Violin Bow Arm Fidget

September 4, 2016 at 04:41 PM · Hey guys,

I've had a problem come up a few months ago where I am fidgeting while bowing (see attached video)

the fidgeting is uncontrollable. The right hand grip is also weak as well (for example when playing Bach's Partita 3, my right hand will just suddenly let go of the bow)

I was born a left hander though I'm not sure if that contributes to anything as I haven't had this problem before.

Any tips and suggestions to fix this are greatly appreciated!

Replies (11)

September 4, 2016 at 08:19 PM · See a physician ASAP. Probably a neurologist, I think.

September 4, 2016 at 10:10 PM · Seconding Lydia, adding that you monitor any similar sensations during other activities, and anywhere else in your body - including your mouth and lower legs.

When I developed toxicity ton anticonvulsant, the first indication was fasciculation in my jaw, and the only time I noticed was when I tried to keep my jaw on the violin chinrest.

September 5, 2016 at 01:19 PM · Hi,

Before you run to a neurologist, let's look at possible causes that are violinistic to your problems (and others too).

1- You are raising the left shoulder. I don't know if you are using a cushion or nothing, but you are raising the collarbone to help the violin reach the jaw. This will cause tension on the muscles and nerve that can lead to the bow shaking on the other side. If that is happening, you may need another higher chinrest, a cushion or a shoulder-rest.

2- Your little finger and index are over-spread. This can lead to a straight thumb and also tension in the hand than can cramp muscles in the forearm near the elbow which will lead to shaking. To be natural (and I say this even though over-spreading is popular these days) your fingers should be spaced at the width of your hand. This allows for the whole hand & arm to control the weight instead of pressure from the fingers.

3- You are leading your upbow strokes with the shoulder (i.e. lifting the shoulder up on the stroke) and dropping it back at the frog. This aside from creating tension that cause shaking, will lead to instability of the bow as it is not properly resting on the string. The string supports the bow, not the hand or arm lifting it up.

4- Your bow strokes are not lateral and you don't keep the elbow height constant throughout the stroke. This again will lead to bow instability,as they are vertical imbalances cause the bow to shake. 4 strings, 4 levels of elbow (to quote Mr. Zukerman) - keep the same height throughout the stroke.

5- Defective bow. This happens sometimes that a stick is unstable due to a problem in the wood (in your case, you still need to address 1 to 4). In those cases, you simply a different bow.

6- Diet: sounds stupid, but things like sugar, caffeine, excess starches, and carbonated drinks can all put pressures on the nerves in some people that will lead to shaky hands. Food allergies can also do that.

If addressing all these issues doesn't help, then consulting a physician to find out if you don't have a more serious issue that causes tremor is good idea. The causes can be multiple and the neurological issue may be the result of something else.

Hope this helps and best of luck!


September 5, 2016 at 01:26 PM · @Lynda Let's leave the recommendation of a specialist to the doctors...

September 5, 2016 at 02:56 PM · Lots of folks do not need the recommendation of a GP to go see a specialist. If the specialist deems himself to be inappropriate, they can recommend someone else.

September 5, 2016 at 03:12 PM ·

September 5, 2016 at 11:59 PM · @Lydia Many insurance companies require a physicians recommendation. At least the one's I'm familiar with. Specialist doctors, especially neurologists will charge more on average per appointment. We also have no idea what is bothering the op. For all we know, he could simply just be playing with too much tension. Medically, there could be a number of causes for muscle spasms/fidgeting. Dehydration, not stretching, overworking the muscle/playing too much, a vitamin deficiency, a medications side effect, adrenaline, or, possibly, it could be a serious nerve issue. It isn't for us to say what category that falls under.

Kevin, I noticed the pull up bar in the background. Obviously exercising is a great way to build up muscles that benefit playing ability, but just think about the timing on when you're exercising. You seem like a very in shape person, so, perhaps, are you exercising before you're playing? If your muscles haven't had proper time to recover, then it is possible that this could be the root of your issues. Again, I don't know your schedule or you by any means, but just make sure you're properly hydrated, and have ate sufficiently. Perhaps go a day or two without exercising, make sure to stretch sufficiently before you play, drink plenty of water, and eat enough (healthy) food. If you're still having issues with it, perhaps, if you don't already take lessons, have a lesson with a good violin teacher to look over your posture while you're playing. If nothing seems to be working seeing a doctor may be a good course of action.

September 6, 2016 at 12:07 AM · Is this a tremor that affects any other activities, such as holding and carrying a plate of food or anything else you hold tightly. You should not be holding the bow tightly as this can lead to this sort of problem. I would not call this "fidgiting."

If it is a tremor and it is one that has no pathological cause (essential or familial tremor) a medical doctor may be able to make some suggestions. Ot there are other ways to hold a violin bow that will work (even if they are not "kosher") especially for folks with large hands. Or perhaps a slightly heavier viola bow might work for you.

September 6, 2016 at 02:06 AM · Lydia, Sharelle, and Liz - I'll go see my school doctor. They make me pay this mandatory expensive health insurance anyways so might as well aha.

Christian - those are definitely some great tips, especially 1-4. Some things I just don't notice until someone else points them out. I'll look into them.

Bailey - I've been practicing daily since June as I anticipate to perform in a few more months. I'll give my body a few days of rest to see how it goes. I also visited Taiwan from June to August. Due to the high humidity and temperature, I did not have much appetite and might have starved myself. I do realize this tremor/fidget began halfway (July) during my visit.

Andrew - Since I'm a left hander, only a few activities are reserved for my right hand (writing and violin bowing). This type of tremor does not appear during writing and only while holding a bow and bowing.

Thank you all for the suggestions!

September 6, 2016 at 02:21 AM · Perhaps you don't need to stop playing altogether. I know the soloist David Garrett began developing some very serious playing induced injuries. According to him they began to go away and he improved a great deal just by correcting his posture and splitting up his practice sessions. Perhaps just take it a bit easier on the intensity you're playing at and really focus on calming your left arm. Some swear by practicing 3 hours in a row without break others will play for 10-20 minutes stop for 5min etc. or even just practice 30 minutes at multiple times throughout the day. Just experiment and find out what works best for you.

September 8, 2016 at 01:55 PM ·

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