Arm-shoulder joint pain

November 27, 2006 at 05:52 AM · I am an adult beginner, and this is my second semester with a summer vaction off in between. My teacher is very gong hong about music and teaching, and she wanted me to read/play a lot of music...So I have to practice quite a bit to keep up. I have been playing Bach Minuet 1 (Suzuki Book 1 #13), and found myself suffering from arm-should joint pain. The pain seems to abate a bit if I stop playing and rest a little bit. I am a small person, but like to use a full size violin anyway, which means I have problems with low second finger position in relation to the third and fourth fingers, and I also have to move my elbow toward the center of my torso.

I wonder if my pain is normal because of the contorsion-like movement from my left hand or I simply have been practicing the wrong way. I use a shoulder rest and guarneri style chinrest.

I'd really appreciate if anyone can get out of the pain...

Replies (23)

November 27, 2006 at 06:11 AM · Greetings,

it is well worth getting a small full size violin. They exist and can make alot of differnece to player sof your stature.

First and foremost one should consider warming up and stretching. To preced an activity without warming up is foolish. To stretch without warming up is actually dangerous. It can reduce flexinbilty and cause injury. The purpose of warming up is to get bllood into the extremities.

Where do you hold the violin when you put it up? It is a good idea to have the hand in fourth position not first. The reaosn is that if it is in first you are throwing a much longer objectat your face which trigger the startle reflex. It is also worth pesevereing with the idea of `throwing the violin up` rapidly. Slow is harder and may trigger exces smuscle use.

What do you do with your head as you put the violin up. If you are bioth turning and dropping in the same action to put your jaw on the rest then you are actually spiralling your head down whichis a misuse of the upper vetebrae and causes problems. Try turning your head while jeeping it on the same plane, then just dropping your head fractionally . It is so heavy it will support the instrument easily. Also practic ewith your hea doff the chinrest. Even try looking to your right.

djusting the violin to the left or the right is fine according to arm length but don`t get carried away with moving the whole thing `lock stock and barrel` straight off. You can adjucst the angle of the insturment by moving the chinrest end while keeping the scroll in the same position in space. In your case you jaw probably needs to go nearer the center line of the instrument rathe rthan the other way. It is quite posisble that an over the tail piece Flesch style chinrest would suit your physique although the Guerneri is pretty much the best all round model.

Make sure you are not collapsing the left arm against the rib cage. you should have a space in the arm pit zone.

Remeber the golden rule: the isntrument adapts to the palyer not the p@layer to the istrument. Constantly chekc that you are not raising your shoulder or tensing to hold the insturment.

Take a break eveyr ten minutes and get the boold flowing. Do shulder stretches and rotation type exericses during and after playing. If it hurts stop. It is neither normal nor healthy,



November 27, 2006 at 10:52 PM · I've heard of a bunch of growing pains when learning violin, including shoulder. So it's not likely that we could see if it is a 'real' posture issue or your muscles getting use to awkwardness in playing violin.

There's a lot of good information if you can search for Alexander posts here, and I've been working on posture a bunch too, and still get tired triceps sometimes.

My current teacher is a small-statured person, and plays wonderfully. So, don't let your imagination make things worse than they are. You might try some upper body strengthening that would help whether it addressed your shoulder pain or not.

Light weights Please:

lift weights over your head in slow controlled motions, return to rest.

lift weights straight up in front of you, return to rest.

lift weights straight out from resting to your sides.. and etc...


November 27, 2006 at 11:14 PM · Greetings,

Al, sorry to disagree, but the reason you had a bunch of growing pains is you decided to teach yourself, plus you were working very couragesously through some injuries. Irrespective of the fact you seem to have done a good job what you are saying is not true. I have taught countless adult beginners and they do not have growing pains. The reason is I teach violin playing as part of good use of the body with totasl attention to the body`s reaction as an instant message that soemthing is not being done right.

That is one of the innumerbale reasons why learning the violin with a teacher is almost always better than not. A point that has been made over and over again on this list by virtually all teahcers. (we are of course protecting our jobs too;))



November 28, 2006 at 12:15 AM · Goodness, I thought this thread was down the drain; I could not find it some time after I posted it--Is it some kind of indicator of my musical IQ? :-)

Thank you so much for the responses, which made me realized that I have broken many golden rules:

(1) Warm up: I guess my teacher thought I was should be smart enough to know it given my age. :-) I plea to ignorance. Is there any highly/highest recommended things to do before start playing the violin?

(2) 1st position when I first hold my violin. That is the only position I know. :-(

(3) I usually place the end pin against my "female" Adam's apple, then turn it to the left by 45 degrees or so.

I used to use a center mounted chinrest, and had neck pain (instead of left arm-shoulder joint pain). So I switched back to Guraneri style. After my performance for my final, one of the panel violinists pointed out that I looked like I was in pain. I was because of the chinrest (as I suspected).

I have never played with my head off the chinrest, In fact, I always clinger to the chinrest lest the violin falls off on me. Hmm, now I wonder whether such clinginess also contributes to the pain of my left arm-shoulder joint.

Grrrr, Buri, do I really need to go back to 3/4? That terrible sounding little thingy I have... :-)

November 28, 2006 at 12:43 AM · Greetings,

not 3/4. There really are smaller violins in full size, you just have to ask around a little. It makes -a lot- of differnece. There are also ocasisonally very nice violins in 7/8 size.

It does sound a litlt elike you are using your head weight too much and dropping the head when not necessary or in an odd wya maybe. Try doing a lot of your practice with your hrad erect and off the chinrest while looking ahead.

You put the violin up and then move it? What an interesitng habit ;)

A very useful exercise is as follows.

Hold the violin by the lower bour in your right hand. (sorry about the fingerprints. Nort nice) Place your left hand on your right shoulder. This has the effect of creating a kind of table with your collar bone that the violin can rest on. Now place the violin there with your right hand in the postion you want it.. Now put your left hand in palce. This is quite a well known exercise pracitced by people who don`t use rests.



November 28, 2006 at 01:29 AM · Sometimes you're right, and sometimes you're wrong Buri.. I had a teacher for a year, and recently picked up another one. I really like that you have students bypass the growing pain, but I have just heard too many examples of sore hands, as well as shoulders beyond my experience... Anyay, back to the discussion. al

November 28, 2006 at 01:49 AM · "but the reason you had a bunch of growing pains is you decided to teach yourself"

Um, it ain't necessarily so. I recently went for a lesson with a vigorous little woman whose bow technique is simply wrong for someone with my right shoulder problems. She wanted me to raise the arm higher and play with more force. Much as I admire aspects of her playing (not the bow technique actually), I just can't play that way. I've done very well dealing with pains through Alexander Technique, Simon Fisher books and listening to my body.

November 28, 2006 at 02:27 AM · Greetings,

Al, I know you are a great musciian and a great guy, but frankly I think you have nothing like the experience or knowledge of the violn to -tell- me about Vivian`s pains. I consider taht borderline rudeness.. I have been playing and teaching the violin for a long time. What Vivian is talking about is not growing pains. Player swho experience her bad pains need some kind of diffrent advice or help. It is the difference between average teaching and good teaching. Sometiems right sometimes wrong is a piss poor reflection of what I know about the fiddle and you know it.

Still good friends but a tad pissed off,



November 28, 2006 at 02:47 AM · Sorry Buri, I wouldn't hurt you feelings for the world. Vivian indicated that she too was a beginner though. Nobody was trying to piss you off.

November 28, 2006 at 03:22 AM · Greetings,

I know. That is why we are still friends.

Gotta get my blood sugar back up.



November 28, 2006 at 03:37 AM · Hey guys,

I think Sir Buri might have onto something I didn't even know! While I was trying out the look "right" with my head, I noticed that there was a big deficiency between my chest and my shoulder rest. So I adjusted the Kun leg to compensate it for the space. Immediately, I felt different; my left side of my body didn't need to "work" that hard as it used to. Although I still felt some pain, I am not sure it was because the part of my body felt tender in the first place. I will monitor my changes and report back. :-)

By the way, Buri, what's meant by "throwing the violin up" in your first reply post? I've got my junker full size violin ready for that purpose and also to be held by the lower bout. Just in case. :-)

November 28, 2006 at 04:04 AM · Well! Now that that's settled--I was about 2 hours into my practice and thinking you were po'd about ruined my focus--about... Of course, I wouldn't be obsessed about learning this thing.

I wish I could show Vivian what I was shown a couple weeks ago at my lesson about playing from center. It's made 'such' a difference in my violin life. Buri and everyone spent days trying to get my reach over to G and D for vibrato, and this lady simply changed my world in an hour and a half.

There's just so much to Alexander. And posture. And flowing around the instrument without strain.

I visualize it as a series of machines (actually machines was someone else's initial image that I took to the limits), and truly began finding my ranges of motion. 1-the arm under the instrument. 2-playing from the center of the waist with the instrument placed (for yet another small person) to meet my body-type. 3-an arc where the instrument is under the neck and flowing with a corresponding arc above the strings--and so forth.

Back to work--the fun parts are over... al

November 28, 2006 at 04:09 AM · Greetings,

for heaven`s sake don@t ever call me Sir. Pretty please....

Throwing the violin up? Have you ever eaten one?


You cna put the violin up slowly in which case it appears toi be quite heavy or you can kind of chuck it up in the same way that you might throw a ball underhanded and follow the action thoruhg. Try thinking of it that way. Its worth practice that throwing motion anyway.

One thing that did sprinbg to mind. You say that you hold the violin at forty five degrees? That seems possiblty too far to the left. A useful guide is how your -right- arm feels when you are playign at the point with the bow straight. It shouldn`t be locked or too bent. Just right is common sense I think. If you are literally at 45 degrees i don`t think you can bow comnfortbaly at the point unless your bow arm is significantly longe rthan your left. Take a look see.



November 28, 2006 at 04:40 AM · Sorry, Buri. I didn't know that you prefer to be called Madam. [Vivian is dodging her head.]


Don't feel discouraged; your advice was not ignored. As a matter of fact, Kurt Sassmanshaus recommends people with shorter arms to use a center mounted chinrest. That was where I got the idea in the first place. It didn't work for me. Not the center playing part, but I had problems with the chinrest for some reason. After I switched back to Guarneri style, I no longer had the same problem (neck pain). I might have bought the wrong style. Right now, I will focus on finding out what happened to my arm-shoulder joint pain first. A friend of mine (a violinist and a violin maker) simply told me to rest--He felt I overworked. That is nice, but very unlikely--Just not like me.

I tried to look into the Alexander Technique thing, but didn't find anything in Chicago. That's so bizzard. Alternatively, I am looking into yogo. Maybe it is not too late for me to become a contorsionist. :-)

Let's me try all the advice one by one and see which one fits me.

Thank you all for your advice.

November 28, 2006 at 05:10 AM · I'm sorry Vivian, I was talking about playing from center rather than using a center mounted chin rest. Like if you hold your instrument up, and make sure you come back around enough to draw a straight line through your body center, to the center point between your shoulder width feet. al

Incidently, I use center mount also.

November 28, 2006 at 05:39 AM · Greetings,

Vivian, I just dod a quick search in Google and cam eup with the follwoing

There is a lot more.



November 28, 2006 at 06:03 AM · There is a difference between muscles getting weary and tired and weak from lots of playing if you aren't used to it....and pain, which more likely the body's response to being stuck in a bad position for a period of time. Like the difference between doing a few push ups and leaning backwards on your arms the wrong way during a movie and the pain you get when you get up and move. There is also muscle strain, and tendonitis and that sort, but for the shoulder, it is probably mad at you because you are asking it to do something it doesn't want to for a length of time. If it was something it liked to do, but not used to, it would get better and not worse after time.



November 28, 2006 at 06:38 AM · stop being humble .


November 29, 2006 at 01:05 AM · That was my safety clause... :)


November 29, 2006 at 01:16 AM · did you mean Santa Clause?

February 8, 2010 at 07:22 PM ·

Am experiencing exactly what was discussed here so long ago and want to thank everyone for their excellent feedback. Us smaller folks really need to make adjustments, although in my next life, I plan to be at least 5'7" tall.

Anyway, to change course just a bit, is it odd that my teacher has never addressed how I hold my violin in terms of position, posture, stance, bow hold, technique, etc. I hear so much from all of you experienced players/teachers about how important it is that I am starting to wonder why. Along with following along here, I have done a lot of research but since I'm having some discomfort, I must be doing something wrong, as I am a VERY nervous person, my guess is that it's the tension thing.

Anyway, I think I'm going to address this at my next lesson.



August 14, 2010 at 07:33 PM ·

 Its most likely that your violin is too big. I've also had a problem with those kinds of pain in the past and have learned that it has to do with bad posture. Keep taking breaks too because that will really help.

September 15, 2010 at 03:44 PM ·


Hi All

I have created a short simple survey to create links between violinists and their injuries. I ask that you please participate in it. It has only 10 multiple choice questions that dont take more than a few seconds to answer.

The link is.

Thanks everyone.


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