January 25, 2009

Learning Some New Moves

I was practicing my violin today and once again was working on my vibrato. As part of my New Year's goals, I began doing exercises to develop my vibrato a few weeks ago. It's not easy. If anything, it's made me realize I have some really weak wrists.

The vibrato is a quick wrist movement that turns a dull, flat note into a sweet, undulating sound. And, if I do say so myself, it makes slow, melodic music (the kind a person might play at, say, a wedding) sound much better.

I've been doing a series of exercises to help me develop this playing technique. My old violin workbooks from sixth grade have come in handy in recent weeks. I practice by waving at myself, then waving with violin in hand, then placing a finger on a string and moving my hand in a polishing the string, wrist waving motion. I've progressed to where I have the correct movement, but I just can't do it fast enough. I play the note and then the note just above it, sliding back and forth between the two as quickly as possible. Because I am slow, instead of the notes sounding beautiful and melodic my vibrato produces a sound akin to a drunk, mooing cow. "MOO-moo-MOO-moo-MOO-moo..." You get it. If you don't get it, trust me you don't want me to post video of my developing vibrato.

Since I have the technique down, what I'm realizing I need to do is strengthen my wrists so I can move them faster. They are so weak. And I've noticed their lack of strength in other areas as well, like when doing Pilate's or yoga. Any position that involves resting the majority of my weight on one or both hands for more than 5 seconds immediately becomes a challenging move.

It's been kind of a weird realization that I have weak wrists. I've never noticed it until now, but now that I have, I'm almost as concerned with strengthening my wrists as I am my legs or arms or stomach muscles.

I've never looked into strengthening my wrists but was not surprised to learn that Google provided many answers to my problem. This Web site has the most doable exercises, so these are the exercises I will be doing. While I strengthen my legs and lungs with my running routine, I also will be strengthening my wrists with the following exercises (in case any of you have weak wrists as well):

One, Two, Three Finger Exercises
- For the best hand function, you should be able to touch the tips of your fingers to the palm and straighten the fingers completely. Use the one-two- three approach to stretch and strengthen fingers.
- To bend fingers:
--(1) Begin bending the joint closest to the tip of the finger
--(2) Bend the middle joint
--(3) When your fingertips are touching the palm, or are as close as possible, bend the knuckle joint.
- To straighten your fingers, just do the movements in reverse. You can exercise your fingers individually or together, using your other hand to help if necessary.

Thumb Walk
Holding your wrist straight, form the letter "O" by lightly touching your thumb to each fingertip. After each "O" straighten and spread your fingers. Use the other hand to help if needed.

Hi and Bye
- To strengthen and limber your wrist, rest your forearm on a table with your hand over the edge. Keep fingers relaxed and bend your wrist up and down.
- To strengthen the small muscles of the hand, slide your arm back until your fingers hang over with your knuckles at the table edge. Keeping your fingers straight and together and your palm flat, move your fingers up and down.

Door Opener
This exercise stretches the muscles and ligaments that rotate the forearm, letting you turn doorknobs, use a screwdriver, of put your hand in your back pocket.
- Start with your forearm resting on a table, palm down.
- Keeping your little finger on the table, turn your hand so the palm faces up.
- If you use your other hand to help, grip your forearm, not the wrist or hand

1 comment:

kelsalynn said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one and I'm surprised you never noticed up until now... I notice it the most when I'm cooking and I try to lift a pot or pan with food in it and say, carry it over to the sink or strain it or pour something... it's terrible. I tried to do some of the wrist exercises while I was reading your blog, but I couldn't do some of them. Not at all surprising I suppose...