V.com weekend vote: Do you stretch before playing your violin or viola?

May 24, 2019, 5:10 PM · While waiting between a set of concerts recently, I noticed one of my colleagues standing at the corner of the room, the palm of each hand on an adjacent wall, leaning her body into the corner.

"It really stretches your shoulders!" she explained, as I approached. I tried it - wow, it felt good!

Stretching before (and after) playing can help avoid playing-related pain and injury, but I confess that I don't always do it. I know a number of violinists who faithfully perform a stretching ritual before playing, and it does help.

stretching

For a while I had a neck injury, which led me to a physical therapist who gave me a set of exercises specifically for helping muscles in my neck. Those exercises cleared up my problem, but then I stopped doing them!

How about you? Do you have a set of exercises to do before playing? What are they? How did they evolve? What issues do they address? Or have you never really tried stretching before playing? Please participate in the vote and then share your ideas and experiences about stretching before playing. Below I've linked to some of our best stories about exercises for injury prevention.

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Replies

May 24, 2019 at 11:12 PM · With all that and many more routines...my neck and back killed me....

May 24, 2019 at 11:12 PM · I used to stretch when I first started practicing for long stretches and playing in orchestras with long rehearsals. Sports took up most of my free time before I started playing viola, so it was just habit. And then I got lazy about stretching after about 5-6 years, and only did it occasionally for over a decade. (It didn't help that, on the athletic side, I quit swimming and focused on soccer, which doesn't involve nearly as much upper body. That meant a lot less upper-body stretching outside of playing viola.) I've started stretching regularly again this year, after having to go to physical therapy for rotator cuff tendinitis and scapular instability.

May 24, 2019 at 11:55 PM · Yes -- although I do most stretching before working out, 4 days a week, and I work out before I play. The stretches are similar to the ones in the illustration above -- plus some other moves that I do lying down on a mat. BTW, I always walk before stretching -- to get the blood pumping fast. Additionally, I do hand and finger stretches on the fingerboard before warming up. My whole warm-up routine takes about 20 minutes.

May 25, 2019 at 12:32 AM · Didn't do it, but it might be a good idea to statt!

May 25, 2019 at 02:15 AM · I am in my late 50s and have recently been diagnosed with a bugling disc at C6 which is aggravated when I play. So I Began doing the PT exercises for my neck also before practicing and it really cuts down on the pain in my shoulder and neck, as well as the numbness in my right hand. I would highly recommend any violin or viola player do this, to prevent an injury!!!

May 25, 2019 at 04:14 AM · I had a viola-related neck injury a couple of years ago and got PT for it and the therapist showed me some cool exercises to do with holding a stick. I should start doing those again.

May 25, 2019 at 05:54 AM · I have stretches on my warmup list, and usually do them. Mostly just forearm stretch and tendons in the forearm. No shoulder stuff, though I'm supposed to.

May 25, 2019 at 07:37 AM · Usually stretch fingers after playing.

May 25, 2019 at 10:47 AM · I've a fused neck (C5-C6), major shoulder/hand arthritis and various tendon/ligament issues with both left and right arms (and other related left arm issues). I stretch every single time before playing and my left arm lets me know when I do not. It isn't a lot - just loosening up my shoulders and elbows, then some forearm tendon and hand work. I should probably do more but it only takes me about 4 minutes or so. Amazing the difference those few minutes make in my comfort during playing.

May 25, 2019 at 11:53 AM · We're constantly told that we should do more of this stuff. But people don't have time. "But it only takes 15 minutes." Yeah but that's 15 minutes for your back, 15 for your neck, 15 for every other part of your 50-something body that's not as limber and supple as once it was.

May 25, 2019 at 01:29 PM · I'm in my 70's. Besides playing violin, viola and a variety of other instruments, I also practice martial arts several times a week. I stretch before playing if I haven't done any other exercise during the day. I've never had problems with pain while playing violin or viola. I can play for hours pain free. My advice to anyone would be to stretch and strengthen your entire body not only your shoulders and neck. Also, be sure you are breathing during playing.

May 25, 2019 at 01:44 PM · Fritz Kreisler, notorious non-practicer, was said to run gallons of hot water on his hands from a back-stage sink before a concert....and apparently had a super memory that allowed him to memorize pieces quickly. I've tried the hot-water warm-up.....still can't play Tambourine Chinois

May 25, 2019 at 09:42 PM · I always stretch the way Elena Urioste shows in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oe4rmsN0NP0

It takes about two minutes to do, is very specific to musicians and I feel it helps me warm up first thing in the morning, which is when I practice

May 26, 2019 at 03:25 AM · My son's teacher asks him to run and jump a bit before the lesson, so he comes with warm body. Then they do 5 min stretches for the whole body, and then they warm up and stretch fingers, hands, and arms for another 5 min.

They do stretches for the full body and head for 1-2 min during the lesson, if the teacher see the need. The teacher is very focussed on the right positions, and symmetry in his back during the lessons.

During the summer camps they do yoga together after long lessons.

At home my son does only fingers and hands warm-up before practising, and he does body 1-3 min stretches in brakes between working blocks. I do not regulate that, I guess he fills himself when the tension comes.

He is 6 y.o. ))

May 27, 2019 at 06:39 PM · I’m glad that a six-year-old is learning such good habits!

May 28, 2019 at 06:58 PM · When I first switched from violin to viola, I got tennis elbow in my left arm. I found an excellent exercise that cleared it up. (Look for YouTube videos, especially on tennis sites.)

I don't have much trouble anymore, and no longer do any formal exercises, but when I start a practice session I normally take it easy for the first few minutes. Once I've warmed up (both physically and psychologically) I'll exert myself more.

May 29, 2019 at 11:45 PM · Warm-up before, stretch after practicing.

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