Hand Pain While Practicing 8 Position Scale?

Posted: 3/5/2017 11:31:41 AM

Joined: 3/5/2017

Hello all! I received a Burns B3 Deluxe Theremin late January (I know it isn't the best model out there, but I did not want to splurge on an instrument I wasn't sure I'd play consistently...) and have found myself loving the theremin! Currently, I am trying to learn and remember the 8-position scale, but found my breath getting uneasy and my hand tightening after only 20 or 30 minutes of practice.

Is this usual for the beginning thereminist, or must one play with a relaxed hand and posture? Does one get used to the movments, or am I simply playing the scale with jerky, unrelaxed positions? Thank you! Excited to become a seasoned thereminist at some point or another... haha

Posted: 3/5/2017 1:16:02 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Welcome to the wonderful world of the theremin, colonel. EXACTLY what you are describing has happened to many of us - every combination of carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, tendinitis, etc. etc. Here are a couple of rules for beginners - ignore them at your own peril!! 🙄

1. If anything hurts when you play your theremin (fingers, wrist, shoulder, even legs & feet) STOP PLAYING IMMEDIATELY and take a rest.

2. If you find after your first couple of weeks that any area of pain is either not going away or getting worse, you must change your playing technique. Never persist with a technique that causes problems in the hope that those problems will eventually disappear on their own. THEY WON’T. They will only get worse and become chronic.

I have observed over the last 20 or so years of playing the theremin that the methods that cause the most problems with the pitch hand, are those that involve thrusts of the wrist and extended fingers toward the pitch antenna. There are people (such as thereminist Carolina Eyck) who use these kinds of techniques with no problems, but others (like myself and several players in this forum) have had to find alternative methods of pitch control.

Clara Rockmore is considered by many to be the finest thereminist who ever lived. If you watch her play, you will notice that she never throws or thrusts her hand or fingers toward the antenna. Articulation is accomplished with knuckle extensions, while the fingers themselves remain comfortably curled and the hand remains in a straight line with the forearm, with no bending of the wrist. Vibrato is played by a movement of the entire forearm from the elbow (never from the wrist or by means of finger wiggles).

What sort of technique are you currently using that seems to be giving you problems?

Posted: 3/5/2017 11:32:57 PM

Joined: 3/5/2017

Interesting you mention Carolina Eyck in relation to that technique – as the technique I am using right now parallels her rather closely, haha! Such a method appeared seemingly more straight-forward, but it does make sense that it would cause more pain than one that occurs with knuckle extensions. I've been using a video lesson format (Thomas Grillo's, to be exact...) and believe he will teach a technique that features knuckle extensions later on in the lessons, as he's said he primarily plays with such a technique.

Thank you very much for all of your advice! 😊  Part of what I've enjoyed about the theremin is its community – it's amazing to receive technique advice from some of the world's greatest living thereminists so easily, and to be surrounded by self-teachers and people who haven't been playing the theremin since they were out of the womb.

Posted: 6/16/2018 4:26:41 PM

From: Portland, Oregon

Joined: 2/22/2018

I've found that spinning baoding balls help a lot with the hand stress related pain. There isn't good medical data on them, but my doctor speculates (and it makes sense to me) that strengthening the small stabilizer muscles in the fingers/hand can help take pressure off the tendons and joints. You might want to try them for a while and see if it helps. Not disagreeing with the advice above either - stopping if you feel pain sounds like a very sound strategy.

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