There’s a price to pay for all things. No good deed goes unpunished, goes the old saying, and indeed, I was about to discover that the dilligence that I had applied to my craft was about to give me some serious gyp.
After many years of thrashing various guitars as hard as possible with a Dunlop 500 .71mm (the pink ones), I had a period where I wasn’t playing for anyone, and during this time I went to Canada for three months. While I was there I played a lot of guitar, way more intensively than I had in the past, and this led to the unfortunate discovery that I had been using my right hand wrongly. Very wrongly.
And so it came to pass that my incorrect right hand technique led to throbbing, burning pain in my wrist. Luckily there were none of my friends around to make jokes about this being a result of my penis-touching, and I got to enjoy my agony in relative privacy. This didn’t deter me from playing, but it did make me very worried, and as time went on I got to the stage where I couldn’t play for more than ten minutes without being in agony.
Something had to change, so when I returned to the UK I went to see musicians’ physiotherapist. He did some tests with my hands, one of which involved squeezing my wrists and pulling them forward. Surprisingly, my hands eased forward with little resistance, which seemed to cause the gentleman some alarm – apparently one’s hands are not meant to do this.
What was happening was that as result of the double-jointed thumbs that I had long since taken as normal, I was playing with my thumb bent back, which was pulling a tendon further than required, and placing great tension on the far side of my wrist. I could keep playing, he said, but only if I played with less aggression and fixed my errant technique.
This led to the Herco Heavy pictured above. Made from celluloid (and available from Dunlop in bags of 24!), it allowed me to play plectrum stuff while forcing my hand into the correct position. Trying to play with one of these at an oblique angle is like throwing bucket at some rope, in the sense that it’s meaninglessly hard, but the right way round it’s a normal pick that you can’t drop. Out of necessity, I developed the hybrid style that’s stayed with me to this day.
Pocky and ticky with a vexingly brash top end, the Herco Heavy (and even its loutish, shackle-esque cousin the Extra Heavy) is not a good pick, but I owe my continued enjoyment of the guitar to it, so guff as it is it’ll always hold a special place in my collection.
So – WARM UP BEFORE YOU PLAY! Don’t steam in like an arsehole and start bashing the chords out, as you’ll get into your 30’s and wonder why you struggle so much after half an hour. Look at your posture, how high or low you hang your instrument, the angle of your hands, and consider using heavier picks (there’s a whole other article on this, don’t worry). If you can’t play it softly, you can’t play it hard, so take it easy! I’ll do a whole thing on preserving your physical self when playing in the coming days. Maybe tomorrow, so don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list!