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Dealing with the Finger Problems....

Posted by fiddlepogo on Friday, March 29, 2013

I've had to cancel some gigs that I felt were too demanding.  Some volunteer, some paying... either way, OUCH!

I have done a couple of gigs with a modified set of instruments.

My clawhammer banjo is a very short scale travel banjo, so it's EASY to play- no problem there.  I think it was last night I had the idea of tuning all three fiddles down a half step, and seeing how they played and sounded.  I had just put Zyex synthetics on my main fiddle, and Carthy with the Perfections has Thomastik Precisions, and Stinky has the Lenzner Goldbrokats. 

I didn't think the Zyex were going to sound good tuned down a half step, but to my great surprise they sounded GREAT on "Booker".  Stinky and Carthy didn't sound as good, plus the steel strings were still stiff enough to trigger a spasm in the index finger.

SO... today, I took the downtuned fiddle with the Zyex, and the banjo.

I was going to play a couple of tunes on harmonica, but I forgot to get it out.

But first, I sang some unaccompanied songs in traditional singing styles: 2 Irish ones (Star of the County Down and I Am A Little Beggarman) 3 Scottish ones (Loch Lomond, Blue Bells of Scotland, and Annie Laurie) and 2 English ones (Yankee Doodle- yup- written by an English soldier!  And "Twas Pleasant and Delightful" that I learned years ago from John Timpany).  And I try to do them with appropriate accents- I know, I know, that's risky, but having majored in German, and being one class short of a French minor, I seem to have an ear for accents- I know my accents aren't perfect but they seem close enough to convey the feel to Americans and have gotten a pass from some people who would know.  A lot of my patter is based on the sequence of immigration of various immigrant groups, so the ballads fit into that nicely.  I think I need to learn a couple of Welsh songs... hmmm... now where can I find a good example of a Welsh accent to imitate???

Anyway, even unaccompanied, they liked the Irish, Scottish and English songs.  Then I went to banjo songs, then fiddle.  And lots of patter.  And the finger was FINE... until.... I was just finishing up with a medley of Mockingbird Hill and Tennessee Waltz... and the finger spasmed after the first time through Mockingbird Hill.  I didn't quit right away, it wasn't dire pain, not much at all, but I knew I couldn't drag it out.  Problem... I think I finger fairly lightly on fast tunes, but on waltzes, I think I've gotten into coming down heavy with the left hand fingers as a kind of a way of phrasing them.  So I think I need to STOP doing that!  Anyway, add a few tunes on harmonica, lighten up on the waltzes, and hopefully I can get through a one hour gig without the finger spasming.

Anyway, the spasming didn't seem to set the finger back TOO badly... I came home, put some ice on for a little bit, and went for a walk, and it seems okay.

Also, the way the finger spasmed last night and today seems to indicate that things HAVE loosened up some.... it's kind of fluttery feeling, but not really painful.

Another idea:  I have a baritone ukulele.  I do a few Hawaiian and Tin Pan Alley songs with it.  Of course, the action is easy, but the nut could be lower... I think with a lower nut, it will be super easy to play and allow me to substitute for not having a guitar.

I'm also working on doing some gigs with an electronic keyboard... I hate the idea, but with the right songs, it works pretty well, and I have a way of using the left hand so I avoid the problem finger.

Jamming is out.  Too unpredictable, too much musical chaos, too much temptation to play for too long and too hard.... and a downtuned fiddle is NOT going to work for most songs!

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