Is pain from playing a modern invention?
Another thread about pain while playing got me thinking- Has anyone ever read any pre 1900s accounts of pain caused by violin playing? Suggestions from books or letters on how to deal with/correct it? Or is this strictly a new phenomenon?
What kind of pain?
No gain without pain . Define pain.
Any kind of pain, I'd guess.
My understanding of “pain” in this context is that it means any lasting discomfort, of whatever degree, arising solely out of playing the violin. It usually comes on after a short period of playing, if often present long after playing has finished, and is of a degree to inhibit playing and further progress. It is clearly different from the natural muscular and mental tiredness you can get from an intensive orchestral rehearsal or performance, a tiredness which disappears after a few hours rest and sleep and is gone the next day.
“Ubiquitous” seems about right.
Scott, I was thinking generally of discussions of pain or discomfort in early violin literature. It's pretty common today to pick up a book on violin technique and get very specific descriptions of avoiding pain or discomfort, but not in the really old sources.
I think really young kids start with sponges because there really aren't a lot of good shoulder rest models for tiny violins. Plus, kids have been known to complain about the hardness of certain shoulder rest models. I think that the decision to use a shoulder rest or not is largely dependent on physique except for Baroque performance. Some people really need shoulder rests, some can make do with a pad, and others are fine with nothing. The chin rest must fit the player's physique. The shoulder rest shouldn't be used to compensate for a low chin rest.
Shoulder rests have a tendency to create more problems than they solve . The art of playing without them can be acquired by anyone of any physique.
Really? If you have a long neck, you would need a really high chin rest, and there's a limit to that. In the olden days, repertoire was less challenging. Now, we need a really secure hold because the repertoire is more challenging.
"In the olden days, repertoire was less challenging. Now, we need a really secure hold because the repertoire is more challenging."
Some people have suggested that the topic of pain was avoided because talking about until the second half of the 20th century could jeopardize one's career. If you mentioned any kind of discomfort, orchestras can see it as a sign that you won't last long, so people kept their issues to themselves. Seems plausible!
Pain is older than (wo)mankind. Acknowledging pain is a more recent thing.
I think Dorian's right, I'm wrong, but how did they do it? They definitely didn't spend as much time in the high positions, I guess, and vibrato wasn't as important.
> The art of playing without them [shoulder rests]
There is one more aspect of violin players life style. In 18-19th, violinist were practicing, performing, eating and sleeping. The rest of the time was a permanent hard physical work. No cars, no water in the tap, no wc, no elevators, no sitting in front of computers etc. Have you tried to live without electricity? Did you ever take care of a horse? Did you try to bring a water bucket from a next street and lift it up the 5th floor? What about to bring it back down full of....?
Does that mean people who exercise frequently, or have an active job, are less likely to develop music-related injuries?
There's always pain after playing for long periods of time. You can reduce the pain you feel, or increase the time you can practice before you feel pain by stretching before practicing, and taking breaks in between. Personally, I prefer to not take breaks in between because the blood flow from playing keeps me from feeling pain quickly, and if I take a break, the blood flow slows down so I have to warm up again. It really depends on how taxing on the muscles whatever you're doing is.
I think there's an interesting more general question: How did the whole of society treat pain before about 1950?
Some more thoughts:
With apologies to Trevor's, I also want to put his neat timeline in context.
To be honest "how they did it" becomes fairly apparent if you spend much time playing Baroque repertoire on a Baroque-setup instrument.
Good points, guys.
And, maybe they had just as many problems as we do, but did not have access to modern medicine, physical therapy, x-rays, etc., so they just dropped out of the business and became unknown.
Another possibility. Thanks everyone.
Sorry, I must quibble with a couple of points:
It's normal to get mentally tired after playing difficult music after a long time. If you don't take breaks and play for 5 huors straight or the like, you might get tired from playing too much nonstop. Some insane-difficult Baroque music can include Bach's Chaconne, but the challenges are different from, say, Schaiovsky Concerto. Instead of crazy shifting stuff and fancy techniques, you're faced with loads of double stops, a different challenge.
For high notes in Biber...try his 1681 sonatas:
Sorry if I have moved the thread away from the original inquiry...it's a very interesting question. I'm not an expert on historical sources, but can only say from the few dozen of instrumental treatises I've come across, the authors would only describe what they considered to be proper way of holding the instrument.
Not violin but cello related — an analysis on poor Boccherini and his scoliosis:
People in the 19th century didn't complain as much as we do. If they did, it was either about gout or the vapors. One or the other. That's it.
As is usually the case, I would have to say the answer lies in "it's a bit of everything."
That Locatelli recording above is fantastic! Reminds me why baroque violin music is my favorite.
Scott, you forgot consumption, syphilis, and the grippe.
My usual musical bookshop in Paris must have a group of customers roughly my age. When I tried to slip discreetly into my 50s, I found they started to stock books on musician's ailments..
Certainly any pain resultant from using the chin as an aid to steady the violin would only date back to the 1750's. I think they had more sense before then. Geminiani calls it a distortion. In the same period piano hammers got heavier and heavier and key dip deeper and deeper.
I don't think heavy hammers and deeper dip came about till the 20th century.
Not according to Hummel.
I’m not really answering the poster’s question but in my own case I would have back, neck, and shoulder pain when playing with a SR for long periods. I bought every SR on the market to try and get comfortable. I only became pain free when I ditched the SR. I still use a CR however. I stress this was a solution for me, but it will depend on your physiology and technique what is best for you.
The modern piano was established by 1900, it hasn't really developed in a good way since then, from 1750-1900 it evolved gradually from a harpsichord case with light hammers to the heavy modern piano we know today. The compass of the piano also gradually evolved from under 5 octaves to the 88 keys we have today, I have an 1862 Broadwood upright, It has a wood frame instead of metal and instead of three strings per note in the treble it only has two, and it has 82 notes instead of 88. Broadwood was famous for making one of Beethoven's pianos in the early 1800s.
Biber's Rosary sonata goes into 6th at bar 67. That's as high as the Rosary Sonatas get. The others are almost exclusively in 1st, with a tiny bit of 3rd and I don't think anything else. (He got the effects he needed from scordatura, not from going high up the instrument!)