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Old 07-25-2013, 07:44 PM
AndyH71 AndyH71 is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2013
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Default "Forgotten" how to strum?

I've been playing off and on for about 25 years. I've been playing acoustic with a trio for about two years now. A disturbing trend I'm noticing in my playing is, I sometimes have a hard time strumming fast or complex patterns.

I tend to do a lot of single note lead work so I think I am spending way more practice time picking from the wrist and using economy of motion at the hand. I suspect over the years I've lost muscle memory in the arm and wrist for aggressive strumming techniques. I notice it most during fast endurance strumming like "Second Hand News" by Fleetwood Mac, or fast strumming with a rhythmic pattern like the beginning of "Pinball Wizard."

I'm 42 and also have occasional bouts of carpal tunnel and arthritis. I half-suspect maybe the nerves aren't firing as fast anymore in my arms, but it is distressing to not be able to make your hands do what your brain is telling them.

Anybody else had this experience? I'm hoping if I spend a lot of time practicing strumming patterns like a beginner maybe I can regain skill in that area.
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Old 07-25-2013, 10:58 PM
cheeksmiller cheeksmiller is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 90

having suffered from carpel tunnel myself and had the corrective surgeries I can agree that the nerves may not be firing as fast. It was quite disturbing to me to have the tests done that actually showed the slowing down of the nerve speed. BUT.... by starting at the begininng and go ponderously slow I managed to regain a good portion of what was lost. So I would encourage you to just take it as slow as you need as frustrating as that probably will be and just rebuild the speed and accuracy as much as you can. And DON'T give up. Its in there it just may take a bit to bring it back out.
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Old 07-26-2013, 01:02 PM
DaveKell DaveKell is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Ft. Worth, Texas
Posts: 1,333

I can liken your problem to my hand painted pinstriping. Several years ago I worked for four years at a major motorcycle mfr in their paint department striping an average of three V twins a day. After I was declared totally disabled a few years ago I was looking at a way to supplement the meager disability payment and decided to print up some business cards and go distribute them to motorcycle shops. It had been almost ten years since I pinstriped daily. The first several jobs that came in were horrible struggles for me. I had been a signpainter for over forty years and brush control was an automatic pilot thing for me.

I had happened to read an article on zen philosophies around this time and learned the concept of being "blocked", where your mind doesn't cooperate with your body in accomplishing something you want to do. I found out I had to become unblocked by constant visualization of myself doing what had been so easy for me years before. I would lay in bed at night before going to sleep and imagine every stroke of the brush in creating a pinstripe design. Before long I was back up to my former capability and confidence. I don't know if this applies to you, but it does seem like a similar concept. Even when I go long stretches between pinstriping jobs now I remain confident I can do it.

On another note, after having played guitar for fifteen years, I switched to electric bass to fill the role in a large orchestra that needed a bassist. I did that for another fifteen years, rarely if ever touching a guitar again. When I came to me senses and gave the bass role to an eager youngster and went back to guitar, the only thing I couldn't do anymore was the tight bluegrass lead chops I had before. Strumming in any rhythm was incredibly easy, like I had never put the guitar down. I'm trying to learn fingerstyle now and am desperately fighting the blockage!
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