PracticePrompt Blog

What a Pain! 3-year on follow-up comments on hand problems

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on December 6, 2012

Wow how time flies!   It’s almost 3 years ago I started getting numbness and strange sensations in my left hand pinky.  Over the next few months (early 2010) the condition worsened.  I wrote an entry about it then What a pain in the… this describes typical “hand” issues: cubital tunnel, carpal tunnel, epicondylitis and nerve problems with the ulna nerve.   The post also has some YouTube videos of exercises that I found researching the problem.

So have have things progressed?



I want a piano teacher like Pebber Brown!

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on September 23, 2012

Check out Pebber Brown’s Youtube channel and site!

Pebber is an amazing teacher.  He has some awesome lessons available on-line (500), he has ton’s of free PDF study sheets to download from his website.  There’s a huge amount of talent, effort and thought gone into all this.  Only one problem: he teaches guitar/bass.


Stock Take!

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on June 7, 2012


Time to take stock!

What am I doing? Where am I? Where am I going?


A new year – a new beginning

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on January 2, 2011

Last year has been a bit of an “annus horibilis”.   Early in the year I started getting numbness in my left hand little pinkie, this worsened eventually affected my outer side of my  left hand with the fourth and fifth fingers becoming less than useless.    All last years plans  for learning advanced pieces went out the window!    I effectively took nearly two months off (with just a couple of practice sessions).  I focussed on conservative treatment and stretching/stengthening exercises.   All of this seemed to help greatly.   I continue with these exercises as often as I can remember but try to do four or five sessions weekly.   These involve stretching exercises for golfer’s elbow, cubital & carpal tunnel and a couple of strengthing exercises using hand weights.

The time away from piano provided an opportunity for a re-think.  Upon return, I started working on sight-reading and completing learning all the scales around the circle of fifths.     Now I wish I’d taken this approach when I first returned to piano several years ago.   Still, better late than never.  

The sight-reading has been incredibly interesting.   It’s gone off the boil a bit over the Xmas period, but hoping to get back into it ASAP.   Sight-reading lots of easy material has been very useful, but studying pieces 1 level above the sight-reading level has been very revealing.   These are like a mini-audit of abilities, and completing one piece a week has covered a lot of ground (compared to my former approach of spending months on a single piece).   This has revealed technical weaknesses in my left hand in particular.

Lately then, I’ve been focussed on lots of technique: scales, a Hanon (no 5) and some of my own making to improve my left hand and the weak fouth finger in particular.   All this work being done to a metronome.    For a while I think I was too focussed on just being able to ratchet up the tempo regularly.    Whilst this has greatly improved, its not the key focus (which is increasing control and dexterity, of the left hand).  Alternatively, perhaps I’ve completed “phase one” of getting scales and the Hanon to a metronome setting of 76 (four notes per click).   

My philosophy now is to treat all these exercises like learning to speak a language fluently (I’m still struggling with just one).   What I mean is to completely internalise the skill and play with the brain.   I completed 30 cycles scales around the circle of fifths, but for many that were new I was “working out” each minor scale from the relative major.   Now I try to anticipate the notes each time before playing.  I’ve even gone back to playing 1 octave of quarter notes with one finger, but trying to visualise the scales first.   Lately I’ve been playing quarter notes (1 octave), eighth notes (2 octaves) and then sixteenth notes (2 or 3 octaves) with several repeats, first HS then HT and then playing with rhythms and alternating stacatto/legato.    During the last 6-7 months, the study task time for this has increased from 15 to 30 minutes.   In addition, I have one focussed task to work on the current “worst scale”.

The Hanon exercise (I’m only doing one) has been a revelation.  Hanon/Czerny exercises seem to get a lot of crticism and it’s been useful to default to this camp and take the “I learn technique from doing pieces”.   I now don’t believe this to work.    It just seems so sensible to work on the technical building blocks that are the basis for all pieces, rather than struggle with them in situ.   When young,  my piano teacher gave me Czerny exercises (101) which I didn’t enjoy.   But I can see the point in musicless Hanon, where you learn fluency in generic finger patterns (which is my primary left hand weakness overall).

In many ways, this has been a bit like starting over and I’m enjoying the sense of doing it “properly” for once!

Scaling New Heights

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on May 3, 2010

A new goal – I decided I must complete learning all the core scales in the major and minor keys.   For some reason, I always seem to have found an excuse to avoid this…..


What a pain in the….

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on March 4, 2010

Shoulder (rotator cuff syndrome)…
Elbow (tennis elbow – epicondylitis)…
Hand & fingers 1-3 (Carpal Tunnel syndrome)…
Hand & fingers 4-5 (Cubital Tunnel syndrome)…

Over the last few years I’d had bad episodes of rotator cuff problems in my left arm, lately I’d noticed a sore and tender elbow and have now more recently become aware of numbness and tingling in my 4th finger and little pinkie and lateral side of my hand (apparently this is indicative of Ulna nerve compression). All in my left arm/hand. Previously and before returning to the piano I’d had RSI in my left hand which necessitated changing to my RH for the mouse. Apparently a lot of the underlying causes of all these problems are tendon inflammation, small tears, shortening and an imbalance of the extensor and flexor muscles.


Independence Day

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on February 28, 2010

Well Hand Independence….  I’m struggling with keeping a left hand ‘groove’ going and in time whilst playing syncopated melodies, licks and fills in the right hand and so on…. I just can’t do it!

Here’s one solution:


PracticePrompt – The application

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on February 11, 2010

A first demonstration attempt with the application I use to organise my practice sessions.  


A “Standard Operating Procedure” for learning a new challenging Piece of music

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on December 28, 2009


For a number of reasons  it has been very difficult finding time to practice during the last month (just three sessions).  I decided to have a  review of ideas, notes and thoughts on studying a new piece of music.  It’s an attempt to integrate all the advice gleamed during the course of this year into a single “standard operating procedure” (SOP). 


New Piece – Bach-Busoni chorale prelude, No 5. “Ich ruf’ zu dir…

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on August 22, 2009

Bach-Busoni chorale prelude, this time its No 5. “Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” BMV 639…. (more…)