Hand and arm stretches are so important for musicians. No matter how long you practice for before a gig, it still helps to keep flexibility in your limbs and the following includes some great ways to do this.
I was planning an article on this very soon but the excellent Busted Piano String has beaten me to it and I don’t think I could have found as many good examples as Rhona-Mae has, so I am linking to Busted Piano String and hope you click the link and hop over for a look.
I’m at the age now where the after effects of a gig can be felt the day after – or more if it was a particularly vigorous show.
Musical Health is many faceted however. Here are some other areas we need to pay attention to.
Musicians suffer in many ways from long term effects due to the repetitive nature of what we do, ears can be affected with excess volumes which we have to be played at to reach larger crowds in smaller places and the eyes also suffer. For the ears, I have written about this on this blog, there are measures you can take to prevent ringing in your ears and the earlier you adopt a preventative routine for this the better.
Eyes are more complicated and is something I am looking into( forgive the pun!). Age plays a part, as I understand from my optician that the eyes go through a period of change soon after we reach 40 years old anyway, but we are often called to read something in poor or changing lighting conditions and the wearing of glasses can be a bit of a bind when you are sweating and squinting.
In my case I can no longer play wearing my current glasses as they bend the piano keyboard but I am sure with a better choice of lens next visit to the optician will help here. I still find I can not read the tiny LCD screens on my synths with my glasses on, so I am constantly shifting them up and down my head, weakening the arms of the specs all the while. Contacts get scratchy in late night bars and club gigs and if there is a smoke machine, and there still needs to be a separate pair of specs for the reading of the screens in my case at least – I think I have become what could be called Bi-Focal.
Stretching is something we can all do at almost any time before a gig. I do them walking to the gig – which can attract strange looks, but we’ve all seen Lycra clad gym bunnies and joggers with their legs up on a fence or lunging in full view of the traffic, so don’t be embarrassed. Head over to Busted Piano String and have a look at the excellent advice on offer, it’s extensive and important and takes just a few minutes a day to keep supple and ready to play. The link is here.
One other thing I have noticed, in addition to these exercises, is to play something completely unrelated to your normal set list while practicing. If, like most musicians, your gigs comprise of a set of songs you have played a while, your hands become used to the shapes of the set and if you are called on for something a little different you will run into problems. I play lots of accompaniments with little called for in the way of melody for a large part of my week and so on these days I play random exercises that stretch my hands into more complicated shapes. I always feel more comfortable playing a gig with 20 mins or so of this “messing about” during the day under my belt.