There is absolute truth in the fact that the more you practice, the better you will get at guitar, but there is a limit. A key problem with guitarists of all skill levels and ages, is that if they are genuinely enjoying playing guitar, they sometimes tend to push things too far.
In my own experience I use to play guitar for about three fifths of the twenty-four hour cycle, and sometimes I payed the piper for doing so. There is a symptom known as Repetitive Strain Injury, or RSI for short, and this symptom is quite common to all types of musicians. If you are a serious and active musician then there’s a good chance that you know RSI all too well.
Understanding the warning signs of RSI is very important, because if you do not heed them – you can set yourself way back in your progress, or even miss out on a good gig. Some of the warning signs of hand stress are obvious. A heated sensation in the hands, and a lock up of the muscles or general muscle pain are the most common of consequences. However, a lot of musicians, and especially guitar players will push the envelope.
How to combat this
Make sure that you spend plenty of time stretching yours arms, hands, and fingers before practicing or playing. A good ten to fifteen minutes is ideal, and be sure that you are in a good and patient mindset before practicing.
If for some reason you have already crossed the line, you shouldn’t be afraid, because there is always a good chance that you will recover fairly quickly from this. However, if it is obvious that you are having problems with your hands, please don’t practice through the pain.
The best thing that you can do is distract yourself with something else, and to not practice until you are absolutely sure that your hands are comfortable and relaxed feeling.
If you are as avid a guitar player as myself and many others, and the thought of not practicing is nearly unbearable, then I would suggest that you work on your mental skills instead.
Work on your musical theory, by further studying chord, scale, mode, and modulation formulas. Read a good book that has to do with the historical construction of certain styles of music, or read through some musician bios. Even better – just listen to some music for a while and let it sink in.
Remember, its a 50/50 that makes up a very complete guitarist or general musician. Half of being exceptional at your instrument is your developed mind, and the other half is the actual muscle memory.
Sometimes these accidents are a good way to reassess and refine your mental properties as a musician. I’m always explaining to young guitar players the importance of playing word games, taking quizzes, or working on conversational skills. These unrelated little games are actually very guitar related, because they help to develop sharp mental processing.
If you have injured yourself in any way, then this is the perfect opportunity to step in and take action. Besides all that, doctors now believe that one thing that can help drastically combat Alzheimer’s disease, is to not let your brain go to mush. They literally conducted a study, comparing elderly persons who fed the neurons in their brain to those who chose not to, and the results were incredible.
It is very wise to practice an exercise repeatedly for twenty minutes straight, but it is even wiser to not practice anything for the twenty minutes that follow.
If you follow this advice you should be just fine, but if for some reason your practicing gets a little ahead of you, and you have strained your hands – don’t panic. With most common cases of strained hand tissue, simply taking a little time to rest is the perfect cure.
You’re listening to someone who has pushed themselves too far, over and over again, but the difference now is that I’m a little older and a little wiser, because of it 😉