Is diet underestimated

November 29, 2012 at 07:06 PM · I am starting to finally realize that diet is essential to learning this instrument. I am wondering if there are others out there who have found out that the cornerstone to playing well is through nutrition and exercise. Foods that strengthen proprioception, motor skills, processing and memory will give a student or professional an added advantage over others.

Replies (29)

November 29, 2012 at 08:41 PM · Last summer (2011), I was playing about 6-8 hours a day, and after a month of this, I developed tendinitis. The problem then lasted for another 9 months. After this long of tendinitis, I was so desperate for a solution, so I began drinking TONS of water. Everyone knows that water is good for you, and my thought process was "This really sucks, so I'll try anything". I gave up drinking pop, and eventually also eating candy and ice cream, and I have been tendinitis free since 2 days after giving up pop and drinking tons of water. I still do not know if there is a direct relation between changing my diet and my tendinitis, but I'll willing to bet there is.

November 30, 2012 at 03:13 AM · You can drink too much water - you have to clear it through your kidneys (obviously you have to loose as much as you take in) which means you flush out electrolytes too. And thats why pure water is not recommended for athletes...

Still, water is about as safe a drink as there is! Perhaps the real benefit was what you stopped drinking...

November 30, 2012 at 04:20 AM · Yes! Diet also does a huge effect in school for learning capacities...

As a student who lives in a little appartment, I have to cook for myself.

I chose (personal choice) to become vegetarian but that has maybe not so much to do with what I'm about to tell.

In the process, I started to eat whole grain and less white stuff, drink green tea and eat more raw vegetables. I also became more conscious of how much proteine I need (and from different source... not just beans or eggs or nuts etc.)

I also started to stop a few bus stops earlier to walk a bit everyday on my way home.

The result is astonishing!

I'm almost never sick, my energy level is always much higher than most of my peers at school, I'm never hungry before noon because I eat whole grain stuff and protein for breakfast. I'm in the rare girls who didn't gain a pound since I started college/university.

I don't think it help the violin specifically but it helps the overall life. Physically and psychologically.

I think some people naturally have what it takes to play well without beeing particularly in shape. They would be better if more in shape but you know...they could play awsomely even half dead or very sick! History has given us a few prooves of that...

But for mortals who are not particularly gifted for the violin, an overall good lifestyle can improve many things!

Studies showed that animals who were not overweight have more stamina/energy. It is surely the same for us...

It's a question of balance. Only practicing, eating bas and never exercise can ruin a violinist...

November 30, 2012 at 07:27 AM ·

For sure what you eat makes a difference.

It's not a one size fits all deal for sure, but optimizing your diet is very helpful for any performer.

November 30, 2012 at 12:05 PM · To say that it is THE cornerstone would be a massive overstatement. However, diet and exercise are one of the building blocks of a healthy, productive musical life.

November 30, 2012 at 02:27 PM · Diet and exercise/activity are crucial for general well-being, not for any one endeavor in general.

So do work on your overall fitness and well-being and you'll be able to do your best in anything you wish to engage in...

As for actually diet: Try to eat as much fresh foods as possible. Avoid anything processed. That in itself will go a long way to keep you healthy.

November 30, 2012 at 07:23 PM · Just before a violin practice, I try to make sure I've had a nice big steak or a couple of pork chops and some french fries and washed that down with a few beers. After practicing I watch some Jersey Shore or Desperate Housewives on TV for an hour to finish digesting some of the more complex proteins. Then I take a supplement -- of ice cream or snack chips.

November 30, 2012 at 07:24 PM · Just want to mention, there is a need to have enough Vitamin D and Calcium to have good bones, and not be tired. Maybe some people should take a supplement. (calcium digests best with food).

November 30, 2012 at 07:42 PM · "Just before a violin practice, I try to make sure I've had a nice big steak or a couple of pork chops and some french fries and washed that down with a few beers. After practicing I watch some Jersey Shore or Desperate Housewives on TV for an hour to finish digesting some of the more complex proteins. Then I take a supplement -- of ice cream or snack chips."


November 30, 2012 at 08:36 PM · Absolutely. IMHO, we have a surprisingly poor understanding of how closely our health & general well-being are linked to our diet.

December 1, 2012 at 12:32 AM · we eat so much bad food. Actually in germany there is a slightly bit more recognition as I heard is in america, but still everything is mass produced, wich is not just ethically bad, but also very unhealthy for us, who are pumped up with antibiotica, hormones and chemicals from the agrar business from eating what they sell us as healthy.

Biological food is still the best and should be bought as close to the source as possible. Meat should be an exception (I love meat btw) and also from a good source.

When it comes to sugar its not good to eat too much for more than one reason. First its bad for your teeth, second its bad for your digestion and third it makes you addicted and immune to the actual good and necessary effect sweet food can have on you.

I am not eating very healthy throughout, but if I do, I feel much better, can concentrate better and longer and sleep more. Too much sugar, coffein or late fat food keeps me up all night... like now.

btw. Coffeine wich is coffee to me (i don't like cola often, too sweet) help me concentrate while practicing and getting up to practice, but when I am too used to it I cannot do anything without coffee. I like to see it as an slight doping in training. I train/practice with coffee but before a concert, maybe 2 days before, I stop drinking to be relaxed and get better sleep. The work should be done by that time anyways. Beer afterwards is ok to me. But Alcohol should be kept strictly out of work and practice.

December 1, 2012 at 07:58 PM · We are all going to die. The journey will be pleasant or not, depending on our personal choices. I concede the need to wash salt and grease from my hands and chin before playing, usually.

By the way, according to at least one world-class Irish fiddler, the only way properly and successfully to perform while drunk is to practice while drunk. Sound advice; fight the way you train.

The idea that a perfectly-tuned body will produce better music is interesting. If I'm not mistaken, Paganini suffered greatly from various ailments until one finally killed him.

December 1, 2012 at 08:00 PM · I don't eat wheat (or many grains at all). I think, as did the Futurists, it makes you dumb.

December 2, 2012 at 02:49 AM · WOW, it's great to see that some musicians put diet quit high on their daily priority list. The thing is, eating well for a healthy lifestyle and eating to strengthen the mind to make playing the violin easier are not always a match. For instance,

meal plan 1:

Breakfast: whole wheat bread with peanut butter, glass of milk, orange.

Lunch: yogurt with banana and mango, peppermint tea

snack: raisins, nut and seed mix

Dinner: Pork chop, steamed cauliflower, baked potatoes, glass of red wine; pumpkin pie.

Extra supplement. daily vitamin

Meal plan 2:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with blueberries, cinnamon , vanilla and honey; Decaf coffee.

Lunch: Omega 3 egg sandwich with whole wheat bread,carrots and spinach; green tea.

snack: walnuts, sunflower seeds with fresh strawberries; glass of almond milk.

Dinner: salmon with almonds, broccoli, whole grain brown rice; Jasmine tea with 80% dark chocolate.

Extras: b complex vitamin(25mg), zinc supplement,omega 3 supplement, cranberry supplement, vitamin D. Sage leaf before bed.

Meal plan 3:

Breakfast: Honeynut cherrios with milk and banana; two coffees

Lunch: kraft dinner , diet soda

snack: cookies,chocolate raisins, sport drink

Dinner: T-bone steak , mashed potatoes, and canned cream corn; ice cream , 2 glasses white wine.

So there's three meal plans. The first one is healthy and will help a bit, but there are no real mind building foods in the list. The second meal plan if full of mind strengthening foods, the brains supper foods. I make sure I eat the foods in Meal plan two, 2-4 times a week, and I really notice a huge difference in my playing, HUGE!!!. Meal plan three, in my own personal experience, has created learning and memory problems and helped create injuries and pain while playing. Now, playing is pain and injury free, and learning is easy.

Google the foods in meal plan three along with tag words: research,prevention, university, cancer, alzheimer's, dementia, memory,diabetes. You will notice a positive pattern.

Then google the foods in meal plan three along with the words sugar, processed food, alcohol and hearing loss to the tag list and you will find they are linked to the cause of the above mention diseases.

Foods that help with ________

motor skill and proprioception sense: strawberries, cranberries

Stage fright and perspiration:

sage, raw garlic

memory: salmon, walnuts, strawberries

Foods that slow us down(mentally), improve sight reading, help focus:

cranberries, strawberries; Flaxseed and almond milk drink.

Prevent hearing loss:

carrots,zinc supplement, Ginkgo Biloba

Love of playing: 80% dark Chocolate

Muscle joint strength: Brazil nuts(one a day is all you need), raw garlic, spinach, zinc, strawberries(yah, strawberries are a musicians super food), vitamin D.

Fewer mistakes: strawberries, exercise, cranberries, ginkgo

thats it

Disclaimer, I am a guy on the internet, not your Dr. . Do some research into the foods above -pro's and cons before taking them.Don't overdose.

December 2, 2012 at 07:25 AM · Jeez, how can you eat all that?

Meal plan:

Morning: almonds and dried figs and green tea

Afternoon: gluten free toast and coffee

Evening: Fillet steak, potatos and greens/carrots, Organic chocolate, green tea

Oh, and apples in between.

Before anyone says anything, the fillet is only this size (bought this morning):

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Apologies to vegetarians :)

December 2, 2012 at 11:48 AM · Acutally I found out, that we can learn a lot from so called "natural bodybuilders". Those are Bodybuilders who train at least 3 times a week and dont take steroids. Therefore they have to eat very healthy to get the muscles grow and get a quick recovering from training.

I am not a vegan, but there are great tips on vegan food on Youtube from those natural bodybuilders, wich acutally sounds quite tasty too. I know from experience, that those food (lots of fresh vegetables, healthy oil, nuts, garlic etc.) really makes you a lot better in concentration and playing. I can just advice anybody interested in diet to check those natural bodybuilder meals out. I am not a bodybuilder, but it helped me a lot. they certainly know what they are doing!

December 2, 2012 at 03:54 PM · "Vended food contains all the necessary nutrients for survival. Taste damn good too, by golly. And plus, on any given evening, the machine that last night gave you cheetos might dispense instead... Doritos. Yohos. Oreos. Tostitos. Or Lorna Doones." J. Frank Parnell

December 2, 2012 at 06:41 PM · Hi,

Diet is important. Simon, the body-building diet is OK if you do body-building. The one thing that they have right is that excess starches and sugars are the enemy of leanness. However, the great amounts of protein will do your body harm unless you are a body-builder and need that for repair. For most people however, reduction of starches and sugars will greatly help much more so than an increase in protein.

Gregory: you mentioned your diet, carbonated drinks and your tendonitis. The condition creating the inflammation that you mention is called acidosis. Carbonated drinks are the worst culprit for that (including sadly, beer...). By eliminating does and replacing it with water, you essentially brought down the acid levels in your system and therefore reduced inflammation. That is why it worked.


December 2, 2012 at 06:48 PM · If it's any help wheat especially gives me an acid condition.

December 2, 2012 at 07:34 PM · In order to promote a sense of balance in this thread, I'm moved to quote a couple aphorisms on diet:

Red meat is not bad for you. Green fuzzy meat is bad for you.

Vegetables are not food; vegetables are what food eats.

December 2, 2012 at 09:22 PM · "The idea that a perfectly-tuned body will produce better music is interesting. If I'm not mistaken, Paganini suffered greatly from various ailments until one finally killed him. [Flag?]"

So did others...

But I like to think some poeple are so talented than even if sick, they would still play amazingly well...

But that as a general rule would be very "harmful" since it's proven that for average people, diet helps...

They say that people who live up and over 100 yo only do so because of a gene and that the previous lifestyle isn't important.

For for average people without this gene, lifestyle has been proven as an important factor of longevity...

Just my two cents on this matter! :)

December 2, 2012 at 10:33 PM · Judging by the amount of overweight violinists who are also amazing players I would have to say that no, it is not the cornerstone. It can't hurt though. Getting up and exercising once in a while won't hurt either.

December 3, 2012 at 03:13 PM · I must say I'm surprised by the fact that, with the reply counter at 22, nobody has brought the importance of prunes to the table yet. Have they been left behind? Or are we hiding something? =)

I do believe that diet is important as a tenet of general well-being, and that includes some effect in playing. Personally, I keep a low-meat, whole-grain and rather varied diet, but sometimes you don't have a lot of time or options to eat well. Most unhealthy food is, unfortunately, much cheaper, takes less time to prepare and more readily available if you spend most of your day outside your home.

The most unhealthy habits that affect my playing are, by far, my full-time office job and my caffeine intake, which are closely related. I found that my relaxation improved a lot after I started riding a bike to work (6 kilometers each way), not to mention AT.

Also, I absolutely need to sleep my 8-9 hours a day (I usually have to settle for 7 or a little less...) in order to respond well in all the activities of a normal week day. I can skip a meal now and then, but if my sleep is disturbed, I become a full-time zombie. It's incredible for me to see how our "productive" culture tends to treat sleep as something that "takes your time away" and should be done only when you have no other choice, and as little as possible.

I think this is another case of "whatever works for you", since everyone's specific needs in terms of diet, exercise, sleep and such are different.

On another note, we could debate the benefits of edible shoulder rests: Are they really as good as the packages claim, or do they interfere with the balance and resonance of the digestive organs? Do they contain the vitamins and electrolytes we need to maintain the violinist's delicate food pyramid in perfect balance? Or are they just a block of empty calories which we use to fill the gap in our stomach? I think that's the only aspect of the SR debate that we still haven't fully covered ;)

December 3, 2012 at 06:53 PM · Juan ... the "Kun Digestible" ... is that what you had in mind? For best results, though, it would have to be made out of Quinoa.

December 3, 2012 at 07:20 PM · Surely a nice piece of tender fillet would do the trick?

December 3, 2012 at 07:21 PM · A good diet would definitely improve overall health...but just look at those old photos of Oistrakh! Can't you just see him eating a huge plate of sausage and fried dumplings??? Same with Ysaye, who died with diabetes if I remember correctly. Interestingly, there are many old photos of great musicians of the golden era smoking cigarettes. Makes me wonder if the nicotine helped them in some regard. Heifetz smoked, so did Shostakovich. Glenn Gould was a drug addict. Looking back 200 years, Beethoven was a short, sickly fellow and probably ingested lead and other nasty substances. I've personally tried many variants of healthy living, some diets gave me more energy, while excercise can sometimes envigorate or tire me out. Lifting weights reduces my fine motor coordination for violin playing. But I tell ya, there is no substitute for many hours of careful practice. Just don't get chicken grease on your violin bow.

December 3, 2012 at 10:45 PM · @Charles,

Raw garlic may not help you get rid of stage fright, but will for sure make your fellow musicians run away!

@Juan ... yes, prunes are as essential as scales!


December 4, 2012 at 12:53 AM · Sage calms the mind and garlic lowers cortisol.

I have 2-3 chopped garlic gloves with a glass of water, once or twice a month. I find it energizes the body; it's a real cure for procrastination. You eat garlic this way when no one is around, not the day of a show.

It seems there are a lot of musicians that underestimate the power of a great diet. When we play the violin, it's the mind that does all the real work. Everything else( muscles, bones, hearing etc..) is a tool for the mind to control. If I was to go in a sports forum I would find an abundance of topics on nutrition, but here or any other music forum, nothing. Musicians are way, way behind.

If you eat the right foods the mind will grow stonger every year. If you eat the wrong foods your mind will get weaker every year. This is a fact.

December 4, 2012 at 05:05 PM · I hear that Paganini relied on his canonelli for performances. Said dish is now in a museum in Genoa--hate to see what it looks like now...

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