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Bending The Rules

Cara Krzyzanowski

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Published: November 26, 2013 at 7:03 PM [UTC]

As a middle aged mother of 2 special needs children, the last 15 years of my life have been somewhat challenging, not to mention my own health issues. However, that doesn't stop me from enjoying my 'violin time'.

I'm not a professional, nor do I plan to return to a public orchestra in the future once my children have grown. I just want to relax, and enjoy my daily routine, which will include playing to my heart's content.

In light of some major inspiration last year after discovering a new artist, I have been spending time revisiting some of the basics to get myself back into shape. I quickly agreed that the old adage 'use it or lose it' is true. I was quite shocked at how much I had forgotten.

So, I found my old Suzuki CD's and books for the intermediate pieces, and began my journey in re-learning the basics.

I was amazed upon discovering which muscles I don't exercise on a regular basis. Being the overly enthusiastic music lover that I am, I began playing to the brink of muscle failure, on a regular basis. I know this is the worst thing to do.

Recently, after hearing one professional's advice about brief blocks of practice time, I became more aware of my other bad habits. "Worse than not practicing at all, is practicing the wrong way" he said.

That said, here are my thoughts, or questions, if you will. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

•To stand or sit - Anyone who started with the Suzuki method knows what position our feet should be in. Due to my age, mildly arthritic knees and back, I have to sit quite often. One thought on standing: Is it really necessary to keep my feet locked in one spot the entire time? Since I'm only practicing at home, is it acceptable to walk around, shift back and forth between both feet, and sway with the music? I am an emotional player. We all know emotional musicians just can't sit or stand still.

As for sitting, are there correct and incorrect ways to sit? I often see some people in their seats with their knees completely against the edge of the chair. I see others who scoot toward the edge of the chair. I need some input on this. I've noticed that I tend to scoot forward to free up my torso for ample range of motion. Yes, I even sway in my seat.

• Bowing issues - I was born with a slight defect of my metacarpals. I have small fingers, stubby fingertips, and somewhat 'clubbed' thumbs, similar to a person born with achondroplasia. I am also very petite, with shorter arms.

While I should technically be playing a 7/8 violin to achieve the 6th position and beyond, I am stubborn, and force myself to manage on my grandfather's old 4/4 violin, stretching my little finger to extremes - while using a 3/4 bow. All in the name of better sound.

I have asked several Suzuki instructors (via YouTube comments) if this is acceptable, only to be told "Do whatever is comfortable for you".

The other technical issue I constantly struggle with is where my thumb should be on my bow. I've tried repeatedly to hold my thumb inside the frog where it belongs, just to lose my grip as the rest of my fingers fall out of position.

I'm curious to know if there are other 40+ 'recreational' players out there, in the same situation as I, with any similar physiological challenges. It would be comforting to know that I'm not the only one who plays with my thumb the way a beginner does.

Best wishes, and an early Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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