplement to practicing, I have used an electrode system. The unit itself is called a "TENS" unit, you can find them on the net I'm sure. They are designed to stimulate muscle growth. It either comes with sticky pads or nodes. I place them on parts of my hands where the nerves to my fingers are likely to go (you may have to play around with the exact placement of them over the top and palm of the hand, but you'll know when you have it right), plug in and turn it on a setting that will make those nerves fire very rapidly. As long as you don't turn the juice WAY up it can be very theraputic as well. So basically I electrocute my hands . I have found that this exercises those same nerves and "fast-twitch" muscle fibers that I use when playing. The speed which I can execute a doubling, grip, d-throw or otherwise has increased noticably. Hope this helps
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:17 AM   #5
bugz
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

If you can't find a TENS unit, I suppose you could grab ahold of a spark plug wire on a lawnmower instead...
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Old 07-30-2008, 11:56 AM   #6
Snooper
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

I was going to advise against the stress ball for pretty much the same reason cited by madpipertn. It won't do much for your fast-twich muscles.

What helps me get my finger dexterity back when I've had a layoff is to work on exercises on pipes. Play GDE's for 5 minutes straight....your fingers will be crying. Anyway...

Another thing that SEEMS to help my dexterity is 10-key QWERTY typing. When I type a lot for work, it kind of keeps the fingers in fast twitch mode.

Good luck

Jim Ryan
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Old 07-31-2008, 04:18 AM   #7
classicbagpipes
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

you might try stretching the fingers as well. That loosens them up and should help in releiving the death grip on the chanter. This sort of grip can also cause fingers to move slow. Espcecially for some movements.
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:46 AM   #8
kyp crawford
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

I had the same problem of slow fingering movements after I came out of my 25 year hiatus. I started the finger stretches (read this in one of John Cairns books) and that helped somewhat at the beginning. Also, I was gripping the chanter too much to the point I was creating a "locked knuckles syndrome" and making them ache as well. After learning to stretch and relax on the chanter, my speed increased double. Now, I am comfortable with the speed I have now compared to over a year ago. I'll never play "Thunderstruck", where I have seen players move their fingers so fast that all I see is blurs. To me....just find your comfort zone I guess, and go from there.
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:53 AM   #9
Richard Mao
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

stress ball exercises large muscles...creates muscle lockup... bagpiping is a small muscle athletic endeavor... choose exercises that exercise/liberate small movements... (much of what has been suggested works)

slow moving fingers hurts you most in the transition between notes and in grace notes...

you need to change from a cautious controlled movement to a "snap" light switch on/off movement... 5 repetitions of each two note transition.... programming your fingers.

do scales.... and every new note? snap to it... doing grace note.... exercises first to train the muscles.... EXPLODE through the gracing to the target melody note...

watch your fingers.... are they /do they go too high? higher than other pipers you respect....

lower your fingers....

are you still thinking about every note, every gracing, .... practice phrases to make them automatic...

====

stuff to avoid before bagpipe practice..... weight lifting.... yard work, e.g. lawn mowing.... sleeping on your arm/hand locking up finger / arm muscles...

===

in addition to John's recommended stretching exercises.... hands immersed in warm running water might help...

finally.... who told your fingers were too slow? THAT PERSON should have prescribed/advised a plan of attack for you to cure the problem....

best wishes....

Richard Mao, The Peking Piper ( richardmao@rocketmail.com )

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Old 08-01-2008, 08:31 AM   #10
Bill from MA
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Default Re: Curing Slow Fingers

I do have a death grip. It is something that I am aware of and trying to correct.

I guess I'm doomed to going back to scales for speeding up.

I hate scales... but I guess sometimes you just have to suck it up if you want to get bettter.

Thanks for all the advice!
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