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 Post subject: Tight right-hand grip
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:58 am 
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Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2002 6:00 pm
Posts: 85
I'm finding I grip the chanter too tight with my right hand, causing it to lose flexibility. I have a fairly hard reed but not excessively hard. It seems that reed pressure, though, is what causes the tight grip, as though the pressure involved, particularly in getting the second octave, is being felt too much by the right hand. I don't wish to play a softer reed though if possible. What would be the various factors that might contribute to such a problem, can anyone say, that I should look at? Thanks.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 1:44 pm 
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I had an issue with a death grip on the chanter when I was early in piping. For me it was mental. I was tense, because it was a new instrument, and I was learning how to keep the holes covered and play with a new fingering coming from whistle. How I got over it was just concentrating on being relaxed as I practiced. Also as I got more used to the chanter and bag/bellows, my body knew more what it was doing, and tension got better over time. I notice lately that I still get a little tense when practicing new techniques, like some of the triplets I've been working on, but that's because it's a new finger motion. If I just remind myself to be relaxed, it's almost instantly better, but it's a mental exercise I've been doing for several years as I learn the pipes.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:01 am 
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Death grip is an easy trap to fall into when you're learning. If it's only your right hand (lower hand, presuming you are playing right-handed), then you may be tensing your right elbow and shoulder too much while working the bellows, and that tension can move down the arm to your fingers.

The hardness or softness of the reed has no bearing on it. Like Dyer says, it's mostly mental. Once you gain some confidence in your fingers being where you want them, getting a good seal on the tone holes, and a relaxed, independent, and unconscious manner of pumping the bellows, then just concentrate on relaxing the wrists and fingers. I've heard people say, imagine your chanter is made of solid ice - you'd want to hold it as lightly as possible. Whatever works for you. I just had to think about it frequently, and remind myself to relax my fingers and grip. Over time it will get better and you can learn to play more relaxed.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 8:29 pm 
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the reed hardness shouldn't matter since the pressure reaching it is generated at the bag which is separated from the bellows by a valve, though it can contribute indirectly through overall tension. David Daye made some good videos about physiological fundamentals of piping available on youtube. to paraphrase you have to separate the muscular aspect of pumping at the armpits from the dexterous actions at wrist and fingers. try playing long notes 4-5 seconds or short runs (or alternating between e and f sharp/g) without pumping and holding the chanter as lightly as possible. Sometimes I imagine I am holding a pencil or artist's paintbrush ever so quaintly - and then you could imagine doing that while holding a moderately difficult yoga pose. these new neuromuscular pathways take a lot of work to forge, so be patient and enjoy incremental gains. having drones is useful in developing this coordination as long as you can otherwise play nice notes.


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