How much calories do I burn by playing violin

August 5, 2012 at 11:18 PM · For 2 hours of playing, I sweat about the same amount as I pitching baseball for an inning or two in a game... Is it normal? It really feels like a workout! Does anybody know how much calories it burns? :p

Replies (21)

August 5, 2012 at 11:44 PM · As someone who monitors and tracks calories I burn and consume on a daily basis, this subject is of interest to me as well.

Like any other caloric burn rate, results will vary by your sex, age, and weight, but the problem is the online resources for calculating this seem to overstate (at least IMO) the calorie burn from playing violin.

For instance, I am 5'11" and weigh 170lbs, and supposedly I would burn 110calories/hour playing violin.

For me, that is roughly the equivalent of walking 1 mile or doing 10 minutes on an elliptical machine, which either way, is way more physical effort than sawing away at a fiddle for 60 minutes. So I'm skeptical, so much so that I dont even bother recording "violin burn" in my daily calorie log.

August 6, 2012 at 12:18 AM · Energy consumption when playing the violin depends on a number of factors (in no particular order):

Do you let your bow arm hang loose from the shoulder, or is it necessary to raise the arm a lot in order to get at the G string?

Do you support the violin so that the scroll and left hand are more or less at eye level?

How relaxed is your left hand hold? Are there any signs of the infamous "death grip"?

Do you use a shoulder rest? Do you use a chin rest? Do you clench the chin rest with the jaw?

Do you stand/sit straight with the head held high?

Do you hammer the fingers down onto the strings? Perhaps the action is on the high side?

How relaxed are you generally in your playing?

How is your breathing when playing? Do you use abdominal breathing?

I could go on ...

Btw, in the above I have used "you" as a generic, meaning "the player", and not a specific person.

August 6, 2012 at 12:53 AM · As a certified nutritionist I can tell you the calorie burn from playing violin is insignificant if you are interested in losing weight. What IS significant is what you put in your mouth. Eat one doughnut and you will probably undo an entire weeks worth of violin playing. For that matter, even strenuous physical activity is not enough to overcome a poor diet.

August 6, 2012 at 01:13 AM · I got this info from an App "My Fitness Pal" and it is claiming you lose 213 calories in a hour of practice. It seems high-but then again you do sweat with those robust sessions.

August 6, 2012 at 02:48 AM · In general, if you feel like you're exerting a lot of energy to play the violin, you are probably not playing very efficiently. When Nathan milstein played the Bach chaconne at age 83 he certainly wasn't exerting as much energy as a major league pitcher throwing two innings.

But if you're trying to lose weight I'd go along with smiley.


August 6, 2012 at 03:20 AM · well its certainly more than sitting on the couch and watching TV. I would think that practicing viola would consume more calories than violin given the extra effort it takes to play such a behemoth ;)

August 6, 2012 at 03:43 AM · Seems more likely you'll dehydrate than lose tonnage if you sweat a lot when playing. I'm noticing the difference with our brief summer in full swing.

If it "feels like a workout," are you tensing up? Playing the violin is work, but it's not 'work.'

August 6, 2012 at 08:53 AM · I gotta say it doesn't do takes a lotta mind work and focus but in terms of burning off calories..not really. I gained a lot of weight thinking I burned calories because I sweat like a pig when I practice. The fat I got disapproved

August 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM · practise - ~1 calorie/minute (guess)

nearly drop violin - ~100,000 calories/milisecond...*

*not a recommended diet strategy - you will loose weight but the elevated cortisol will eventually kill you.

August 6, 2012 at 01:28 PM · I think it must also depend on WHAT we play, and not just for how long. If we play say the evocative but not very taxing "Spigel im Spigel" by Aarvo Part, that's one thng. If for the same duration, we play some of the Brahms, Tchaikovsky or Bach Chaconne, that's another thing.

I agree that we should watch what we put in our mouth. I once put the scroll in my mouth. It didn't do me or my violin any good! ;-)

August 6, 2012 at 02:44 PM · Hi,

Although playing the violin does burn some calories, it is not enough to be significant in weight management like some others have pointed out, since there is little cardio involved. Diet is of the utmost importance, and most people don't exercise enough. Even what is recommended in most places is far below what the body needs.


August 6, 2012 at 04:44 PM · Shen-Han Lin,

If you sweat from practicing, you have much, much too much muscle tension in your shoulders, neck and arms. (I am presuming you don't practice in a steam room.) This muscle tension reduces your ability to play well, so you are not getting full value from the time spent practicing. Use some practice time to focus on relaxing all the large muscles - the small muscles will follow. Amaze yourself on how relaxed you can get. Then treat muscle tension as a bad habit. When you notice it, stop playing. Restart with relaxed muscles.

August 6, 2012 at 06:29 PM · Don't some people sweat when they are exerting themselves mentally?

August 6, 2012 at 07:41 PM · well its certainly more than sitting on the couch and watching TV. I would think that practicing viola would consume more calories than violin given the extra effort it takes to play such a behemoth ;)

Maybe, but since violists have half the brain cells as violinists, there's probably less mental exertion. ;)

August 7, 2012 at 09:25 AM · In the well-known commercial video on Heifetz it is claimed that playing a concerto he looses three pounds of weight. I always found that a bit unbelievable.

Click to see the video, it is mentioned at 5:20 in the video:

Jascha Heifetz video

August 7, 2012 at 10:40 AM · Impossible. 3 lbs would be over 10,000 calories. If he does lose any weight, it is just water.

August 7, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Depends, viola jokes cost extra brain cells Lyndon. ;)

August 7, 2012 at 12:45 PM · In my experience, much violin playing makes a little more muscles (mainly in the shoulders) but significant cardio? I don't think so...

I have a good cardio. Maybe if I was less in shape or bigger, I would find it more exhausting?

Again, I'm sure that it also depends on the peices you play and how nervous you are.

Playing the Tchaikovsky in a famous hall is definitivly a little more calorie burner than playing for your grandmother in your bedroom (I think, never played Tchaikovsky...)!

Some great players are top shape and others are out of shape, even quite chubby and play just as well.

When we see those players who seem very athletic, they probably do other sports than violin and eat well.

August 7, 2012 at 12:52 PM · Fair enough, not trying to offend, but I've always loved viola jokes personally. And I play and love the viola too.

August 7, 2012 at 02:36 PM · Thanks for everybody's advice

I think if I play something easy I won't feel anything at all... But if I'm practicing something difficult then I sweat a lot, especially it's 35c/95f these days... So I think I do tense up when playing something difficult and fast... But how do you play something fast, or a lot of shifting, or double stop without tense up? For me at least if I play something fast I'll tense up the bow arm a bit, if I shift or double stop I'll have to force my left arm to come a bit inside...

As for loosing energy... I don't think I lost a lot of energy though... it's just I sweat a lot LOL I still feel I use more energy in baseball but somehow I don't feel I sweat more... Probably because I got rest between innings...


- A lot of string crossing and pretty fast so I guess it's hard to loose it my bow arm... But the highest note on G string is probably B, 4th finger on 6th position

- If it's something difficult I tend to lower my violin a bit... But that's when I sweat a lot...

- No shoulder rest, yes chin rest, but I don't clench my chin rest and I can play without touching my jaw (except when shifting down)

- stand straight

- I try to hammer it :p

- Very relax when playing something easy LOL

- probably not...

August 8, 2012 at 02:47 AM · So this Polish violist walks into a bar.....

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