“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Friday, July 17, 2015

Beware the Mouse: Repetitive Use Syndrome and the Pianist

"Oh, no!" mouse.
My student came for a lesson, finally, after having to cancel one because of wrist pain. "Oh, no, what have you been working on, and how could it have gone so badly," I asked. He responded, somewhat sheepishly, that he'd been under pressure to complete a recording project, and that he had had a marathon session at the computer, mousing into the wee hours. Ah, this explains a great deal. Doctors call this repetitive use syndrome; I call it foolish.
     Okay, I understand. One gets carried away with projects and forgets possible consequences—largely because the pain and discomfort usually come the next day. Griping the mouse while
Don't grip mouse.
activating left and right clicks (isolating fingers) over a long period of time adds up to considerable stress on the playing apparatus. Discomfort and pain ensue, and these are bad enough. Unfortuately, this must interrupt piano practice until the pain and discomfort subside. We can't work through pain, despite what some football coaches may advise. How can we evaluate the relative correctness in our technique if there is something already wrong in the system?
     Fortunately, an understanding of how the forearm works can go a long way toward not only solving an issue at the piano, but in the case of this student, it also acted therapeutically. Rotating the
Forearm rotation.
forearm can feel like self massage, immediately releasing tension.
     The moral here is to be self-aware. Take breaks from computer tasks and other repetitive activities that are potentially harmful. As we get older, and we all do (hopefully), physical stress takes a greater toll that when we were young and spry.

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