July 1, 2004 at 05:42 PM · I was reading neurological magazine saying how mood disorder can affect everything you do, blinding you to the truth of what something really is. I noticed that the only time my violin sounds scratchy to me is when I am depressed and the only time it sounds squeaky is when I am sad. So for us girls/women who have to go through a time every month of depression and loneliness, how do you get through that without being totally discouraged and wantng to give up violin because you don't think you sound good? I wonder how the famous women violinist get through it. Its so hard. And I love to practice, so i can't just wait for that, for me, 2 weeks to pass.

Some Advice

Replies (25)

July 1, 2004 at 07:14 PM · Dear Jasmine, Please don't let this get you down. It might help to realize that you can't appreciate the great days if you don't have a few not-so-great days. You might want to do a couple of things about an hour or so before you practice. First, get a little exercise where you get your heart rate up and breathe heavily. Sometimes physical activity can brighten a mood. Second, consider listening to some energetic music before practicing. Music that is cheerful or fast can sometimes help in elevating one's mood. You might also consider saving certain kinds of routine technical work for those days where your mood is a little down. Concentrating on fixing small problems might be one way to ignore your less than optimum tone quality. On the other hand, you could also try playing music you particularly enjoy for those down times and saving routine technique for the up times. Experiment and see if one way or the other works for you. Finally, make sure you are having a balanced diet. Getting all the right nutrients is essential to improving moods. I read an article recently that suggested upping your intake of fish and fatty fish oils to help with cramps. I don't know if they help with mood or not. There is no sense in beating yourself up on the days your mood is off. Accept it as a part of your physiology and try to take steps that might help. Eat well, pamper yourself a little, and talk to your doctor if the problem gets any worse. Good luck! Ardene

July 2, 2004 at 12:21 AM · Some women find Evening Primrose Oil useful for PMT.

July 2, 2004 at 12:20 AM · Thank you alot Ardene. Its so hard, though. I was reading this article today right after posting this and it said that this that I play in the youth orchestra with has traveled all over the world playing. That got my mood to an all time low. I have a concert on Saturday with my youth orchestra and I don't even want to go anymore. And i also I have been thinking about going to school to be a music therapist, but because I feel so worthless I am reconsidering, when I really know in actuality that I adore this profession and my violin. I don't want to be famous or anything but when I get depressed I feel as if I do and then I get really bad when I see that I can not I hope it doesn't get the best of me. It only last two weeks, but that doesn't matter because alot can happen in two weeks, if you know what i mean. But this site has been a great encouragement to me and thanks again for your advice.

July 2, 2004 at 01:19 AM · Usually there is one day every month that is just too painful to focus...but aside from that, I like herbal infusions, yoga, evening primrose (good suggestion Sue), chocolate--even though it's not supposed to help--and actually caffeine really alleviates symptoms without making you jumpy. Exercise is great, even though you may not want to do helps far more than you'd think, and it puts your mind on your body instead of on itself. I know how you feel. :)

July 2, 2004 at 03:08 AM · Exercise for sure if you can muster the motivation, and I've also read that calcium intake (or at least making sure you're getting enough of it) can take the edge off of PMS (PMT) symptoms..thereby reducing any chance of harm to your instrument at a vulnerable moment. :)

July 2, 2004 at 03:13 AM · Greetings,

surprised noone mentioned it, but ginger is actually a very well rspected pain killer for this difficult time. What forrm you take it in varie sa lot. Some epopel just us eit as an excuse to mucnh cookies.

I think it helps not to se ebad patches as bad. If they are regualr then you know damn well that you are not amking excuses or being lazy. It is a fatc of life you can choose to deal with positively or self critically. You might fro example, schedul it as a time for positve rest where you have a rule of -no practicing-, read one book, watch three videos etc. Soke kind of recuperation tiem for muscles is vital for everyone.



July 2, 2004 at 09:31 AM · Yup, I do agree with Buri. There is about one week in a month where I spoil my wife by doing all the housework and I insist that she rest and just read or watch a relaxing movie or video. I even switch on some uplifting music for her. Though she's not a musician but she loves Vivaldi's spring, Bach's E Major concerto and other types of cheerful music to liven up her day and distract her from the depressing mood.

Plenty of rest ought to do the trick, and it wouldn't be a good idea to stress yourself with more practising. Cheer Up from Sunny Malaysia! - AARON

July 2, 2004 at 12:30 PM · Well I'm not going to be very popular with this remark but anyone who has had a family to take care of and a job at the same time (not to mention finding time to practice)doesn't have time to wallow in pmt.(I'd be interested in hearing from Laurie on this one).

On the other hand if you are really suffering surely the fact that it is a regular recurring sympton that is not lifethreatening and has a known cause must at least be of some comfort.If you find that you cannot practice your normal studies why not take an opportunity to review old studies and repetoire that you can play well.This should be uplifting in itself.Try very slow scale practice going for good clear tone production to allieviate the scratchy sensation.After you have practiced treat yourself to something special that you like.


July 2, 2004 at 02:04 PM · Hi,
I got a friend in California (seriously - it's not my responsibility that Merle wrote that song) with severe MS. He has to sit in a chair all day and feels dizzy. The only thing he can do is listen to music (Bach, Beethoven) and talk to his friends on the phone. Even talking makes him tired really fast.
I don't have clinical depression or any other severe health problems - except that I'm too fat - and whenever I get into a "Weltschmerz"-mood and think how live could be better, I always remind myself how grateful and happy he'd be if he could just get up and go to work.
Immediately, I feel ashamed for complaining at all.
You have several things many people can only wish for

  • you live in a free country
  • you live in California
  • you're able to play the most wonderful musical instrument there is
Get out and connect to nature, walk around, listen to the sounds and take in the sights.

July 2, 2004 at 05:42 PM · Well, geez, folks.

I do get really down with this, too.

I really noticed what it does to me after I had my last child. Pregnancy can certainly be no fun, but it does relieve you of that monthly thing for about a year or so. So when it started again, I could really see what was happening. It reminded me of caffeine, which makes you feel energetic, even when you aren't. This monthly thing makes you feel like crying, crying from deep down in your belly, even though you may not have anything else causing you to feel that way!

I found a really good chapter on this in "The Power of Now," by Eckhart Tolle. It talked about trying to separate yourself from the things your body happens to be doing to you. In fact, that whole book is pretty wonderful.

Anyway, the things that bother you during those times may have some basis in reality, but that is not the best time for thinking or dealing with them, as you have this physical trigger making you feel five times as miserable about everything than you would otherwise.

So anyway, be really nice to yourself and avoid the heavy thoughts. When they come, try to let them slide by. Just treat yourself really well. Acknowledge that your body is going to feel bad, but don't let that take everything over.

July 2, 2004 at 07:09 PM · Listen to Laurie!

Binging on chocolate is supposed to help...and strangely after hearing about the study, it does help.

I feel absolutely disgusting during the females monthly friend, bad cramps, the whole bit, some months worse then others depending on what else has been going on in my life. I find a really useful thing during this time is curling up on my bed with a warm blanket or if it's particularly bad, a hot water bottle, and just looking at the music and practicing it in my head really helps. Play sitting down if it feels better...often getting out for a walk, even if uncomfortable, the excersise does help the muscles to relax and then I feel better when I get back from being out in the fresh air.

July 2, 2004 at 07:22 PM · I'm no doctor and am not pretending to medically evaluate anyone, but you know, if that time of the month is so tough that it's really interfering with the rest of your life, do go to the doctor... there are sometimes ways of making it better. I used to have a really bad time, but found that hormone-based contraceptive measures improved things a lot.

July 2, 2004 at 10:07 PM · It can be really debilitating for some people, and sometimes a little medical intervention can improve things drastically.

July 2, 2004 at 10:24 PM · Hi. I know exactly what you mean. When i reach that time pf the month, its not the depression so much that gets me down, its the pain. I find it so hard to do anything when i get cramps, and try to avoid painkillers as i think its a weakness. I find that it helps when you pamper yourself. nine times out of ten i give in to ibuprofen, but it helps me to just spend a day doing nothing important and just let myself go - walks in the countryside always helps.

I was born without patience and find it extremely difficult to keep my practice up when its not going the way i want.

My mum tells me that when i get older it gets better (i'm 16): it better do!...

July 2, 2004 at 11:45 PM · Janet Griffiths, I enjoy all your posts a lot but this time I'd like to disagree.

Everyone has PMT to a different degree; perhaps Jasmine's unfortunately is much worse than yours. Also, the fact that you are bringing up a family suggests that you are older than her and therefore have had a little more time to get used to it, and know more about eating better etc for your body. (altho of course it's bad each time)

Jasmine, are you sure you shouldn't go to a counsellor? Music studying puts so much pressure on people; plenty of musicians go to counsellors and cope much better for it. Don't think your problem is too small.

Also you could bear in mind that nobody is motivated and self-believing all of the time..that, in fact, is one of the most difficult things about becoming really good at anything.

July 3, 2004 at 12:51 AM · Jasmine,

The number one thing I would recommend is that you not make any major decisions when you feel this way. They could be irrational.

Also, a good cry always hits the spot. Sometimes, I have to find a healthy way to get to the point where I can really cry, and then after that it's okay again.

Mood swings, though greatly exaggerated at times, can reveal deeper issues that you may be able to ignore or deny at other times.

July 3, 2004 at 05:56 AM · Well, I really *do* tend to sound really bad when I'm feeling depressed, and I think I know why:

Playing with less energy makes my bow a bit sluggish and probably too slow for the usual sound point I'd use for a particular passage. Also, a weak and 'depressed' left hand definitely makes my tone far less pure.

My solution: not herbal infusions or massage but turning to some of Simon Fischer's 'Basics' exercises for tone production and articulation. This helped me work out what it was about my mood that was having a physical effect on my playing, and how to deal with it.

I guess the thing that impresses me most about good playing is the energy, and that's exactly what disappears from my playing when I'm depressed. Since this happens at least a few days a month, I'm working on ways to get the effect of energy even when I'm not feeling it.

July 4, 2004 at 05:15 PM · Thank you again for all your encouraging advice. I've decided to just make goals and plans during this time.

July 6, 2004 at 12:37 AM · Play some pieces you really enjoy or go do something totally un-violin related...listen to Heifetz or Perlman or Stern...(this list is way too long for me to type out completely)

December 7, 2004 at 09:17 AM · In response to the first post:

Sounds like you're a perfectionist. Nothing wrong with that. As far as remedies go, there's always Prozac*!

*rolls eyes (on second thought, not a great idea)

December 7, 2004 at 06:09 PM · I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. I find that the less healthy I am, the worse of an ordeal I have each month. When I got heavier, the cramps became debilitating. It’s very rare that I take pain medication, it takes a lot for me to resort to it but I had to quite a bit back then, usually without success because the cramps were so bad I couldn’t keep anything down. I started exercising regularly & got myself back to a healthy weight and I cannot believe the difference.

December 7, 2004 at 08:27 PM · Vitamin B6


Oil of Evening Primose


December 8, 2004 at 11:14 PM · Now I know how lucky I am not to get too extreme effects during that time of the month.

Sometimes though I do get it a bit bad and I find that lying down helps the pain as Kelsey mentioned too. Though you can't really play the violin lying down I guess...

You could play the violin in your head? What I mean is that you can read music and work out fingering, seeing the shifts in your head, which helps sight reading. My piano teacher once told me that this person learnt a book of etudes by reading them on the train to work!

I've had days which seem as grey as school uniform trousers and nothing seems to make it better. You could try to do something that you really like and would make you laugh even at the darkest of times. For example, going on!

Watching funny films like 'Rush Hour' and 'Rush Hour 2'!

Seeing a friend that you enjoy talking to and who could really lighten your spirit.

Get better soon Miss Jasmine and her tummy!

One-Sim :) :) :)

December 9, 2004 at 09:09 PM · Hiya, Jasmine! Boy, I know what it's like to be in debilitating pain once a month! Mine used to be so bad I had to take a day off and lie in bed for half the day, wailing and moaning! =/ I finally went to a female doctor and got some perscription medicine to dull the pain and make my 'moments' more regular *blushes a little*, and I can actually handle it better.

Anywayz, whenever I'm feeling down (for ANY reason) and I start accusing myself of having no talent, I just whip out something easy and fun to play -- for me, it's usually my big book of Scottish fiddle tunes. They just lift my spirits right up. If that doesn't work, I just go and serenade my fiance while he's working at the computer, and let all his compliments wash my doubts away! *Blushes a little more....*

December 15, 2004 at 07:50 AM · I've heard that drinking warm water lessens the cramps...I dont know whether it's true or not though.

And yeah, Kelsey's right, taking a walk is a good idea since sitting down for a long while sometimes makes you concentrate on your discomfort.

I watch the 'Art of Violin' DVD whenever I feel in the dumps.

I dont know whY :) It makes me feel SOO much better and sort of reminds me why I started learning in the first place.

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