Muscle fatigue and practice regiment (self learner)
Hello and thank you in advance for any advice or tips. I'm a slightly advanced self learner, obsessed with technique and correct foundations so I can maximize my ability to perform and don't develop issues later.
I recently practiced for 6 hours, my longest session to date as I'm just now comfortable focusing on playing than just technique. By the end, I had feeling of tension in my collar bone. I scheduled a 30 minute session with a tutor and he quickly spotted that I was holding the instrument too far out.
With the hold correction, I haven't had any more problems with my collar bone. However, I've had a tense spot in the mid back of my bow arm and feel a sort of "exhaustion" in my whole torso and shoulders when practicing, as well as scattered focus even in short sessions. I recognize this as a form of muscle fatigue.
My question is, what exercises or stretches can I do to help? Is there a specific regiment I can follow to gradually build up endurance?
I have looked up many resources on my journey but I am sure there are thousands more. Respect and Bless
Are you able to get lessons? If not, that's okay. In your particular case, it would be helpful to post a picture/video so we v.commers can give you more relevant info. Also, have you tried stretching out your tired muscles? It can help relieve the fatigue/pain if it lasts a while, though this is not a long-term solution. I also advise looking at yourself in a mirror to see yourself at all angles so you can make more accurate observations. Also, try to be relaxed. Take lots of breaks, not only for your physical health, but for mental health as well.
Ella, the video is a great idea. I will work on that tonight. I am a perfectionist so it will take a few recordings. The tutor also pointed out that I'm pressing to hard on the strings so I'm working at relaxing my left hand. I come from 12 years of playing guitar so there are adjustments.
Please pardon intonation flaws. It's a work in progress. My own critique, I know I have practically no flexibility in my bow wrist which I'm working on with various practices on youtube I've found, including the colle, strengthening and stretching. It's really so much to take in, I know you can't learn it all in one go. Sometimes you have to sacrifice attention on one aspect to hone in on another. I am trying to balance everything overall do as not to become stagnant or bored. Thank you
Great work for a self-learner. Your intonation is next to perfect with only minor issues. Make sure both notes match exactly for octaves. You're getting a full sound from your violin. However, I think it sounds surfacy sometimes, especially in the middle of the stroke. Try to keep your arm relaxed and at an angle so that energy can flow as smoothly as possible. Also make sure your bow hold is correct. Also pay attention to where the bow's on the string (it should be closish to the bridge, though being close to the fingerboard is good for quiet passages). Also make sure you're using all the hairs.
Yes, I have been practicing even pressure throughout the bow but it gets tricky in the middle and I still get a bounce when pushing up on E. My bow hold usually starts out correct but my ring finger works its way off the frog as I lose track of it and I don't think I fully grasp the relation of the first finger so I have been experimenting with it. Again, work on progress.
Check the balance of your bow. If you hold it in the air horizontally, does the bow tip one way or the other. A balanced bow should feel natural when you hold it horizontally in a straight line. Make sure you're using enough rosin. Also, are you able to look into a low-cost violin class or the like, or online Skype lessons or video exchanges? I don't mean to force you into lessons, but it would really be beneficial if at all possible. I understand that difficult life situations prevent lesson opportunities, but I'm just throwing alternates out there besides one-on-one private in-person instruction, just in case you don't know.
I actually just replaced the rosin that came with my Cremona SV500 for a much better quality rosin. The bow I have is what came with the violin, which suffices for now. I have felt other bows that feel more comfortable and I plan to get one later down the road. As far as alternates to one on one instruction, I will look it up and see if there is anything in my area as well as into the Skype alternative. No worries, I also feel I would accel much faster under guidance.
Thinking about how the body is used in playing the violin and how awkward the violin playing position is, I would say its a miracle if an adult learner didnt have physical problems when playing for hours and hours. I would say playing for many hours is very hard on the body and not a good thing to do. I dont know how long you have played the violin, but to not get physical ailments from playing the time of practise should extend gradually. 6 hours sounds simple madness on your level. And if you really really want to play so long, you really really need a teacher and still it is not wise.
Very good playing and you have a great sound. Just keep practicing as you presently are. You have a great tutor. Welcome to Violinist .com Gabriel.
Thank you, Maria. I am aware of the difficulties and the mechanics of a child learner versus an adult. I do not seek to perform miracles or defy madness. That is why I ask for advice and recommendations.
I'm currently a little obsessed with Ilya Grubert's performance of Weiniawski's Variations on an original theme. I have been watching Gruberts other performances and his bow hand, it doesn't look like he uses a traditional bow hold but I admire and am a little in awe of how relaxed his hand is. My wrist turns out at the bottom of the bow as a natural consequence of not having fundamental mastery of the mechanics yet. I am also open to links of masters that I can observe their techniques. I found a great one of a Menuhin and Oistrakh as well, it's awesome to see two talented players side by side.
Hi Gabriel, I agree that the basic movement looks pretty good. Solid straight bow movement and a nice full sound. The connections between the different phases of the movement are also nice. To make things even smoother maybe you could give the following exercise a try:
Thank you Stefan, it makes perfect sense. In the sense of the bow arm, it had not occured to me to simply "use" more gravity though it is certainly a common sense concept. It sounds like it will help with tightness and lighten the load of my shoulder.
I believe the jaw movement was to compensate for the pressure I was putting on the fretboard. I was holding the violin without bow just focusing on relaxing and I brought my hand around to the fretboard with the same idea but when I checked what my body was doing, my jaw had swung out like an automated response. Going to practice fingering the board with no bow for a bit and stick with Stefan's excercises. Sincerest gratitude.
Gabriel Blake said: "I'm currently a little obsessed with Ilya Grubert's performance of Weiniawski's Variations on an original theme."
Thank you, John. I do have ambitions/mental daydreams of training or at least being privy to observations and listening to certain circles of violin players as I progress. I do want to become involved in a musical scene. My progression back down from first position scales is pretty solid but third position is a whole other story at this juncture that I wouldn't torture anyone through just yet. Like Hansel and Gretel trying to get out of the woods.
Have you experimented with various chin rests and shoulder rests. Having one that fits your physique will aid your posture, though a perfect Cr-Sr setup won't solve all posture problems.
Ella, I haven't been able to experiment with them yet. I invested in a chinrest that has less of a bump but it still puts pressure at certain points of my jaw but that could be due to using my jaw too much: one, to compensate finger pressure and two, to support the violin. My shoulder rest is a fom, which is comfortable enough but does leave a mark after about 20 minutes. I am also going to take your suggestion of taking rests by using a timer. I should call around and see if there is a shop that has a variety of chin and shoulder rests that would let me experiment. Sam Ash is usually pretty good about that. They let me play on a $1200 violin, which was fun. I have thought the Flesch chinrest looks like it may be more comfortable and freeing.
You're probably feeling exhaustion in certain muscles because you're playing 6 hours a day sometimes.
Words can hinder as much as help, but... several years ago a few then regular posters here learned a Milstein-inspired setup from Lisa Marsnik (who was once a regular here). She had been in his masterclass. Whatever view you may take of those debates, and not everyone saw eye to eye with her, she taught me a huge amount. Those archived threads, such as 'Just how did Milstein support the violin?' (http://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/12743/) remain interesting, a thread where Emily also acknowledges learning this stuff from Lisa. EDIT - I see Lisa did not post in that thread, her own fascinating posts are from 2006 and earlier, though there are some excellent players contributing there, such as Oliver Steiner who like Lisa has mix of violin knowledge from both the New York approach (Galamian, Delay) and from Milstein.
Erik, that is good common sense, isn't it? :)
What ever happened to CLAYTON HASLOP?
Clayton Haslop? His site is 'under maintenance.' Google shows me he is still on Facebook, and that he recently bought a Benning violin (he blogged here in 2009 about his 1782 Storioni); Benning's site offers a bio suggesting a lot of Mr Haslop's work is playing on motion pictures. Maybe he is one of those has enough to do in work and life, and who got tired of spending too much time online! Some of those with the most contribute online have contributed it, and moved on--the archives contain a lot of interesting posts by high level violinists.
On the topic of tension, I've found the series of articles from The Strad by Dr. Tomas Cotik to be helpful. These are based on the Alexander Technique but are specifically designed for violin. The articles present a series of simple activities designed to encourage freedom of movement with the instrument. I have printouts of these articles posted in my practice room, and I sometimes refer to the pictures during my warm-up.
Andrew, I found a few starter videos from Clayton Haslop. When it comes to a Youtube education, I think the more teachers you find the better because there are always many aspects to cover about any one topic. Clayton is very articulate when he discusses the topics. Thank you.
Gabriel, I'm glad you found the resources useful. Here are two others I've found helpful:
"When it comes to a Youtube education, I think the more teachers you find the better because there are always many aspects to cover about any one topic."
Jason, the first link you sent is actually one of my main go-to at the moment while tackling my bowing technique. That's one of the more valuable videos I've found. I have done a form of meditation, or quiet reflection, but guided meditation seems like a great idea to do along with the pre-practice stretching to set the mood of the practice.