Double stop pain

October 28, 2018, 3:34 AM · I took a multiple decade break from violin and got back into it a year ago. Now that I'm big, I can't play double stops (example: Hungarian Rhapsody no 1) without a lot of hand pain going from 2/4th finger to 1/3rd fingers. Any recommendations? I tried lowering my shoulder rest to give me more room to bring my fingers over, but it's still uncomfortable.

Replies (8)

Edited: October 28, 2018, 9:02 AM · Do you have a teacher? If not, it might be a good idea to get one to help you get back your technique after such a long break. I took a 25-year hiatus and immediately got a teacher, which helped me immensely. That way, you have someone who can watch your technique and help you restore it and improve it. Anyhow, a teacher can watch how you do the double stops and figure out what you need to change so that you are not in pain. It is also possible that you tried to do something to difficult too soon after restarting and strained something. Good luck!
October 28, 2018, 11:27 AM · There could be a number of causes for this pain:
1. Are you twisting your wrist when playing double stops? If so, this must be avoided. Avoid tension in the thumb, and keep the wrist in neutral position like you do when you're sitting and doing nothing.
2. Check and make sure the neck is more or less parallel to your palm without any wrist twisting.
3. Experiment with the position of your thumb. Depending on the size, shape and flexibility of your hand, you may need to move your thumb around a little more when playing double stops.
4. With the above in mind, keep the pinky close to the string when it is off the fingerboard and it should drop vertically instead of sideways.
Edited: October 28, 2018, 3:11 PM · After such a long break, it is a bit too optimistic to jump into double stops after only 1 year. "Multiple decades" translates into that you are not such a young person anymore, so you need to be very careful if you want to avoid injuries and enjoy playing as long as you live. Your love for music, your feelings are not at the same level as your tendons, joints, nerves and the rest of the body.
I would say, take it easy, go back to basics and play scales and etudes daily. Once you feel no restriction / pain while playing double stops, feel free to venture into more demanding pieces.
From my personal experience, it took me 2 years to get back to similar form after 20 years of silence, and even longer to start improving and building my technique to this level. I learned the above through pain and injury and am very mindful before I open violin case (warm-up), during the practice and stretch after. Do not make the same mistake!
October 28, 2018, 2:05 PM · Is what you are trying parallel thirds 1-3 and 2-4 ? Thirds are especially difficult because of the physical awkwardness and the difficulty of tuning. Try lifting the fingers you are not using instead of leaving them down. The 3rd and 4th fingers are not completely independent, they share a tendon somewhere. Pianists are more aware this problem than violinists.
October 28, 2018, 3:25 PM · Threre is one thing I don't understand: You say "now that I'm big": Does that mean you were small when you abandoned the instrument? Or why else do you say that?
Edited: October 28, 2018, 6:27 PM · I infer that the OP feels his larger size compared to his youthful size is the main reason he's struggling with parallel thirds. This is likely to be among the least of his problems.

If you're going to play thirds, the best thing to practice is very slow scales in thirds. My teacher taught me to practice them like this. For example, in C major:

CE (pause) CE-DF (pause) DF-(shift up)-GE (pause) GE-FA (pause) FA-(shift down)-GB etc.

Each pair of double stops is played as a slur. For now I recommend you do not try to go above third position until you are comfortable and feel happy with your intonation.

If this exercise is a struggle or you find you just cannot get them satisfactorily in tune, then you should take a step back and do the same thing but with sixths. The same intonation principles apply to sixths as thirds, but they are much less demanding physically.

October 29, 2018, 1:25 PM · I would go slow with the double stops. It's easy to press too much, and you want your fingers to make contact as lightly as possible. A vice-grip is going to come back to bite you. Slow scales is a good idea, as Paul points out.

This could be a lot of things - It's hard for us to diagnose.

October 29, 2018, 3:56 PM · Double-stops and chords require a firmer stop than single notes, for clarity.

Try moving the thumb closer to your second finger, so the weight of the hand is more centered.

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