Health & Safety

for Guitarists & other Musicians

STOP!  unplug amp and  read the SAFETY notes before attempting repairs!

Guitar World article by Marty Friedman
Whenever you're going to do any form of strenuous exercise you should always warm up first if you want to avoid possibly hurting yourself. Warm up before you do pretty much anything on the guitar, be it recording, playing a gig or rehearsing. There are many bones, tendons and muscles involved in moving your fingers around, so before you start flailing 'em around recklessly, you should really do some form of warm up. Read more

From Musician to Medical Assistant
The story of a very well qualified singing teacher who decided on a change of career and studied to become a medical assistant. An interesting twist in this story is how she won a scholarship with a YouTube video. Read more

Guitar Universe Picking Exercises

Finger-Building Riffs some good riffs to develop speed and strength

Warm Up Exercises Use a metronome with all exercises, and use a clean tone. If at anytime your hands or forearms cramp up or hurt, STOP shake out your hands and arms, then try to relax and start again, if you continue playing with the pain, you will probably develop tendonitis or a similar problem...

Guitar Fitness The Key To Great Tone And Flency Have you ever wondered why good musicians can make a simple major scale sound great, yet when you do it yourself it sounds unmusical even though your guitar is in-tune and you're keeping reasonable time? Do you find that your muscles start to ache within no time at all when you adopt a good hand position in order to play a scale using the three-notes-per string method? Do you find yourself abandoning difficult, mentally and physically exhausting technical practice in favour of familiar, easy-come old tunes? If so, then you may need to put music to one side for a while and concentrate solely on fitness, i.e. a daily routine that will get you in shape ready to tackle those awkward scales and arpeggios.

As important as it is to be in good physical condition to play guitar by stretching and preparing your muscles, you can't play well without being focused and relaxed either. The bottom line here is that playing guitar should be fun. You didn't pick up the instrument for it to add stress to your life, but remove it. And it won't be any fun if you are stressed out about the next note or chord, or worried about who might be hearing you. Read More.

Focal Dystonia as a cause of musician's disability. Read a personal message from Tommy,
a guitar player with Focal Dystonia, which makes guitar playing very difficult. If anyone else reading this has it, Tommy would love for you to contact him: 512-242-8182, email: [email protected]. Tommy lives in Rockport, Texas, USA

H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers) is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the real dangers of repeated exposure to excessive noise levels which can lead to permanent, and sometime debilitating, hearing loss and tinnitus. We're here for musicians, music fans, and anyone needing help with their hearing. If your hearing is fine we're happy for you and invite you to hang out with us anyway. There's something here for everyone.
What does it mean when my hands start to hurt?
Pain is your body's way of telling you you're doing something wrong. When your hands start to hurt, STOP PLAYING. I know, I tend to go overboard, myself. A couple of weeks ago a friend stopped by and we jammed for most of the day. The next day, my left wrist hurt so bad I could hardly bend it. Scared me enough that I didn't play for several days, and it got better. Your body wasn't designed to play for hours at a time, and you can permanently damage it by overdoing it. Before you play, stretch out your hands, fingers, and arms. Some people recommend washing your hands in warm water, first. Warm up slowly, take frequent breaks, and stop when it hurts. Also, pay attention to your playing position. Wearing your guitar too low is a big invitation to carpal tunnel syndrome. Try to keep your wrist as straight as possible when fretting.

Repetitive Strain Injury Prevention Guidelines:

Avoid bad guitar practices that cause health problems

  1. Drink plenty of spring water or filtered water. Attempt to drink one 8 oz. glass of water per hour. The tissues of your body are composed mostly of water. Dehydration inhibits the healing process.
  2. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol. These will dehydrate you. The stimulating affect of caffeine will also tense your muscles.
  3. Before you begin your workday, stretch your muscles, and perform some light exercises to "wake them up." Avoid working with tight, unstretched arms and shoulders. This will lead to further injury.
  4. Perform stretching exercises at your workplace at least once per hour. (Provided by a health care provider)
  5. Take frequent breaks to rest muscles and to stretch. At least one 5 minute rest every 30 minutes is adequate to perform self-massage and stretching for the muscles.
  6. Begin a daily log of your activities and symptoms. In the log, state the symptom and its severity, along with activities that may have brought on the complaint. This enables you to begin understanding why you have this injury. Other items to log are: water intake, medications taken per day, dietary intake, and other factors that may play a part in your condition, such as emotional factors and stress level.
  7. Watch your posture while working. If you have questions regarding specific work-related postures, ask the doctor.
  8. Cold environments will worsen RSI conditions because of decreased blood flow to the tissues. If you find yourself in a cold environment, take steps to correct it. (i.e. wear gloves, buy a space heater, etc.)
  9. Check with your local hardware or stationary store for rubberized materials that allow easier grasping of objects, such as around a commonly used pen, or pliers, etc.
  10. Avoid hobbies that flare up the condition, such as sewing, and sports involving heavy shoulder and arm use (like racquetball).
  11. Do not perform weight lifting exercises to your arms, hands, or shoulders when the condition is in an inflamed state. This will simply further the irritation and swelling.
  12. Use ice, either via an ice pack or by using a Dixie cup ice massage to relieve swollen irritated tissues. When using an ice pack, always place a moist towel between your skin and the ice pack. Ask the doctor on the proper technique for ice massage. Ice should be used for no longer than 15 minutes at a time. Take a half-hour break before applying again.
  13. If the muscles in your neck and back are sore and tense, moist heat may be affective in relieving the pain. As with ice, use heat for periods of 20 minutes at a time. Take the heat off for 20 to 30 minutes between sessions. If you feel worse after using heat, apply ice for 15 minutes. This will decrease the swelling present. Avoid heat if this is the case.

"My fretboard wrist hurts when I'm playing - What's going on here?"

What's going on here could be a couple of things - tendonitis or a repetitive stress injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons in your hand and carpal tunnel is a narrowing of the space in your wrist so that nerves are impinged upon. With carpal tunnel, you will have a twinge or buzz (from the nerve) going up the palm of your hand or the side of your thumb may get numb or both.

Carpal tunnel can be treated with antiinflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and a splint that cocks your wrist up. Recovery time is usually about 6 weeks - the same as if you have surgery. Surgery may be required or a cortisone injection. Tendonitis can usually be taken care of with splinting, rest, and ibuprofen. Make sure you are warming up correctly to avoid tendonitis. If your hands or forearms cramp up or hurt when playing, stop, relax and start again. Don't play in pain - you're not ready if you do.

Musicians and RSI (Information about Repetitive Strain Injuries) Instrumental musicians are a special risk group for repetitive motion injuries. Sizable percentages of them develop physical problems related to playing their instruments; and if they are also computer users, their risks are compounded and complicated.

Hearing Problems are common among musicians, classical and rock alike. A good resource list is the Tinnitus Frequently Answered Questions Web site.

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