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The Trombone ForumHorns, Gear, and EquipmentAccessories(Moderator: Greg Waits) Devices to Increase finger strength/speed for valved instruments
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Paul Martin
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« on: Jan 06, 2018, 03:34PM »

I recently started playing baritone, and was curious whether anyone makes any sort of device (some sort of exerciser) that is considered to  be effective in increasing strength/speed in the right index, middle and ring fingers?

If nothing really works, i’ll simply keep playing, and concentrate on the more difficult keys/fingerings.
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« Reply #1 on: Jan 06, 2018, 03:43PM »

There's a whole slew of them.  Here is an ad for Gripmaster:

https://www.allegromedical.com/exercise-fitness-c523/gripmaster-medical-hand-and-finger-exerciser-p568226.html?utm_campaign=Comparison%20Shopping&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&CS_003=9164468&CS_010=ff80818143d86635014441bbae950648&kwid=bingproductads-adid^11570176296-device^c-plaid^1101012330680-sku^999%20568226%2002@ADL10BMC-adType^PLA#999+568226+02&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc

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« Reply #2 on: Jan 06, 2018, 04:14PM »

I got one of those grip strengtheners but found it too stiff for single-finger use.

My suggestion would be to start with something of thickness and resistance similar to a couch cushion or memory-foam pillow.  A large car washing sponge might be similar.

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« Reply #3 on: Jan 06, 2018, 06:06PM »

I have one of the gripmasters and a number of rubber stress eggs of different hardnesses (I play a lot of trumpet and bass guitar). Can definitely recommend something like that - although this is mostly good for finger strength, and the gripmaster is nice for working on fingerings and also if you use the pinky which is notoriously weak.

Working on finger speed is something (from my experience) that just has to be worked on and drilled on the actual horn, because being physically able to move the fingers quickly doesn't necessarily mean the air/embouchure work well in tandem with what the fingers are doing.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #4 on: Jan 06, 2018, 06:35PM »

https://app.box.com/s/4jtozdl49d5yiihsktn50jr9nh4a44cf

https://app.box.com/s/8wrhhb3o1fhvrppnr34rfwkvnbfk3cl3

This is pretty easy to build and I used it to learn fingering when I needed to play euph.  I took the scales out of the Arban book and brought this device to work and played on my breaks.

I think it's fine for learning patterns but I'm not so sure about strength.  You can put springs as strong as you want in it, but that's going to create tension, and I've come to think relaxation is probably the key to speed. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #5 on: Jan 06, 2018, 07:47PM »

strength and speed are not the same thing. trying to increase your finger strength may end up not only slowing down your overall speed but also causing injuries that hamper your development.

practice scales, arpeggios, etc... think light and accurate.  start slow and gradually speed up, take breaks when your hand feels crampy. don't just do long scales. practice 3 and 4 note sequences for example. music is made of patterns - practice those patterns.

speed is all about the twitch muscles. strength training can work against that.
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 06, 2018, 07:58PM »

A metronome is the device you are looking for. As noted above regular practice of scales, arppegios, etudes. As Dennis Wick once wrote, valve technique is not particularly difficult to acquire but must be work at. Develop a plan for regular practice with the metronome, if you have trouble developing a plan find a good teacher.
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 06, 2018, 08:08PM »

I noticed you said baritone... are you playing a Baritone or a non compensating Euphonium or a compensating Euphonium?

The valves on a Baritone and a non comp Euphonium are really short while the valves on a compensating horn are realllllly long, almost longer then tuba valves. The later you do need some sort of strength in your fingers, a regular non comp horn is all about speed and not so much strength.

I would take the advice Exzaclee left in his post!
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« Reply #8 on: Jan 06, 2018, 08:37PM »

Do you do push-ups and bench-press to play faster on trombone?
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Maximilien Brisson
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 07, 2018, 01:16AM »

I recently started playing baritone, and was curious whether anyone makes any sort of device

I'd be very careful with this historically many pianists have damaged their hands some to the point of being unable to continue playing trying to improve their hand strength with finger exercising devices.

You don't need strong fingers but fast fingers that co-ordinate well with your embouchure and tounge.
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 07, 2018, 05:34AM »

I've re-begun baritone recently after a 45 year lay off of baritone, having doubled on tuba and euph in between for long periods of time while I joined brass bands on tuba.
My baritone is a 1950 Besson compensating model--so it must have long throw valves.

Of course the obvious mechanical thing to check is that the springs in the valve are stiff enough to return the valve as quickly as possible. My baritone had a weakened third valve spring, I replaced all three with smaller tuba springs, which do make it more work, but in a 67 year old valve I am prepared to have more work to do, as long as the valves keep moving at the same speed for all three valves.

I had occasion to try my brass band partner's newish perfect euph-- best Besson made now. It was lightening fast. Incredibly fast. So, I know that my own horn's valves are slow. That said--

Exaclee is perfectly correct. And, a METRONOME is the only device needed to improve valve work. If you have the money, go to a local principal trumpet player in a local symphony orchestra for a quick lesson. Their fingering should be perfect.

For perfect fingering technique it'll only take 4 hours practice a day for your whole life, beginning when you are 10 years old-- as my trumpet friends tell me. Finger 3 ( ring finger) is a b*tch. Trumpet players ( and sax players) work for hours a day matching #3's facility to the index finger.


Take your left hand and grip your right forearm.
Move index finger. No movement in forearm, it's connected to your hand only for the most part.
Move finger 3 and see how much movement there is within the forearm because of the ligaments.
There is your answer.

When practicing with the metronome use a mirror to check that all three fingertips remain in constant contact with the valve buttons, even when not engaged.( Routines and patterns need to be memorized for this.)
When you press valve 1 finger 3 should remain in contact with valve 3---this is almost impossible, until you slow down to a crawl in your practice routine and go no faster than you can perfectly so it with all three finger tips remaining in constant contact.

It's tough, and it takes me an hour to do a page of the H.L. Clarke Technical studies that a trumpet player can burn off in 3 minutes, but it is the only way to improve.

The good news? Practice makes change permanent, it WILL improve. And it'll be fun.
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Paul Martin
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 07, 2018, 03:45PM »

I appreciate the responses thus far.

I don’t assume stronger fingers means faster fingers, but it might.

I am doing a lot right now with finding problematic (read slow to execute) patterns like 3rd partial C-D-Eb-F-Eb-D-C, which I can execute only a few times with decent speed before the things start getting a bit dirty, and doing runs with different articulations (to one of the above posters’ comment about coordination).

There’s a style of oompah music (called Oberkrainer) and a particular band, Lechner Buam, which is the sound in my head, and being able to cleanly articulate in different ways at tempo really sets this style and particularly this band apart from most oompah music, which is prettty wretched in quality most of the time, and the baritone player in Lechner Buam set the bar very high!
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 07, 2018, 06:16PM »

Just from a physics standpoint... you do need more force to move a mass faster.

I have't played my tuba in a while but I do recall my fingers getting floppy after about half an hour of punching the valves down, especially the third finger.

You could probably exercise them without any equipment at all.  Just press them on the desk in front of you.



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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #13 on: Jan 08, 2018, 06:18AM »


Take your left hand and grip your right forearm.
Move index finger. No movement in forearm, it's connected to your hand only for the most part.
Move finger 3 and see how much movement there is within the forearm because of the ligaments.
There is your answer.


Are you trying to prevent your forearm from rotation?  No piano player would do that, it's how they trill.  I think overly fingercentric technique is counterproductive.  (piano players once practiced with a coin on the back of their hand forcing them to use fingers only.  Those days are long gone, as a combination of more scientific pedagogy and instruments with heavier touch took over.) 

I also think the minimum force necessary to push a key down is best, and that minimum may be smaller than we think.  Flute players get their speed by relaxation and barely closing keys.  It may work for us.  (I've been working on recorder that way, very slow scales with conscious relaxation after each note, and it seems to be helping.) 
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« Reply #14 on: Jan 08, 2018, 08:00AM »

When I first started learning valves,  one thing that helped was to finger chromatically from 1-2-3 to open & back down,  effectively low E or B to Bb or F, and then backwards from F or Bb to B or E.
Basically the Clark chromatic studies trumpet players use.

Either on the horn playing or just on a solid surface.

An added benefit on the horn for me was these chromatic exercises when played softly are also good warm downs & also legato playing! Either on valves or slide.


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« Reply #15 on: Jan 08, 2018, 11:20AM »

strength and speed are not the same thing. trying to increase your finger strength may end up not only slowing down your overall speed but also causing injuries that hamper your development.

practice scales, arpeggios, etc... think light and accurate.  start slow and gradually speed up, take breaks when your hand feels crampy. don't just do long scales. practice 3 and 4 note sequences for example. music is made of patterns - practice those patterns.

speed is all about the twitch muscles. strength training can work against that.
I totally agree with this, my day job doing electrical work for decades (I'm retired now) required a lot of use of hand tools, so I have a fair amount of hand strength, and it hasn't helped with the speed of my valve playing.  If anything a lot of strength in your grip can slow you down, all that use of my hands like that actually has caused problems like arthritis, and joint pain over time.  I wouldn't recommend artificial devices to increase hand strength, use the resistance of the valves your trying to get faster on.  The best way to develop speed for me has been playing with the valve resistance I'm normally going to be fighting, make sure you are using proper finger arch and position on the valves, and practice scales, arpeggios, exercises like Clark Studies, with a metronome as you can play something perfectly 3 to five times in a row move the metronome up a couple clicks, and try again.  As you progress you will develop the required strength for the task at hand.
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« Reply #16 on: Jan 09, 2018, 02:19AM »

Scales should be a good and free tool to increase finger strenght and speed for fingers. :)
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« Reply #17 on: Jan 13, 2018, 07:12AM »

I‘ve decided to go about this very slowly, working on keeping all fingertips on the top of the valve caps at all times, and keeping an arch to the fingers, and speed up as accuracy permits.

I suspect that this works up to a point, after which slightly deviating from this might be better, but maybe best to see how far this takes me, as moving quickly between, say, 1-3 and 2, or 1-2 and 2-3 is going to take some work, and maybe a bit of movement in the wrist might be necessary after I „max out“ on just moving the fingertips.

Could take a long time!
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« Reply #18 on: Jan 13, 2018, 12:42PM »

I‘ve decided to go about this very slowly, working on keeping all fingertips on the top of the valve caps at all times, and keeping an arch to the fingers,

I would work on maximum relaxation, pressing down on the valve caps no harder than absolutely necessary, and that's probably much less force than you think.  I would also not restrict the natural rotation of the forearm bones.  Some of the speed comes from that, like a pianist's trill or tremolo.  If arched fingers interfere with relaxation, don't insist on them. 
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