Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
2,002 posts

I made small warming pillows (like rectangular beanbags really) of cotton filled with whole flaxseed. You can microwave them for 1-2 min (be careful not to heat too long or the cotton can scorch. They stay warm longer than rice bags or other fillings, because the flaxseed contains oil which retains the heat for longer. You can use one for several years and then replace the flax filling. I like the flax also because it has a nice gentle silky feel inside the pillow. You can also put the pillow in the freezer and it will be a longlasting cool pack too. I made a smaller cooling eye pillow with flax and keep it in the freezer for when I want a refreshing eye rest.

If you don't fill the pillow too firmly, it will wrap nicely around any area you want to warm or cool. I usually heat my larger pillow 1 min then squish it around a bit and heat another 40 sec.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
lancashire lass
lancashire lass
@lancashire-lass
3 weeks ago
8 posts

That’s a great idea, having something warm to wrap my hand in will help a lot I’m sure. So,while I was out shopping today I looked for a warm pack. It’s usually filled with dried lavender or wheat husks that you warm in the microwave. Managed to find one in the British version of a dollar store, and tartan too ( I have Scottish ancestry and I married a Scot). 
I have a friend who now he has seen and had a little go on my dulcimer has fallen in love (is this typical when people hear a dulcimer?), now he’s going to get his own but he asked me if there are plenty of tunes that can be played with just a noter. He asks because he has a friend who has very limited grip strength due to a medical condition. I had to admit I didn’t know but I would ask the dulcimer community. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,489 posts

Someone with mild arthritis shared with me a trick she does before she plays.  She heats up a towel and then slowly kneads it with her hands.  The movement and the heat loosen up her fingers quite nicely.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
3 weeks ago
190 posts

Good warm-up suggestion, @lancashire-lass !

You pointed out:  One thing that I have been doing is exercises with a softish rubber ball. I start with a minute or so of gentle squeezing gradually getting harder, then pressing my fingers, in pairs, vertically into the rubber. The whole thing takes about four minutes or until my hand feels comfortably warm. I first started doing this because I was learning the ukulele (I still am). Think it keeps the old fingers agile.

I really need to get a ball & do this.  Can well believe it helps for any musical instrument. 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
1,870 posts

Glad to hear things are working out LancashireLass!

lancashire lass
lancashire lass
@lancashire-lass
3 weeks ago
8 posts

Hi, thanks to everyone who has offered advice on this topic. Lowering the action has certainly been the clincher so, up to now I think it’s fine where it is. As for the thumb it’s very happy now so I can practice a bit longer. I’m also trying to pay more attention to my posture as that really does help, allowing the weight of my arm to depress the strings. One thing that I have been doing is exercises with a softish rubber ball. I start with a minute or so of gentle squeezing gradually getting harder, then pressing my fingers, in pairs, vertically into the rubber. The whole thing takes about four minutes or until my hand feels comfortably warm. I first started doing this because I was learning the ukulele (I still am). Think it keeps the old fingers agile.

Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
3 weeks ago
190 posts

Hi Lorilee, this is why I'm not a therapist...poor instructions that are so much easier demonstrated!  I can understand the confusion.  Don't take anything backwards as I'm sure that would hurt without helping.  Even without talk of angling (which may have started the confusion) what you're doing is pressing against that index finger which is separated slightly from the other fingers & it's pressing back.  (To be sure & not be too heavy, you could make it index finger on index finger if that makes sense.)  The finger really doesn't go anywhere, except maybe a bit up & down, definitely not back &, while toward the palm's not a problem, it's not needed.  The reason I say "a bit" is because the pressure of the two fingers cancel each other out.  The idea is for the lower index finger to be a tiny bit strong in the muscle of that hand, strengthening your thumb which uses the muscle it shares with the index finger..

Hope that makes it clearer & not even more confusing.

Lorilee
Lorilee
@lorilee
3 weeks ago
3 posts

Lois, in the 2nd exercise are you pressing the index finger toward the back of the hand or toward the palm? Since the other hand is resisting, I can see it might be in either direction. I have very painful thumbs, but it's mostly from arthritis. I will grasp any straw that might possible help!

Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
3 weeks ago
190 posts

Scrolling through recent posts, the "Painful Thumb" caught my eye as it's an issue I've faced, not due to strings but what @Dusty-Turtle & @ken-hulme meant about muscles.  This may not fit the problem starting this forum topic, but I hope it helps others experiencing thumb pain due to muscle problems.

I've had physical (or it probably was considered occupational?) therapy on hand problems & have learned it's especially common for women.  Apparently our thumbs tend to be weaker.  There's even a book, Caring for the Painful Thumb - More Than a Splint, written by Jan Albrecht, an Occupational Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist. It's written so patients can understand with over 200 color illustrations, the book can be used by both patients and therapists. 

I bought the book, but nowadays tend to use 2 exercises I learned.  What they actually seem to do is strengthen the muscle between the thumb & index finger.  Can't give you 200 illustrations, but will try to describe what I do.  If more is needed, try your library to see if they can borrow the book for you.  (I don't expect them to own it, but inter-library loans give you access to more than they have.)  Failing that, you can find the book to buy online.

Take your hand or both hands & make a C (for the right hand it's a backward C).  Have all your fingers curled in that C formed by your index finger & thumb.  Lift the index finger & lower it a few times.  (I tend to do it about 10 times, then switch to the second exercise.)  For the second exercise, straighten your fingers out (not as straight as an L, but more of an angle -- 45 degree?); lift the index finger, press down on the index finger with your other hand, while the index finger resists the pressure; I hold for the count of 10.  If both hands hurt, switch hands & do the second exercise for the second hand.  If your hands are sore, you can gradually over time increase this until a time comes when they don't hurt. 

I'm not a doctor or a therapist, but these have helped me when my thumb gets sore.  Since, as the t-shirt says, "Old age isn't for cowards!", if anybody here or anybody you know has a recommendation of a general book of therapy exercises for various conditions, I'd love to know.  I've had various bouts for various ailments with therapy studios in the past & know there's a need for a DIY book.

lancashire lass
lancashire lass
@lancashire-lass
one month ago
8 posts

Hi Dusty, thanks for your advice. I have been considering changing the strings because when I look at them closely there appears to be rust spots on them. Who knows how long my instrument was lying around in a warehouse in Romania.. I have lowered the strings, courtesy of Ken’s very clear instructions. The strings are better and my thumb is thankful 👍 for the relief, and, I have the beginnings of a cute little callous. Buzzy Strings? yes I’d go to see them too!

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,489 posts

There might be two kinds of "soreness" we're talking about here. One is a function of the friction of the metal wire against your skin.  The second is muscle soreness from having to push down on the string.

For the first kind of soreness, I would suggest first that you use new strings.  New strings are softer and less like hard wire.  Second, I would suggest turning your thumb sideways a bit to use the edge of your nail.  Using your nail will allow you to slide up and down the string much like a noter and won't cause any pain.

For that second kind of soreness, lower the strings as @ken-hulme has suggested and rest assured that the muscles in your fingers will get stronger over time.

If you are playing mainly in a drone style, though, I would suggest using either a noter or your fingers.  Either of those techniques will allow you to play faster and also avoid the soreness that seems to be a hurdle for you now.  (I sometimes use my thumb like a noter in the way it appears you are trying to, but I am a chord player who sometimes just breaks into drone style for a verse or two. It is not my primary playing style.)




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
marg
@marg
one month ago
570 posts

Electric tape is smooth and you can wrap a little around your thumb, slides easy & protects your thumb

lancashire lass
lancashire lass
@lancashire-lass
one month ago
8 posts

Hi Ken. So I took your advice and lowered the action of my dulcimer. It’s not perfect, but it is a LOT better. I think I can remove a little more off the nut but, for now I think I’ll let the strings settle into their new position. I admit that I was nervous to do it so I’m glad to say it wasn’t as scary as I thought. If I need to do it again I won’t be so fearful 😊.

 Thank you so much.

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
one month ago
121 posts

Sounds to me like the noter is a good idea. While the thumb is used by some players to fret the strings, I'm not sure it is the best finger to start with.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,870 posts

To lower the action is simple.  You'll need a hard flat surface and a piece of approx. 100 grit sandpaper,  You will also need a 1p and 10p coin.  I checked the measurements of UK coins and those two will work best.  The 1£ coin is 2.8mm -- 'way too thick!  The 1p coin is 1.5mm thick and the10p coin is1.85mm.  Those are much closer to the thicknesses of a US dime and nickel.

Here's what you do:  
1.  Set the 1p coin next to the first fret.  See the gap between the strings and the coin.
2.  Loosen (but don't remove) the strings and slide the Nut out of it's slot.  It may be slightly stuck and need a sideways tap to get it moving.
3.  Put the sandpaper on your hard surface and sand the bottom of the Nut about 10-15 strokes.
4.  Put the nut back in place and tighten the strings (tight but not up to tune).  Check the gap between the coin and the strings.
5.  Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 until each string just touches the coin.

Once that is accomplished, it's time to move down to the 7th fret.  Balance the 10p coin and see the gap between coin and strings.   Follow Steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 above, checking the gap each time between the balanced 10p coin and the strings. 

Finally bring the strings back up to tension and play!

lancashire lass
lancashire lass
@lancashire-lass
one month ago
8 posts

Hi Ken, thanks for the information. I tried it last night and the action does seem a bit high. I might just have to ‘bite the bullet’ and try to adjust it myself.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,489 posts

"Buzzy Strings" would be a good name for a musical act.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,870 posts

At the 7th fret (not the 6+ fret if you have it) rest a pound coin on top of the frets under the strings.  The strings should not be any higher than the top of the coin.   Here in the States we use a nickel coin, and a dime setting next to the first fret as gauges for decent string height.

lancashire lass
lancashire lass
@lancashire-lass
one month ago
8 posts

Thanks for that. I have wondered about the action but I’m reluctant to adjust it myself in case I end up with buzzy strings. I have tried slightly over tightening the melody strings, then re-tuning then, but it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference. I have a friend who knows a local luthier, someone who he takes all his guitars to. So if things don’t improve, say in a month or so, I’ll see if he will alter it for me.

Corvus
Corvus
@corvus
one month ago
15 posts

Also, if the string is too high over the fretboard then that can make it much harder to press the string down with the thumb. 


updated by @corvus: 11/03/21 12:52:09AM
lancashire lass
lancashire lass
@lancashire-lass
one month ago
8 posts

Thank you for all your advice, I’ll probably try them all in combination. And yes, it is my fretting hand. I’ve seen some players use a noter so I think that will help so, when my poor thumb gets too sore I can still practice the beginner tunes. Thanks again.

Corvus
Corvus
@corvus
one month ago
15 posts

Using a thumb, be it the left hand thumb for fretting or right hand thumb for picking, will always make the thumb feel sore when you do it for the first time or after a long break from playing. It will feel even worse if you continue to play while the thumb is sore. 

The following solution works every time for me. When the thumb starts to get a little bit sore, then stop playing for the day. Then for the following week or so, just play gently for about 5 minutes on the first day, increasing the time by about 5 minutes or so each day. Keep it gentle and do it every day for about 7  to 10 days. It's very important to immediately stop playing if the thumb gets too sore during this period, then maybe give it a two day break.

By the end of that one to two weeks of playing the skin on your thumb will be much harder and you should by then be able to play for quite long periods with no pain.

 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
2,002 posts

Ken i was getting the impression that this poster was referring to using the thumb when fretting with the left hand- not the right hand strumming.

Lancaster- you just have to be patient. The callus and toughening will take a couple weeks to start to develop. Don't overdo 'too' much at first. The pain gets less after the first few days. :)




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
1,870 posts

Thumbs are all very nice and natural soft sounding and all that.  But.  If you insist on rubbing it on those metal strings, it's going to hurt!sigh

Yes it will take some time to develop a callus.  You may find that a coating of New Skin or Liquid Bandage or a similar product will protect the area.  A dab of Rubber Cement or CA glue (superglue) will also work. 

The simplest solution, IMHO is to use a pick rather than bare thumb; or in addition to the bare thumb while your callus develops. 

If the clicking of a plastic or wooden pick bothers you, look in acoustic music shops or on line for the thick felt or leather pick often used by ukulele players,  A heavy felt pick sounds almost as good as a bare thumb, without the pain...  Leather picks can be easily made from thick belts found at charity shops.


updated by @ken-hulme: 11/02/21 07:07:19AM
lancashire lass
lancashire lass
@lancashire-lass
one month ago
8 posts

Hi, I’m very new to forums so if I don’t thank you for help please understand that I haven’t got the hang of it yet.

my problem is my thumb. I’m doing what I’ve been advised to do, which is use it to get to notes on the melody string 

but I soon get a fair bit of pain. Is there anything I can do to speed up the development of a callous (?) or do I just have to be patient?

 Thanks for any help or advice.