The only movements worth doing are the one which liberate

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Finding your instrument

I ended up switching to the alto saxophone after playing the tenor for about 30 years...  I had developed musician's focal dystonia in the right hand on the tenor saxophone.

When I played the alto, after finding I liked, the focal dystonia improved quickly.

Then I switched to another older alto, one which I really enjoyed the sound but it had bad ergonomics for my right hand. This lead to a second more intense bout of focal dystonia which totally stopped me from performing.

At that point I started to really investigate the issue as to what was the problem. I realized how short my fingers are, especially my ring fingers which are shorter than my indexes. The bigger the sax, the more I have difficulties reaching the D pearl, so I stretch and twist my fingers in the process.

After measuring most alto saxes out there, I found a Yanagisawa 01UL which has closer key pearls and closer pinky keys. So on that instrument, I have been able to slowly deconstruct all the parasitic movements and find the original fingers motion.

Also after playing open mouthpieces for years, I switched to a smaller one, with softer reeds. I found out that by fighting less the instrument, I could relax a lot more and play in a more effortless manner, which helped me relax. Every time I would fight the reed or mouthpiece, I would also tense up my hands. As the focal dystonia subsided, I was slowly able to go back to bigger mouthpieces without them affecting my hands, as I learned how to relax while playing. Never less, I still spend most of my time on the smaller one, except now with harder reeds.

Another realization which came from playing a small opening mouthpiece, was the synchronization between my tongue and fingers. With an easy setup, it's much easier and forgiving to match your tonging to your finger movements.

Using an object like a bottle or wood stick

When trying to find your natural hand position. Simply drop you relaxed hands on a bottle or wood stick.

Same with your instrument, don't shape your hands, let the relaxed fingers touch it in their natural positions. Then move your fingers from that position without reshaping the hand.

The advantage of using another object, like a bottle or wood stick, is how your brain reacts to it. Not being the instrument which causes stress, the body doesn't react in a negative way at the touch of it.

Well adapted instrument

Finding an instrument well adapted to your body is critical to not injuring yourself. Some bodies are more tolerant to bad ergonomic. Someone with musician's focal dystonia, should really find the most appropriate and effortless setup to play.

Once you had focal dystonia, the area remains more fragile and need to be nurtured and handled with care. Like a bad stomach from a bad diet... for a long time after becoming healthy, the stomach still stay more sensitive...

If you don't take care of that facet of your well being, focal dystonia can come back or go in and out.

Someone my also need to re-examine the instrument being played, as if it is really the one which is conducive to a long life of music without body damage.

Instrument adapted to your size

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