Violinists hobbies and their impact on playing?

February 17, 2013 at 08:44 PM · Took me a while but I realized that my passion for ballroom dance was a major factor that permitted me to pick up the violin after several decades and play for hours.

So here's me dancing this past weekend at "The Classique du Quebec":

Chris and Elise

So the magic factor? The top of our 'frame'. The frame is basically the shape you make and maintain as a couple while you dance. For the violin specifically its the circle of our arms. Creating a dance frame and keeping it while you dance uses virtually the same muscle methods as for playing the violin without getting tired - that is minimal effort (which means relaxing every muscle that is not essential).

Of course there is a musical connection too but the woman doesn't really listen to the music too much - she has to follow the man so an adage is 'that the man is her music'. Its actually the secret to making the whole thing look coordinated and 'dancing as a couple'.

Any other dancers out there BTW? And what do others do?

Replies (51)

February 18, 2013 at 01:49 AM · Our hobbies can impact very much. I'm a Olympic training rower and semi-professional cyclist. Safety has to be my number one priority if I want to stay on top of the violin.

February 18, 2013 at 02:45 AM · wow, I bet you can play 10 concertos in a row (oops, unintentional pun!)

February 18, 2013 at 02:50 AM · The great British violinist, Alfredo Campoli with whom I had lessons many years ago, was a champion Tennis player in his youth and throughout his life a top Bridge player. In fact, he died at a Bridge match (1991).

February 18, 2013 at 07:41 AM · I do sky diving without the parachute. Much more fun. And you can play the fiddle too on the way down. (CAUTION: I broke a string and a bow once doing that - it was only a cheapo carbon fibre bow so no matter. My Strad was still intact but the bridge a bit Carl Orf).

February 18, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Ellie - I hope you have taken up another activity. I stopped dancing for a while and my body started to fall apart rather quickly.

Why not try ballroom? You can do that at any level you like - so no pressure - and with your ballet background you are already going to have all the ballance skills (though learning to cede control to a partner is, I believe, hard for ballet dancers to learn).

February 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM · Peter: and to think I had you pegged as an intermediate tiddlywinks player. Just goes to show what you can learn on

February 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Peter, that is indeed taking your playing to new heights!

All jokes aside, playing the violin is my hobby. I am an amateur in the classical sense of the word. I love the fiddle even if it doesn't love me at times.

February 18, 2013 at 01:11 PM · Its mine too Michael - but its not my only one. For me the 'problem' with violin as a sole hobby is that it is simply not physically demanding enough. You need some serious excersize to keep fit for playing - dancing does that and more...

February 18, 2013 at 02:30 PM · I bought a very important piece of equipment today. A practice mute! That means I sound good to me and everyone as people can hardly hear me. I'd lost my old one. This ones even better, and I can practise at 3.00am now and it won't wake my wife - so she can go on snoring and the neighbours can rest in peace. (RIP as I've bumped them all off anyway!)

I'm even thinking of getting an electric fiddle (or gas if that's cheaper) and I tried one today, which may mean I can join a Rock Band along with all those other aged comebackers ...

February 18, 2013 at 02:31 PM · Music is the main hobby I put in no.1 priority but still:

I do horseback riding in the summers (trails in the woods with someone leading in front... Western Saddle)

And I started my first classical horseback riding lessons last summer and take 1 per month.

I always wanted to ride horses. I love these animals since I was little and remember asking for lessons at 5 yo... my parents didn't let me until I was 18 yo. So I took music instead...

What is common between violin and horse riding is the straightness in the body, the firm yet relaxed hold, the sense of rythm but mostly in the legs and seat (strong shoulders and arms are to violinists what strong tighs is to riders!), the team work with a living and tempermental creature (just as a violin lol!), the quickness in reactions, the discipline and precision, the commanding yet gentle approach. Which is necessary for your and your horses safety... still a 1200 pound animal!

I don't hide that ideally, I should not even ride horses since it's a sport where you can break bones if you fall... I would hate myself so much for breaking a wrist or something and not beeing able to play violin as before...

I also learn Russian at University with a friend for fun. Beeing a fan of the russian musicians, crazy about David Oistrakh's playing and having a russian teacher, it's fun to understand them a bit... And it's for sure that I want to travel to Russia at least once in my life.

What helps me very much and makes me sucessful in languages is my musical ear and memory. It's just like memorizing a tune really! A lot of violinists speak many languages so I guess it's very similar in the brain.

Other hobbies include a lot of walks with the dog (she has many dog friends that we often meet...), canoo with friends since I live near a river and cooking... I'm a damn good cook if I compare with people of my generation. I joke that I would make a perfect housewife but it's not exactly that I want to do... violin costs money and I want a house to play quiet! So I will have to earn $ lol

Very interesting discussion, spasiba!

February 18, 2013 at 03:34 PM · I’ve had many hobbies in my life, but at this time being a full time parent, music resource for my parish and a little involved with two scout groups I had to give up my last hobby besides the violin less than a year ago: Bobbin Lace. Plus the violin is starting to take more and more time.

If you look at the main set of hobbies from my youth to now it would go model building (plastic scale, wooden flying, wooden ships, etc), guitar, leather craft, recorder followed by wooden flutes, painting, tatting and then bobbin lace.

The only problem other than toxic fumes with the model building occurred with tatting. Many tatters, including myself, end up with golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis). [Edit] I forgot to mention that this is in the right arm and even after years of no tatting sometimes when I practice I can feel a little reminder of this condition. So no tatting though sometimes I'm tempted.

If I had to focus on what these activities promote in common it would be a tenacious meticulousness. Very helpful on those days when one or two notes are driving you crazy.

Of course the leather craft gives you a strong right hand though I don’t think using a mallet translates directly to a hammer stroke, but maybe up and down bow staccato is helped a little by that motion.

February 18, 2013 at 04:49 PM · 'Fess up, girlfriend: is it about the exercise, or about the dress? Pretty swanky!

February 18, 2013 at 05:26 PM · It's nice to see we all have such diverse interests. My hobbies wax and wane...but I've been fairly consistant with my interest in animals and animal behaviour (blame that on my science background) - basically this has translated into a number of pets. We also have horses...and I have done beginner dressage, shown in halter class, etc., but now we're back to just riding around the block on weekends.

I have shown and trained dogs to various levels...but now I'm focused primarily on "power" dog walking as part of my fitness regime...the dogs love this part! :D

I also participate in a dance class...not ballroom though...

I have a passionate interest in the visual arts as well...which takes various forms...

There's more...but the ones I've listed are the enduring interests...

February 18, 2013 at 05:34 PM · Lisa you're onto me. I get to dress like a hooker - sparkly gown, plastered makeup, gaudy jewelry, the works - and to show off my moves - and then I get a medal for it! :D

Dresses are ~$2K, away comps total about ~$3K, lessons $100 so maybe I qualify as a courtesan...

A bit of a contrast to playing Mozart in a quartet methinks....

February 18, 2013 at 06:38 PM · 2000$ for a dress!!! Mine never cost more than a fiver! I get them from that Dire guy (Christian Dire?) down in the market here. Even with the frilly knickers it never comes to more than $8 or 9$ at most when the knickers include elastic ...

I wouldn't pay 2000$ for a fiddle (maybe 2.5K for a Strad) let alone an old rag!!

February 18, 2013 at 08:21 PM · I like to make things out of wood. Not a violin, but furniture and cabinets ... things I can use. I made a complete bedroom set for my kids, just as an example... not fancy or tricky stuff but attractive and solidly made.

February 18, 2013 at 08:24 PM · I used to run, but nowadays it is only music -- and it shows! May I borrow some of your elegance, Elise?

February 18, 2013 at 09:26 PM · Bart :))))

I've heard you play and you have plenty of your own...

February 19, 2013 at 06:35 AM · My friend who is at conservatoire studying violin loves gymnastics and has been doing it since a young age...she also loves figure skating on ice (is that how you call it? sorry LOL), she is often thinking of stopping these as they are high-risk for broken wrists/fingers etc, but I don't know if she will as she loves these sports so much and she is so talented in them too :)

February 19, 2013 at 07:09 AM · Elise, yes exercise is very beneficial for violin playing. I lift weights and chop wood if that counts. I used to wrestle and run track in my younger days while coaching but I am now of an age where that is in the distant past. Walking is more my speed now.

February 19, 2013 at 12:18 PM · I run distance and knit. The running gives me stamina and helps relieve tension. Plus, you get race medals, which is awesome. The knitting helps with finger dexterity and you get a sweater or a pair of socks at the end. If only my violin playing were anywhere near my running and knitting skills, I'd be far happier.

February 19, 2013 at 02:16 PM · Michael,

What weight category did you wrestle at? I'm willing to drop 20 pounds of spit if you'll meet me somewhere no farther than Iowa (Dan gable country) to relive my high school glory years for six minutes. Afterwards we can play violin duets. What do you say!! :)

Not so sincerely, Terry

February 19, 2013 at 02:31 PM · Not to sound like a broken record, but Tennis is my other hobby. I'm at a level confident enough to say I am pretty good, unlike my attempts a violin. I also got into modular origami, and very into art/digital graphics. Violin now takes much of my free time though.

Well playing tennis impacts my violin playing by helpng have endurance standing for long durations, and it makes the bow feel very light.

Origami helped with my finger dexterity

Art and graphics help me with dynamics and musicality.

February 19, 2013 at 02:39 PM · I power lift. Helps me play my viola, which countless people have said is too big for me.

---Ann Marie

February 19, 2013 at 04:32 PM · Krista: "I run distance and knit."

Now thats something I would pay to watch! Lets see, if its cold you can knit a nose cosy as you run... :D

February 19, 2013 at 05:25 PM · Ha ha! Elise, I knew that would come up. I haven't done them at the same time yet, but it could still happen. I ran past a man juggling during one race. He never dropped a ball.

February 19, 2013 at 07:25 PM · - woodworking, especially woodturning

- Photography, especially birds

- History, especially military

- Target sports

Used to be (until injuries stopped them):

- Argentine Tango

- Running

- Mountain hiking

February 19, 2013 at 08:36 PM · John: A dancer!!! xxxxx

February 19, 2013 at 11:43 PM · Terry, I'll have to pass. I knew I was too old when I made 1998 my last year to coach wrestling. The kids could outlast me! But they couldn't play the violin!

February 20, 2013 at 12:24 AM · My other hobby is writing fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last November (and blogged about it for November and December).

Writing actually plays a pretty large role for me in playing the violin: I started playing again after an 8-year break when I found this site. I started blogging back in 2006 to try to keep myself focused and to keep myself from quitting again, since I had quit already twice before. So far, almost 7 years in, it seems to be working pretty well. I have no intention of quitting violin again, that's for sure!

I also write about music and musicians in my fiction. And I find that writing is a good tool for analytical problem solving, in many areas of life, not just music.

I know that most people wouldn't share my opinion, and I don't expect them to, but ballroom dancing really doesn't appeal to me because it's so gendered. My experience with activities that have socially constructed separate roles for men and women has been overall quite negative, and I see what you write there about ballroom dancing, that the woman has to follow the man and he is her music, and I just think "Eeeeeew!" Obviously you're a very strong, independent woman and still don't mind it, but I wouldn't be able to set those feelings aside.

February 20, 2013 at 02:10 AM · I do not wish to hijack this thread, but Karen points to something that does affect many of us. My experiences ‘with activities that have socially constructed separate roles for men and women’ have been fairly positive. Not because I fit into the gender specific role but the opposite. The difference being that some of the activities that I enjoy are currently viewed as feminine. And yes I have been confronted on the playground (I’m a full time parent) by women who wonder how I was able to be so in touch with my feminine side, though that is really not the case.

Lacemaking is a case in point. Many believe that Lacemaking was originally developed from things like net making and nautical rope work. But even in the 1800s though mainly women made lace to supplement the family income, men would also spend their evenings making lace, also to help with the family income.

Now Lacemaking is viewed as feminine and the main effect it has on me is that I make doilies, runners and various motifs, but the women get to wear their lace. I could perhaps if I were to get back into early music, but this brings us to the one effect of gender bias that effected my music making.

I love the baroque flute but I started the flute late and have no history as a child with that instrument. Part of me wanted to play the flute in elementary school, but it was made clear, by family and teachers, that the flute was a girl’s instrument so I took up the coronet and then the baritone. Oh, that poor girl who played the trombone, did she catch a bunch.

Hopefully this has changed, especially given the number of great musicians who did not let these stereotypes influence their decision.

I left needlepoint and cross-stitch of my original list.

February 20, 2013 at 02:54 AM · OK, it appears the hobby gauntlet has been laid, so here goes mine, in no particular order, with the exception being the first one :)



Wrestling (high school)

Cultural Anthropology




Argentine Tango

Salsa Dancing



Goat and duck ownership


Chinese chess


Remaining hobbies, after having children:





goat and duck ownership

and dabble a bit in the others...

February 20, 2013 at 04:45 AM · Interesting Patrick, and beautiful work!

I do not see anything bad with your interests and I have for my saying that as long as a man still looks and acts normally for a man, they can do ballet or flute if they want (who cares!)

I think society begins to react to men who actually act and dress like women (even then, we should respect their freedom even if it's weird for us).

My mom always did all the repairs in the house and my father doesn't even know how to hammer straigt...

Karen, I would also have a problem with the male "dominance" aspect in ballroom dancing. But I find this art very elegant nevertheless and have much respect for Elise who is very good at it :) There is nothing bad in it because it's a choice to do this activity or not.

As for the violin, I feel one has to have a very strong feminine and masculine temper to play it really well (the bests artists are in touch with both sides and use them at turns imho). Music reflects humanity and humanity is made of both :)

But sorry to highjack that discussion. I love hearing about everyone's hobbies and with the pictures it's even more fun!

February 20, 2013 at 07:11 AM · I play video games. ;)

I have a piano colleague who swears that playing her Nintendo DS for 20 minutes before sight-reading makes her play tons better.

February 20, 2013 at 08:14 AM · Anne-Marie

"As for the violin, I feel one has to have a very strong feminine and masculine temper to play it really well (the bests artists are in touch with both sides and use them at turns imho). Music reflects humanity and humanity is made of both :)"

Very wonderfully put!!

February 20, 2013 at 09:58 AM · interesting! I would say my hobbies are sport (football and fitness).

But honestly I do not do very much besides musicrelated stuff. But I like to dance and go out with friends at the weekend. I think that made me much more social than I used to be. I get along with most musicians and if not I can see immediately.

I actually play football with other musicians.

The benefit of sports are different. Fitness as weightlifting gives you more power, a better posture and better feeling of your body. Also the bloodcirulation is better when all muscles are active from time to time. But I must be always careful not to overdo my underarm muscles.

Football is quite different. It quite bad for the hip and foot joints. Usually I am fine after football, but sometimes my feet ar wrecked or my lower back hurts.

Usually I plan to practice before making sport because after sport I need some time to rest until I can practice with the necessary relaxation.

February 21, 2013 at 11:55 AM · Karen wrote: "I know that most people wouldn't share my opinion, and I don't expect them to, but ballroom dancing really doesn't appeal to me because it's so gendered. My experience with activities that have socially constructed separate roles for men and women has been overall quite negative, and I see what you write there about ballroom dancing, that the woman has to follow the man and he is her music, and I just think "Eeeeeew!" Obviously you're a very strong, independent woman and still don't mind it, but I wouldn't be able to set those feelings aside."

I know that most people wouldn't share my opinion, and I don't expect them to, but ballroom dancing really doesn't appeal to me because it's so gendered. My experience with activities that have socially constructed separate roles for men and women has been overall quite negative, and I see what you write there about ballroom dancing, that the woman has to follow the man and he is her music, and I just think "Eeeeeew!" Obviously you're a very strong, independent woman and still don't mind it, but I wouldn't be able to set those feelings aside.

hehe. I really don't think you understand ballroom dancing! First of all, the man can not take one step unless the woman lets him. The point is that yes, its gendered but just like many things in life (e.g. child birth/rearing) there are separable roles. It just so happens that the man takes one set and the woman the other. What you can't see in ballroom is that control actually alternates between the couple. Its part of the man's job to select the step and direction but the woman decides on the energy of its execution and is responsible for the expression. Indeed, one of its charms is recognizing that men and women are actually not the same - every (heterosexual) couple knows that. To me the truly imporant factor in sex relations is not that we are different but that we are equal - and that does not mean we have to always to identical things.

Besides, if you play in an orchestra you have to do what the conductor directs - and most conductors are still male for reasons that I do not think are biological. IMO that is a much better example of sexual inequality...

February 21, 2013 at 11:57 AM · Oh, and another hobby: orchids. I seem to have a green (white, yellow, orange, scented, ...) thumb for them which is odd cause I'm a disaster in the garde. Actually, its not odd because most orchids thrive on 'benign neglect' and I'm good at that! :)

Not sure that impacts my playing at all tho...

February 21, 2013 at 12:26 PM · Well-put Elise! I'm reminded of something Ginger Rogers said about dancing with Fred Astair: "I had to do everything he did - except backwards and in heels!" So which one was really the star? Both of them!

My many interests, hobbies and OCD's include: reading, book collecting, instrument collecting, art collecting, antique case collecting, dust collecting (well, that's just something my apartment does on its own!) and Yoga meditation. In my 20's I studied Kung-Fu for several years. Oh, and posting too much on a certain violin site!

February 21, 2013 at 06:00 PM · Raphael wrote: "In my 20's I studied Kung-Fu for several years. " I bet thats good for playing? Should give you great muscle control...

"Oh, and posting too much on a certain violin site"

... finger excecises?

February 21, 2013 at 09:05 PM · John: A dancer!!!

My wife and I have done some dancing, but I have a hard time lasting a 1 hour class. My right knee starts hurting like crazy.

Although I did have some fun at one of the kids' wedding last December. There was the old faguy out there, doing the twist.

February 21, 2013 at 10:27 PM · Actually, in my case Kung-Fu gave me lots of sore muscles, and sometimes impacted negatively on my playing, and I had to finally make a choice. I know that some people are able to combine music with heavy-duty sports or martial arts but it didn't work for me. That said, I don't regret the experience, and it gave me a lot of confidence and a fascinating and totally different interest - and to some extent the martial arts are still in my blood. I would recommend Tai-Chi for musicians. But one helpful thing that I still access in some playing situations is a greater rootedness in the way I sometimes stand when I play, which gives me more support for some things.

February 23, 2013 at 04:05 PM · Heifetz was an avid ping-pong player.

And guess which famous violinist was an expert mountain climber?....



Give up?


Zino Francescatti.

In the rarefied atmosphere of great violinists, he ascended to the peak. He truly scaled the heights. And which great concertos did he excel at?...Take your pick. He could grapple with any of them.



February 23, 2013 at 06:32 PM · There's a tradition of musicians playing Chess in some countries. Maybe this is a bit outdated today since we hear more of tennis and golf :) Maybe not?

Henryk Szeryng loved animals and these pictures of him are just adorable...§ion=with_animals

February 24, 2013 at 12:38 AM · That's a great website about Szeryng.

They have a video clip "Sa vie, ses passions" (in French) which includes him "doing a Liberace" and playing "Embraceable you" on the piano, beautifully I might add.

February 24, 2013 at 04:29 AM · My main hobbies are running and ultimate frisbee. I often play catch with my brother, which is good for my hand strength. I used to swing dance and read a lot before college, but don't have enough time now. Writing music occupies much of my spare time, but that's not a hobby...

February 24, 2013 at 06:52 PM · I don't know how so many people can live without any real excercise. If I go for a week without something strenuous I start to fall appart.

Actually, maybe that explains the few orchestra violinists who are slumped in their chairs...

Frisby sounds great bryan! But get back to the swing dancing - its a life-time excersize - and you can do it indoors. [Is there indoor frisbe?]

February 25, 2013 at 08:44 AM · I've been amusing myself looking into hobbies of some of the greats. Its information thats not easy to find - and many seemed to live such peripatetic (or hand-to-mouth) lives that it must have been hard to have any other interests.

I did find this on Fritz Kreisler: "During his lifetime, Kreisler collected many fine violins." Rather a banal discovery, but it goes on "Another of his hobbies, was collecting rare books." But appently his wife (who was also his life manager it seems) stopped him because it was 'wasteful'.

February 25, 2013 at 01:04 PM · He collected very rare and valuable books called incunabula. His wife, Harriet was known as some piece of work. None of his friends liked her or understood what he saw in her. Kreisler was highly cultured and educated and was conversant in Greek and Latin as well as several modern languages. Once he was hit by a truck and for a while could only speak in Latin!

From Wiki:

An incunable, or sometimes incunabulum (plural incunables or incunabula, respectively) is a book, pamphlet, or broadside (such as the Almanach cracoviense ad annum 1474) that was printed—not handwritten—before the year 1501 in Europe. "Incunable" is the anglicised singular form of "incunabula", Latin for "swaddling clothes" or "cradle"[1] which can refer to "the earliest stages or first traces in the development of anything."[2] A former term for "incunable" is "fifteener," referring to the fifteenth century.

The convenient but arbitrarily chosen end date for identifying a printed book as an incunable does not reflect any notable developments in the printing process, and many books printed for a number of years after 1500 continued to be visually indistinguishable from incunables. "Post-incunable" typically refers to books printed after 1500 up to another arbitrary end date such as 1520 or 1540.

February 25, 2013 at 02:14 PM · How very interesting! Not the sort of thing you would expect to learn on a violin forum :)

From the sounds of it, Harriet, for all her controlling flaws, was the biggest fan of his playing. Perhaps many a violinist (or any artist) would put up with a lot for a partner that was 150% behind them doing only what they wanted to most do...

February 25, 2013 at 04:40 PM · Maybe...but doing most what he wanted to do (playing the violin) earned him - and her - a fortune. So why not back him up? And he had a gagillion super fans - including Heifetz. Well, the relationship seemed to work. BTW, I once tried Kreisler's del Gesu at the Library of Congress!

Speaking of Heifetz, he had many non-musical interests besides ping-pong. As a young man he was an amateur photographer, and liked putting on comedy skits with his family. In his more mature years he collected art, books, stamps and coins, and fancied himself - as I do - a pretty good interior decorator!

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