Seasonal pause in violin playing

October 2, 2016 at 05:24 AM · Hello, I wanted to start a discussion regarding seasonal pause in violin playing in non-professional violin players.

As a hobbyist, my career is else than violin playing, but violin playing is very pleasurable. Now, as my seasonal busy-ness returns as my grad school continues, I am starting to find an extremely hard time finding even one hour per day to practice. In addition, my seasonal arthritis is returning, and I am unfortunately left with no other options than to stop playing until next summer.

I am still trying to make time for it. One of the biggest hindrance is that I am never home, other than to eat or sleep. Which means I can either carry the violin with me the whole day, or just leave it at home. As I have a shared office I can't just let it sit there on my desk.

I also visit clean labs, and teach, the violin clearly cannot come with me, so my compromise this weekend was to buy a metal/wood chest that is extremely awkward to carry, and have it filled with weights at the bottom, and keep my violin locked in it while I am not in my office. I keep the chest under my desk. It was hard to fit in my car, and it certainly was very awkward to carry it by myself even empty. While I trust my officemates to my locked office, I don't quite trust their visitors, and I think this chest will literally slow down any potential theft(It's a bit funny because I was comfortable leaving $7000 palm-size x-ray source lying around on my desk, but I can't bear to leave my violin alone.).

I think by doing this, I am buying myself 30 mins violin break per day in my office. However when arthritis really comes back, I will really have to stop playing.

I'm curious, have anyone else had experienced seasonal on-and-off relationship with violin playing? This year, from January to March, I played my violin only 5 times.

Replies (24)

October 2, 2016 at 12:38 PM · Why not bring and use your $200 Yita Viola at work instead?

October 2, 2016 at 01:24 PM · Yes! you won't need to carry an 8 pound case for the Yita, which you might even leave at work, and your arthritis might improve....

October 4, 2016 at 02:46 AM · Day 4 without playing violin.

Thank you for your advice, but I have had "secondary" violins left at my office throughout the year. It always came down to one issue:

It's NOT good/satisfying enough to play a secondary or a viola. I must play my violin to feel happy.

Also, my desperate attempt to go through violin repertoire on the viola has taught me great confidence in playing in upper positions. I found also that spending 'too much' time with the viola to be messing up my fingering and shifts.

Some might find it strange, but I have been at the same repertoire, and very slowly progressing since about this time last year.

Few things that I have been focusing on:

1. Scales!

2. Aggressive bowing

3. Scales!!

4. artificial pizz(with the bow).

5. Scales!!!

October 11, 2016 at 02:00 AM · Here's an alarming thing I am noticing:

My pinky in 1st position for the 5th up from open is less accurate than my index on the 4th position.

October 12, 2016 at 03:23 PM · Like you, I'm not a full time violinist. I deal with some of the same time constraints.

Everyone is different. I would probably solve this problem in a different way because if I were to attempt practice during a midday break it would likely take me a full 15-20 minutes to get into the mental zone necessary to play my best. Barely time to warm up.

I would instead, practice in the evening. This I what I do. I make some time before bedtime to practice. Usually at least an hour. If noise to other occupants is an issue I would buy a silent electronic violin. In my case this usually isn't an issue even late at night.

Concerning the seasonal arthritis, if the pain was really intense I might take a few tylenol and keep going discomfort and all. I'm stubborn like that :) I would probably play until my fingers stopped moving. Maybe more movement would help ?

I can't imagine not playing for that long. Long times between practice would make most players start to regress backwards. Unless you've played for 30 years and can get back on the bike and ride fast.

November 13, 2016 at 04:02 AM · Recently, I've been able to re-order my schedule, and now I can buy myself about 1hr practice sessions per day.

Now here's an aging problem.

My arthritis is back with revenge, this week in particular, both my left hand, and from right pinky down to elbow was out of service.

Any advices for this?

November 13, 2016 at 04:56 AM · Hold the violin and the right elbow low like Paganini, decreases tension and makes it easier to draw the sound out. :)

November 13, 2016 at 06:33 AM · <>

Steven, have you tried rubbing Magnesium Oil on your joints for the arthitis? A friend recommended it to me and I thought it was amazing.

representative magnesium oil:

November 13, 2016 at 11:05 AM · Hi Steven, I have read of people with arthritis soaking their hands in hot water for a while or washing their dishes.before practice. A liberal application of Icy Hot or Ben Gay to your hand a short while before you play?

November 14, 2016 at 08:42 PM · Hi Steve - I think that someone asked this on another thread, a long long time ago, but have you had any further luck in getting medical treatment for your condition? It sounds very painful, and it is so sad that someone as enthusiastic as yourself is hindered by it. I'm sure we'd all wish you the best of luck in finding a way of improving it.

November 14, 2016 at 09:18 PM · Does your arthritis become an issue immediately or only after you've been practicing? I have chronic bursitis in my right shoulder, and I've found that practicing in short (15 mins or so with 15 between each) bursts for a couple of hours a day works about as well as one long session, but without the pain.

November 14, 2016 at 09:42 PM · As a chemist, I did a double-take when I read "magnesium oil" in a previous post. I wondered if it was similar to lithium grease.

So I looked it up and apparently is an aqueous solution of magnesium chloride. The product description reads, "Our Pure Magnesium Oil is mined as a liquid (with a 28.9 - 34.2% concentration), in its ionic state." The term "mining" just means that a solution of this concentration is obtained directly by aqueous extraction of mineral magnesium chloride, most likely from an ancient seabed.

I'm no physiologist, but I can't imagine why this product is better than Epsom salt as a source of magnesium ion, except that it is, of course, much more expensive. I did a quickie calculation based on Amazon prices and found that "magnesium oil" is about $0.80 per gram of magnesium whereas epsom salt is about $0.03 per gram of Mg. I am skeptical of these "home cures" and would suggest instead that one visit one's doctor if one is having trouble managing joint pain.

I also suggest that you consider whether you are well hydrated throughout the day. When one is super-busy, one can forget this basic self-maintenance need. You should be drinking 3-4 liters of water a day as a baseline (add more if you exercise a lot).

Coming back to the original post, as someone who has been through graduate school in a technical field, and as someone who has been advising graduate students (in chemistry) for 20 years, I can only suggest that you think seriously about finding ways to organize your work better and manage (triage) your tasks so that you are working smarter rather than working harder. Make sure you are having regular and *productive* meetings with your professor so that you do not waste time chasing down blind alleys in your work. Always be writing something (manuscripts describing your findings, or portions thereof), and pester your professor to actually read it critically. My other suggestion is that you cannot be the "go to" guy in the lab who helps everyone all day long instead of helping yourself graduate. It's easy to fall into the trap of being the helper-fixer guy because often that's easier than pushing your own project through to fruition (i.e., dissertation and defense). Hindsight is easy, but had I followed some of this advice as a graduate student, I would have finished in 4 years instead of 5+, and I would still have had time to practice the violin. I've had "9-to-5" grad students and "24/7" grad students, and there's not a whole lot of difference in how MUCH they get done. There IS a difference in how well they think and also generally in the quality of their work.

November 15, 2016 at 09:15 AM · As a general piece of advice to anyone doing a PhD, I'd wholeheartedly concur with Paul, although I'd add that in the writing up period, it is better to be a 9 till 4 student rather than a 9 till 5 one - realistically, no one can write efficiently for more than five hours a day!

November 16, 2016 at 05:22 AM · Tonight, after one harsh assignment completed, I spent 2 hours practicing. I really needed this for stress release.

First, I wish to thank everyone for the best wishes. Especially Paul for leaving me with good advice regarding graduate studies.

I am currently at the course phase of my program, so my hands get cramped up from writing. This may constitute to my arthritis trigger, but playing violin actually helps me relax my mind and hands. My hands actually feel quite good after playing my violin.

However, there is a threshold, in between being able to relieve the pain from relaxing due to violin playing, and too much pain to even pick up my violin. Often I just wake up with terrible pain.

In regards to working on schedule terms, I am really looking forward for my thesis phase. Considering my previous experiences, and interacting with my colleagues, I can say that I will be taking things a LOT slower and relaxed whence the courses are over for me. A challenge for me in that sense however is that I have 2 supervisors, and uniquely, I am tackling 2 research projects, one of which will pave my career(it comes with a learning cliff, rather than a curve), and the other that I've been "groomed" to work on, since I worked on a similar project for over 2 years so far.

In the summer, I was assigned to go to 3~5 meetings per week, all of which taking at least 1 hour. Technically, I was paid better as a pseudo-external employee to the research, and I had a very little say in what I get to work on. At the end of the summer, I actually re-negotiated terms of my enrollment in order to MAKE SURE, I have enough time to work on what I wish to. It was a little bit over the edge, because I gave an ultimatum as to, "let me do this, or I am dropping out".

I do not wish to leave too much detail, but in short form. I am currently doing MSc, if I keep up my standing in terms of marks, I will be offered a fast track to PhD, shortening MSc-PhD down from (2+5)yrs to 5yrs. It is very unlikely that I will fast-track, because my goal is not to graduate and to get a job. My goal is to enjoy my studies. I wish to leave the rest to private messaging, if you prefer.

November 16, 2016 at 05:29 AM · As to Arthritis treatment, I've tried arthritis gloves by Imax. These do work, and worked well for me in the past years. The problem is that these are gloves. They don't help my wrists-to-elbow region. I'm actually going to try an ointment recommended by a colleague. Hopefully it works for me as well it has for her.

November 16, 2016 at 09:28 PM · I think seasonal breaks are great. I have been on hiatus for a while because there's just way too much otherwise going on in my life, but I'm feeling a seasonal longing right now, in fact. I think it's because I've taken so much joy in past years in playing Advent carols from late November through December. I'm lucky enough to not have any physical limitations hindering me. Steven, your arthritic pain sounds awful! You have my sympathies!

November 16, 2016 at 09:44 PM · Paul's advice rings a bell with me - One outstanding colleague in my professional institute had to let a student go because he was always helping fellow students and never giving time to his own work.

I wonder whether the chloride doesn't get through the skin more efficiently than the sulphate (but you can certainly buy the chloride much more cheaply as a chemical than as a highfalutin "Magnesium Oil"). What makes me wonder is that a scientist I met used Magnesium Chloride, not the sulphate of epsom salts, to strip ligands off antibodies.

As regards help for arthritis, there were two fairly recent useful reports on anti-arthritic supplements

hyaluronan {Oe M, Tashiro T, Yoshida H, Nishiyama H, Masuda Y, Maruyama K, Koikeda T, Maruya R, Fukui N Nutrition Journal 2016, 15 :11 (27 January 2016)}and undenatured type II collagen {Lugo J, Saiyed Z, Lane N Nutrition Journal 2016, 15 :14 (29 January 2016)}.

Nutrition Journal is an open access journal.

November 17, 2016 at 03:20 AM · No question that magnesium chloride and magnesium sulfate are chemically different. But inasmuch as "magnesium oil" seems, at first glance, most closely related to "snake oil," I wonder if much will be lost by using the epsom salt instead.

I sympathize with you about the course phase of your program. There's not a hell of a lot you can do during that phase, except try to make good use of the time during the day between your course schedule (which might not bee too sparse if you are also mployed as a TA) and consider forming a study group to distribute some of the more tedious work.

I have to push back against what you said about "enjoying your studies." Yes, you want to make sure you get a complete education and you should not be trying to graduate without being fully "ripened." Which these days means fewer than, say, 3-4 papers to your name, this number is very field-dependent. But on the other hand some programs set time limits on assistantship funding. And if you spend 7 years getting your PhD the person reading your CV will wonder why you were so slow. In an interview you could explain that you need to practice the violin every day but I doubt they will put much stock in that.

November 17, 2016 at 04:29 AM · Paul, as I've said, I do not wish to go further into details, but whence I've accomplished authorship with my collaboration, I will have over at least 400 publications to my name within 1 year.

Even my undergrad research has quite some attention as it is. I also would like to continue working with my collaboration throughout to mid-career. So far, I am putting myself at some risks to make my name.

November 17, 2016 at 09:18 AM · I apologize for trying to suggest something to a violinist. I should have known better. I withdraw my recommendation to use Magnesiul oil even though I know it helps me.

Effects of transdermal magnesium chloride on quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia: a feasibility study.

J Integr Med. 2015; 13(5):306-13 (ISSN: 2095-4964)

November 18, 2016 at 04:04 PM · If "Magnesium Oil" helps you, fine. Especially if it helps you get 400 peer-reviewed scientific papers within one year, that would be quite something. By all means let us know, say, after the first hundred or so.

I still object to the characterization of this substance as an oil, which it is not, and I think the products on Amazon that Dennis linked above are extremely overpriced for what you get. John Rokos is correct -- I should have made the comparison not to Epsom salt but to solid magnesium chloride, which costs about $20 for two pounds (900 g), whereas each 12-oz bottle ($19) of "magnesium oil" contains about 100 g of MgCl2. But then, there are people who buy bottled water to drink.

Regarding the cited article in "Journal of Integrative Medicine":

* The journal describes itself as one that originated as a Chinese journal about traditional medicine.

* According to Sci Finder this particular article has never been cited. I could not find the article at all in Web of Science to check citations there. If it was published in 2015, perhaps it's too soon to attract scholarly citations.

* The study started with 40 individuals, all women, almost all white, all with fibromyalgia, a serious and common but relatively poorly-understood disease. 24 people completed the study. 9 people discontinued the study because of excessive skin irritation. The incidence of skin irritation calls the validity of the control into question because individuals spraying only water on themselves would presumably experience no irritation. Thus they would know which group they were in.

* The study concludes that transdermal magnesium chloride seems about as good as oral magnesium chloride, but blood levels of magnesium were not monitored at all, so it's unclear how much transdermal uptake was involved.

The "statistics" in the paper may support a positive conclusion, but personally I'm underwhelmed.

February 11, 2017 at 02:46 AM · I must sadly inform that I have been developing tinnitus and am at the point of considering quitting playing violin altogether because I am finding that just a stroke of bow on my violin is causing massive headache and ringing in my ears.

I am currently wearing earplugs in both ears to play my violin, it helps but it kind of kills the joy of listening to the full sound of the music I am making.

Before I make a decision I am planning to make ways to make my violin a little silent(without jeopardizing the quality of the sound e.g. using a mute). One of the idea I wish to explore is thicker bridge since I've read a few times that thinner bridge makes the violin louder.

Any suggestions?

February 11, 2017 at 04:17 AM · For the tinnitus, there are special earplugs designed to decrease the volume without compromising your ability to listen for intonation or timbre. These can be purchased for about $20 on Amazon, and you can find discussions of various kinds of earplugs on this site. I prefer these to a practice mute, which kills the overtones so much that it's hard to identify and correct intonation problems.

You may also want to try different strings. I practice in an acoustically lively room, and with Evah Pirazzi strings, I too developed tinnitus. I switched to Eudoxas for a time, and while they were quite mellow (and easier on the ears in a lively room), they went out of tune too easily (even after a breaking in period). I've switched to Passiones, which seem like a compromise between the Pirazzis and Eudoxas.

February 11, 2017 at 04:50 AM · I've actually experimented the strings and decided to hold onto Tonica for the time being(if I could afford it, I would probably go for the plain gut strings).

I did get the special earplugs on amazon, which works great. Wearing them while I play is much better than playing with a mute, but I still miss hearing my violin's voice raw, just quieter. At the time of purchase it was very powerful and I really fell for that. Now it's too powerful for me apparently. Either my hearing to sensitive or it got louder.

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