Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

54
Fiddle Lovers Online


Dec 2, 2023 - 11:03:23 AM
likes this
1221 posts since 6/22/2016

I've been having an oddly specific problem with my bowing lately; thought I'd throw it out there and see if anyone has experienced anything similar.

Usually age-related issues have to do with aches and pains and arthritis and parts wearing out; this is different; it seems to be some kind of signal no longer getting from the brain to bow arm/wrist/hand/fingers.

Here it is .... In Cape Breton fiddling, the ability to play 'cuts' - i.e., 'bowed triplets'; one quarter-note 'cut' into a triplet with three rapid down-up-down strokes - is an essential technique. There is one tune in particular - MacNab's Hornpipe aka Crossing the Minch - that is 'cuts' end to end, the way it's usually played in Cape Breton, a la Winston Fitzgerald. Now, I've been playing that tune for a good forty years with no problem; in fact, it's long been one of those easy tunes I could pull out if I found I'd started off a set too fast, or if I wanted something a neophyte accompanist could follow. However, about six months ago or so, I was playing that tune one day, after having not played it for awhile, and when I got into the middle of the last turn, which is a series of 'eighth-note, eighth-note, cut/eighth-note, eighth-note, cut', etc., for the whole eight bars, I was suddenly losing control of my bow - my arm went kind of rubbery and shaky - and I couldn't get through the cuts. And that's been happening ever since; not each and every time, but so much that I'm thinking I'm just going to have to drop that tune from my repertoire. I'm going to work on it for a while first to see if I can repair that particular brain to arm/wrist/hand/fingers connection, but I don't have a lot of hope.

I still get through plenty of other tunes with lots of cuts with no problem so far, an exception being a tune called Johnny Wilmot's Fiddle which sometimes will give me similar trouble now, again after having played it for forty years.

For an American Old Time player, it would be like suddenly being unable to control your bow for one of those syncopated shuffles you've been doing all your life in an old reliable tune ....

Anyway - just wanted to whine and complain, mainly ...! But any thoughts are welcome.

Dec 2, 2023 - 11:46:45 AM
likes this

14753 posts since 9/23/2009

Not being a neuropsychologist or anything, just a groundhog...it sounds to me like your brain got stumbled up from not having played it for a while...like stuttering while talking. I haven't had that on the fiddle...but I haven't been playing long, but on guitar, which I've played for 60 years, there are times I play something easy and my fingers seem to stutter...there've been times I flatout forget what I used to do in that part and have to go back and figure it out again...doesn't happen often but it has happened...then I think of it as stuttering...i go back and try to get the order down again, what comes where...as I said, something like that might be close...has only happened a time or two with me on guitar and usually stuff I might have gone 20 years without playing...sometimes I just say forget it, ain't gonna play that one no more..lol. Might be similar, might not be. I'd say if you can't figure it out or if you have similar stuff not related to fiddling, maybe ask a doctor if there's any explanation or anything that should be done.

Dec 2, 2023 - 12:00:45 PM
likes this

1111 posts since 7/30/2021

I think those bowed triplets are in Irish too…i also do those down-up-downs. I sympathize! I miss those every once in a while, my bow just gets a mind of its own!

The rubbery feeling reminds me of what I used to feel when I had a repetitive stress injury caused by a combo of too much computer work + music playing…You could be getting some tendon inflammation in your elbow or wrist, and the swelling is putting pressure on the nerves thus giving funny feeling/loss of signals to muscles.

Maybe try backing off on playing time for a few weeks and see if it improves? It actually took months for my repetitive stress injury to improve…from playing just two sessions of 5 minutes each, to setting a limit of 30 min per day…nowadays I am fine, but it was a long recovery.

anyway it could be something as simple as that, but I don’t know? I hope you’ll get ‘em back!

Dec 2, 2023 - 12:33:35 PM

Old Scratch

Canada

1221 posts since 6/22/2016

Hmmm - 'tendon inflammation'? Never thought of anything like that, because nothing feels out of the ordinary - but the idea of 'pressure on the nerves' makes some sense .....

Dec 2, 2023 - 2:08:04 PM
likes this

2377 posts since 4/6/2014

That happens to me also. Like you say ,seems to be on tunes i have been playing for years. Seems that the more i think about it the worse it gets.

i have had results from learning a new tune which uses triplets. Then i go back to the old tune to see if things have improved.

Dec 2, 2023 - 4:23:56 PM
likes this

3554 posts since 9/13/2009
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch

I've been having an oddly specific problem with my bowing lately; thought I'd throw it out there and see if anyone has experienced anything similar.

Usually age-related issues have to do with aches and pains and arthritis and parts wearing out; this is different; it seems to be some kind of signal no longer getting from the brain to bow arm/wrist/hand/fingers.
 


That might describe a condition affects some musicians - Focal Dystonia. Not saying it is, but might want to research a bit.

Dec 2, 2023 - 5:18:41 PM

Old Scratch

Canada

1221 posts since 6/22/2016

Thanks. That's a name I was trying to remember .....

Dec 2, 2023 - 6:02:18 PM
likes this

2575 posts since 10/1/2008

Tendon inflammation leaning on a nerve was my first thought. It’s sneaky and sudden as often as not. Luck, R/

Dec 2, 2023 - 11:56:12 PM
like this

2377 posts since 4/6/2014

A classical guitarist friend of mine has focal dystonia. He was telling me about it and i had to stop listening in case i acquired it just from thinking about it. Seems that he practiced tremolo to much to me. But there are obviously other factors involved as well.

One thing i have had to stop myself doing, is playing lazily with my elbow resting on the arm of my chair. There are all sorts of nerves and tendons in and around there that give weird symptoms if they get damaged or twisted etc. Found that out by Elbowing a tree as hard as i could while starting a chainsaw. i think it must have snuck up behind me while i wasn't looking. surprisesad
 

Dec 3, 2023 - 6:43:02 AM
likes this

1348 posts since 3/1/2020

It’s hard to say exactly what’s going on. The focal dystonia idea would make more sense to me if the problem was consistent, but the OP says he can play a lot of other tunes with plenty of cuts. That sounds a bit more like a mental block. It’s not uncommon for a player to have a new issue with a piece of music when dusting it off after a while, and the frustration over being stuck on a part that wasn’t difficult before can eat away at self-confidence.

Another thing that can be a problem is fatigue. If you’re doing a quick ornament over and over, you may be simply reaching an endurance limit for the muscles/tendons. Endurance can be increased through careful practice.

This is a place where slow practice can really make a big difference. Difficulty in playing fast passages or ornaments can quickly lead to a twitchy bow motion. As that continues it gets harder to control the bow. Forcing yourself to play slowly leads to greater control. A lot of players have trouble with glissando passages, and many end up just playing a sort of uncontrolled slide through the notes, but when you listen to a really good player you can hear all the notes played accurately in the glissando with truly awesome clarity.

Age-related issues in coordination could contribute, but I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion right away if it seems to be relatively confined.

Dec 3, 2023 - 7:34:34 AM
likes this

Peghead

USA

1697 posts since 1/21/2009

It could be a case of the “yips”. Occasionally baseball players forget how to throw.

Dec 3, 2023 - 9:27:59 AM

Old Scratch

Canada

1221 posts since 6/22/2016

Peghead 'The "yips"? Would you care to elaborate?

Dec 3, 2023 - 9:47:23 AM

Old Scratch

Canada

1221 posts since 6/22/2016

The Violin Beautiful I've tried a bit of 'slow practice' with the passage in question without effect, but I'll try it on a more systematic, daily basis, for a while, and see what happens.

As I've been thinking more about this, I've realized there are a couple of other tunes I play with tricky little bowing bits that aren't coming out quite as smoothly as they used to, so I don't think it's a 'mental block' on this particular tune.

Thanks to all for the comments and observations - keep'm coming!

Dec 3, 2023 - 10:22:09 AM
likes this

1348 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch

The Violin Beautiful I've tried a bit of 'slow practice' with the passage in question without effect, but I'll try it on a more systematic, daily basis, for a while, and see what happens.

As I've been thinking more about this, I've realized there are a couple of other tunes I play with tricky little bowing bits that aren't coming out quite as smoothly as they used to, so I don't think it's a 'mental block' on this particular tune.

Thanks to all for the comments and observations - keep'm coming!


If you're finding the problem in more places, that may well change things. 
 

I was thinking about the "yips" as well when writing my comment. The "yips" is a term that's been used for decades in the golf world to describe a mental condition that players can experience while putting, wherein they find themselves developing an uncontrollable twitch of the wrist(s) in the stroke that makes it impossible to hit the ball properly. It does not have anything to do with age or the muscles themselves, and it can happen to players at any level. It's also extremely difficult to overcome, although some experience it find it possible by practicing extremely slow putting and gradually working back to a smooth stroke. If you've seen the "long" putters that were trendy in the early 2000s, they were originally designed for players with this problem to use the upper body to stabilize the putter when the wrist couldn't be trusted. The term "yips" may be used in other sports as well to describe a similar phenomenon. It's important to mention that it seems to be distinct from stage nerves, as players who didn't have performance anxiety issues experience it and it can strike when one is feeling confident just as easily as when one is nervous. 

Dec 4, 2023 - 3:03:36 PM
likes this

Peghead

USA

1697 posts since 1/21/2009

Rich, thanks for filling that in.Yes. The yips as I understand it in my layman terms is an unwanted interruption in an otherwise ingrained well rehearsed sequence of movements. In baseball it can be a tendency to “double clutch” when throwing. Kind of like a stutter or a twitch. I don’t know more about it whether it’s a neuro or physo based thing. I agree with Rich, I would try going back to slow practice and see if you can identify what or where it happens. Is it random or specific? speed related? a particular string crossing? What a nuisance. Good luck.

Edited by - Peghead on 12/04/2023 15:16:23

Dec 4, 2023 - 3:17:51 PM
likes this

2377 posts since 4/6/2014

"Preparation and Execution". i keep telling myself that. ...But mostly i just hope the triplets will magically  "happen" when i get round to em...

Dec 4, 2023 - 5:00:20 PM
likes this

Old Scratch

Canada

1221 posts since 6/22/2016

Well, it's not something I had to even think about for about forty years; the triplets were just there - and they still are, for the most part; it's just in this one tune that they all of a sudden started giving me real trouble (along with, as I've mentioned, a few diddly-bits here and there that aren't quite as smooth as they were).

I appreciate all the thoughtful responses, ladies and gents; it's given me a lot to consider.

Dec 5, 2023 - 5:17:55 AM
likes this

191 posts since 11/26/2013

I know full well what you are talking about. For the last 20 odd years, I've been playing mostly original compositions or celtic-y type music. I recently started playing with a bluegrass band, and I had to dust off a few techniques, specifically my shuffles (no shuffles in celtic music). Took me like a dozen practice sessions to where I can incorporate the shuffle into any lead breaks or fills once again.

Dec 5, 2023 - 5:49:26 AM
likes this

14753 posts since 9/23/2009

Apparently music has a lot of weird neurological connections...I guess if we understood all the pathways and events involved from thinking the music to moving our fingers to cause it to play, it would seem like such a long and winding journey we'd all just give up...lol. Some of our best friends in college who played music and later studied further after graduating to become occupational therapists, were visiting us a few years back...we got out the instruments and played and they pointed out that my mouth and throat were doing weird things as I played...lol...embarassing...but as I felt stupid to know this about myself they started explaining all the neurological connections operating to make music happen and it seems there's really a lot of stuff going on when anybody plays music...whole body is involved and you can't stop that...I guess this post here is just a show-n-tell sorta comment, just remembering back talking to our old friends who knew about that sorta thing and both played music and worked with people's neurological difficulties and just knew about all that stuff...so...yeah, it is a pretty involved journey from brain to hand, don't forget a little bit of soul too, in making music.  I guess it's amazing anybody can play an instrument at all...and yeah, a lot could go wrong, hopefully we can get it back together again if it does.

Edited by - groundhogpeggy on 12/05/2023 05:51:46

Dec 5, 2023 - 12:31:30 PM

Old Scratch

Canada

1221 posts since 6/22/2016

wrench13 "I know full well .... " Except this is different - it involves, as I say, a tune I've played for forty years with no problem, put on the back-burner for a couple of months as I've done from time to time in the past, meanwhile playing lots of other tunes with lots of triplets, came to play this tune again one day - and out of nowhere, couldn't make it all the way through. It's not a matter of being rusty or dusting something off; it does seem neurological, whether a pinched nerve or (shudder!) 'the yips' or (gulp!) 'focal dystonia'. Anyway, I'm doing the 'slow practice' now, and I've gotten more awareness of the possibilities from this thread ....

Dec 5, 2023 - 4:46:12 PM
likes this

1348 posts since 3/1/2020

Wishing you the best in your search for answers and a solution to the issue, Old Scratch !

Dec 5, 2023 - 5:37:33 PM

Old Scratch

Canada

1221 posts since 6/22/2016

The Violin Beautiful Thanks for the thought, and I appreciate your earlier comments and explanations.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Privacy Consent
Copyright 2024 Fiddle Hangout. All Rights Reserved.





Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.359375