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Thread: Left Hand Strength

  1. #1

    Red face Left Hand Strength

    Before I ramble, the main question here: What are some good exercises for building left hand strength specific to holding the Euphonium? I have the QHR hand strap, which does seem to offer some help.

    So, I own a Willson 2950 and am only 30 years old. With that said, I've had on-off issues for quite some time. I had right hand issues 4 years ago around the time I was preparing for a recital, but I've discovered that was due to trying to support the horn with the wrong hand (specifically my thumb). I've always preferred to perform standing when possible, which negates the use of pillows/lap supports. I also seem to favor a more vertical bell position than angled off to one side. I'd been told by a visiting clinician if offers a more equal dispersion of sound, and I didn't suffer as much as other colleagues from the 'stuffy' sound of aiming their bells into posts and backstage. I notice most of the pain in the bicep and forearm, less in the wrist, but that may be due to the hand strap. Trombone does cause some fatigue too, but it is more in the hand and fingers.

    I also play guitar, and have noticed strength issues playing barre chords and 'power' chords for extended lengths of time (a typical 3.5 minute long song). I'm by no means 'in shape' or practice regularly, but I notice it less on my classical guitar and other guitars with lighter strings. Pain is more in the wrist, right in the cluster of muscles on the underside.

    Fast-forward to recent practice sessions. I know I'm getting back into playing shape after a few years of kinda-sorta-maybe-ish maintaining practices. At times, I find it difficult to make it through warm-ups and Etudes sitting without wanting to cross my legs for support. I know this isn't normal, people practice for hours at a time and I'm struggling to make it through 20-30 minutes without relief.

    So, back to the question at hand. Are there any methods of strengthening the left hand to support the Euphonium? Am I just holding it wrong? Or is it possible that it might be time to seek out a doctor to discuss the possibility of carpal tunnel, etc?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    West Palm Beach, FL
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    3,124
    Your mentioning of holding the horn with your right thumb rung a bell with me. When I started back to playing about 18 years ago, I was doing that too. When taking lessons from Fred Dart he noticed how I was holding the horn (then my Yamaha 641). He said, "No wonder you're so slow!"

    When sitting I use a pillow to help support the horn – now a Miraphone 5050 which is 2 pounds heavier than the 641. When standing, I put my second finger of the left had under the 4th valve casing to help support the horn and not squeeze the outer branch so hard. This works pretty well for me.

    This picture below isn't great but sort of shows how I hold the horn with left hand. As far as exercises to strengthen your left arm, sorry, but I don't know.

    Last edited by RickF; 02-07-2018 at 04:51 PM.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    When the Saints Go Marching In (arr. Mashima) at ACB Conference Ft. Lauderdale
    Cell phone video of : El Cumbanchero:

  3. #3
    Thanks for the sympathy Rick! The right thumb was a huge issue for me. Sitting under the pipe behind the valves, it just was just too easy to rest the horn on it. I've gotten better with not allowing it to happen, even going so far as to recently move the thumb -Over- the pipe, but not until years later after the fact.

    My left hand is generally in the same position, though the hand strap has my hand lower on the horn and so the second finger won't support as much weight. I've thought about re-adjusting the strap, but tighter so it's even lower on the instrument. The angle of the left wrist has concerned me, but again it is very similar to the picture above. Eventually I want to get pictures of my posture soon, or even a video.

  4. #4
    When I started using the QHR strap, I found that it involved different muscles than I had been using before. It took some getting used to, but now that I am used to it, I find myself supporting all the weight of the horn with my left. I can completely leave the valves with my right hand, which means that as I'm working on the pop stuff for AGT, I can use my right hand to help add some emotional content to the songs. If you can do some left-arm bicep exercises, that will help with horn-holding strength.
    David Bjornstad

    1923 Conn New Wonder 86I, Bach 6 1/2 AL
    2018 Wessex EP100 Dolce, Denis Wick 4ABL
    2013 Jinbao JBEP-1111L, Denis Wick 4AM
    2015 Jinbao JBBR-1240, Denis Wick clone mouthpiece of unknown designation
    Cullman (AL) Community Band (Euph Section Leader)
    Brass Band of Huntsville (2nd Bari)

  5. #5
    It sounds like you're fatiguing your arm by trying to keep the bell more upright. I'll bet money that if you look in the mirror with your bell up position that your wrist is bent inward towards your thumb. That's a really unstable position that both crimps the carpal tunnel and forces the soft tissue in the wrist and forearm to support of more of the horn's weight because the bones of the arm are out of alignment.

    The fix: Play around with the bell angle that comes from holding your left arm in its most relaxed position with the wrist straight while the mouthpiece is on your chops. You'll find a spot where the left arm is still bearing the weight but it requires less muscle tension to do it. That's where you want to be.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist
    www.adrianquince.com

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

  6. #6
    I just dragged up a memory from when I first started using the hand strap -- I was gripping the horn really hard, especially when I was in the upper range, and it was causing thumb problems. I had to retrain myself to loosening my grip, to the point of holding my fingers straight at times (i.e., not actually gripping at all, but allowing the weight to rest on the strap around the rest of my hand. This might be worth trying.
    David Bjornstad

    1923 Conn New Wonder 86I, Bach 6 1/2 AL
    2018 Wessex EP100 Dolce, Denis Wick 4ABL
    2013 Jinbao JBEP-1111L, Denis Wick 4AM
    2015 Jinbao JBBR-1240, Denis Wick clone mouthpiece of unknown designation
    Cullman (AL) Community Band (Euph Section Leader)
    Brass Band of Huntsville (2nd Bari)

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by TD517 View Post
    Before I ramble, the main question here: What are some good exercises for building left hand strength specific to holding the Euphonium?
    I've greatly improved my hand strength and the ability to carry my horn by doing a heavy barbell lifting program (deadlifts, squats, etc.). It's also added a significant amount of power to my playing (stronger abdominal muscles). I would suggest a program designed specifically for strength acquisition, not a bodybuilder program. This is useful and safe for any age group when done correctly.

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