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Left Hand Nerve Damage
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Sporksies
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April 2, 2012 - 12:01 pm
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Hello Everyone!

I'm new here to the forums, but not to the violin. I grew up playing it, but had to put it down for a long while. Recently, I have picked it back up and unbelievably, my muscle memory still allowed me to play Twinkle Twinkle just as I had learned it. I was nothing short of shocked, lol...

The problem I'm having is with my left hand pinkie and 4th finger positions. I had wrist surgery back in December to remove a cyst that had wrapped itself around my tendons, and of course, doc had to fix the tendons as well. I have about 90 percent usage of my wrist now, which is fine because I'm right handed in many aspects, but with the violin, the left hand is an important thing. I have nerve damage that doesn't allow my pinkie to stretch far enough to use it on 4th finger positions, so I have to slide my hand down and use my ring finger, then slide back up to hit the 3rd position with it. 

Quite honestly, this is a big pain in the rump! It doesn't sound horrible, it gives whatever I'm trying to play a country-cajun-sliding flair to it. Its just a pain in the rump. 

Do ya'll have any suggestions as to what exercises I might be able to do that could help my pinkie out a bit? Or maybe a new way of fingering that might not be such a pain? I've asked doc about the damage and she said its pretty well permanent, just try to stretch it out, but she knows nothing of the violin hold and what-not so I figured I'd ask here. 

Thanks!\"cheerleader\" 

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
April 2, 2012 - 1:55 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11694

Just a few suggestions and btw, I know how bad it feels to loose nerves in your left hand and not be able to feel your fingers. Had it in my left thumb for about 6 months after a bad cut but fortunately the feelings came back.

First of all make sure you bring your left elbow as far under the violin as possible to make the necessary reach as little as possible.

Weight to the left side of the fingers especially the pinky to give you a better angle with more reach. You will understand when you try it.

Do 3rd and 4th finger exercises on the E and A string at first to build the stretch and strength back up.

Hope my suggestions can help a little.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Sporksies
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April 3, 2012 - 10:58 am
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Thank you, FM! 

Last night I told myself every 3 seconds to make sure my elbow was directly under the violin. Its hard not to slip it back over, but... it worked. Still difficult with the pinkie, but the angle was so much better. 

 

Today I am going to do the exercises. I will let you know how it comes about.

 

Also, I got the new bridges yesterday and I almost wet myself over the difference. Even my husband noticed and said "No more dead cats screeching about the house!" 

clap

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NoirVelours
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April 3, 2012 - 11:05 am
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Oohhh I didnT' know it made such a difference, I wonder if my bridge is good or bad then! But aren't they ajusted to each violin? If I buy a pricy bridge I would have to bring it to a luthier to have it's foot fitted no? Tell us about the improvement in sound please!

"It can sing like a bird, it can cry like a human being, it can be very angry, it can be all that humans are" Maxim Vengerov

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Kevin M.
Nicholson, Pa
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April 3, 2012 - 11:18 am
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A bridge and the sound post are very important to a violin. A Stadivari with a bad bridge or a misalinged sound post could sound worse that a 50 dollar violin.

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Sporksies
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April 3, 2012 - 11:39 am
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To be honest, I hadn't played the violin in close to 20 years. I ordered an "El Cheapo Deluxe" violin because I know its going to get beat up, banged around (I have 5 children!) and played until it just dies. I didn't want to spend a bunch of money yet, until I'm comfortable enough with the violin again.

 

That being said... the violin I ordered is in good working condition. The wood is stable, the joints are all glued properly, the pegs are fine, the tailpiece is great and all that, but the bridge it came with is probably an inch smaller that Fiddlerman's bridges and the slope is was so severe that when I would play the E string, I couldn't help but hit the violin as well, and the strings that came with it were just awful. 

 

First, I had emailed Fiddlerman and asked about strings, then I jumped the gun on a reply and ordered the Zyex (I keep wanting to type Zylex!). That made a HUGE difference, but it wasn't quite right yet. I stumbled upon a video on YouTube that showed what to look for when buying a violin. This guy showed a bridge that was made horribly. I looked at my bridge and what do ya know? I would swear it was mine! So I ordered Tellerman's Fitted Bridge from the fiddlershop. When I got them, I immediately slapped it on my violin and it just so happened to be a perfect fit with the feet and strings. Not sure how I got that lucky, but I'm glad I did!

 

Even tuning this thing after placing the new bridge I could tell the difference. It just sounded sweeter. My oldest daughter pointed this out to me before I got the new bridge. She said "Momma.. a violin is supposed to sound sweet, ya know? They have that romantic, sweet sound and yours just doesn't have that." To be honest, it sounded like a dying cat with a mix of a sick cow just for added effect. Now, it has that sweet, romantic sound... even when I screech a bit. 

 

I'm am VERY happy with it now. Like a little kid in a candy store. 

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Mad_Wed
Russia, Tatarstan rep. Kazan city
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April 3, 2012 - 2:07 pm
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Hi, Sporksies! Love your positive attitude!

Hope, You'll get back on track soon with that pinky! I had a similar problem with my 1rst finger after an ax cut. I played bass guitar then. As i couldn't feel my pointer finger - i couldn't control preassure. And pressed strings much more than it was necessary.. Soon my poor finger got a really bad callus =) But now i feel it almost normal. I believe, there's always a chance for recovery. birthday_balloon

Welcome to the forum! dancing

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
April 4, 2012 - 12:02 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11694

I love all of your positive attitudes. Thanks smile

Incredible that the bridge fit perfectly. You are indeed lucky. Kevin has a how to on this site about cutting bridges otherwise for anyone who is interested.

http://fiddlerman.com/2011/11/.....n-m-healy/

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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EJ-Kisz
Midwest, US
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April 11, 2012 - 11:35 pm
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Thanks Sporksies for sharing!

Your post hit home for me because I also have nerve damage!  Although, it's in my right arm and affects my pinky and ring finger.  I still find myself losing that balance when bowing as my pinky lifts up off of the bow.  

My physical therapist actually has me doing different hand and finger exercises using a stress ball and putty!  It seems to be helping!  It's funny, my PT now incorporates some home exercises using my violin!  Can you imagine me sitting on a large purple yoga ball, playing "Bile Down The Cabbage" while marching my legs in time? LOL  It's funny, but it really helps my back & shoulder!  

I've heard of listening to music & healing, but I wonder if there's any info out there about playing music & healing!  There is the whole physical part of being a musician that many people overlook!     

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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Sporksies
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April 12, 2012 - 9:43 am
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I'm so glad to hear that you have all healed, mostly, and can still play on!

Last night, I started having spasms in that nerve on my left hand. Hubs says maybe its time for me to slow my roll (talking about playing any chance I can). A big resounding no came out of me. After all, if you don't use it, you lose it.

Ya know, EJ.. I have more control by keeping my pinky up off the bow and using it as a lever, so to speak. I put it down when I need to balance, lift it up when I don't. I know I would get reamed by the pros if they ever saw it! Also, I have to tell you that you typing "Bile Down the Cabbage" nearly made me spit coffee onto the screen. LOL

Now you have me wondering the same thing about the body's correlation with healing and music. I can tell you for certain if I'm having a bad day or super stressed, I can pick up my violin, go off into another world for a bit and come out of it feeling much better. You reminded me of when I was in labor with my kids, though. Doc said to bring whatever music I could zone out to and focus on, which does help. However, I could not imagine trying to play the violin during that time. Just for giggles, my mental image goes like this:

Twinkle, twinkle, little... CONTRACTION! DRUGS! DRUGS! GIVE ME DRUGS! Whew, got through that one. Let's try again... Twinkle, twinkle, little... SOMEBODY KILL ME PLEASE! 

roflol

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EJ-Kisz
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April 12, 2012 - 3:35 pm
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roflol

Okay!!  That just made my day reading that!!  Maybe when we have kids, I'll have my wife bring in an instrument of her choosing!  .....at least it'll save the nerves I have left in my hand! laugh

I'll have to try different bow holds to see if it helps!  I know if I adjust my hold slightly with my pinky off, I get better balance and pressure.  ....but it's not the "proper" bow hold! lol  

Ya know, there is something soothing about playing! And I'm not just talking about "soothing to the ear!"  I recently had a spinal chord stimulator surgically placed in my back and it emits little electrical signals that can be adjusted by frequency!  When I hit the right frequency, the pain, spasming & numbness seems to melt away!  

I never really put 2 & 2 together until I remembered that strings/notes vibrate at different frequencies!  I've even noticed that when my back spasms, playing for a little while relaxes those muscles.......and me of course!!  

Maybe we just have to find out which notes/keys have the "right" frequencies that help and learn songs in that key!  Ya know, be the "total" fiddler in both mind and body! dancing 

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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Dee Major
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April 12, 2012 - 4:29 pm
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Best wishes, Sporksies and EJK, with your nerve damage and pinky challenges. With the helpful advice above and your determination, I think you will overcome and enjoy playing in spite of the difficulties.

EJK, I hope the spinal cord stimulator and your violin playing help diminish those back spasms. Let us know if certain frequencies/keys are helpful. smile I think some of the frequencies I play might actually cause a worsening of the condition.  But on the other hand, the resulting laughter might help. rofl

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NoirVelours
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April 12, 2012 - 6:43 pm
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Hey I have no nerve damage on my fingers but my pinky is kinda short so notes with 4th finger are a real challenge for me also lol. I have to move my hand otherwise the pinky can't reach the position... actually I had the same problem on the piano when I tried playing!

"It can sing like a bird, it can cry like a human being, it can be very angry, it can be all that humans are" Maxim Vengerov

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EJ-Kisz
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April 12, 2012 - 10:55 pm
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Yikes, Dee Major!!  I didn't think about that!  Bad notes and frequencies would be a pain....literally.....and then having to dodge the pillow thrown by my wife afterwards for making her cringe could complicate things further! 

dazed

NoirVelours, my fingers are just the opposite! LOL  I sometimes think my fingers are too long.  I often over shoot my pinky and end up too sharp!  But, we always find a way to make things work!  It's the quirky things about our playing styles that make playing fun! cool

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin

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