Why is Good Posture not taught in Schools??

March 1, 2019, 4:33 AM ·

Do you have a lot of students with bad posture, with some as young as 5 and 6?
I find this is a problem that we can't fix, because it's a daily full time parent/teacher issue, with the concept of prevention.

Have you been successful at correcting poor posture with young children?

Replies (27)

March 1, 2019, 5:34 AM · I think sometimes the teacher has so many kids (if we're talking public schools) and they need to learn X amount of content in Y amount of time before the concert that maybe the teacher can't necessarily focus on posture? Additionally, in my time subbing, I've seen lesson groups that are five or more students depending on the district. I suppose it depends on the teacher. Ideally, I'd want my kiddos to have good posture from the beginning.
Edited: March 1, 2019, 5:53 AM · My first instrument teacher (5th grade) was emphatic that players should sit forward and upright on the edge of the chair, not use the chair back, looking alert and involved in the music, and everyone did. Now I go to a concert and see pros looking like they are getting ready to take a nap, slouching in their seats against the seat back. Looks like crap, in my opinion. To rephrase a comment I saw a violin teacher make once: the audience didn't pay all of that money for a ticket to see an orchestra that looks like it would prefer to be home falling asleep in front of the TV.
March 1, 2019, 6:20 AM · Well, in one of my lessons, my teacher just grabbed my violin away from me, and won't give me back I stand straight, body centred and shoulder relax. Then, when I started playing, he took my violin away again in the middle of the piece when my posture was no good. It repeated a quite few times during the lesson.

It was quite annoying, but I know what my teacher was aiming at. We sort of "wasted" a lesson on this non-musical topic, but it wasn't really wasted because it makes me more aware of my posture which benefit me in long run. However, I am an adult. I am not sure if you can do this to a child without making them cry or throw a tantrum.

Edited: March 1, 2019, 6:41 AM · You're an ADULT student and your teacher confiscated your violin??? I have to say, that's a little over-the-top. But if it worked for you ...

"Now I go to a concert and see pros looking like they are getting ready to take a nap, slouching in their seats against the seat back."

Probably the worst offender I have ever seen is Arnold Steinhardt. I decided, if someone like that can slouch in his chair, then maybe it's not such a crime.

I think one reason, sometimes, that you see entire sections of violins NOT sitting on the edge of their chairs is that this just takes more stage space.

Coming back to the original question, I think Kristen is right. It's just a matter of the available time and attention that the teachers have. But also, with private lessons, especially Suzuki lessons, the parent is much more involved and can work on posture throughout the week. These days parents send their kids to school and assume that the school is taking care of basically everything.

Finally, a lot of kids only stand when they have private lessons and practice at home. They're never taught by their private teachers how to play sitting down. That was the case for me when I was a kid. The first time I joined an orchestra one of the adult players in my section told me what to do.

March 1, 2019, 8:39 AM · Sort of ish related story here - I've always had fairly good posture, maybe since I started early, but when I was in 6th grade and new to orchestral playing (I wasn't used to sitting down) and I took everything about posture very seriously. However, I think most people did it when they were told, but when they were playing, they were focusing on playing, so that's probably why. Also, I started sitting on the edge of the chair in pretty much all of my classes, and I've fallen off of a chair probably around 4 or 5 times because of this... well, at least I have good posture.
March 1, 2019, 10:11 AM · Outside of actual concert halls, musician chair are often terrible. That's especially true at schools. Bad chairs can make it uncomfortable, difficult or impossible to actually sit properly.

Chairs can be somewhat instrument-specific, and they are also specific to the height of the player. The worse a chair is, the more you attempt to find some modicum of comfort and/or alter your posture to deal with pain, especially in longer rehearsals.

Also, having coached middle and high schoolers in public school orchestras, my experience is that sometimes the bad posture is an active expression of disengagement.

March 1, 2019, 11:10 AM · I do. All my band have to sit on the front half of the chair with feet flat on the floor, pianists as well. Standing, swayback is not allowed. I say tuck your pelvis/tail in. Anybody have a better verbal instruction?
Edited: March 1, 2019, 3:08 PM · When I was in elementary school, "good" posture was emphasized - you might say, "taught." It did not seem to work for me. But I did notice that my paternal grandfather also had "stooped shoulders." My father did not inherit that condition, but I did. Is that why I didn't become a virtuoso violinist?

I think not! The violin virtuoso, Stanislaw Huberman* was observed by some to have abnormal posture - but it didn't stop him. (*Founder of the Israel Philharmonic, too.)

But you must know that not every human is born with a ramrod-straight spine. Some people are born with spinal problems that can be eventually corrected these days with surgery and "ramrod" implants.

I have always felt one should hold your body in a way that does not cause discomfort and distraction. And now in my ancient years I try to hold my body in ways that don't hurt. It's hard enough to play any more - but to play and hurt - or - hurt and play - :(

I think that when it comes to teaching proper posture* for budding string players a good teacher will take account of all of each student's physical attributes from the time they start and with anticipation of how their bodies will develop during their musical lives.

* Proper posture for playing a string instrument involves lots more than just how you hold your back, legs and shoulders and how you plant your butt on a chair. Personally, I have done all my playing (except violin solo performance) sitting down since a back injury in 1962. And I carry my own cello stool to gigs where I play that instrument.

March 1, 2019, 12:31 PM · Could this be another effect of too much screen time/lack of exercise?
March 1, 2019, 1:40 PM · https://www.photo.net/discuss/threads/photographers-appearance.5513761/
March 1, 2019, 2:08 PM · Lydia makes a good point about chairs. Bad rehearsal chairs have been a major factor in my decision to quit a community orchestra before. (I had other areas of dissatisfaction too, but it was the chairs that made it intolerable.)
Edited: March 1, 2019, 3:27 PM · This has zero to do with screen time or lack of exercise.

Proper violin posture is not so easily learned for most students. It requires constant attention from a private teacher during lessons and from the student during home practice--or, for the younger students, a parent during the home practice.

I'm not going to blame this one on the teachers. I know some very good orchestra teachers who are doing the best they can but when they have a few dozen (or up to 50) beginners in a class with at most two or three teachers, it's not possible to be attentive enough. Only the most highly motivated student can achieve correct posture under those conditions, or the student whose parents are already providing private lessons.

Having done quite a bit of coaching various levels of high school violin sections, from the first violins of the top youth orchestra all the way to the stragglers at our local Title 1 high school (nobody taking private lessons), I also have to agree with Lydia. Sometimes the kids are passive-aggressively expressing their lack of engagement in the only way they can that isn't likely to bring down immediate adult opprobrium.

March 1, 2019, 3:51 PM · What exactly is "good posture"? Is it modeled after a broomstick, or something more along the natural curvature of the human spine?
March 1, 2019, 4:08 PM · I would think of it as Alexander Technique sort of posture. On your "sit bones", relaxed, with a sense of your body being balanced. Plus the Kato Havas inhale-and-feel-like-your-arms-are-flying bit.
March 1, 2019, 10:27 PM · I think posture is really hard. When I was little my dad often said "sit up straight", and I would tense up and do so. Now having practiced Alexander Technique for some time, I believe it's very much a matter of the inner feeling, and a search for ever more refined ease. It's wonderful for violin playing, but also for just living. At my day job, so many people are terrible slouchers, and it's not good for you.

Now with my young son, I gently but frequently remind him of posture. I remind with a light touch to sit up more easefully at the dinner table. And I remind him that everything with violin playing should feel comfortable. If not, we're not doing it right. I've gone through several private violin teachers with him, and I don't think any of them approached it very well. It takes a ton of patience and persistence, and needs to be encouraged from the beginning.

As to what teachers can do in public schools, I know it's an uphill battle but I think they can do more. Constant gentle reminders will have an effect. A conductor can take a two minute break for a posture check-in with the group. You can remind your students how things should feel easy. Playing should be a pleasure, not a chore. I imagine if this was a bigger focus, some of those kids who are rebelling with poor posture would feel more engaged and enjoy playing more.

Edited: March 2, 2019, 8:27 AM · There are institutions that successfully teach posture from the beginning, usually with a loud voice on a parade ground, and have been doing so for a very long time.
Edited: March 2, 2019, 12:57 PM · I wonder how much of the "sit up straight" stuff has to do with appearance, and generations of associating this with "good parenting". Is it really healthier to keep certain muscles tense in order to match a formal profile, or is it better to relax the muscles? Do the Buckingham palace guards have a lower incidence of back and neck problems than a control group, with the only difference being the "standing at attention"?

I've found studies supporting each notion. However, most seem to agree that a "power pose" does seem to have communication and self-esteem benefits, and is significant as a form of non-verbal communication. Animals do this too, don't they?

Men can even have temporarily increased levels of testosterone when they "power pose". Weird stuff!
I wonder if goose-stepping can raise it even higher? ;-)

March 2, 2019, 3:59 PM · People who complain about how kids are taught in schools likely have never taught in schools.
March 4, 2019, 8:14 AM · I find posture very challenging whether for myself or my students. Our environment does not encourage proper body usage.(Use of the phrase proper body usage rather than posture is intentional.)

At conferences, I attend every workshop they have on the different modalities that work on body usage (alexander technique, feldenkrais etc.) The entire reason I joined ASTA this year and am attending their conference is to take the day of body mapping. I have read the first two chapters of the book and have learned a lot already. And some of it is making me question many things I have been taught about what is good posture for holding and playing the violin.

Children start with good body usage but then they see the people around them and start modelling their body usage which normally is not the best.

Except for my very first teacher I don't remember a teacher ever talking about how to make my body and the instrument interact well. That doesn't mean it didn't happen but if it did, I don't remember it.

I have had students where I have felt a lack of exercise and movement was an issue in their stance. I have had many students who get a adolescent slouch posture going away from their instrument that bleeds over into their instrument and must be worked on. I find a lack of knowledge in what is the core of the body and lack of using the core to support the body and instrument.

I recently completed several months of intense chiropractic treatment. This is the first time in my life that I can understand what is meant by core and what it means to find my center. In martial arts finding your center is important. I knew what people were talking about, but I never could feel it in my body. Now I can feel it easily and it is just there. Even the instructions I have always been given about how to lift with your legs have taken on new meaning for me because that now feels different.

I didn't watch the video yet. I intend to.

As far as why proper body usage is not taught in schools? To me that question has a simple answer. Because we as a society do not value proper body usage enough. We consider it something that just happens (and it does seem like it should.) Yet, consider the cost to people in pain and injury because people using their bodies in ways that harm them.

March 4, 2019, 4:38 PM · "As far as why proper body usage is not taught in schools? To me that question has a simple answer. Because we as a society do not value proper body usage enough. "

I think many teachers DO try to teach proper posture to kids in schools. The problem is that they have limited contact time, and there are so many other fires to put out: bad violins, terrible bow grips, kids unable to pay attention. It's even difficult to get private students to change what they're doing.

Good posture takes EFFORT. And kids are not generally good with suffering with something uncomfortable today in return for a benefit in the future.

March 4, 2019, 6:07 PM · "People who complain about how kids are taught in schools likely have never taught in schools."

I was thinking exactly the same thing.

March 5, 2019, 3:49 PM · I teach the Doflien Method and there is emphasis on posture and position from the first page. I try to keep an eye on this without killing the enthusiasm for the instrument. It isn't easy even in private lessons.

On a personal note: while I was admonished for my poor-posture, I never took it seriously until I went to Boot Camp. They were serious, much more serious and threatening than any teacher I ever had. We veterans can almost always spot a fellow vet just looking at the way they stand and walk.

Edited: March 5, 2019, 5:29 PM · George, thank you so much for your service!

I'm still struggling with how much "parade posture" has to do with running up a hill under enemy fire, operating an Abrams tank, or fiddle playing.
Always willing to learn.....

March 7, 2019, 1:37 PM · All three require a healthy back!
March 9, 2019, 3:47 PM · "'People who complain about how kids are taught in schools likely have never taught in schools.'
I was thinking exactly the same thing."

Me three...

March 13, 2019, 6:08 AM · This is a bit off topic. But since we are talking about good posture, I have come across a couple of good youtube videos made by Nicola Benedetti. It is called "Back to Basic". I think it is good for people at any level.


As in 21st century, I think some skills you just have to look it up.

Edited: March 13, 2019, 9:00 AM · Hi,

This is an interesting topic. While posture is important, it is also a reflection of the internal make-up of the person. In a school setting with many people at the same time, is it really possible to address everyone?

For myself, the biggest change in understanding posture and balance came not from violin teaching/learning, but from learning martial arts to an advanced level. Since martial arts are based on movements and order of movements (similar in a way to violin, but without anything in your hands), it made me aware of many of the imbalances that I had, and then I used that knowledge to address issues with the violin. To perform well in martial arts, one has to be in and maintain vertical balance. Also, great martial artists are very relaxed and get their power from speed not strength.

When it comes to the violin, there are so many schools of thought, but some of the ideas on posture are not always in sync with the idea of vertical balance. And in solving things, the issue isn't always the most obvious one. For example, locked knees come from having the weight of the body on the heels of the feet rather than the ball of the feet. By having the weight of the feet on the ball of the feet, then the knees will be naturally bent. Also, raised shoulders, will cause the lower back to tense up, the weight to go on towards the heels to compensate for the imbalances and the knees to lock. The feet support the shoulders, so they have to be at shoulder width. If they are too close together, then other things will happen to try to restore a sense of balance. Same goes with sitting on a chair. To be in vertical balance, the legs still should be at shoulder width, bent at a 90 degree angle with the feet flat on the ground. This has nothing to do with where on a chair you sit. The problem with many chairs is that they are not flat and parallel to the ground but lean forward or back, neither of which are very helpful.

The thing is that all is interdependent. With the violin, there is a tendency to look at things in isolated fashion, but we have to remember that things function as one, as a whole, so sometimes to solve one issue, you may have to solve others that are the real root cause.

In addition, posture also reflects how you feel inwardly. Someone did a lecture on this (with attached research) that I saw, and for example, when one feels fear, the first thing that happens is the shoulders raise. So, to address the shoulders, one has to address that emotional cause, though sometimes, by undoing the physical response, the emotional attachment disappears with it.

As for the idea that society doesn't value good posture, it probably comes from the fact that society doesn't understand what posture is about or how it reflects what is happening on the inside. Our society is very much focused on the outside-in, whereas everything and the changes that we need to make are always from the inside-out.


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