Sitting or Standing?

May 21, 2012 at 02:31 PM · For a long time (always) I was standing while practicing, which is usually 60-90 minutes per day. The ceiling is low where I practice and the tip of my bow (a Cadenza CF) would hit the ceiling (acoustic tile, not hard surface) two or three times, which does not really bother me.

But then I sent my bow for rehairing and a local pro lent me a nice wood bow to use meanwhile. Of course I can't risk hitting the ceiling with his bow, not even once, so I have been practicing sitting down on one of those portable piano benches. I think I'm suddenly practicing much more effectively, and I wonder if it is because I don't have to spend any bandwidth dealing with my overall physical balance, and I'm just overall so much more comfortable that it seems I can focus more on my violin problems.

So ... aside from a few performers who play sitting down because they have to, are there any among you who practice or perform (solo) seated rather than standing? What would you say if one of your students told you he's been sitting down to practice?

Replies (26)

May 21, 2012 at 02:48 PM · I always practice the violin standing because I feel I have just that little bit more control (always very much needed). I suggested once at orchestra that we try a rehearsal with everyone standing, except for the cellos. It was promptly vetoed on the grounds that half of them would keel over within 10 minutes.

Last year I was at a concert by a quartet of students from the Royal Academy. The violinists and violist played standing, and the cellist was on a platform so as to bring his eye line up to that of the other players. A thoughtful touch.

May 21, 2012 at 02:53 PM · I do both...depends on how sore my back happens to be. But I'd much rather stand.

I was thrown a tiny loop a couple of weeks ago...I play my viola in an adult beginner ensemble (perfect for my molasses-slow sight reading of the c clef). Normally we rehearse sitting down...but we performed standing

Which explained why no chairs were materializing before we got up on the stage...

But it's good I'm used to standing or sitting...

May 21, 2012 at 07:07 PM · Paul,

Your center of gravity changes when you sit.

You should be very careful that your bow does not hit the ceiling. Even a small hit could damage the tip of the bow, but you should learn to play the violin standing. When you stand the center of gravity is in your feet. When you sit the center of gravity is in your butt. Your sense of balance is very different between sitting and standing you need to learn both. An orchestral or chamber music performer will most likely sit (and have the music in front of him). Unless you have a specific disability, when performing a concerto or for a solo recital the violinist generally stands. You must understand your balance for both types of playing. I suggest you try to find a different room when standing while playing. If you find it uncomfortable to play while standing then you haven't learned about your sense of balance yet and or you haven't really built up your endurance for standing while playing.

May 21, 2012 at 07:45 PM · from my personal experience - and my chiropractor's advice - I'd say you should do both!

apparently, our bodies do not react too well to being rigidly positioned for longer periods of time. that being said, I get the most control from practicing while standing, but after some time I start walking and generally moving around. nothing drastic, just some steps here and there, turning around, walking in circles around the room. when my back start to hurt (app. 90 minutes into the practice session), I continue in sitting position.

if I practice long enough, I go back to standing position.

in short: I'm on the move while practicing, and I suggest you do the same :)

May 21, 2012 at 08:21 PM · I practice sitting and standing, both from doctors' and phys. therapist's advice, and just common sense. If I'm practicing chamber music I'll perform seated, I practice it seated (same with orch. obviously). If it's for solo, I stand. If it's "just" practice, I do both, alternating to give my entire body as much 'practice' as I can. Either way, my goal is to remain as flexible and supple as possible.

May 21, 2012 at 09:25 PM · I used to divide practice time between sitting and standing when I was still doing orchestra, because I prefer practice sessions to match performance conditions. Now it's almost all standing, but for chamber work, I'll have some seated practice.

About solo: If it's unaccompanied, then definitely standing. With piano or guitar accompaniment, I may prefer sitting, especially with sonata material, because I feel that the other player and I are a musical partnership. I don't like to think of myself as the star and the other player as the subordinate.

May 21, 2012 at 11:52 PM · I usually practice standing up. If I'm really tired or something, I'll sit down, but find that I have more freedom to move when I stand. I try to not practice my solo music sitting down too much, since I have to perform standing, but I don't have a problem with sitting when I practice orchestra/chamber music, since I'll be sitting to perform it anyway:)

May 22, 2012 at 01:10 AM · Wow! Surprising how many 'standers' there are. I guess I'm just lazy. I always practice sitting -- much more relaxing and easier on the back.

May 22, 2012 at 01:45 AM · Joel, your center of gravity is never in your feet, it is always right around your groin standing or sitting.

May 22, 2012 at 02:46 AM · Adrian

Fine if you want to get technical

The point is that your weight is balanced differently when you stand and when you sit

Whatever you want to call it you need to learn how to play both sitting and standing

May 22, 2012 at 03:00 AM · Always standing, so much so that even with chamber works I noticed a few times I would stand up automatically when something tricky needed special focus.

I agree with Joel. We know this too well in yoga.

May 22, 2012 at 04:11 AM · The arguments for standing are interesting, and I appreciate all the responses! I was aware already that some quartets (like the Emerson) all stand except for the cellist. (Emerson = awesome).

When I get my CF bow back, then I will go back to standing. I cannot change rooms (it is an insulated room so that I can practice later in the evening) but I might be able to make an adjustment to the ceiling in my practice rooms.

Incidentally the tip of my CF bow already has a bit of damage (to the white plastic part of the tip) that could be from hitting the ceiling a few times. But because it is a CF bow, I know it is both indestructible (and easily replaced for less than the cost of ten lessons), so frankly I am not concerned. I refuse to hunch or crouch because in the long run I feel these will be much worse for my playing.

May 22, 2012 at 08:02 AM · My teacher and I most often have my lesson sitting. We both have knee issues.

At home sometimes it depends on the time I have or the location of my practice. Especially if my oldest is in my bedroom on my wife’s computer I will practice standing, since there is always the stand behind the keyboard in the living room.

I do enjoy practicing standing, but it can be a pain, literally. I do notice that since I am, to use Daniel Pinkwater’s terms, “circumstantially challenged” AKA “diametrically disabled”, some bowings are easier standing. How you ladies do this when pregnant I don’t know. I hate going to pick up the kids from school and only notice in the car those tell-tell white stripes across the tummy.

Back when I was a serious recorder / period flute / guitar player I mainly preformed standing. And yes I had a strap for the classical guitar for use with the choir. The exception being that some recorder pieces require a low E or high F# on an Alto (an F instrument). It is easier to half-hole the bell when sitting, especially some Bach which must be have the bell half-holed very rapidly. Just watch those front teeth.

BTW My center of gravity is probably a little above the groin, and maybe a little to the front.


Pat T

May 22, 2012 at 08:17 AM · I sit, because it is then closer to the glass of water on the floor

May 22, 2012 at 09:32 AM · Sverker Lennartsson

Come on, own up, it's really beer ...

Ricci mentioned that one should sit, but I'm not sure if he means always. I do both, but mostly stand.

In quartets and chamber music its always seated when I perform or rehearse. But I know certain quartets do stand. I was talking to an eminent cellist the other day who will be joining a standing quartet and he had an interesting comment or two. I think he's definitely going to sit!

I think the Emerson's sit when they rehearse, but that may not be the case always.

May 22, 2012 at 10:13 AM · I do both, but tend to sit more than stand.

The thing to really think about is what your main playing conditions are going to be. So, if you are mostly an orchestral player, you have to get used to the different balance and feel of being seated. I tend too, to sit at the edge of the chair, so only my hips are on it but not my thighs, because this allows me to move well, even when seated.

I stand for solo work and ambitious practise of really tough technical exercises. I also stand for serious scale and arpeggio practise.

Standing gives wonderful full movement of the body and bow, and I feel I get more power standing.

I encourage my pupils to both sit and stand, so they are flexible all round players.

May 22, 2012 at 10:16 AM · I practice how I will be performing the music. At least half of my practicing is orchestra or chamber music and those I am going to perform sitting, so I practice that sitting. I've found that it makes a difference for me to practice sitting as close to how I will be sitting in the performance, same angle and distance from the music and so on. If I learn music like that out of context it takes more than one run-through in rehearsal to get it right. I practice solo music standing, usually. But like you I have one practice room with a low ceiling and I pretty much have to sit down there to protect my bow, so when I practice in that room, I usually practice sitting music.

May 22, 2012 at 10:52 AM · Paul, CF bows are not indestructible. Three years ago I had one that was starting to slowly break away at the tip. I returned it to the shop and got a free replacement. The shop said the same problem had happened with other bows from a particular batch, and at least one had snapped. I don't remember the name of the brand, but it wasn't one of the big names.

May 23, 2012 at 07:35 PM · It would probably be a good idea to get used to standing while playing, but because of my arthritic knees I always sit. I also have a softball-sized area on my right thigh that goes numb if I stand for too long -- VERY distracting!! Since all of my public performance is with an orchestra, however, sitting during practice is all working out quite well.

May 23, 2012 at 09:12 PM · I try and stand so I can get my dance practice in at the same time.

Oh, and there is this:

Apparently, sitting for a certain time each day correlates to a higher risk of death

And here is another link

I figure I get enough sitting done at work each day, so I may as well stand while practicing. Plus, I don't get tired.

May 24, 2012 at 01:53 AM · I change my shoes every hour and rotate flats, platforms, heels, ect. to change the pressure on the foot.

May 24, 2012 at 02:16 AM · You're probably practicing more effectively because you're not used to playing violin while sitting. After a while the effect might wear off. Most of the times, you should do what's good for your health, that is, standing. I highly recommend it. However if you feel a difference in your performance when sitting, then you should sit to practice before recitals where you have to sit.

That's probably common sense though.

May 24, 2012 at 03:02 AM · Raymond, interesting thoughts, I had not considered the "novelty effect." Quite possible!

May 24, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Some good points about the differences between playing sitting and standing. Hitherto I've always done my practice standing. Since most of my actual playing is done seated (about 6-8 hours a week in orchestra or similar), whereas playing standing is in lessons and ceili band gigs, so is rather less, it would make sense for me to do more of my practice seated, especially the orchestral material.

May 24, 2012 at 11:49 AM · Generally, I practice my scales, etc. standing. In fact when I do my technical workout which I've had memorized for years, I sometimes do a bit of strolling!

As to repertoire, I usually believe in practicing standing what I would perform standing (solos), and practicing sitting what I would perform sitting (orchestra and chamber music).

Usually in standing, there is more freedom of movement and it's easier to project. Once for some reason, I practiced some orch. or chamber music standing, and when it came time to perform it sitting, I felt very constricited. I never did that again.

Sometimes we just have to deal with circumstances as they arise. In the recording sessions for my 2nd CD, I developed cramps in my feet (despite being barefoot). I had to continue sitting down, which entailed some adjustment in my playing, and a lot of adjustment on the part of the recording engineer to the placement of the mikes.

If one is dong at least a few hours a day of practicing solo rep., I see nothing wrong with doing some alternating of sitting and standing. Also for me, it depends on what stage I'm at in my preparation. In the early phases when there will be more starting and stopping, more putting the violin down to mark and erase markings, I find it more efficient to sit. While I may make some new decisions almost to the last day as to fingerings, bowings, nuances, etc. these will become less frequent and I will stand more consistently.

May 29, 2012 at 08:00 PM · I prefer to stand while playing. There doesn't seem to be enough room when I sit, and I worry about my right leg getting in the way when I'm bowing near the tip, especially on the E string.

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