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Thread: Playing with 'itis issues

  1. #1

    Default Playing with 'itis issues

    Hello gang -

    A little question please before I make a purchase for a first mandolin.

    Some of you may already have read from my thread about purchasing a first mandolin - I am a guitar player looking to get into mandolin playing as I have always loved the tone and character of the instrument. From my years of playing guitar (some 30+ years now) I have developed a bit of tendonitis in my fretting hand, mainly the wrist and a little in my fore finger. This has developed from playing instruments with poor setup and high action (talking acoustic steel string guitars here). When they are properly setup, I am fine. Now, in my later years of playing all of my newly acquired instruments go through the setup process to assure the best playability they can have.

    This raises a concern that I just recently thought about as I was testing some mandolins in local music shops. I found it doesn't take long at all for an old injury to raise its ugly head - as we all know, many factory setups on entry to mid level acoustic instruments are not the best. When I was playing some of these mandolins I found them to have pretty high/hard action. In just this short time I was feeling that "twinge" again in my wrist. Because I have no experience with properly setup mandolins, I ask if a normal lower action mandolin is naturally "harder" to fret than a steel string acoustic guitar with normal lower action? My first initial thinking is no due to the much shorter scale length of the mandolin, but then I think that each string is doubled so tension may be higher than I think.

    Add into the mix that I am also not getting any younger at 52 (sucks getting old!) I would appreciate to know the physics and to hear your experiences and thought. I guess I'm torn thinking should I go for it and begin my mandolin journey, or should I save myself the pain and money....

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Begin your mandolin journey with a modestly priced axe and see how it goes. Spend what you can afford to lose if the experiment goes south.

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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Set up well by a trained eye. Med light strings. Good technique with a light touch in both hands and you should be fine. The first month will be a bother. Easy fretting with low action. That is not standard till you spend more. A good setup should get you there otherwise. Not all instrument techs can successfully setup a mandolin. Imo.

    If you take it easy you’ll be fine and really enjoy it. Don’t overdo it
    Last edited by Mark Wilson; Jan-30-2018 at 1:37pm.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    There may be some value in talking with an occupational / physical therapist. Especially one that has experience with musicians. It may be that working out the muscles and what not through mandolinning will lead to improvement, more than avoiding the problem. Maybe not. I don't want to give medical advice. A good physical therapist can really help.
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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    I have dealt with a lot of overuse injuries over the years so pursued learning a lot about ergonomics. You might want to take a look at the ergonomic videos I posted here. Look at videos 2 - 5.

    http://www.petimarpress.com/mandolin...%20videos.html

    If your mandolin is set up well, no reason not to try playing. Be smart about practicing. Start with very short sessions, taking lots of breaks. Work up gradually to longer sessions. If you want I can elaborate more on this.
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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    I think the mandolin,small as it is,to play properly,is more physically demanding on you than the guitar,,the guitar is fun,the mandolin takes work,,,

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Can mandolins be rented like other instruments? Might that be something to consider?
    This space reserved for 5 year mandolin gift to self.

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I think the mandolin,small as it is,to play properly,is more physically demanding on you than the guitar,,the guitar is fun,the mandolin takes work,,,
    Wow. And I think just the opposite!!
    Phil

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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Thanks for the replies and tips, everyone. RSI's have a way of getting into my life. I admit that I tend to overdo things when I begin something new. I can easily loose hours without even realizing it (until my wife brings it to my attention, lol!) I need to learn to start slow. Great advice.

    Thanks for the link, Pete. Yes, I would greatly appreciate it if you could elaborate.

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    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    When shopping play some instruments made with a radius rather than flat fingerboard. Some folks with joint issues swear by them. Luck ... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    When shopping play some instruments made with a radius rather than flat fingerboard. Some folks with joint issues swear by them. Luck ... R/
    Is that what a Collings has?
    This space reserved for 5 year mandolin gift to self.

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Sherry, I believe (not sure) that all Collings mandolins have radiused fretboard. I like it on my MTO, but it is not an absolute 'must have' for me. I can't even tell you precisely why I like it. Maybe it is all in my head.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    To the OP: Very few inexpensive mandolins have a optimally cut nut slots. Almost always they can be cut deeper, making the action easier. A good setup will address this issue (and you can too if you get Rob Meldrum's free ebook on DIY setup).
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Bsfloyd
    You’re right to appreciate the importance of good set up, especially for you with a history of issues.
    if you’re noticing issues when doing in shop comparisons then there a few common things to be aware of coming from guitar to mandolin.
    The guitarists “gorrilla grip of death”; possibly because of the double courses being fretted on a short string, you’ll feel more resistance to your fretting efforts than on guitar. There seems to be a tendency for people used to the guitar to over react when they feel that and really fret hard against the strings, mashing them down to the fretboard. It’s not necessary, just an over reaction to the real sensation of meeting a bit more resistance than your normal long experience is used to. You can afford to back way off and use a much lighter touch than you initially think you need. That should help to stave off the onset of your symptoms.

    On a poorly set up instrument this will be even more pronounced, but good fretting hand position and hand attitude should mean you could try out loads of them and still not suffer. If you do a search for left hand position threads on here you’ll find a wealth of information on the very different approach needed for that fretting hand. There are a lot of good guitarist questions and follow-up posts as they begin to feel the benefit of the advice. As a player with historical issues you would be well rewarded by a good search on those typical transition issues.

    I know a lot of guitarists who made this transition and have really enjoyed the extra creative outlet and playing insights they’ve gained as a result of playing mandolin, often feeding back into their long established guitar technique in a very positive way.

    I’d say go for it and don’t worry that you can’t approach it as a small guitar, those techniques you learn will stand you in good stead.
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    I've got a degree of Tendonitis in both hands,Trigger Finger in the right first / middle fingers,quite severely & i just get on with it. My own approach is that if you've got it,you can either do something about it 'medically' or forget you've got it & ''pick''. My right hand is affected to the extent that i can't now manipulate a pick in my fingers. If it twists / slips,i have to use my left hand to put it right. If your Tendonitis is really causing you a problem,then seek medical help before it goes any worse.

    One thing i've mentioned on here many times is that after an op. to correct Trigger Finger on my left middle finger / thumb,several years back,the Physio. i saw told me to soak my hand in water 'comfortably hot', along with a face cloth for a few minutes. Then wring the dickens out of the cloth several times. The ''tensioning & relaxing'' of the Tendons really does ease up, at least long enough to get you started in playing for a while.

    The 'cure' for my current Trigger Fingers is another op. - i'll wait until i can't even hold a pick until i opt. for that. Until then,taking my own advice above,works very well & i'm 73 years old,
    Ivan
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Thanks for the words, advice, and recommendations to everyone. They are very helpful. I will surely do that search you mentioned, Beanzy - it sounds right up my alley.

    Ivan - thanks for the tip on the warm/hot water soak, I will give that a try when/if needed.

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    Registered User peterleyenaar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    I have some arthrytus on both of my index fingers at the joint by the nail, looks like two little knobies , I still have decent mobily in both of these joints.
    Although I have no comparison , I tend to think that playing (a lot) actually helps my mobility and I am a lot older than you.
    I do play slower than I used to, solution: play slower tunes, there are lots of them, anywhere between 70 and 100 bpm.
    Also doing dishes by hand in hot sudsy water helps a lot.

  20. #18
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    I am 65 and have lots of arm, wrist and hand issues, but none of them hold me back. Here are some things that have helped me. Some have already been mentioned. YMMV:
    • The stretches on musicianshealth.com, done regularly and before and after playing. This is definitely #1.
    • Working on the details of good technique and alignment with your hand and wrist, especially keeping your wrist straight when you play and proper thumb placement. It's easy to think you are doing it right, but stuff creeps in. An instructor can help.
    • Better set up
    • Radiused board
    • Lighter strings
    • Setting up a uke GDAE and getting a new bridge for intonation. I can do a lot of practicing on that with very little hand tension and save the tension for performance. I do this when I am having flare-ups, until things calm down, although the uke/mando is fun to play in its own right.

  21. #19

    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    Thanks for the added replies! Very helpful.

    A uke/mando (mandolele) sounds like a great idea. I already have a couple ukes. Get some Aquila 30/31U's fifths tuning ukulele strings and go to town!

  22. #20
    Jim1Hays
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    You can change the action by lowering the bridge and then drop the strings at the nut to 0.015" This is where I have mine and a light touch is all it takes at the first fret on all 8 strings. A good Luthier should be able to do this for you.

  23. #21
    Registered User Ken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with 'itis issues

    I've also developed some arthritis issues in recent years. Here are some things that are helping me (Also I really appreciate the posts above, some good ideas there that I plan on trying too).
    First and foremost, I baby my hands, no heavy work for them, I save them for playing.
    Second, some chord patterns seem to aggravate my hands more than others, so when necessary I'll use a different pattern. For example, the F that I commonly use is 2331 and that often hurts, so I usually play it as just 233X or 23XX.
    Last, now days I'm usually sitting down when I play, either at jams or just at the kitchen table, and usually the fret board ends up angled about 45 degrees away from me and this seems to stress my hands, especially my wrist, so I try to make sure that my mandolin is upright in front of me, the back against my chest and stomach, and the mandolin front and fret board is 90 degrees away from me, pointed towards the wall. Hope some of this may help too.
    Peace

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