What Every Violinist Needs To Know About The Body

Edited: July 26, 2019, 6:14 AM · Any comments about this book by Jennifer Johnson? It seems like it would be a good book to read, given that my prior injuries and arthritis, and probably good for any adult beginner/returnee. Just wondering if it is actually helpful. There are quite a few books out there for other disciplines with similar claims that aren't worth the paper on which they are printed.

Replies (17)

July 26, 2019, 6:32 AM · I don't have this particular book but I do have "What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body:The Application of Body Mapping" by Barbara Conable which is a great book based on the Alexander Technique.
If you purchase it I'd be interested on your comments and review of it.
July 26, 2019, 7:07 AM · This book also seems to be about body mapping, something with which I'm unfamiliar. I'm leaning toward purchasing it. It isn't available from many sources...
Edited: July 26, 2019, 10:58 AM · On further research I've decided to get it, but there are not many places left who carry it. Used copies are trending with a higher cost than new, even though the publisher seems to indicate that it is still in print. Shar told me they have canceled this book, and suggested a sooner then later purchase.

Paul, I will post some initial thoughts in a week or so.

July 26, 2019, 1:10 PM · When I think of "body mapping" I think of those diagrams that show you what cuts of beef come from the different parts of a steer. Ribeye, flank, etc.
July 26, 2019, 2:37 PM · I know, right? :-)

It was highly recommended to me during my discussion with the man who makes the Wave CR given my neck/shoulder/arthritis problems, I had a good talk with him. I want to be able to play the violin until they put me in the grave, not have to give up yet another beloved activity because I tried to ignore my body!

July 26, 2019, 7:05 PM · I’m enjoying it. If you are open my first teacher developed severe nerve damage and could barley play. She was Introduced to the mark wood viper electric violins which supports itself though a strap and chest support system. She now has a full teaching schedule and not only is pain free but she is healing. I would recommend you look into it it’s not ideal but it could keep your violin playing and body healthy.
July 26, 2019, 9:26 PM · It's great your teacher found something that worked for her! Thankfully I dont have nerve damage that interferes - just an understanding that I need perfect posture to prevent further damage. My arthritis will what it will do and educating myself is part of playing smart.
Edited: July 26, 2019, 9:49 PM · I can recommend 2 books:
1. "The Athletic musician" by Barbara Paull & Christine Harrison
2. "Exercises for the shoulder to hand" by Dr. Brian Abelsohn & Kamali Abelsohn

I essence, everything starts with your core. Assuming that you have a good posture and strong enough core of your body, the next focus is on shoulders, especially their balance. If shoulders are balanced well, your joints down the arm, including elbow and wrist, will not bear unnecessary stress.

Any RSI is a result of 2 factors:
1. sub-optimal usage of your body due to poor posture & poor movements
2. high number of repetitions under #1

Proper warm-up routine, before taking your violin, warm-up with your instrument and proper stretching routine after playing, are of utmost importance to avoid injury. Avoid prolonged sitting and alternate siting with standing while you practice.

July 26, 2019, 9:55 PM · I've been curious about Julie Lyonn Lieberman's book You Are Your Instrument mentioned in Laurie's article:

Julie Lyonn Lieberman on How Violinists Can Prevent Injury with Proper Stretches and Set-up

July 26, 2019, 9:57 PM · Rocky - thanks for your comments and suggestions. I do warm up/stretch befor, and warmup with my violin but haven't considered doing it afterwards. I automatically do that for other things, just haven't done that...until now.
Edited: July 27, 2019, 6:01 AM · Dawson - I didn't see your post when I responded to Rocky, very interesting! I am trying to not collect a large number of books that wind up not getting read properly, but I will certainly have her on my list. The Johnson book should arrive today so I can get started with that.

My goal is not to be pain free - which would indeed be incredible - but unrealistic due to things discussed in other threads (the miracle is that I can play at all). The goal is to not make things worse - and if I can do anything to make things better than that is the icing on the cake. If I didn't do anything that caused any pain at all, I wouldn't be able to get out of bed.

My teacher has moved me to both third and second positions and when I learn new techniques it does tend to tweak thing a bit until my hand/arm adjusts to the new requirement. The trick, for me, is to listen and actually take a day or two off when my body "suggests" it. It doesn't happen often simply because I DO listen.

Edited: July 27, 2019, 8:01 AM · From seeing who does Alexander Method over the years, I have to ask:

1) Are practitioners accredited by any legitimate, recognized medical or physical therapy licensing bodies, purely based on their Alexander Method training?

2) If not, why?

Alexander Method seems to fall into the same category as Feldenkrais, Rolfing, and maybe Pilates. I've done none of them, but know people who are "licensed" teachers/practioners, and to tell you the truth, they all seem like new age "woo woo" methods adopted by people who don't have any legitimate medical or physical therapy credentials, but think it's cool and want to start making money off of others. And of course the trainers who make money off of these people. And probably few of them have been anywhere near a college level anatomy class.

But maybe I'm in a bad mood this morning.

July 27, 2019, 8:38 AM · Although I'm not familiar with the other methodologies you mentioned, I do know that Alexander teachers have to spend 3+ years studying and taking classes for their license.
I also know that taking Alexander Technique lessons is not an overnight remedy but I can speak from experience and say that it can work for injury and pain if you keep at it and try to follow the practices it teaches.
July 27, 2019, 9:05 AM · But are they recognized as legitimate practitioners outside of the Alexander world view?
Edited: July 27, 2019, 9:44 AM · I feel the same basic way of the methods you speak of, outside of the Alexander method as I know nothing about it. It took a Pilates-related injury to change my approach with some of these methods.

Unsure if this book is directly related to the Alexander Method - to me it looks like a resource to better understand the physical elements involved and thus to help inform my discussions with my physio-people to make certain I target the proper exercises to keep me playing. I've advanced far more in the last almost 9 months than I would have considered possible - and while I know that things must slow down as we delve deeper into more advanced techniques and rep, I want to do what I can to keep at it.

July 27, 2019, 10:41 AM · "Our Violins, Our Selves."
July 27, 2019, 2:22 PM · Catherine--I have the book and have read it (along with a companion DVD). I was asked to read it when I was really struggling with some injuries and took a few lessons from a teacher who was getting certified in bodymapping. I think it is somewhat helpful, especially if (like me) you did not have careful instruction on proper physical technique when learning to play. I think it would be much more helpful if supplemented by an in-person instructor who can help you apply some of the concepts, otherwise you may feel like you are just reading an anatomy book. I also found reading Galamian's principles of violin playing and Simon Fischer's the violin lesson critical in terms of getting my playing technique more correct.

In terms of the differences between bodymapping and Alexander technique: if I remember right the founders of bodymapping were very familiar with Alexander technique, so some things are common (and probably make good physiological sense) such as the conception of what correct back/neck/head posture is and what a properly formed wrist angle is. My limited knowledge of Alexander technique is that is much more focused on the head/neck, minimizing unnecessary tension, and generally involves literally hands-on instruction. Bodymapping is more focused on trying to develop an internal personal awareness of the different anatomical structures within the body and how they are supposed to move/function.

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