Electric Guitar

Newcastle Guitar Lessons

In the spirit of the late Don Andrews, Angelo does not want to make you a clone of himself—he wants you to be all you can be as an artist.

When can I wash my hands or buff my nails?

The one thing I can’t handle is dirty hands. All three of my brothers are or were mechanics, so I learnt to fix my own car. But I can’t stand getting any sort of grease or dirt on my hands, particularly under my fingernails, so I wear latex or vinyl gloves. I even wear gloves when I am cooking. Also, I am super particular about my fingernails. If there is even the slightest rough spot, I have to buff them. So what’s the big deal?

I remember going to an open mike night and I was prepared to play Mozart’s Turkish Rhondo. This was going to be my first public performance of the piece. When I got to the pub, Natalie asked me if I would like to try her hand cream. She said it prepares her hands before she plays. I said “Sure,” and rubbed some into my hands.

The time came to play and I just had no control of the guitar at all. I struggled to do anything right. It felt like I was trying to play with someone else’s hands. So what went wrong?

In my article about Stages of Learning Guitar, I mentioned the idea that we are using complex motor skills when we play. Part of this mechanism is the haptic feedback, or kinesthesia, whereby the sensation of movement or strain in muscles, tendons, and joints provides feedback to the mind, allowing our hands to zero in on where it needs to go. It is this loss of, or incorrect settings, that go back to you brain make it very difficult to perform the fine motor skills required for complex performance.  Something worth noting, this is how alcohol affects your body in that it suppresses the kinesthetic feedback to your brain, which is why a drunk person sways. So if you want to play well, watch how much you drink.

What happens when you modify your physical body by buffing your nails, switching guitars, wearing different glasses, siting in a different chair or having a few drinks is that your mind needs to calibrate the feedback signals coming from your hands and going to your brain.  The same thing happens when you wash your hands, but for a shorter period. For this short period, your hands have physically changed and your mind will need to adjust to the abnormal sensations it receives.

So some points to think about:

  • If you need to wash your hands, wash them no later than about 10 minutes before you play.
  • If you need to file your nails, do it a few days before.
  • If you need a few drinks, wait till after you play.

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