I would like to share my thoughts and give a warning regarding the influence of caffeine on performance.
The main reason is that i did an experiment, and have discovered that caffeine seems to provoke problems with my left hand that look a bit like the problems of people with so called: focal dystonia.
Because caffeine influences the central nervous system, and focal dystonia appeared to be a problem with the central nervous system, this raised for me the question if (some) people having focal dystonia, may actually have their problems due to caffeine!
Because i had a vague suspicion that caffeine had a negative effect on the muscle control of my left hand, i did a little experiment; playing a scale early in the morning before my first cup of coffee, and than playing exactly the same about one hour later, after the coffee. I was very surprised to discover that my suspicion seemed to be right!
The problems i experience i can descripe the best as a loss of motor control: fingers getting less fluent in their motion and more reluctant to command; sometimes even blocking, missing notes in (fast) passages/scales, and poorer intonation.
It feels like the agonist and antogonistic muscles are contracting together, causing a sort of cramp.
To compensate for this cramp, i tend to raise my fingers (involuntary) higher from the fingerboard, and make larger movements than i actually want; leading to clumsiness, loss of velocity, and making the fingers/arm tired sooner, causing a even greater loss of velocity and control.
From my experimentation, i noticed that there might be a exponential link to the dosage of caffeine, and the influence it has. Meaning that a small dosages give only a very slight disturbance, but the higher the dosage, the more obvious the disturbance is getting.
Of course, everyone is different and reacts differently, so this is not a plea against the use of caffeine for violinists. Caffeine has also good effects that are well known that can be positive for performance: making/keeping us awake and alert.
But to give an indication how it affects me:
I can still play with having one morning coffee, (although a little disturbance is already noticable) but getting a second coffee gives already some serious problems. I don't mind with that if i just have to practise and i feel like taking a second cup to be more focused on my practise, but of course, i do mind with giving concerts, recordings, etc.
If anyone have experienced the same kind of problem i described; give this a thought; listen to how your body reacts, it might help you a lot. Good luck!
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