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Oboe/Tension in Hands and Fingers

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Question
I was wondering what suggestions you have to counteract tension in fingers and hands.  I am pretty good at trying to relax my breathing when performing but when it comes to my hands and fingers I can feel tension (and thus stiffness) building up and that creates a cycle of difficulties.

Are there some exercises you might suggest?

Thanks You

Answer
Hi, Sandy;  Looking at "The Art of Oboe Playing" by Sprenkle and Ledet, Sprenkle acknowledges the awkwardness of holding the oboe.  He makes the connection between embouchure and hand tension stating "a tight, biting type of embouchure usually accompanies a heavy-handed finger action in order to hold the oboe more securely; a sensitive and open embouchure requires only balanced and gentle finger control"  So, the first suggestion is to take a look at your embouchure; is it relaxed and open?  He goes on
"The hand position, with the fingers poised over the keys, should be as comfortable as possible.  The fingers should be slightly curved without excess tension, touching the keys with the soft pads of their tips.  The support [of the right hand] is easiest at a point just behind the thumbnail.  The right arm and fingers are normally parallel to, or point slightly toward the floor. ...The fingers must feel free to move, and their motion must not alter the pressure of the instrument on the lower lip."  It might help to play in front of a mirror and notice your hand and arm positions as indicated above.  

There are some exercises that might help.  The first is using a softball, sit on an armless chair with your feet slightly raised on a stool.  Grasp the ball in your right hand, keep your back straight, tuck your chin, gaze forward with your head upright.  Keep you elbows at your sides and end them at a 90 degree angle.  Squeeze the ball as firmly as possible and hold for 5 to 10 seconds.  Remember to breathe.  Release and repeat with the left hand. This is an exercise used by physical therapists.

Another suggestion, I'm a fan of yoga and believe it or not, there are even yoga exercises for the hands.  Take a look at www.doyogawithme.com/content/yoga-therapy-hands-wrists-and-forearms.  Hope this helps.  Joel

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Joel Simon

Expertise

Reed making, oboe technique, oboe adjustments. PLEASE NOTE, NO QUESTIONS ABOUT OBOE VINTAGE OR VALUE. THAT INCLUDES SERIAL NUMBERS, AGE OF INSTRUMENTS, AND HOW MUCH THEY MIGHT BE WORTH; AND THAT INCLUDES WHERE YOU MIGHT FIND SUCH INFORMATION. THESE QUESTIONS WILL BE REJECTED.

Experience

I've played oboe for over 40 years. During that time I've played and performed in many ensembles including full orchestras, chamber orchestras, and wind quintets. I've played as both an amateur and professionally. Out of necessity, I've learned how to care for the oboe, make adjustments and repair when necessary.

Education/Credentials
I studied with Robert Sprenkle at Eastman School of Music preparatory department and 3 years privately with Lois Wann. I've also studied with Robert Eliscu.

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