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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Do you stretch before you play?

November 22, 2009 at 6:30 AM

Certainly violin-playing is a physical activity, and in many ways it can be compared to a sport. But do you stretch before you play, as you would before running or other kinds of physical activity?

Clayton Haslop's blog inspired this vote. In it, he talks about a mentor who advocated not stretching.

Many years ago, I injured my neck -- a combination of stress and overuse rendered me unable to turn my head and thus unable to play for a time. I went to a physical therapist, who gave me some stretching exercises. Every time I played, I stretched my neck and arms beforehand. This lasted for a number of months, until I recovered. As I felt better, I slacked off and eventually forgot about the stretching.

These days I do not stretch before I play. But I faithfully start practice sessions with acceleration scales and other technical work. This kind of "warming up" is almost like stretching, but it doesn't count. Also, I practice yoga, and I find that the more yoga I'm doing, the better I play. The yoga works on both strength and flexibility, helps internal organs function better, makes me sleep and it just makes me feel goooooood. Still, I don't exactly do it in combination with playing; I do it for my overall health.

Do you stretch before you play? What are your thoughts on the matter?


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 9:24 AM


there is actually some evidence ot suggest that stretching is best done after rather than before.  One of the danger sof before is thatone stretches when not warmed up which can cause tears and injure.   I think it probably does alleviate the perils of professional playing  to stretch during rehearsla (sneaky style) and breaks.  I am alos a big advocate of stretching for general health.   I have found significant increase in cardio vascular efficiency as a result of stretching and ,  as Laurie saye say,  general organ function which ultimately benifits the playing a lot.

I have to warm intoplaying very slowly.  Mostly I use simple bowing exercises and violin calesthenic type exercises such as the Thibaud (colle at both end sof bow -down at oint,  up at hell). Warming up with vibrato exercises is helpful too.



From Royce Faina
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 11:30 AM

I do some stretching exercises that my former teacher showed me that he learned from a cellist.  And I think Drew Lecher may have talked about some stretching in a blog about a year or two ago... may have been someone else.

I don't like to get too intense stretching, meaning wearing out my fingers 'before' I even get to play.  Just enough to get a little 'synovial fluid' going to start lubricating my joints.  The rest is done by warm up playing.

Focussed Mental Visualization Exercises of what I want to do and am going to do accompanied by breathing exercises also.

Something Buri stated above made me smile! ;)  I also like a period to cool down after a stint of playing/practice.  Like with any physical exertion on muscles I do not like to abrubptly stop, but wind down, which now I 'will' include some stretching.

a bit more than what you asked, but I thought it might be worth mentioning.

Royce... Have a Great weekend!

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 12:26 PM

 I do some stretches at breaks and during long rests during rehearsal.  It's hard for me to sit too long.  But I don't usually feel like stretching beforehand.  

From stephen kelley
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 12:53 PM

I once read Eric Friedman's comments on the Heifetz warm up in Strad Magazine. Other sources also have mentioned warm ups by Heifetz and Milstein. I believe Paganiniana is a warm up (last stage). I have a set of Dancla, Paganini, and a Bachiana. I also begin in a Tai Chi fashoin, quite slowly. I also use warm water afterwords to soak in. I also tape my fingers to keep tips fresh for performance (to get that Rabin "Mediatation" nuance). And I do yoga (peacock, head stand, relaxation, meditation). I know this is not only important but fundamental. Steve Kelley, Omaha NE

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 1:05 PM

Not really stretching, but more of a limbering up.  Shoulder rolls, swinging the arms around, that sort of thing.

From Barry Nelson
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 1:34 PM

I didnt when I first started playing, but my bow shoulder started to ache and stretching helps

From Danielle Martin
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 8:58 PM

I only stretch out my wrists, gently, to help with my carpal tunnel.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 9:56 PM

Stretching is find but nothing can eliminate stiffness as much as playing for very long (but then the mind is exhausted!).  I've tried many things as doings push-ups to get these stiff muscles tired but... without sucess. Wish I could find an efficient exercise for this.  If I'm a fond of late and night practices, it's because the body is more relaxed and exhausted at these hours (also blood flow is lot better and hands are warmer than in the morning).  It seems that many olympic records were set at such evening or late hours because of this.   But not everyone suffers from this difference between the hours of the day. 

Interesting topic!


From Yixi Zhang
Posted on November 23, 2009 at 12:51 AM

Like Laurie, I do both finger and body stretches, only that the more relaxed I am, the more I'd do fingeretching scales. The more stressed I feel, especially after a long day at work, the more whole bodyetching yoga and little or no fingeretching scales for me.

Scale builds. Yoga heals.

From Elinor Estepa
Posted on November 23, 2009 at 2:31 AM

I do, esp on my neck and shoulders, and so on the arms, fingers, and my lower back. It helps me to be aware if I get too tense and too tight, the way I hold the violin and the bow.

I always take a deep clensing breath or two before I start my scales and so on..

Great thread Laurie!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 23, 2009 at 10:27 AM

I should stretch before, but I usually stretch during and after my practice session.

I wrote a blog on stretching for violinists on Sept. 14, 2009.  Actually I do certain yoga series of stretches which are especially good for the muscles and blood flow of my head, neck, arms, shoulders, and upper back.  These are really useful when I've been playing for a few hours and, after a break, I will play for several more hours.  My yoga teacher is delighted every time I tell her how yoga is useful for violinists.  I'd like to teach a class on yoga for violinists.  Maybe I'll write a blog about it some day, if I can find some appropriate videos.

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