From Rob Schnautz
Posted June 20, 2007 at 06:08 PM
I was wondering a few things:
1) Is this easily caused (and made worse) by playing the violin (or by bad posture)?
2) Anyone else have this problem? Are there ways to avoid the popping?
On a note of bad posture, which I am suspecting may be the culprit:
When I was in eighth grade, I noticed during one of my extensively long practices (two full hours...I have always practiced for fun!) that I held my jaw a little bit crooked while playing. My lower jaw was about a centimeter to the left (also the side with the violin), which is about as far as the bones and muscles will naturally allow it to go. I wasn't doing it intentionally, but just happened to notice it.
A few years later, the popping began. About every other month, I would be either talking or eating, and I would open my jaw, and there would be a pop on one side, which caused brief pain. I asked my mom and she said she has that, too. She has never played violin, though, so it's possible it's genetic.
Today, the popping happens, oh, maybe once a week. Last night was the first time it happened while I was not talking or eating...I was playing violin. I know, you're thinking, "Why is Rob's jaw opening while he plays violin?" To tell you the truth, I thought it was an awkward time to open my jaw, too. I was experimenting, trying to work on a better vibrato. I decided to try playing without using the support of my thumb on the neck (probably not a good idea, but I was ready to give it a try), which meant I needed to grip the violin more firmly with my jaw. So one thing led to another, and I eventually noticed that my lower jaw was off to the left again...and opening. Odd. I've never played with it open; always talked between my teeth while playing.
Anyway, there was a pop right then and there, which made me decide that's probably a bad way to do vibrato...especially since it felt very awkward in the first place.
So yeah. Any suggestions? (not on the vibrato...that was just experimental)
Anyone else have similar problems? stories?
He believed that problems related to the alignment of the teeth was indeed a major culprit, and he published an article on this in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) years ago. I don't remember when, but if you want to look it up in a library somewhere, his name was Howard Sutcher.
Anyway, my wife had TMJ, and our regular dentist referred us to a recognized expert in the field, who prescribed a tranquilizer. Now, my wife, Christine, is the calmest and most relaxed person I know. It was ridiculous. So I said, "Hey, let's ask Howard."
So, Howard saw Chris once and did something with her bite, and her lifelong TMJ virtually disappeared. I don't know what he did, even though he explained it to us medically, but whatever it was, it worked.
So, my suggestion would be to have a very careful dental checkup, especially looking at issues of the bite.
Hope you find a solution.
Thanks for the insights.
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!