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Thread: Nail/Finger/Hand Care

  1. #1

    Nail/Finger/Hand Care

    I was looking online for some discussion about how to care for your nails, fingers, or hands as a brass player but I didn't have any luck. I know the nails have to be short for piston valve players so your fingers can hit the valves without any trouble, but...

    What about calluses on the tips of nails, should they be removed, kept?

    I also understand that one's hand must be well cared for to prevent cramps, carpal tunnel, and other injuries, but do professional players do any specific stretches or care routines to keep their hands and fingers in the best condition?

    This question may have a very obvious answer, but out of curiosity I wanted to know if I were missing out on any special way professionals keep their hands healthy.
    Natalie Colegrove
    Kanstul 975 Euphonium
    Honor Band of America 2019
    @euphieslife

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by mscolegrove View Post
    I was looking online for some discussion about how to care for your nails, fingers, or hands as a brass player but I didn't have any luck. I know the nails have to be short for piston valve players so your fingers can hit the valves without any trouble, but...
    "Short" is a relative term! In my case I don't need to worry about nail length. My fingertips contact the buttons at roughly a 45 degree angle, so if I chose to grow mine out I have a little margin! Plus some people place fingers on the buttons at a nearly-flat angle, so nails would not contact even if long.

    Quote Originally Posted by mscolegrove View Post
    What about calluses on the tips of nails, should they be removed, kept?
    Never had them, but my instinct would say to let nature take its course and don't mess with them. (I assume you mean calluses on fingertips.)

    Quote Originally Posted by mscolegrove View Post
    I also understand that one's hand must be well cared for to prevent cramps, carpal tunnel, and other injuries, but do professional players do any specific stretches or care routines to keep their hands and fingers in the best condition?
    This is a good question, because two answers come to mind: "yes" and "no."

    "Yes" - if your fingers feel strained, then a little stretching would be where I would start. For the most part, on a standard 3-valve or 3+1 horn, I don't hear much about carpel tunnel problems *IF* your hand position is correct. CP is more likely if your wrists or fingers have to work through a hard angle. Come to think of it, I should do a short video on hand position (adding that to my mental list for next week). Basically, your forearm should be roughly perpendicular to the valves horizontally (your wrist should not have to bend to either side).

    "No" - while it may seem prudent to "prepare" your fingers, I think a good players' warm-up process takes care of this. (I'm preparing a video right now on warming up, BTW.) I start with long tones, so my fingers only have to hold a valve in a static position. I gradually bring in more movement, so it's a natural finger warm-up as well as a chop warm-up. Also, if you practice hard passages slowly and carefully, you develop good coordination so your fingers don't have to stress much to play the passages. If your fingers feel "jerky" as you play, you need more slow, careful work. The jerkiness could cause muscle strain. If your are doing things properly and still feel a strain, you may want to try softer springs in the valves. (I prefer stiff springs, but as I get old I find I can't use the super-strong springs I did a few decades ago. But I still use fairly strong springs for good valve action.)

    A little stretching of the fingers and flexing your wrist is not a silly precaution if you are concerned about this.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden View Post
    I'm preparing a video right now on warming up, BTW.
    Thanks for the tips and I look forward to it!
    Natalie Colegrove
    Kanstul 975 Euphonium
    Honor Band of America 2019
    @euphieslife

  4. Natalie, Some facetious and serious tips:

    1. Regarding nail care: I find that gnawing on mine suffices. Occasionally I gnaw too far but it has never stopped me from playing.

    2. Regarding hand and finger care (and arm as well). I have suffered from tendonitis in my left arm, frozen shoulder, "trigger finger" in both thumbs and my 3rd valve ("ring") finger and I broke two bones in my right hand last year a day prior to a recording session. Make sure you have a really good orthopedist who specializes in hand care and that he/she refers you to a good occupational therapist who knows how to work with musicians. A general orthopedist who specializes in sports injuries may not be as sensitive to the fine motor issues that musicians have as needed.

    3. After a mixed experience with the local orthopedist with my first trigger finger surgery, I asked a friend with the Boston Symphony for a referral and was ultimately directed to Hand Surgery, PC in Newton, MA. by Doug Yeo. Dr. Matthew Leibman is my hand specialist. Dr. Leibman is the "go to" specialist for the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and various members of the BSO. While I don't fit in with that crowd, he treats me with the same care they get, and it is very good indeed.

    4. My Occupational Therapist is with my local hospital and is more convenient. She is very good at working out exercise programs to help with finger, hand, and lower arm problems. Once you get to shoulder, back, and other body parts, you get referred to physical therapists.

    That is my experience.

    Doug
    Sterling Virtuoso 1052HS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HS baritone & Conn 24I/25I euphonium
    New England Brass Band/Metropolitan Wind Symphony
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

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