Blog by Katie A. Berglof. She is a French horn player recovering from Focal Task-Specific Embouchure Dystonia. She's proactive about performance arts health, research, and education. It is her goal to raise awareness about FTSED. Follow this blog for valuable research articles on embouchure dystonia, performance-related injuries, and useful information for horn players.
Feedspot.com has selected this blog as part of it's Top 15 French Horn Blogs and Websites to Follow based on google reputation and search ranking, influence and popularity on social media, quality and consistency of posts, and then overlooked by the editorial team and expertly reviewed. You can check it out by clicking on the highlighted link above.
A huge thank you to the founder Anuj Agarwal for notifying me and giving me a badge!! It's an honor to know that my efforts to raise awareness for musicians with dystonia has not gone unnoticed.
As I look back to 2009 when I first started experiencing onset of focal embouchure dystonia, I remember looking for more information on the subject, and it appalled me that there were so few resources or documentation of it. It's as if it were never talked about or documented. Fast forward to today, I can't explain how relieved it makes me feel to see how much both focal embouchure dystonia and focal hand dystonia (musician's dystonia) is being talked about, researched, known about, and being brought up in lectures at conferences, taught about at universities, and just spoken about in general. I feel like in a short 10 years the topic of performance related injuries and disorders has come to the forefront, and I can't wait to see how many more answers and advancements we make in helping injured and/or disabled musicians find help, knowledge, resources, and recovery methods. I am truly honored to be a small part of the huge group of musicians, doctors, physicians, teachers, etc. who have brought light to this very important subject!
...and thank you to my blog readers. I appreciate all those who have reached out to me over the years. I know most of you do in order to ask questions, find answers, find help, share stories, share articles/research, but I can't explain how much you have helped me not feel so alone too throughout all this, and you've done more for me than you know!
Just stopping by to update my inventory of videos over rehabilitation (you can see the whole inventory here: http://embouchuredystonia.blogspot.com/search/label/Practice%20Journal). There's a couple over the last few years I haven't added on here and needed to. Just wanted to start it off with a before vs after video first to show the progress over the years. :-)
Before I got dystonia 2006-2009: I don't have many recordings except for from 2006-2009... but tried to smash a few excerpts together to show a bit of my abilities.
Katie Berglof Horn Excerpts - YouTube
During height of Dystonia and right before diagnosed with it: 2011/2012:....first video of playing in January of 2011, and there was a lot I was too embarrassed to put on camera. But I had been trying to recover my playing since June 2010. The 2-4 videos are of taking an inventory of my symptoms at the time in 2012.
Embouchure Dystonia Inventory and Retraining Exercises 3.MP4 - YouTube
Embouchure Dystonia Symptoms Inventory and Retraining Exercises 2.MP4 - YouTube
Embouchure Dystonia Symptoms Inventory and Retraining Exercises 1.MP4 - YouTube
After: Fast-forward to January 2017 ....this is a video of me warming up before teaching lessons. I'm testing the waters and checking to see how my embouchure felt. I recovered a great deal from 2011-2013. I stopped rehabilitation practice from 2014-2015 due to graduate school, and 2015-2017 due to focusing on teaching. I didn't necessarily stop playing, I just didn't focus on recovery efforts as much or logging things.
Now in 2017 I started focusing on regaining the last percentage of my playing again and started taking some gigs! :-)
Currently onto 2018.....I recorded this yesterday 02/12/18. Doing some light-touch rehabilitation. Testing how long I can hold a note out for and how lightly I can do it for. Notice how there is less spasms or involuntary flexes in the chin muscles as there were in the past.
When I start to get louder, I'm basically doing that to stretch/tense my muscles really quickly in order to relieve tension, and then diminuendo into a lighter sound when possible. My camera died, but I will film the rest of my upper register today.
Light Touch Rehab 02/12/18 part 1 - YouTube
Light Touch Rehab 02/12/18 Part 2 - YouTube
March 2017: Filmed my playing on other instruments; clarinet, trumpet, trombone.
Clarinet - YouTube
Trumpet - YouTube
Trombone - YouTube
February 3rd, 2017: Playing, and speaking about my progress on larger interval jumps in rehabilitation.
Feb 3 Exercises - YouTube
Feb 3rd Exercises Part 2 - YouTube
Feb 3rd Exercises Part 3 - YouTube
Feb 3rd Exercises Part 4 - YouTube
July 2nd, 2016: Playing and speaking about collapsed vs puckered embouchure, tonguing vs air puffs and its affects during rehabilitation.
Collapsed and Puckered with Embouchure Dystonia - YouTube
Collapsed and Puckered Embouchure with Dystonia 2 - YouTube
Collapsed and Puckered Embouchure with Dystonia 3 - YouTube
April 2nd, 2016: Playing and speaking about puckered vs collapsed embouchure formations in rehabilitation.
1 - YouTube
2 - YouTube
3 - YouTube
4 - YouTube
May 1st, 2014: Rehab log
April Video Blog On Embouchure Dystonia - YouTube
January 13th, 2014: Rehab Log after acupuncture
January 13th 2014 Dystonia Vlog - YouTube
February 17th, 2013: Rehab Log...might have already posted this under my videos.
Just wanted to share my mantras in both Latin and English. These give me the greatest amount of inner strength no matter when or what I'm going through. I use them during meditation or when playing horn or in prayer. One of my biggest strengths is perseverance, and these mantras accurately reflect my mentality whenever encountering obstacles/life challenges. They resonate so well with me and I always keep them close to my heart. Happy Valentines day everyone, I hope these help your inner strength shine through as well.
Hi everyone! Just wanted to chime in and share 2 new groups/forums I created for musicians with dystonia on facebook! ....
Musicians with Focal Dystonia & Neurologist Sharing Knowledge and Resources ......This group is for Musicians with FD and Neurologists. The group is focused on scientific-based knowledge, resources, case-studies, and to share personal trial/error done through scientific method of documentation and observation. This is not an emotional group or a place to advertise; no tolerating emotional lashing out or soliciting of cures (or the source of FD) without proper documentation, publication, and that it can be successfully applied to all.
Musicians with Focal Dystonia Emotional Support Group ........This group is for Musicians with FD, and focuses on leaning on each other and connecting with others who share the same struggle of coping with this disorder. Here we share our progress, relapses, and personal journey.
Hoping that these groups will provide additional support, connections, and resources! :-)
Can you see how my embouchure muscles are affected in each photo by the dystonia?
These are photos from 5-6 years ago before I started acupuncture and myofascial release therapy, back when my symptoms where a lot worse.
Photo #1: Air leak in lower lip on left side, corner dropping, lower lip will not seal or stay rolled in. Whereas the right side functions normally. Left side of face is not as responsive, and right overcompensates.
Photo #2 & 3: When talking/speaking, right side/upper lip arches when left side doesn't.
This is a great example of the lack of symmetry that embouchure dystonia can create in the facial muscle function, and how it carries over to other activities outside of horn playing sometimes (not always in movement tasks, but in looks as well).
It can be confusing at first because the right side of my face has tremors and does a lot of movement when playing, when actually it is the left side that is the issue....even though it looks calm, it is the side that is dysfunctional and non-responsive.
What has always captured my attention is that several musician's I have met or spoken to with embouchure dystonia have the same type of lack of symmetry I their face. My family members even noticed it back then. This is something I feel a lot of us share and is the most brought up subject in conversation when meeting.
My question is: Do you recognize similar lack of symmetry, even if in a slight way? Post your answer in the comment section below! I would love to know.
I've currently posted a couple videos of my playing on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/embouchuredystonia/ . There should be two on there of my horn playing, and one on trumpet. I know I haven't posted videos in a long time, so felt the need to. I'm really looking forward to flying out for the research study soon. I am hoping to receive some help as well! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone from sunny/snowy Colorado! :-) - Katie Berglof
Stopping in for a moment to say hi! Hoping to post more videos than blog posts when I get the chance to. I've been busy with my private lesson business, my fiance's woodworking business, and teaching in Castle Rock. I have great news! I will be flying out to Missouri in early January to participate in a research study on FTSED. I'm very excited to be a part of this and can't wait to go! Wish me luck. I am happy to contribute any way that I can. I'm not sure when the research will be completed, but whenever it is, I will share the article when published. For now, happy holidays and hope everyone gets to spend time with family and/or friends! :-) - Katie A. Berglof
MRI Horn and Brass Repository Project (MBRP) Dr. Peter Iltis is currently directing this research project in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (Gottingen, Germany) and the Institute for Music Physiology and Musician's Medicine (Hannover, Germany). The goal of the project is to research and find ways to restore function in musician's with Embouchure Dystonia, and also find ways to prevent FTSED in general. If you are interested in more information, please click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page for Dr. Iltis information. Also if you would like to donate to this important research, there is a link on his webpage as well. Currently the International Horn Society executive committee encourages fellow musicians and horn players to support this research if can!
Here is a video of Dr. Iltis speaking in a new video posted on facebook about the research project. And here are further informative videos over his current research below:
Music and Science: Dr. Peter Iltis on Sarah´s Music - YouTube
(MRI) Chamber Music with Sarah Willis - YouTube
Horn Notes Podcast 12: MRI horn insights, part I, with Peter Iltis - YouTube
Horn Notes Podcast 13: MRI horn insights, part II, with Peter Iltis - YouTube
Horn Notes Podcast 14: MRI horn insights, part III, with Peter Iltis - YouTube
Embouchure Dystonia: Mind Over Grey Matter - Dr. Peter Iltis, Professor of Kinesiology - YouTube
Allegro: Foundation is Created to Assist Musicians with Dystonia This is an article from the year 2000 when Glen Estrin and Dr. Frucht founded the Musician's With Dystonia Foundation. It has Dr. Frucht's contact information, and talks about how they assist musicians with information on how to get health care coverage, and where to go when they need a diagnosis. "Dr. Steven Frucht of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center Movement Disorders Clinic may be reached at (212) 305-5277...for further information regarding Musicians with Dystonia Foundation, send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org."
Clinical and Epidemiological Correlates of Task-Specific Dystonia in a Large Cohort of Brazilian Musicians This is a general study on focal task-specific dystonia in musicians around Brazil. The study was conducted by Rita C. Moura, Patrcia Maria de Carvalho Aguiar, Graziela Bortz, and Henrique Ballalai Ferraz. 49 individuals were diagnosed with FD (mean age 26.4 years; 92% male). The instruments most associated with FD were acoustic guitar (36.7%) and brass instruments (30.6%). They concluded that Brazilian FD music players were mainly male, classical music professionals, around 30 years of age, with arms, hands, or oromandibular muscles affected. They end their study by stating that Musicians Focal Dystonia should receive more attention from musicians, teachers, and health professionals.
Music and Medicine: A Research Model These are slide presentations by professor Karendra Devroop of the School of Music and Conservatory at North-West University that cover a variety of music performance-related injuries, disorders, research, knowledge, and statistics. I highly recommend reading it, as it covers a wide variety of very important information we can all benefit from as musicians. Raise awareness!
First article is titled: "What DOES it take to be a Professional Orchestra Musician?" This blog post also points out something that is a significantly huge part of preparing for focal dystonia rehabilitation! Changing your mindset from a performance technique mindset to an exploratory mindset full of love, creativity, and adaptability.
Everything taught to you haas to go out the window. Foget it all (i.e. all knowledge and practice of technique, embouchure formation, setup, proper breathing...). Literally have to deprogram everything so you can start over and start physical rehabilitation from a healthy mental place. Not easy because musicians instruments and reputation are woven tightly into their identity.
What a great article! If you're like others who lean more towards this side, do whatever it takes to regain even a little ownership of your own voice/sound and expression in music. This is why guitar has always been my secondary instrument. It allowed me to feel creative and free of many limitations at times, or when demands got tough.
"We get similar effects in blind people who read Braille with several fingers at once: they develop a single representation of all these fingers on the somatosensory cortex, but are not able to determine which part of the information received in the brain comes from which finger. Psychologist Thomas Elbert further points out a parallel of this in all of us: our toes are generally stimulated only simultaneously as we walk, and most of us have trouble telling which of the middle toes has been touched upon application of a light pressure stimulus. Indeed, our toes are not individually represented on the somatosensory cortex as our fingers are."
"Dr Merzenich of the University of California San Francisco calls focal dystonia of the hand a “learning-based catastrophe” and a “failure of the brain’s learning processes”. Consequently, he focuses on developing techniques that will help to “re-normalize the learning system”, in helping to newly distinguish the areas on the somatosensory cortex that have become blurred. Although this approach is very new, Merzenich claims some good results in training children with linguistic impairments, such as dyslexia, which show similar blurring of representations in the brain."
I had the honor of performing with the Longmont Symphony Orchestra in Colorado this last weekend. I took a risk and said yes to subbing for the 4th horn player, thinking that it would be doable with a couple easy pieces and one large more difficult piece.
But boy was I wrong about the programming! The concert included Pines of Rome, Enigma Variations, Daphnis & Chloe, and Strauss's Four Last Songs. There was transpositions in bass clef and old notation in some of the pieces and a tiny solo for 4th horn.
I had never been much of a low horn player, even before dystonia, I primarily held principal positions. It was too late to turn back now. Plus I had worked so hard and looked forward to such an opportunity for so long! I decided to prepare for it and hope for the best come rehearsal time. We only got two rehearsals and then the concert.
I was surprised that things went so well! I was so nervous about my dystonia kicking in during the long stretches of held notes throughout all of Strauss. I was scared that either spasms would violently through me off the notes (i.e. ending them abruptly), or I wouldn't have enough grasp on the notes to adjust my intonation if needed to (combined with using my right hand in the bell). But all the pieces turned out to be totally doable thanks to my mouthpiece that made things so much more comfortable.
I have been playing trumpet on a daily basis with my students. I have one class of literally 10 beginner trumpet players this year. For over a year now I've been having to play so many different instruments due to teaching; mainly flute, clarinet, oboe, trumpet, and trombone. On all of them I started out shaky, but my dystonia symptoms have receded a great deal over the year.
Trumpet is the one instrument I've spent the most amount of time playing. My dystonia symptoms are actually significantly less severe on trumpet than any of the other brass instruments. Luckily I own a french horn mouthpiece designed by a trumpet player (you can totally tell if you ever get the chance to look at it) and it looks like a trumpet mouthpiece almost. The rim is contoured like a trumpets, the body is funnel-shaped, but then it is a heavy and thick/dense mouthpiece. Probably as heavy as a trombone mouthpiece.
The feeling of the trumpet rim (it's A LOT of RIM!) on a horn mouthpiece has done a bit of sensory trick for me and my symptoms don't kick in as often. I can't play very much in the high range, but that's due to the mouthpiece and it's rim contour and thickness. However, my notes are stable.
Enough about my mouthpiece! Here are some photos from my first rehearsal. Both rehearsals and the concert went smoothly. I definitely needed that feeling of playing in an orchestra again. It was way over due. I took a risk because I knew I could do it, even if it took a lot of physical effort. I was very proud of how much progress I've made and that I'm able to perform even the slightest bit or every blue moon again. There have been so many days, months, and years missing playing with an orchestra, so even having the chance to relive it once again, just once, is a dream come true!
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.