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Thomas Metzler

Five Essential Practice Rules to Avoid Injury

November 27, 2010 at 6:08 PM

Janet Horvath is the Associate Principal Cello of the Minnesota Orchestra and author of the book, Playing (Less) Hurt. She will be featured in a seminar at the Metzler Violin Shop on December 20.

Janet Horvath's Five Essential Practice Rules to Avoid Injury

One would think that when we practice at home on our own, injury risk is lower because we are in total control of what we do, what we play, and how we play it! Unfortunately though, we tend to get so involved that we lose track of time. We push ourselves into endless repetition, we try to cram, and we force ourselves to stay put and get through everything we have to prepare. We are ready to self-destruct to reach our goals. This is a recipe for disaster!

WARM UP, first away from the instrument and then at the instrument.
TAKE BREAKS at least 10 minutes per hour, and a day a week, as well as the odd minute to uncurl arms, let go of instruments, and get out of awkward positions and postures.
VARY YOUR REPERTOIRE; one uses different muscles for different types of repertoire. Don’t get stuck on one passage or one work.
INCREASE YOUR PRACTICE LOAD GRADUALLY, if you are coming from time off or lighter loads. Never launch right into heavy intense playing.
REDUCE YOUR PRACTICE INTENSITY PRIOR TO PERFORMANCE. Avoid heavy practice on the day before and the day of a concert or audition. Practice away from the instrument. Mental preparation and visualizations are very effective.

Have a practice plan. Allocate your time wisely and budget time for warming up, cooling down, and a ten-minute break per hour of practicing. If you have a long work to learn, allow several days and learn a few pages a day. If you have several works to learn, make up a practice chart and categorize them according to their physical demands. Column 1 could have left-hand intensive works and column 2 right- hand intensive pieces. If they are mutually inclusive as they sometimes are, put slower, less challenging works in one column. By alternating from column to column, you will be able to budget your time to be sure you are covering all the works you need to learn. You will also ensure that you are working on selections with different challenges using different muscles of your body.

Learn to analyze and avoid mindless repetition. Our goal in practicing is to achieve ease of musical expression. Good practicing entails close observation of musical, technical, and physical details within a framework of a plan with concrete and achievable goals, without wearing ourselves out and sustaining an injury!

Janet Horvath will be presenting a seminar on Injury Prevention for String Players at the Metzler Violin Shop in Glendale, California on Monday, December 20 from 7:00-9:30 p.m.  Admission is $20. ($10 will be credited toward purchase of the book on the day of the seminar).To make a reservation, please e-mail or phone 818-246-0278.

The seminar will include a discussion about why it may hurt to play and how to avoid injury, the typical injuries seen in musicians, back, arm, disc, shoulder, neck, hand, TMJ, and teeth issues.  There will be a demonstration of stretches which can even be done backstage and onstage in full dress while holding one’s instrument. Also, what to do if you are hurt, rehabilitation strategies both on and off stage, and how to return to playing after an injury.

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