Jump to content

Playing The Concertina After Stroke

Recommended Posts

I've started practising hard at playing parallel octaves. It's very hard work for me, but I am making progress again, and I am much heartened to find I can make progress. It seems one's brain may slow the repair/rerouting activity, but it doesn't stop even after 3 years. It is a very good exercise, requiring and encouraging dexterity and exact placing.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Verey fortunately for me it is the left. As a player in the "English" style that means I can still get a melody out, at the cost of losing the accompaniment, although there was a period after the stroke when I seemed to have lost most of my ability to play with either hand; it took about a year to get my right hand fully back to normal. I wrote quite a lot at that time on the "old" forum, which as a result is inaccessible to me now. I would dearly love to retrieve some of that material (and before anyone says, the snapshots of the Internet Wayback Machine are too coarse to be of much use).



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Nanette,


So sorry to hear of your problems but I am pleased to see that you have already taken a

huge, huge step to recovery when you picked up the concertina and started playing

again and so soon after your stroke. I congratulate you !


It is great that you are able to focus on the positive and I think you are so lucky to have such an addictive passion as the concertina to spur you on.


When I met up with Chris some while after his stroke, the only thing that came across to me

as being stronger than his intense frustration at not being able to play as he could before, was his absolute determination to find ways to re-learn, to capitalise on what he was able to do and thus to steadily get 'topside' of the problem.


As I am sure he will tell you, his has neither been an easy road, nor a short one, but I am quite sure the effort he has put into the journey has made a major contribution towards the speed and extent of his recovery.


You will have to learn to be patient and forgiving of yourself for the setbacks and shortfalls in progress that you will inevitably encounter, but most importantly, take time to celebrate each and every tiny, but positive, step forward. Take courage from what you have achieved to-date and don't be frightened or discouraged by what is yet to be done.


Luckily my illness did not affect my ability to play as such, though for for several months I was fed industrial strength painkillers in quantities sufficient to stop a charging Rhino in its tracks and this, along with the illness itself, took quite a significant toll in terms of my short term memory.

My ability to play tunes that I already know is totaly unaffected (I still run well on autopilot - trained by years of boozy sessions I suspect) but learning new tunes is a different matter.

I found I could sit for ages working on a new tune only to find that next day I could not recall the tune, never mind what I had learned, and have to start again from scratch.

For far too long, I took the easy option and just played what I was comfortable with but this is no way to move forward.

I have found that tackling the problem head on is best. I have recently made conscious efforts to work mainly on new tunes and on sorting out and endlessly practising quite complex fingering alternatives that I have never used before.

[btw I never cease to be astonished by the amazing levels of patience and tolerance exercised by my good wife... ]


This approach does need a degree of self discipline (something I am not reknowned for ) but I am convinced that it stimulates the brain to do some real hard work and thus to get 'fitter' and to re-establish 'communications' with the fingers.


I do wonder if perhaps trying too soon to play tunes you played before serves in part to increase your current frustration when you hit difficulties as, inevitably you will be mentally comparing what you can do now with how you played before.

As others have suggested to you, set yourself some repetition exercises that will help with common movements and patterns. I have found this most helpful. This policy, along with learning a few new tunes from scratch and completely re-jigging fingering patterns for 'old' tunes has allowed me to make slow but sure progress both on the concertina and with my memory difficulties.


Whilst our problems are not the same, I do hope that the above will give you some encouragementt and perhaps, 'food for though'


Love and best wishes from one who knows, first hand, the enormous value of the friendship and support that the kind folks here are always so happy to give.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is interesting that this topic has re-emerged and I thank everyone who has given me encouragement.


It is now 13 months since I had my second stroke and I am playing much better all the time. Having a stroke and losing the strength and dexterity of movement in one hand is not like a physical injury or learning to play the concertina from scratch. The progress is very very slow and I think no matter how much I practice I cannot speed it up the progress. What is needed is patience, regular practice and a positive attitude.


When I first picked up the concertina after my stroke and tried to play I ended up in agony because working the bellows requires quite a lot of muscle movement in the upper arm. I no longer get pain after playing, but if I play for too long my hand "collapses". But I can play for longer than I used to and I am getting more dexterous. I am getting better all the time for which I am thankful.


Handwriting has been problematic and I am very slow, but about 2 weeks ago I started doing "running writing" (i.e. joining the letters together), which I found quite exciting. I can type quicker and easier than I can hand write. I was trained as a touch typist so I use all my fingers on the keyboard and am still using all fingers which has been good exercise. For a long time I controlled the mouse with my left hand, but now I always use the right hand - although sometimes I make mistakes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The progress is very very slow and I think no matter how much I practice I cannot speed it up the progress.

Actually, no. It's just that even when sped up, the progress is still slow compared to what you would hope.


Your brain has suffered some damage, and it's reorganizing the resources it has left so that some of them can take over the lost functions. What you practice and how much you practice help direct the development. E.g., if because you lost the use of your fingers you never tried to use them again, you would probably never regain much dexterity. Even in people who haven't had strokes, the areas of the brain which respond to and control parts of the body which are more frequently stimulated or used grow at the expense of those which are little used. But that necessarily occurs very gradually. (Imagine what it would be like if it were so quick that immediately after jogging you had to relearn how to write your name. B) ) After a stroke the same process is at work on a more massive scale -- borrowing from, shifting, and reshaping areas of the brain that are already in use in order to take over functions that were lost, -- but it's still gradual. It's also still directed by the activities you engage in and practice.


And just like first-time learning in those of us who haven't had strokes, general exercise -- e.g., jogging or playing the harmonica -- will help in a general way, but specific practice develops specific skills. (No matter how much I practice the concertina, I don't seem to be able to just pick up a fiddle and play it as well as the concertina.) Keep concentrating on the concertina. :)


What is needed is patience, regular practice and a positive attitude.

Yep. Keep it up. We're cheering you on, and even hope some day to hear recordings of your progress. :)

Edited by JimLucas
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is interesting that this topic has re-emerged and I thank everyone who has given me encouragement.


Hi again Nanette,


As you must have guessed, I replied thinking this was a recent thread.

I am so pleased to hear good news of your progres, this has quite brightened my day.


I missed your thread altogether first time round but, having checked the date of your original posting, I feel I have a good alibi.

On that very day last year I was on the operating table having major surgery to re-construct my innards...... the start of my long recovery too .....spooky or what ? :ph34r:


May you continue to improve by the day.


Onwards and upwards


Best wishes



Link to comment
Share on other sites

May I add my best wishes to you Nanette for steady recovery and progress.


The rest of you - nobody else has had the tactlessness to mention this so let me (bad taste a speciality). Some of you need to brush up on your Antipodean slang - telling someone in Australia that you are "rooting" for them is something I would think it prudent to avoid B)



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good, very good to hear from you again, Nanette. As you know my own stroke was less severe than yours, but I think you have learned the same lesson as me, which is (despite what some people say) progress never stops if you don't. As I say earlier, I am still seeing improvements even now, and it's over three years since my stroke.


Another good exercise I found, for a lot of reasons, was typing messages on concertina.net.


Musicians always make the best recoveries!


Take care of yourself,



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...