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Thread: Arthritis and playing

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    Default Arthritis and playing

    Hi all,

    I am no spring chicken and all my life I have played guitar and a bit of piano. Unfortunately, with the years has come osteo-arthrits in my fingers which has added to my long standing tendonitits. I can play a bit but I can't use a lot of strength and my dexterity isn't amazing. I get quite a bit of pain and so little pleasure from playing anyth9ing but the simplest of pieces on either instrument.

    I'm wondering if anyone would suggest any instruments that are easier on the hands than these two.

    I recently took up Clawhammer Banjo and using a variety of tunings I found that a lot easier on my digits and I'm also exploring using Logic DAW and a MIDI controller which might make things possible but any other suggestions would be welcome.

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    I feel for you and admire your willingness to continue playing. I know you will find another instrument soon to play, so hang in there!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barnaby View Post
    I'm wondering if anyone would suggest any instruments that are easier on the hands than these two.
    I have serious arm issues and eventually turned to playing the diatonic harmonica and singing instead, which have brought me a lot of enjoyment without pain. Music technology has benefitted me too. But, with the all-important concern of safety, it would be best to see a doctor and have an assessment from an occupational therapist if you haven't done so. Some cities have Musician's Clinics that offer more specialized knowledge -- with my love of music, going that route was worth it. Please send me a PM if you have further questions.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Apr-30-2021 at 22:02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barnaby View Post
    Hi all,

    I am no spring chicken and all my life I have played guitar and a bit of piano. Unfortunately, with the years has come osteo-arthrits in my fingers which has added to my long standing tendonitits. I can play a bit but I can't use a lot of strength and my dexterity isn't amazing. I get quite a bit of pain and so little pleasure from playing anyth9ing but the simplest of pieces on either instrument.

    I'm wondering if anyone would suggest any instruments that are easier on the hands than these two.

    I recently took up Clawhammer Banjo and using a variety of tunings I found that a lot easier on my digits and I'm also exploring using Logic DAW and a MIDI controller which might make things possible but any other suggestions would be welcome.
    That is the spirit! I had slightly similar. I love sport as well, basketball in particular. But playing piano and playing basketball, well: not good idea. Too often fingers injuries may happen. So, google came as help: researched all possible sports to find that activity I would like to do. So, being in "your shoes" I would search all possible instruments there are and do some research about what is required to play them (taking into consideration your condition). I really hope you will find something soon. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. Admire your will and spirit to play!
    “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ― Bob Marley
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    Piano Marvel discount code for you: jw (practice every day )

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    The flute puts very little stress on the articulations. Small movements, little force, very little movements of fingers between the keys.

    The position of the left index is unnatural, but you can let add a hand rest, like many flutes had in the 19th century, and many bass flutes still have.

    Though, be warned that the flute is a difficult instrument, and starting it is frustrating. Besides the difficult blowing technique, it demands to synchronize finger movements that don't belong together in normal life and flautists do it very quickly.

    The slide trombone? Small to medium brass instruments? The chromatic horn? I don't play them. The tuba and saxhorns are in demand, while we have too many flautists. On the tuba, the position is natural, but moving the valves requires force.

    Don't even think at the bassoon and the bowed strings.

    The cimbalom and other hammered dulcimers seem to move and stress the fingers very little. I don't play them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    I have serious arm issues and eventually turned to playing the diatonic harmonica and singing instead, which have brought me a lot of enjoyment without pain. Music technology has benefitted me too. But, with the all-important concern of safety, it would be best to see a doctor and have an assessment from an occupational therapist if you haven't done so. Some cities have Musician's Clinics that offer more specialized knowledge -- with my love of music, going that route was worth it. Please send me a PM if you have further questions.
    Seconded. When I first started getting arthritic twinges in my hands 5 or 6 years ago my doctor actually recommended the piano (he didn't know I'd been playing it for 60 years!). A great deal can depend on exactly how you put your hands to work, so I strongly endorse Roger's recommendations about seeking medical and occupational therapy advice.

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    Senior Member Dimace's Avatar
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    Without knowing how serious is your problem, I can only suggest to keep playing the piano and change nothing of what you are doing. Michel was playing his entire life under excessive pain and just a year before his death gave more than 110 concerts worldwide. Leon, died last year, had the same problems as you. He was teaching and playing the piano to his last breath. Take a look at Paul's last concert at Vienna, if you don't believe me. He almost can't move some of his fingers, but he is playing the great masters with his soul and only. If you change your beloved instrument for something inferior, the illness will prevail over you and after this is nothing you can do against your problem. If you love the piano, nothing can stop you. You will play it also without hands. Don't abandon your love for a little arthritis or some pain. You can make it!
    „Es gibt drei Arten von Pianisten: jüdische Pianisten, homosexuelle Pianisten -- und schlechte Pianisten.“ V. Horowitz

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    Quote Originally Posted by Animal the Drummer View Post
    Seconded. When I first started getting arthritic twinges in my hands 5 or 6 years ago my doctor actually recommended the piano (he didn't know I'd been playing it for 60 years!). A great deal can depend on exactly how you put your hands to work, so I strongly endorse Roger's recommendations about seeking medical and occupational therapy advice.
    Thank you, Animal. As the other musician responder to Barnaby besides me who has actually experienced serious hand or arm conditions, your comments are very valuable. What's causing me a lot of pain right now is reading the humbug on other posts. For example Leon (Fleischer) had focal dystonia ("writer's cramp"), which is completely different from the arthritis and tendinitis that Barnaby mentions.

    For any musician in this predicament, see a doctor, a specialist, occupational therapist, or physiotherapist. I realize one's choices are more limited given current strains on health care, but that is where to direct your will and spirit. Over and out.

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    Hi

    I as under the impression I had replied to this above and I certainly typed out a response, but now I'm wondering if I didn't correctly press the "post" button. Doh!

    Thank you all for your help. I have seen a hand specialist and they have advised me to keep my fingers flexible and use them, but not to the point of undue pain. She told me is was a kind of vague recommendation and I had to use my best judgement.

    My main issue is in my left pinkie which is swollen and bent in towards my ring finger at the top joint and when i use it to push down a key after about two or three times, becomes extremely painful and isn't really any fun at all. I also have been told to be cautious in stressing the joint any further. Playing a key pushes it further along the direction in which it already is bent. Unfortunately the more I use it the more painful it becomes until it is so inflamed I can barely stand to touch anything with it.

    I have looked at flute, and clarinet and I notice the pinky is involved in these also. In addition I feel the hand position of holding the flute might be problematic for me. Ideally I'm looking at something without using the pinky at all and which won't stress my hand position too much.

    I'm beginning to feel my most likely option would be continue using the Banjo or for a more techie solution, Logic .

    I'm not a professional player and I am not really prepared to endure pain beyond a certain point to play.
    Last edited by Barnaby; May-02-2021 at 23:23.

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    No-one should be. If your body is responding in that way, it's telling you to stop altogether. How you respond to that is obviously a choice for you to make but, objectively considered, pushing through pain is rarely if ever a good idea. Even sports science no longer supports the "feel the burn" principle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barnaby View Post
    I'm beginning to feel my most likely option would be continue using the Banjo or for a more techie solution, Logic .

    I'm not a professional player and I am not really prepared to endure pain beyond a certain point to play.
    What you wrote and Animal the Drummer's reply make good sense to me. Your doctor said to keep using your fingers but not to push it. I know that with music, sometimes when you get into a song you don't want to stop and that can make things worse.

    Drake Music in England has information on instruments for people with disabilities. https://www.drakemusic.org/ Maybe they could put you on to someone knowledgeable in the music field. I did some work in this area but haven't been involved for over 13 years. But best of luck and please let me know how you get on with Logic, that interests me.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; May-04-2021 at 01:39.

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    I'm considering the Saxophone. I'm wondering if the keys you need to press with your left pinkie would require a lot less pressure and be a bit more ergonomically operated than on the piano. I could use my pinkie to cover a hole without a problem as it has mobility. My very first knuckle is swollen and painful, but I can still make it curve in to the base of my finger. It really depends on the pressure I need to apply.

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    I have osteoarthritis in both thumbs, but not at all (yet) in my fingers. This is less than ideal for a pianist, even one of my incompetence. However, I shall persist and simply accept that some of those smeared notes are down to joints not working properly. Unfortunately, the thumb OA inhibits the span of both hands somewhat, so my aspiration to re-learn Debussy's Le Cathedrale Engloutie may be on the back-burner!

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    I've decided to hire a saxophone for 3 months and try it. What's to lose? I've talked to a teacher and am talking to some more near to me with a view to sorting out some lessons. I'm quite interested to see how it goes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barnaby View Post
    [...] suggest any instruments that are easier on the hands than [the guitar and the piano] [...]
    In addition to the slide trombone, I'd like to suggest the pan flute.

    Its most evolved form seems to be the Romanian nay, but it doesn't look easy to play. It's a diatonic instrument, where the musician adds semitones by covering more the blow holes.

    Many toys or bad instruments exist. A good nay is made of wood, has narrower tubes for higher notes, and comes normally from Romania.

    Very nice, can be loud, wide range, astonishing virtuosos exist.


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