Is playing the violin bad for your health?

January 9, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

I keep hearing everyone mention injuries related to playing their violins.  What kind of injuries have people had and how are were acquired? 

Replies (48)

January 9, 2011 at 07:49 PM ·

I have some intestinal problems I do not wish to be explicit about. They were away for several years, until I started playing the violin. Probably the big tension with bad technique, cause them to be now persistent in me for 3 years...and around every concert, I have them pretty badly.

January 9, 2011 at 08:07 PM ·

The most common injury in my case is intense pain in the back, neck and shoulders after intense orchestra rehersals or a long period of intense playing. Violin playing is so not injury free and the most common injuries are  the shoulders, neck and back  that result from poor body position, intense playing periods without rest.

January 9, 2011 at 08:09 PM ·

Well, I find that an odd way to phrase the question.  A lot of things are bad for your health if you don't pay enough attention to the way you're doing them.  For instance I think runners can stress their knees, and singers who try to sing in ranges that aren't appropriate for their voice type risk doing a lot of harm.

A lot of violinists get tendonitis.  Cello teachers tell me that those students are prone to back injuries.  It can be bad technique or simply overdoing it, or some combination of both.

January 9, 2011 at 08:56 PM ·

"Well, I find that an odd way to phrase the question"

LOL!  Yeah, I guess it is.  Brevity has never been my strong suite and when I try, it gets sort of blunt.

I have been warned several times about the risk of injury if I don't have an instructor (self taught).  I relayed this to my husband and he thought that was silly.  So I'm trying to find out  what I am at risk of!

January 10, 2011 at 04:24 AM ·

Hello Susan-

prolonged skeletal muscular contractions can damage muscle fibers.  It is possible to spend 10-15 minutes working on a difficult-for-you passage with certain muscles tensed the entire time and not even realize it.  It can triggle subtle damage. Damaged cells can lead to inflammation. Inflammation triggers pain, scarring, and other issues.   Imagine the damage you could do if you practice for an hour or two a day, 5-7 days a week with inappropriate muscle tensions.

I am returning to the violin after a loooong hiatus and either I was never taught proper violin ergonomics back in the 1970's or i simply forgot. I took a few lessons this past year to help me get back into action, and surprisingly, one of the things that was most valuable was getting feedback about my shoulders tensing & rising. I hadn't a clue I was doing that!.  As I pushed myself, I discovered pains, and my teacher usually had postural suggestions to reduce those pains.  Sometimes, I figured 'em out on my own by asking which muscle hurts, what does that muscle do, why (or when) am i contracting it, and how can i alter my position to relax it.

I would _strongly_ encourage you to take some formal lessons, even if it is only 1/2 an hour, once or twice a month.  It really helps keep you on the right track and moving forward efficiently and effectively.

To answer your question, my left wrist hurt when I was working on double-stops in Kriesler, my right back (rhomboid major?) hurt when I had my voilin too far towards my left shoulder, my neck hurts when my shoulders elevate as I'm working on Kriesler.  Ya know, maybe I should stop working on Kriesler-- he is a pain in the neck!    ;-)

 

January 10, 2011 at 04:51 AM ·

Unfortunately, injuries are all too common for violinists.  But, your body will let you know before any long term damage occurs.  If you feel any stiffness or pain, take it as a warning sign and be preemptive about addressing it.  Sometimes, a change in technique or a change in setup (e.g., different shoulder rest or chin rest) can be all that is needed.  I also agree that professional guidance is very important. 

I have personally struggled with two violin related injuries.  First I had stiffness and pain in my left shoulder.  I went to physical therapy and it helped, but it wasn't until I ditched my shoulder rest that the problem went away completely.  Note, I am not by any means suggesting that you get rid of your shoulder rest.  Let's not even go there.  But that's what I did and it was beneficial for my left shoulder.

Secondly, and this is something I am still struggling with.  My fingertips on my left hand are achy from pressing the strings.  I still have not found the solution.  I am still practicing about 1 hour per day, and hope to be able to increase it, but after several months, it is not getting any better.  It could be the end of my violin if I can't figure it out.  Other than violin, this injury has not affected me in any other way.

 

January 10, 2011 at 05:04 AM ·

Smiley wrote:  My fingertips on my left hand are achy from pressing the strings.  I still have not found the solution.

Duct tape! It comes in all sorts of colors these days.

or prunes...

January 10, 2011 at 11:14 AM ·

Playing the violin is extremely good for your health.It's one of the top three things you can do to stay mentally and physically fit IMO,the other two are exercise and diet.If you hold the instrument  correctly, have a understanding of the ergonomics and basic posture and don't over practice, practice when it hurts,you shouldn't become injured.Sadly a lot of violinist can't pick out the right chin rest let alone adjust their shoulder rest correctly,or believe in playing without this equipment.The lack of detail and instruction in this area, and others holding on to poor traditions will cause injuries.

 

January 10, 2011 at 12:19 PM ·

Smiley - do you take fish oil?  My husband has arthritis but it has subsided with fish oil.  The correct dosage is much higher than the label suggests though.  He takes around 2-1/2 grams a day.  He is encouraging me to start taking it as my left thumb makes crunchy noises when I bend it and it is often quite painful.   Harbinger of more to come, I'm sure

When I started playing the violin I was often sitting.  The first chair I was in was sort of slick and my back ached something horrible.  I realized that my butt was sliding down and I was constantly fighting to stay upright.  So I switched to a chair with a wicker seat and a straighter back.  Much better but after a while I noticed that sitting was giving me a horrible left arm posture as I started getting a lazy wrist and was tucking my elbow into my body.  I knew that was wrong!   Now I alternate between standing - most of the time - and sitting on a stool.  The stool often makes my back ache after a bit so I mostly stand.  I try to always be conscious of my left arm position and where on my fingers I am making contact with the strings. 

January 10, 2011 at 03:27 PM · Playing any instrument has the potential to cause injury. Many injuries are from "repetitive motion", others from straining, over-exaggerating. It is difficult for many people to be thinking about how something feels or to choose a good course to fix what is causing discomfort & pain. A good teacher, imo, pays attention to this, and helps you notice what's happening. Many players don't warm up physically w/stretches, or warm up by playing gently & slowly, assessing "how things feel today", before digging in to practice. A novice fiddler I worked w/at camp (after almost a full week in agony) said I should always tell new players that it isn't supposed to HURT from the outset & all the time! She is small-framed & not at all "padded", and was very much in need of a different chin rest & a shoulder rest, just didn't know. // An aside to Smiley: I had that problem briefly. I now think that w/age I have less "marshallow" to my fingertips. The following has helped me a lot, to the point that my fingertips don't feel uncomfortable. 1)Changed to softer strings 2) String height adjustment towards the lower end of the tolerance between string & fingerboard 3) Consciously practicing playing " on the string" instead of "on the fingerboard". My college prof advocated very active finger-pop fingering, but I think that is not good for me now. 4) Playing a little further away from the fingertip (like a 16th of an inch.) Sue

January 10, 2011 at 03:43 PM ·

 it seems to drive a lot of people crazy. :)

January 10, 2011 at 04:30 PM ·

I got eye strain from reading V.com topics like this all the way through...

I can't recommend strongly enough getting professional guidance to posture and frequently.  I was obviously fortunate with my training as a child  so the rudiments of posture were there when I returend - but I still had some errors that had the potential for major injuries with time.  Not only that, things change as you learn more challenging technique.  For example I find sautille bowing  very hard to do without stressing my right shoulder.  If my teacher had not (and continues to) caught that I would surely have developed a serious stress injury.

January 10, 2011 at 06:47 PM ·

I have arthritis in various joints -- I notice it a lot in my hands if I've practiced for extended periods, or try to reach notes that are a bit too much of a stretch.  Fourth finger is coming along, but still gives me fits sometimes.  I'm going to have to see if the fish oil supplement works.

The biggest issue I'm having right now is probably in my shoulders.  I've had shoulder problems for years -- partly repetitive stress injury from several years of unloading heavy pots of nursery stock from trucks when I worked at a garden center, and partly from a lovely one-point landing I made on my shoulder when my horse stumbled and fell back in 1970.  My violin playing has aggrevated the problem.  When I keep my bowing straight it helps the right shoulder, though.  The left shoulder just encourages me to take frequent short breaks while I'm practicing.  I should probably have my shoulders checked out by a physical therapist or an orthopedist, but that wouldn't leave any $$$ for lessons!!  :)

January 10, 2011 at 08:23 PM ·

There are world-class concert pianists who put protective tape on their fingers, but I find that difficult to recommend for violinists when there are better alternatives such as, as has been mentioned, playing on the string and not the finger board, lower tension strings, and lower action.

Another point is posture. There are very good reasons for holding the violin so that the scroll is more or less in alignment with the middle of the violinist's face. [EDIT Jan 12 2011 in response to comments by Don Roth and Sue Bechler:  that is, the scroll is on the same level as the center of the face (or head), not directly in front of the face]. If you do this, there are several things that start to happen: 

1. The strings are now horizontal.  This improves the tone, because there is no sliding or wandering of the bow towards the fingerboard, except under the specific control of the player, and this makes it easier for the player to maintain the bow parallel with the bridge. If the violin is held pointing downward there will have to be compensating muscular control from the bowing arm/hand to keep the bow from sliding downwards towards the fingerboard, which can only have a deleterious effect on control, tone, stamina, and possible physiological repercussions in the long term.

2. More of the weight of the violin is now supported by the collar-bone, so there is less muscular effort by the left hand and arm in supporting the violin (I am assuming that in this best of all possible worlds the shoulder rest is non-existent). Shifting, vibrato, and left-hand control should be improved and become easier to learn.

3. The overall projection of the violin is improved because the vibrations from the back plate (a significant part of the sound) are now directed away from the instrument more into the auditorium, and certainly into the surrounding audio space. A drooping violin sends most of the back plate vibrations straight into the player's torso where they get absorbed and lost.

4. The player's breathing is improved, which has a marked knock-on effect on playing, tone production, stamina, and general musicality.

 


 

January 11, 2011 at 03:15 AM ·

I don't think that playing the violin is any worse for anyone's health than any other physically demanding task. What actually is bad for one's health, regardless of what the activity is, is misusing or abusing the body and allowing our bad habits to take over and cause pain and stiffness - which we all do at some point, to one degree or another. Dealing with this is a matter of responsibility, awareness, and knowing when to ask for help, I believe.

What is so particular about violin playing is that:

- it is a very complex activity, as even the most basic actions required to get it to make a sound (for instance, holding the instrument and bow and playing on an open string) require several movements that most people do not use in their day-to-day life, and

- in a sense, and unlike other instruments, the violin is played "with the entire body" and demands a state of psycho-physical integrity and balance that can be upset very easily. I'm always surprised to see how some subtle changes in posture and movement (i.e. freeing the neck, not raising the shoulders, using as little force from the fingers as possible...) can make a huge difference in the resulting sound. The problem is, again, that most of us already have some inefficient habits of movement and thought that condition us since before we pick up a violin for the first time, and when we do, any of these "vices" we usually ignore can only get worse if we don't learn how to treat them. For some reason, people with stiff necks can't help getting stiffer when you put a wooden box thingy on their collarbones ;)

January 11, 2011 at 01:11 PM ·

I dont think that playing the violin will affect your health until you get more advanced

Up until then, it is not physically demanding work. Though once you do get there, injuries can be sustained quite easily. One person i know had pulled the tendon between their thumb and index finger on the left hand. Also, my teacher busted his right shoulder playing for the LSO; he was out for a year. his shoulder never recovered fully. now he teaches full time, but still has trouble with spiccato, ricochet etc.

you should also consider that even holding the violin itself is a weird, crooked position.

you can, however, minimise the risk of injury by having the correct setup, posture and technique.

Hope this helps,

Jen

January 11, 2011 at 01:46 PM ·

Ah, I see. :)

The problem I have had is that one can get used to the way something feels without being at all aware of it, so that doing it the proper way is what feels foreign and uncomfortable.

January 11, 2011 at 02:36 PM · Trevor, I must disagree w/your proposal to place the violin scroll in front of the face. This can create undo tension in the spine, pulls muscles below the left shoulder blade unduly, forces the player to hold the bow arm & shoulder back & to the right. A good, average way to hold the violin w/little strain is at about a 45' angle, (from a line drawn straight across the top of the shoulders.) The violin can easily rest on the collarbone w/the violin at this angle. Take a look at the ad photo for the Cooke YA Award to the left of this page :) and you can see the 45' angle idea in practice. Sue

January 12, 2011 at 01:40 AM ·

 @Don, @Sue.  You're both quite right of course. I didn't express myself as well as I should have - many thanks for pointing that out. What I meant to say was that the scroll is on the same level as the center of the face (or head), not directly in front of the face.  

I've placed an Edit in my post of Jan 10 to reflect this.

January 15, 2011 at 03:29 AM ·

I don't want to hijack this thread, but I did want to acknowledge those that responded to my achy finger issue.  I really appreciate your suggestions.  I have since done the following.  I am using Passione strings; you can't get any softer than that.  I had my bridge lowered; actually had a new one cut so I could put the old one back just in case.  I adjusted my technique to play more on the left side of the fingers rather than directly in the middle.  I can do this most the time, but when grabbing 3 or 4 strings at a time as in the Bach Chaconne, sometimes it isn't possible.  At any rate, with these adjustments, it does seem to be getting better. 

Yesterday, I tried putting some crazy glue on my fingertip to act as a bit of a buffer and that seemed to help.  I might also try some type of glove or finger covering -- any suggestions?

 

January 15, 2011 at 02:19 PM ·

 smiley, not sure if you remember, at one point, my kid also had some finger pain, but that was mostly due to playing the high g section in the symphonie espag piece.  the sliding on the evah parazzi string, with mostly the index finger, caused pain only in the index finger.  but things get better with time and rest.   not an issue any more.

it does sound that you have a pretty severe case affecting all 4 fingers?  i would attribute it to the piece you are playing, possibly made worse by the set-up and heavier than normal finger pressure downward to catch the chords.  i think a lower bridge should help, but i wonder if the violin's sound production is affected because it should be.  what is the condition of the skin where you contact the string?  does it look normal or inflamed?  sometimes, the skin is rough enough but the underlying soft tissue can be inflamed but you cannot see it well.

do you tend to wash your hands with water right before you play violin?  i think the water washing part can soften your skin and make it more sensitive to pressure and shearing.

how about give this piece you are working on 2 weeks of break to see if things change?

January 15, 2011 at 08:11 PM ·

Smiley, is there any chance you have a skin allergy to the winding on the strings?  Your saying that glue helped implies that you ight have a bit of contact dermatitis.  NuSkin, Liquid Bandage, one of those might be good to try on all four fingers.

Susan, as to your original question: like a lot of things, different people will develop different problems.  If you have old injuries, they could rear their ugly heads.  Some people are much more prone to repetitive motion injuries, tendonitis, etc., than others.  From your writings over the past few months, I gather that you are of "a certain age."  This ups the odds of developing problems.

Especially if you have a history of injuries, but even if you don't, you're smart to be concerned.  From what you've said, regular lessons just aren't in the cards right now.  Understood.  Even so, ask around your area, and see if you can find a teacher with a good reputation for teaching proper posture, technique, etc.  If you can go see someone like that, even once or twice, they could help you figure out if you're headed for trouble.  There's no substitute for a face-to-face evaluation.  It could, of course, also help your learning to play- make sure you're not shooting yourself in the foot at the beginning!

January 16, 2011 at 04:50 AM ·

Al,  Yes, I remember the high sections in the Lalo.  They are a killer on the fingertips.  And if using Evah strings, downright torture.  I get pain in my 1st and 2nd fingers, not so much in 3rd and 4th finger.  My fingers are not callused at all.  There is no noticeable difference between left and right fingertips, so either I just am not susceptible to developing calluses, or perhaps I am pressing too light ???  Is that even possible?  As for giving the piece a rest, I took off an entire month from playing violin and got accupuncture treatment for 2 months.  Took 3 months off the piece.  It didn't really help.

Lisa,  I am pretty sure it is not an issue with allergies.  It is not a rash or anything, just achy when I press down on the strings.  It is like a nerve type pain -- not excruciating, but noticeable enough that it affects my playing.

Pierre, I don't know if I would call it determination.  I might have to quit violin if I don't figure this out.  That's something I do not want to do -- at least not now anyway.  There is still a lot that I want to learn and teach my son.  Oops, forgot, parents are not supposed to meddle in their kids affairs.  God forbid if he actually becomes an excellent violinist.  I might be accused of being an overbearing parent. 

 

January 16, 2011 at 05:02 AM ·

Smiley: please be sure the crazy glue is dry before you start to play.

Unless you want to be remembered for the first emergency surgery attended by an orthopedic surgeon and a luthier....

January 16, 2011 at 05:13 AM ·

 elise, that was funny.

a bad one i heard recently from my wife,  an older person she knows accidentally put the crazy glue into his eye thinking it was eye drop...

really had to run for the emergency room...

smiley,,,i think bach is telling you to get away from him perhaps for a year:)  good luck with it.

January 16, 2011 at 12:41 PM ·

Elise you crack me up.  :-)
 
Al, they other day I saw a bunch of chickens and they kept saying Bach, Bach, Bach, Bach.  Maybe they were trying to warn me of imminent danger

January 16, 2011 at 02:01 PM ·

LOL!  My husband once inhaled contact lens cleaner thinking it was nasal spray.  He turns the lights on now when he reaches for something at night :-)

Smiley - this is probably silly but here it goes:  IF it is an allergy (and allergies can take different forms) maybe you could try finger - um, rubbers?  I don't know what they are called!  They are little rubbers that fit over you fingers to keep them dry when you have a cut.  Chefs use them in restaurants all the time to keep a wound from getting infected.  Most drug stores carry them in the same section as bandages.  They fit tight and shouldn't interfear with finger placement.  Like I said, it sounds silly but you never know!

January 17, 2011 at 04:25 AM ·

I have a very "sharp" opinion on this.  (not at all telling it is the right one.  It's just what I think) On this world, not everyone is "designed" for the same things...

The extreme example beeing the Olympic games or international sport events... 

A swimmer is not build like a long distance racer or a sprinter or a basketball champion...

Different people are able to do different things.

In violin, we are lucky to be able to adapt the instrument to us (up to a certain extent) with various shoulder rests or shoulder pads, width of the neck, distance between the strings, size of the instrument etc    This probably allows a wider range of people to be good at it with not too much pain. 

But, violin still requires great body stretch, flexibility, agility and hand spread etc no matter the setup.  Perhaps, very unfourtunately, some people will not be able to handle this and will get very injured...

Of course, one should always look for the best advice possible from a good teacher to be sure the long lasting injuries are not related to a bad technique issue before throwing everything by the window

; )

So healthy for those who can play it with not too much pain? 

And we could also talk alot about if violin is damagable or not for the left ear? I heard stories about getting a little more death on the left side. But that's a different health issue!

Interesting topic!

Anne-Marie

January 17, 2011 at 11:29 PM ·

 Has anyone tried Alexander Technique for postural/pain issues?  It's been recommended to me repeatedly.  I'm thinking about it...would appreciate comments.

January 19, 2011 at 12:52 AM ·

Yes, I think that one could hurt one selves by playing violin or viola if one were to use a shoulder rest.  And, here is why - we all have learnt in elementary physics that Pressure = Force/ Area.  In this case, the Force is due to the Weight of the violin/ viola.  The Area to which it is transferred is the cross-sectional area of the shoulder rest when it is resting on your shoulder.  So by using a shoulder rest which has a a narrower area in comparison to when the violin is resting withnot the shoulder rest, you are in principle increasing the pressure that you are putting on your shoulder/ chest bones.  And repeated application of this Pressure can lead to fatigue damage of the bone.  Of course, each person's body constitution is different and, hence each person' s bone will have a different Compressible Strength (i.e., the ability to bear Pressure) and Fatigue Strength (i.e., ability to bear repeated application of above Pressures).  One of the prodigy violin players also mentioned through an email that the older generation of violin players played well into their 70s and 80s without shoulder injury or great pain.  On the other hand, I have a nephew who is about 23, just graduated from one of the reputed violin schools in the US with a BM degree and, who has just undergone through a surgery in the shoulder.   That says something isn't it?  Besides causing injury to the shoulder, I also understand that the shoulder rest also changes the tonal quality of the music and, the claw of the shoulder rest that clamps the violin can potentially cause mechanical damage to the violin.  Based on all the above, my strong suggestion would be that a scholarly study (i.e., not funded by a group that has a commercial interest in the shoulder rest) be conducted by an expert Professor of Solid Mechanics/ Stress Analysis on the effect of shoulder rest on the bones.  Since this is a safety and health issue this should be the first priority.  The second priority should be on the effect of the shoulder rest on the tonal quality of the violin by an expert Professor of Acoustics.

January 19, 2011 at 01:05 AM ·

 shiv, a lot of people with foot problem happen to wear shoes.  should they stop wearing shoes? :)

January 19, 2011 at 01:51 AM ·

Susan-the finger "rubbers" are called finger cots.

January 19, 2011 at 01:52 AM ·

Shiv

"One of the prodigy violin players also mentioned through an email that the older generation of violin players played well into their 70s and 80s without shoulder injury or great pain."

Totally right but did you notice that almost all the elder players were men (most often) very bucked up with broad shoulders, no necks, a round face and chin + wearing a coat. 

All of this makes a perfect "nest" for the violin to stay solidly and comfortably with tension for the player.

In addition the elder players were the few who reached that level (we don't hear about all those who didn't and maybe got injured)  We call this natural selection... 

Today, much more people can play the violin at a good level with the arrival of all the "setup" devices (shouler rests, chin rests etc).  As a person with a long neck and slim shoulders, I am very well placed (I think... even as an amateur) to tell that NOTHING will never remplace a real short neck and shoulders.  But if they were none of all these modern devices, it would still be like in these days where natural selection stopped anyone who was not "perfect" for the violin to play!  Imagine how discriminative that was...  Not to mention that we would not have many of today's top soloists (who play with  rests.)

I'm not defending the rest or not but perhaps many couldn't play without one.  (good violinists are to be found with and without rests)

January 19, 2011 at 08:20 PM ·

 I am 'worried' about Smiley's fingertip pain, it must really be bothering him quite a bit if he is even mentioning 'giving up' the violin if he can't find a solution in future....

Especially as he describes it as a 'nerve' type of pain feeling/sensation...Smiley, so sorry if I am repeating what maybe has been said somewhere else in another thread, but have you researched this? is there any possibility that it is something 'not nice' like arthritis or some neurological complaint? (sorry about my ignorance if this is a silly suggestion), and of course you probably have brought it up with your doctor already, just on a chance to rule out anything 'wrong'?

I don't run to the doctor at the first sign of a 'spot of bother'  (unless it seems serious of course) but if something is 'bothering me' for a long while I then go and ask just to make sure I 'rule out' things.......

January 19, 2011 at 10:32 PM ·

John, regarding the string heights, I will have to measure and get back to you. 

Jo, I certainly hope it is not something serious.  At least it does not affect me in any other way, except playing violin.  I have already ruled out carpal tunnel because my sister in-law is a physician and checked me out.  Other than this, I have a clean bill of health. 

I think if I can get some decent calluses, it would really help.  I know there are mechanical devices that are designed to build calluses, but I am afraid to try them for fear that it does even more damage.  I wonder if there are any ointments that can be applied to the fingertips to build up some healthy calluses.  If anyone can recommend something, it would be most appreciated.

I might also try the finger cots (thanks Tom for clarifying the terminology).

 

January 20, 2011 at 12:24 AM ·

Smiley, calluses are good up to an extent...

Too much calluses makes that you don't feel the string well under your finger and have a hard time figuring out what you're doing...

pls don't sand blast your fingers with any device!!!  I'm no expert but you do not want permanent dammage to your fingers!

January 20, 2011 at 03:08 AM ·

I just measured my string heights (height of the string at the end of the fingerboard).  E string is 3.6 mm and G string is 5.1 mm

I don't have calipers so it is hard to measure the nut distances, but as close as I can tell, E string is .5mm, G string is 1.3mm

January 20, 2011 at 11:42 AM ·

@ Pierre, more about lots of bleeding from them when I have tense days...so like after concerts, and sometimes same days (worst, because then its accompanied by extreme thirst and difficulties holding the violin)...

Sorry for slow answer, I forgot to check the thread!

January 20, 2011 at 02:14 PM ·

Very sore shoulders. But, I have a great physical therapist who works only with musicians. She works on your position. With a few tweaks to my technique I have a lot less pain, plus I'm playing better! But, there are still times, depending on what I'm playing, that I am in a lot of pain. And the pain is from, playing the violin. Plus, if your instrument is not properly sized or set up correctly, that causes pain. Sometimes it's just the wrong instrument for you.

Even still, I'd answer; "No". It's SO good for your head that the rest is incidental. The only person's health it is bad for is my husband's. He will come get me while I'm playing after a while to ask me, "Are we going to eat dinner tonight?" when I've lost track of time! He could starve to death!

January 20, 2011 at 07:34 PM ·

It's only bad for your health if you like to practice on the train tracks of your local commuter express.

June 3, 2015 at 12:49 PM · I am overcoming the posture problem (pain in neck, back) with time and practice. Almost getting rid of the problem

however one old problem seems to come back -- the left eye vision gets blurry after playing; (realize it when reading) next day it is fine.

I think this has got to do with sharp angle I see the fingerboard. In initial days I even had physical symptoms in left eye like the eye pimple. I also suspected that the chin rest fitting on my jaw and neck must be pressing some nerves but i doubt it.

So what should I do? it doesnt happen everytime ; perhaps only when I my eye stress in seeing the fingerboard. I am thinking of stopping watching the fingerboard altogether and develop the habit.

I will start observing more to learn the cause of the problem from now; but i welcome any suggestions and news if you have heard anything like that. (My posture is perfect, as seen by some teacher, there is no problem in it; I am also not holding the violin wide left at 9 o clock but at comfortable 10:30-11:00 o clock direction).

June 3, 2015 at 01:29 PM · YES, IT IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH! We do it at our peril.

June 3, 2015 at 02:49 PM · Michael I suggest that if you need to watch what you are doing on the fingerboard, it would be easier to do that using a mirror or a computer camera. Most people don't stare at their fingers whilst playing, because they get headaches. The most famous counter example is Hilary Hahn who watches her sound point. You don't need to watch where you are putting your fingers for intonation, this is not what Hilary is doing. You learn to put your fingers in the right place by how your hand feels against your violin (and obviously by how it sounds). A mirror is better because it will capture more of the "big picture" of your posture, hand positions, etc. Try to aim for "textbook" hand positions, seriously.

You also have to build up the stamina for stuff like that slowly. I remember one of my professors in graduate school (an absolutely wonderful professor -- Margaret Etter) teaching us how to look at "stereo view" chemical diagrams. It's hard to describe in a few words, but you kind of cross your eyes a certain way. Well, I went over to the library and thumbed through a big stack of journals for a couple of hours admiring all the stereoviews and congratulating myself on my new skill, but wow, what a headache I had after that.

June 3, 2015 at 09:45 PM · Michael, it might be a good idea to have your eyes checked out by an optician, explaining to him what it is you do.

Playing musical instruments in orchestras can put out-of-the ordinary demands on the eyes - in addition to squinting at the fingerboard/sound point, looking at the music from strange angles (different for each eye), rapidly refocusing to check on the conductor that he's still there, and inadequate lighting in some instances. As to the last point, I've got to the stage where I'll have to invest in a stand light.

June 4, 2015 at 02:59 PM · Viola Elbow! Same as Tennis Elbow, in that the 3rd & 4th fingers work harder than God intended, at the same time as extending the arm. Terrible pain and hypersensitivity in and around the outer bump of the elbow. Cures? Lots of rest, softer strings nearer the fingerboard, and a vibrating string length not exceeding 14"(23.6cm).

June 5, 2015 at 06:52 PM · Paul, what exactly is stereo view ? the view about looking at the bridge or something else to pay attention to our fingers? I will try that. Sounds interesting. My problem is very confusing bec it started long ago when I was new in playing, it gave me serious problem; but now i am fine but suddenly one day I observed the same bit blurry vision from left eye. I must have stared hard with the left eye that day; because it doesnt happen everytime and i am even practicing for 3-4 hours for couple of days. I will try looking at bridge.

June 5, 2015 at 09:09 PM · Bad for one's health? What does that mean?

I'm past 80 now and have been playing the violin for over 76 of those years. Can't have been too bad for my health if I'm still here and still playing.

There are some areas on your body that playing the violin can hurt, if

1. you do it wrong

2. have something wrong with your instrument

Violin and viola playing are probably more likely to cause pain and even injury than cello playing - but as one gets older, carrying the cello around gets harder and harder (especially up hills). Also harder to get into and out of a vehicle. Those alone may be the reasons my orchestra-cello "career" was so short and spotty, while my still continuing orchestra-violin playing is into its 66th year.

One of the most insidious violin flaws can be having a violin neck of circular cross section rather than an elliptical cross section. The circle can throw the left thumb too far to the left and that can cause injuries.

A similarly bad result can be had with a viola neck that is scaled like a violin's instead of being relatively narrower.

Your luthier can tell at a glance and confirm by measurement if your instrument(s) has these problems.

Other injury-related problems, such as too-high strings have already been mentioned in this resurrected thread.

Andy

June 7, 2015 at 01:23 PM · That was a very great suggestion concerning eye problem. I am looking few inches away from the left hand, so this gives me peripheral view of the hand which is enough to make us comfortable. I have to make it a habit. Thanks a lot.

PS: I am realizing the cause of blurry vision and problems in left eye was due to too much stress while sight reading. Today I practiced alot about 2-3 hours with reading; so again I felt a bit problem in left eye. I guess I have to give sight reading improvement time and gradually increase time.

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