Finger traction, noise, and dryness…help!

  • Member
    Dewy K. Harpist on #150997

    I am experiencing some very strange changes in my playing, and I’d like to know if anyone has ever dealt with a similar issue. Within the last few months (since October), a combination of dryness and who-knows-what-else has affected the grip of my fingers on the strings. The most troubling outcome is that my thumbs seem to generate squeaking (or whistling) sounds on the strings.

    This only happens occasionally, but the first couple of times I noticed it, it really freaked me out. I have calluses, and they don’t seem abnormally hard or rough, so that’s not the problem. And when I say my fingers seem dry, they LOOK fine and would probably still seem soft to anyone else, but they’re dry in a silky, powdery way.

    I moisturize (I have the Udderly Smooth, Bliss Hand Cream, and a variety of others), and I would be willing to file my calluses, but I fear that’s not the problem. It’s almost as if my fingertips are too smooth (although nothing looks out of the ordinary, fingerprint’s intact and hands look normal).

    As for how it feels on the strings, the best analogy I can come up with is driving with bald tires. It’s a lack of traction.

    When I say squeaking, it’s not due to sweat, since I’ve never had sweaty hands. It’s that something about the texture of my fingerpad (especially on the thumb) is interacting with the string to produce a “squeak,” even when there’s no plucking motion. (For example, a month ago, I heard the offending sound while I was warming up before a student’s lesson and placed just my thumb on the string, and moved it up and down, maintaining contact with the string (but without plucking), and what I got was one GIANT squeak.)

    I can still play, and am still generating a pretty good sound. But these small differences are irking me, because I can’t figure out what might have caused them. Bad habits creeping in? Lack of a humidifier?

    I know this seems like an “amateurish” issue, but it’s new to me, and a little scary, since my playing schedule shows no signs of letting up any time soon. I would like to fix this if possible, and welcome any ideas you might have.

    Spectator
    Sid Humphreys on #150998

    Dewy,

    This is a problem for me as well. What seems to work is using a buffing block (the kind manicurists use to buff ridges out of the nail bed) across my finger pads. this smooths out the skin and gets rid of the squeeky noise. To test if this is the same problem that I have, run your fingers up and down a smooth

    Member
    Dewy K. Harpist on #150999

    Hi, Sid. Thanks for the reply. However, my fingers are already smooth. There are no healing blisters (for once) or any jagged edges. They’re smooth, just dry. I’m afraid to exfoliate my fingertips because I’d lose my calluses. I actually think a little roughness would help my fingers hold on to the strings better.

    Spectator
    Sid Humphreys on #151000

    Too much callus is bad though. Take a nail file and lightly file. You’ll be surprised at the improvement in you tone. Just be careful not to over file, then you’ll be sore!

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151001

    Which kind of strings is it? Savarez strings are more prone to that, or new gut strings with a lot of finish on them.

    Member
    Dewy K. Harpist on #151002

    They are a combination of Bow Brand and Classic guts. The finish doesn’t seem any different than what I’m normally used to.

    Member
    kay-lister on #151003

    Dewy,

    My harp teacher says the squeeking is because your fingers are too dry.

    Participant
    Briggsie B. Peawiggle on #151004

    Good tip, Kay. I’m also with Sid on the nail block filer thingy. I use that thing regularly to keep my fingers smooth and the callouses soft.

    Briggsie

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