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#1 PhilEdwards

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 04:31 AM

I acquired a Lachenal tutor EC about nine months ago, never having played anything like it before. I've been playing it for half an hour or so most days, mostly tunes with some song-accompaniment. My original plan when buying it was to use it mainly for song accompaniment, but I've got more and more into playing tunes on it; just recently, i.e. within the last couple of weeks, I've started playing a few tunes at speed, which in turn has led into practising more fiddly tunes like Speed The Plough.

 

I find the EC quite awkward to hold, especially the finger-troughs. I think I could support the whole thing with thumb-straps and one knee and not bother with them, but the thumb-straps aren't quite tight enough & I can't see any way to tighten them further.

 

Oh, and I'm 52; I've always had jobs which make heavy use of a keyboard, and have always suffered from stiff hands - nothing drastic, just that where somebody else might say "I'm worn out and my head/back/neck hurts" I'm more likely to say "I'm worn out and my hands are really stiff".

 

So that's the background to my tale of woe. The tale itself happened last night as I was lying in bed. I could feel various muscles jumping as my body relaxed; that often happens, and I didn't pay it any mind. Then a muscle started jumping in my left hand. The 'jumping' got stronger, till it was more like something was trying to twist my hand round and form a grip. A couple of fingers even moved a little (a quarter of an inch at most). Then it happened again. Then it died down... and then it started again. I could stop it happening by taking control of my hands, but as soon as I relaxed them (as you do when you're trying to sleep) back it came. It must have been half an hour before it stopped completely, and by then I was too freaked out to sleep.

 

I told my wife about it this morning; she looked at me and said "Concertina". What do people here think? And if it is fiddly-keywork-related muscle-cramp, what's the solution?



#2 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 06:55 AM

For a solution you need a medical opinion perhaps... but as you have asked what people think, then here is my two cents worth:
 
You state that your hands get sore from a lot of Keyboard work and that your hands get stiff or that you have always suffered from stiff hands. I can see a problem for anyone taking up a new activity, that requires fine and delicate finger movements, at an advanced age... unless you have done something similar since youth you could find these new movements a strain.
 
I work hard with my hands, a lot of gripping and pulling, hammering and twisting in my job but manage to play the EC for hours on end... after which I would have tired hands, of course. But then I started playing musical instruments at about 7 years old and can seperate these heavy muscular hand movements of my working day from the flexible and delicate touches needed for playing music.
 
Muscle spasms  being caused by the nerves releasing pent up energy perhaps??
 
The thumb straps must be adjustable ... maybe you need to punch another hole in the straps where the clamp screw goes through.  Rest the concertina on one knee and don't worry about the little finger thingys.. I use them and don't use them... whatever is comfortable at any moment.
 
A Lachenal Tutor model is not the easiest of EC's to play... these 'tutors' range from reasonably ok to down right horrible... for any serious playing you need something better than that!

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 04 March 2013 - 07:05 AM.


#3 Ransom

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 10:32 AM

You might put some padding inside the thumb loop to reduce its effective diameter.

 

Muscles are funny, wonderful things, and their most common disfunctions are not particularly well-understood. What causes a cramp, a twitch, a spasm, or a "knot"? Does the problem happen in the muscle itself, or in the functions of the nervous system that regulate the muscle?

 

Even if you meet someone else who has experienced a similar problem, the solution that worked for them might not work for you. That being said, here are some things you might try:

 

stretching your fingers back over the wrist

rubbing the forearm where the finger-muscles are located

adjusting the way you hold or play the instrument

taking regular breaks during practice, and bringing your fingers into different configurations.



#4 Randy Stein

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 06:00 AM

Single malt, Best way to relieve cramps.

 

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#5 PhilEdwards

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 06:24 PM

Thanks, all. I think it's probably just a side-effect of recent rapid development of the muscles (from multiple repetitions of Speed the Plough and Jack Lintell's), plus cramp from awkward angles. I'm going to check it out with my doctor; on the concertina front I'm going to do something with those thumb loops, & I'm going to listen more closely to my hands when they start complaining.

 

Randy - could I just ask if that tip's based on experience? This has happened twice now (second night was milder but very persistent), and both nights I was stone-cold sober. Not that that's especially unusual!



#6 PhilEdwards

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 06:30 PM


 
A Lachenal Tutor model is not the easiest of EC's to play... these 'tutors' range from reasonably ok to down right horrible... for any serious playing you need something better than that!

 

I don't think my finances could stand it! I paid £500 for this one and that took some saving-up. ECs are many things, but 'cheap' isn't one of them. (But I haven't regretted that £500 for a second.)



#7 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 02:18 AM


 
A Lachenal Tutor model is not the easiest of EC's to play... these 'tutors' range from reasonably ok to down right horrible... for any serious playing you need something better than that!

 

I don't think my finances could stand it! I paid £500 for this one and that took some saving-up. ECs are many things, but 'cheap' isn't one of them. (But I haven't regretted that £500 for a second.)

Perhaps I am looking at the purchase of an instrument in a somewhat different way. Having played EC's  for 40 years, off and on, I would not imagine or expect that a playable instrument could be bought for £500 today unless one had a lucky find.If I see an instrument that I want or need I am quite willing to pay the market price because, to me, it is just an investment on which, so far, regarding concertinas, I have never lost money.

 

I am also a musical instrument maker and as such I spend a lot of time trying to make my new creations as comfortable as possible for my customers who spend five figure sums on their new toy. So, from my stand point concertinas are not expensive. My Motto is " Only the Best is a Bargain".

 

However, coming back to your problems; have you tried different depths of insertion of your thumbs ?  The tutor books often suggest that one's thumbs should just enter the straps as far as the first knuckle. I find this does not suit me, the length of my fingers etc., so I insert my thumbs as far as they will go  and this gives me better control of the keyboard.


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 06 March 2013 - 02:26 AM.


#8 PhilEdwards

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 03:24 AM

Just for info, my EC was bought from a trusted friend (and Anglo player) who had kept it unplayed for several years, & had it overhauled by a local maker before selling it on to me. I think 'lucky find' covers it.

 

Looking at a decent box as an investment... something that's going to hold its value, if not outstrip the rate of inflation... hmm. Leave that one with me!

 

I'll experiment with my thumbs(!) when I'm playing tonight. I do sometimes wish there was just a right way to hold the thing (my first instrument was the flute, and How To Hold It is the first thing you learn). But I guess everyone's hands are different. After I'd seen the "first knuckle" recommendation and tightened the straps as far as they go, one longtime ECist told me he deliberately keeps the straps loose. And he plays standing up. I can't imagine how he steadies the box - I can only imagine he's got very well-developed little fingers.



#9 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 03:55 AM

Then again taking up any 'new' instrument is going to cause discomforts... I'm totally comfortable and at home with the EC and don't think about the comfort factor but if I was to take up the violin I'm sure I would be in agony within minutes. :wacko:



#10 Randy Stein

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:02 AM

Try holding the instrument up not down, elbows in, and don't pull and push the bellows so much as allow them to move. The inherent difference in an EC is the same note in and out so phrasing becomes more important that the back and forth action. Also, soak your hands in warm water after playing. I have been doing this for years especially after a long period of playing.   You may also want to make sure you have a nice easy action in the instrument. 

And yes, scotch helps but can impede accuracy.

 

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Edited by Randy Stein, 06 March 2013 - 07:09 AM.


#11 Dirge

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 12:50 PM

Then again taking up any 'new' instrument is going to cause discomforts... I'm totally comfortable and at home with the EC and don't think about the comfort factor but if I was to take up the violin I'm sure I would be in agony within minutes. :wacko:

So, I suspect, would everyone else in the house...

#12 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 01:04 PM

Then again taking up any 'new' instrument is going to cause discomforts... I'm totally comfortable and at home with the EC and don't think about the comfort factor but if I was to take up the violin I'm sure I would be in agony within minutes. :wacko:

So, I suspect, would everyone else in the house...

Absolutely! 



#13 ceemonster

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 06:30 PM

the thumbstrap part:

 

if your strap isn't adjustable so you can make more belt-holes using a puncher-gun, perhaps it would be worth having somebody replace it with something that is adjustable.  or padding it, as suggested above.

 

 

the holding-position part:

 

for some reason, a lot of ec players expect and want to play it standing up. i believe that this factor--the whole salvation army, marching-band role of the EC--is more responsible for the custom of pinky trough-and-thumbstrap torture than the verticular columns of the buttons. 

 

if you're like me and you don't give a tinker's dam about playing while standing, do try dispensing with the trough; tilting the concertina on your knee at a 45-degree angle (you would look to an onlooker much as anglo players look), and resting your ring and/or pinky (depending on which is, or is about to be, in use at a given instant) lightly wherever ergonomically comfortable for you.  for me, playing the EC this way is like a whole different experience, as in, for the better. articulation-wise, but most of all, tendon-wise.  you can see simon thoumire doing this in lots of youtube clips, and he's talked about it at length in interviews.  his hyper-staccatissimo style isn't really my thing, but he is an absolutely fantastic musician and EC virtuoso who is doing brilliantly playing this way....



#14 Pete Dunk

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 04:15 PM

... 


Edited by tallship, 21 March 2013 - 03:42 PM.


#15 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 06:46 AM

if you're like me and you don't give a tinker's dam about playing while standing, do try dispensing with the trough; tilting the concertina on your knee at a 45-degree angle (you would look to an onlooker much as anglo players look),

 Anglo players tend to tilt their instruments downwards not upwards .. in that way they get a straighter line of their wrists. Some duet players will do this too, unless, of course , they are standing up!


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 15 March 2013 - 10:38 AM.


#16 Pete Dunk

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 06:08 PM

... 


Edited by tallship, 21 March 2013 - 03:42 PM.


#17 Guest_Zorro_*

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 07:54 PM

I understand that fast twitch muscle fibers tend to diminish faster than slow twitch fiber as we age. Im going on 55 and am interested in preserving the fast twitch fibers I have. I imagine short sprint rowing intervals with lots of rest in between might be a good way to achieve this. Anyone have any ideas on how to do this without messing up your back?

#18 JimR

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Posted 05 March 2015 - 11:44 PM

It is your tutor, calling you, softly. "Play me, Phil."




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