Do you have to play parallel to the walls in a room?

February 11, 2011 at 10:49 PM ·


since I have started lessons with my teacher (5 1/2 years) she is forever telling me that a good violinist should be able to play well in any orientation (I am talking of a standard room with four walls). 

The ideal violin position, according to my teacher, is when a violinist plays with the sound projected towards the audience.  The audience then sees more of the "side" of the performer's body. (like when we see classical soloists with orchestras in concert) 

For this reason, I have always played parallel to one of the walls of a room thinking it's the audience!

But, over the years, my teacher has never stopped to often challenge me and have my play non parallel to the wall telling that a performer should feel his/her body in the space and not rely on the walls to "feel" the proper position. 

The problem is that I do not have any feeling of my body in the space (even with eyes shut).  And not just in violin, I'm as bad in a swimming pool or with a gymnastic bar!  I am frighten to death to spin around because I don't feel where I am in the space...





So after 5 1/2 years with my teacher, I was never able to play well in another position than parallel to a wall.  When she tries to have me play non parallel to a wall, I play 10 times worst and really don't feel my bow, if my arms are at a correct angle form one another, if my feet are placed ok etc. 

She tried again yesterday and finally put me back at my normal position after 10 min of that torture (for me) seeing that it was a disaster...

I once almost failed an exam because the whole room was "diagonally" disposed and I could not play parallel to any wall.   I really panicked when I saw that I couldn't play parallel to a wall!  It was the "end of the world" for me...  

I had wondered if they had done that on purpose to fool the performer's bodies???

Even with cardboard placed diagonally in a room to simulate a diagonal wall, I don't think I would be able to feel the proper posture and motion (but I should try the experiment)    




Am I the only one who needs to play parallel to a wall to play ok (have a good feel in the space of what I'm doing)?  

btw I can play in a wall free place...  The problem occurs when there are walls or any linear structure and that I can't play parallel to those structures (as if they were an audience).  


Pls feel very free to add any comments or personal stories about such issues if you have some!

Have a nice day,


Replies (24)

February 11, 2011 at 11:16 PM ·

One reason you might want to desensitize yourself to this is that parallel walls are an acoustical problem.  Parallel  walls set up a resonance frequency based on the distance between them.  Good halls usually do not have them.  So avoiding projecting in the direction of the parallel walls might marginally help your sound.

February 11, 2011 at 11:34 PM ·

I think I have your opposite phobia: I despise playing parallel to walls, much preferring to angle out from a corner space.  I like the feel of having my back protected.

February 12, 2011 at 12:31 AM ·

Thanks, that's interesting Emily!

Bill, I noticed what you told about halls...

but when I practice, I don't care if walls are parallel or not between them, what I care is to myself play parallel to a wall (as if the wall was my audience...) to have this feel of my body in the space (proprioception).  

Well, perhaps the wall actually is my audience most of the time haha : )  


February 12, 2011 at 01:59 AM · Wow, I have never even thought of this...then again I am the one who's just as likely to be found walking around the room while I practice...but I think I'm usually at angles. Hope you can get it worked out!

February 12, 2011 at 02:38 AM ·

I never thought of this either, but then again, I'm also a "walk around the room" practicer.  I'll play to my cat, out the window, to my piano, to my mirror, and sometimes to an empty couch. 

February 12, 2011 at 02:50 AM ·

Lucky you ; ) 

I also would want to not bother with that... I know it's the most unimportant detail but it does a big difference for me.  I'll start to think it's just my problem ; )

Ha... some are special because of their talent, others... because they need to play parallel to a wall if there are some!  We don't choose our particularities, they choose us...


February 12, 2011 at 02:57 AM ·

Two things:

In Portland, I love the Schnitzer because of the acoustics; I really don't see many flat walls there. Yet it has wonderful acoustics.

I find that I sound the best when playing outside, with trees around. Again, no flat walls.

I think that there are lots of combinations of good or bad acoustics; making a statement to cover all possibilities can't be accurate.


February 12, 2011 at 03:10 AM ·

Roland - I was never a big fan of the acoustics at the Schnitz,  The orchestra is great, but unless you are in the nosebleed section.....  but that's just my opinion :) 

Anne - I wonder....  does a half-wall or another large feature count for a full wall?  Have you tried playing at an angle with something like another stand parallel with you?

February 12, 2011 at 09:40 AM ·

Kathryn and Mendy, I also was a walking practicer. I didn't know anyone else did this. One evenng I was invited up to play a set with a friend's Irish Band in an Irish bar. I went to the cellar to warm up and I was pacing back and forth while playing. I became very nervous because I don't remember ever having played standing up and not moving. How did we ever get started doing that?  I made the decision to stop that evening!

I practice in the middle of a room but I'm facing a corner. What does that mean? :o)

February 12, 2011 at 02:54 PM ·

Anne - I wonder....  does a half-wall or another large feature count for a full wall?  Have you tried playing at an angle with something like another stand parallel with you?

Good point Mendy, that goes in the same lines as the cardboard experiment I would like to try.  (Put a carboard in a corner to simulate a wall and then trying to play parallel to this to see if I can.  If yes... trying to remove the cardboard...) 

Half wall?  I never played in a place with an half wall. 

Large features?  Well, in the examination room that I talked about in my post, the walls were 4 normal walls but the grand piano and judges desk were diagonally placed in the room (at angles)  Since the judge wanted me to play for her at her desk, I thus had no choice than to play at angle and it was a disaster... 

Interesting replies,


February 12, 2011 at 03:51 PM ·

I've never thought of my orientation to a wall or room or anything else as affecting my playing. Maybe now that you've brought this to my attention, I will have something to blame besides my ineptitude for my poor playing!!  :))  Thank you!

February 12, 2011 at 04:10 PM ·

Join a string quartet and play 2nd violin in it. That will keep you from being parallel to a wall. Or take up cello and try to reorient your brain to playing facing the audience.


February 12, 2011 at 05:06 PM ·

Maybe now that you've brought this to my attention, I will have something to blame besides my ineptitude for my poor playing!!  :))  Thank you!


Well, I know it looks like an excuse but it's really true.  My teacher have me switch between one position and the other and it is obvious...

But yes maybe it will make you another complex... : )

Andrew thanks for the advice...    I actually tried cello for a month and I think I could play cello in any direction because it is held in front of you.  The problem I had with cello was my fingers on these big strings and the too wide stretches... ouch   String quartet?  That would be a dream if I can find one! 

February 12, 2011 at 06:25 PM ·

How would it affect your playing if you were blindfolded?  Or eyes shut?? Or in a dark room and you had no idea where the walls were located?  Just wondering..........

February 12, 2011 at 06:31 PM ·

It's not a bad idea to do violin practice for a few minutes at least in every practice session with your eyes shut. It makes you really listen to what your fingers and bow are doing and you become more spatially aware of where your fingers and bow are relative to the violin. 

February 12, 2011 at 07:29 PM ·

I play in the dark sometimes.  You might find that relaxing enough to help you forget about your relationship to walls, and then you won't need them to be a certain way anymore.

February 12, 2011 at 07:37 PM ·

Nice idea to play in the dark, I'll try!

Just hope I won't bruise too much my violin if I don't see anything... (perhaps it never gets as bad as this...hopfully)


February 12, 2011 at 08:12 PM ·

I have spent hours playing in front of a mirror on a wall.  But its lighting wasn't good at night so I was happy when my bowing got good enough that I didn't have to use the mirror.  Still, I like to look at nice things while I play, so sometimes I play to my window that faces the bay.  (Does that count as playing in front of a wall?)  On a serious note, my teacher said that if you're bowing is REALLY good, then you can play sideways and the bow and violin still have the same relationship to each other.

February 12, 2011 at 08:17 PM ·

Andrew, maybe the reason I like to play facing corners it that I'm a 2nd violinist!

February 12, 2011 at 10:02 PM ·

 Anne-Marie, how are you going in your coursework? You'll have some good stuff for tutorial groups when you start on the sensory-integration modules, won't you.

So if this was something other than violin, I would be encouraging the [person to do something to increase their proprioceptive awareness - push ups, chin ups, push out the walls, therapressure massaging..  The theory is that that effect can last in the system for up to 2 hours.  I wonder if you could try it for 5 minutes immediately before practising, then SIT (there is more tactile feedback, might help with giving you a better sense of stability), in the dark or blindfold, and practise scales or a piece you have memorised.  And repeate that a few times a day, for a week.  Then start doing the prop routine before normal practise, and after starting in your typcial orientation, move one half step out of your preferred alignment.

there is an interesting book by Sheila Frick, if my memory serves me correctly, called AStronaut Training, and it has a good checklist and Rx for prop/vestibular processing.  If you can't get hold of a copy, let me know and I will scan the checklist and beginning routine pages and email them to you.

February 12, 2011 at 11:34 PM ·

Hi, thanks for the advice everyone!

Sharelle, yes of course we have "started"  but they are still in knocking ourselves out with anatomy/physiology/neurology/psychology...  and that damn neuro!!!

As for the real OT courses, it's still very basic "modals" ... many theorical modals, task analyzing, help relationship and ethical issues etc  

But next year, we'll do "fake" cases and will have to find some cures for them...

Though they tell us that OT profession was very axed on the "practical ways to cure problems" a few years ago and that now, it's more axed on a psychological, centered on the person thing because we were too similar to physios and technicians.  Me that loves practical and technical/down to earth methods : (   But I'll read these books by my own and will learn these practical aspects haha 

My brother had many proprioception problems fixed by his OT when he was young but even so, he never could do any music instrument!  That's a bit too challenging for him...  (fourtunately he doesn't care about that since he's not a music lover to the point of wanting to make some on his own)

But I do remember what she had him do as exercices... (similar to what you told and the hamak too...) 

I'm lucky to be able to play an instrument but these bad proprioception genes are still, in a lesser version than my sibling, running in my blood  (my two parents are no good in sports....) 

In that view, violin is possibly the ultimate healthy exercice for someone like me with a "normal" but perhaps very weak coordination for anything harder than the everyday necessary tasks. 

Yes I would love this checklist if it's not too long for you to scan...

I'll look for that book here when I'll have a few minutes.  It looks very interesting!

Thank you for the advice ; )


February 13, 2011 at 08:09 PM ·


that's a strange thing for me actually......I hate playing in a room and prefer to play in an opened place to feel my's like i do not remember..or...the messages from my minds do not arrive to my fingers properly..right?...

hope you're doing good.....hey guys we need a way to hear each other's music...

Omar Ibrahim

February 13, 2011 at 08:58 PM ·

Omar, if I have to play parallel to a wall (if there are walls...) to feel well what I'm doing, you can surely have another type of "just as weird" phenomenon where you don't feel your bow well when you feel "constricted" in walls. 

But you could always try experimenting different angles from the walls when you are forced to play in a room... Maybe you'll find an angle that will feel right.

I think we all have different ways of feeling our body actions as we would maybe all have a different way to find our ways and escape form an Egypt Pyramid...   That joke's for you! ; )

But the principle is serious...   

How weird that objects or structures around us that don't even touch us can "fool" our violin actions and sense of self feeling in the space! 

Good luck to you too


February 17, 2011 at 11:06 PM ·

Just a little short post to tell that I've tried some tricks that some of you told and while it's not perfect, it's improving!


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