New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

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melagodo
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New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by melagodo » Sun May 15, 2011 10:18 am

Hi there. I've started to learn this wonderful instrument 2 weeks ago, I just love it.
I've got an half set and I'm doing my exercises...first thing I'm trying to learn is the bag-bellows technique. I'm doing this either with single note (working on G, A, B) or with the drones, not together. I'm trying from the beginning to avoid the death-grip and things are working, but...

My problem is...my muscles!! Can't play continuosly more than 3 minutes, my left arm muscles really hurt :|
My playing position should be quite right (and my teacher agrees on that), the reed is not that hard...I'm not a body-builder, but an average 25yrs old guy with average muscles.

Any suggestion on that? I would practice A LOT more if my left arm would support me, but unfortunately all that I'm doing is to play 3/4 - 5mins sessions a day.

Thank you very much guys,

melagodo

PS: I've looked up in the forum and on google but what I could find is about muscle coordination, not strength or developing ability to play more time... :(

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djm
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Re: New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by djm » Sun May 15, 2011 10:42 am

Since we can't see you we can't comment on anything specific you may or may not be doing. Perhaps you need to play around with your arrangement of things to find something that works better for you, like try holding the bag higher or lower under your arm, moving the bellows around a bit to a different position, lengthening the bellows2bag tube, etc. Your body needs to be upright but relaxed. Find what works for you.

For the most part, I find just the weight of my bag arm is enough to provide the majority of the pressure required on the bag.

Oh, and eat your Wheaties. Lots of Wheaties. :wink:

djm
Sex and drugs and uilleann pipes

melagodo
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Re: New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by melagodo » Sun May 15, 2011 12:16 pm

djm wrote:Since we can't see you we can't comment on anything specific you may or may not be doing. Perhaps you need to play around with your arrangement of things to find something that works better for you, like try holding the bag higher or lower under your arm, moving the bellows around a bit to a different position, lengthening the bellows2bag tube, etc. Your body needs to be upright but relaxed. Find what works for you.

For the most part, I find just the weight of my bag arm is enough to provide the majority of the pressure required on the bag.

Oh, and eat your Wheaties. Lots of Wheaties. :wink:

djm
:shock: you manage to play chanter and drones just with the weight of your arm? :shock: I can play the chanter quite easily as for pressure, but when I turn the drones on...I have to press the bag, and a lot!!

BTW, I was not asking you to correct my mistakes (which, of course, are many). I was just asking if there's some kind of exercise that I could do to improve my muscles stamina and play longer.
Another thing that I've noticed, and that oblige me to press on the bag harder, is that the tenor drone reed seems to "collapse" as soon as the pressure is a little bit lower. That happen when I lower the pressure a bit when I inflate with the bellows). Is it supposed to be that sensitive, or maybe the reed needs some tweaks? (I'm actually using EZ Drone Reeds).

Thank you very much,

melagodo

learnthegrip
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Re: New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by learnthegrip » Sun May 15, 2011 7:06 pm

What part of your arm hurts? Is it an ache or a cramping feeling or something else? Does it bother you as soon as you start practicing, or does it take a bit of time? How long after you stop practicing before the arm feels normal again? Are you keeping good posture, with your neck aligned with your torso? A common mistake that pipers make is to tuck their heads down like they're watching the main stock as they play.

If you can, practice for only the amount of time you are comfortable, then take a rest (even a minute or two) and practice again. Find where symptoms start and always stop before that point. If you can successfully practice day in and day out without provoking symptoms, even though the practice bouts are very short, you can probably increase your tolerance over time to a more reasonable amount of practice.

Here's a couple of exercises that are widely used in the rehabilitation of shoulder injuries. If your problem is strength and endurance, they should help. If they make you feel worse, that's a pretty good indication that your symptoms are coming from something other than muscles and a trip to the doctor might be in order. A few visits with a good physical therapist would probably help you narrow down the problem.

Get a piece of fairly stout elastic (there's a commercial product sold as Sports Cord, I think, and a product sold to therapists and doctors called Theraband. Either would do in the medium grades). Put a hook in the wall about 7 or eight feet above the floor, one at floor level, and one at waist level. Make sure they are firmly attached and won't pull out when they are pulled on. Imagine that you are standing with a large "X" in front of you, with the crossed bars intersecting at your waist. Stand with your bag arm side to the wall. Attach the cord to the upper hook and grasp it with your arm as extended as the height of the hook allows. Pull down the bar of the "X", crossing your waist and ending up with your hand pointing to your opposite foot. Return slowly to the starting position. Bouts of 10 reps to fatigue. Turn around and face the opposite direction and pull down and across towards the bag-side foot. Move the band to the lower hook and repeat the same two pulls, always following the arms of the "X." Then move to the waist-level hook and stand with your bag side to the wall. Keep your elbow at you side as you pivot your forearm in and out. Turn around and repeat in the opposite direction. Be sure your elbow doesn't leave your side. It might be helpful to hold a notebook between your elbow and your side so that you have a reminder to keep the elbow against your side.

That's a lot harder to describe than it is to teach in person, but hopefully you'll get the idea. Good luck.

Ken

melagodo
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Re: New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by melagodo » Mon May 16, 2011 3:05 am

learnthegrip wrote:What part of your arm hurts? Is it an ache or a cramping feeling or something else? Does it bother you as soon as you start practicing, or does it take a bit of time? How long after you stop practicing before the arm feels normal again? Are you keeping good posture, with your neck aligned with your torso? A common mistake that pipers make is to tuck their heads down like they're watching the main stock as they play.
....
If you can, practice for only the amount of time you are comfortable, then take a rest (even a minute or two) and practice again. Find where symptoms start and always stop before that point. If you can successfully practice day in and day out without provoking symptoms, even though the practice bouts are very short, you can probably increase your tolerance over time to a more reasonable amount of practice.

Hteach in person, but hopefully you'll get the idea. Good luck.

Ken
Thanks so much Ken! It's definetly a muscles issue what I'm experiencing. I don't have these pain in other activity than playing pipes. After 3-4 mins of playing, especially with drones one that requires me a lot of pressure on the bag, my left arm muscles start "cramping", but also "aching".

Try to carry something heavy with your arm at 90°with your body, and with palm of the hand facing to the floor and after a while you'll feel what I'm feeling. That's definetly the best way I can describe it ;)

By the way, my muscles just feel tired, It's not a real pain. I can practice more session a day without my muscles feeling too stressed.

One of the problem could be my bag position. I've seen many player that leave the bag pretty layed down; others tend to put the bag upper, near the armpit. I've tried the second and it's easier to pressure the bag; but on the other side my stock and drones get a strange 50° inclination that doesn't look good looking myself at the mirror! (yes, I do it regularly :))

Thanks again for you time guys!
melagodo

outofthebox
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Re: New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by outofthebox » Mon May 16, 2011 4:14 am

Yes - this is something that all bagpipe beginners get. It's due to the unusual tension in the bag arm. Here's an exercise which I still use and have found useful. Get a soccer ball that is a little flat and put it under your left arm and slowly squeeze it in and out. Start off with a small number of compressions and then increase the number every day. This will help to train the relevant muscles in your bag arm and shoulder to work better and will also help to develop the press and release reflex which is so important for piping.

I'd also reccommend that you keep the bag as low as possible so that you get used to controlling the pressure with just your left elbow. Also don't play with the drones yet, until you get comfortable playing the chanter on its own.

melagodo
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Re: New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by melagodo » Mon May 16, 2011 4:24 am

outofthebox wrote:Yes - this is something that all bagpipe beginners get. It's due to the unusual tension in the bag arm. Here's an exercise which I still use and have found useful. Get a soccer ball that is a little flat and put it under your left arm and slowly squeeze it in and out. Start off with a small number of compressions and then increase the number every day. This will help to train the relevant muscles in your bag arm and shoulder to work better and will also help to develop the press and release reflex which is so important for piping.

I'd also reccommend that you keep the bag as low as possible so that you get used to controlling the pressure with just your left elbow. Also don't play with the drones yet, until you get comfortable playing the chanter on its own.
Will start today to do that!
A thing that I've already asked is this one...you're supposed to relax the bag arm a bit while inflating with the bellows, right? If it's true that I'm a total noob in piping, I get some problems with the tenor drone reed. I'm not trying to play chanter and drones together, but I've noticed that pressure needed for each of them are quite different compared to the pressure need for the solo chanter (and I'm not speaking about strenght only). BTW, as soon as I relaxe the bag arm a bit while inflating with the bellows, the tenor drone reed "collapse". It just plays an awful sound. Is it supposed to be that sensitive to pressure? Listening to the chanter or the other drones, the sound sounds pretty stable, it's just that damn tenor drone reed.... :P

Thank you very much for your suggestions!
melagodo

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djm
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Re: New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by djm » Mon May 16, 2011 6:12 am

It sounds like your drone reeds need some work. If you are totally new to piping as you say I would second the recommendation above, to just work on the chanter for now. It will be at least a year, if not two, before you are ready for drones. You mentioned a teacher. Have them look at your drone reeds for you.

If you don't have a reed book yet I would suggest getting the one by DM Quinn and the one by Dave Hegarty from NPU. There's enough information and suggestions in there to solve most reed issues.

djm
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melagodo
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Re: New to Uillean Pipes: what about my muscles?

Post by melagodo » Mon May 16, 2011 7:22 am

djm wrote:It sounds like your drone reeds need some work. If you are totally new to piping as you say I would second the recommendation above, to just work on the chanter for now. It will be at least a year, if not two, before you are ready for drones. You mentioned a teacher. Have them look at your drone reeds for you.

If you don't have a reed book yet I would suggest getting the one by DM Quinn and the one by Dave Hegarty from NPU. There's enough information and suggestions in there to solve most reed issues.

djm
Yeah, will do that! I just can't resist in trying my drones every now and then ;) But I've also notice that I tend to under-over pressure some note with the chanter alone. If that works with the chanter (not a perfect sound but sounds quite right), it does not with the drones on. That's why sometimes I turn my drones on. And also to develop my muscles in a proper way: as I wrote, pressure required for the chanter is sooo lighter than that one for the drones. But I'm not aiming in any way to play chanter and drones together at this early stage.

As for now, I'll leave the reed tweaking to my teacher, I think it's too early to start working on them...they really scare me :P
But still, the love that I felt for this instrument during the long months of waiting for it had grown up exponencially once I started playing it!

Have a good piping to all of you,
Sincerely

melagodo

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