Left Shoulder pain

Edited: March 1, 2020, 9:11 AM · Greetings,

Yesterday, I had finished performing at a around 2 hour concert, and noticed that my left shoulder was actually starting to kind of hurt. I do wear a shoulder rest, but is it a problem if it is too short or too high? Which would be better? I’m 16 and is wondering if it this is normal. Thank you

EDIT: I use a KUN shoulder rest and play violin

Replies (8)

March 1, 2020, 9:42 AM · Pain is not good and should not be tolerated. It needs to be addressed as soon as possible. It is most likely from tension somewhere due to a posture issue or gripping with the left hand, neck or somewhere between. This is a good subject to discuss with your teacher to determine if your set-up is good and where the tension is coming from. Since you are only 16, I guess things are going to change a bit as you are still growing.
March 1, 2020, 9:54 AM · "my left shoulder was actually starting to kind of hurt"

It's good that you're paying it attention and asking the question. "Kind of hurt" or actually hurt? The difference could be between muscle strain / discomfort or injury. Injury is fairly common among violinists due to the awkward positioning, but it's never desirable or good.

The minimum starting point would be to continue to pay attention to it, do whatever it takes / you can to minimize the pain, get help from your teacher, and if none of that works, stop and seek medical help.

Edited: March 1, 2020, 10:00 AM · I feel your pain. Literally. I have left-shoulder issues too.

The first thing you should do is examine your posture. If you normally practice standing up -- but performed sitting down -- then you should set up a big mirror and try sitting in a chair with your violin and making sure that you're maintaining your correct playing posture while seated. If you watch an orchestra you will see players seated all kinds of different ways, but I recommend sitting right on the edge of your seat with your spine absolutely straight. In a performance, this can mean pushing back your chair so far that it starts to run into other things (like stands) or people. But you have to find a way. I see sometimes orchestral violinists bring a little round cushion to keep their spine straight or to elevate them a little if they're very tall. I just saw the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine and the concertmaster's seat was two stacked chairs. I said to my daughter, "I bet the concertmaster is very tall." Sure enough.

Also whenever I watch student or youth orchestras, I often see low scrolls. Keep your scroll up, move your violin back on your shoulder, and reach over it with your bow, the way you were taught to play as a soloist. I find when I am careful about these things I have MUCH less shoulder strain. If you are on a front stand, raise your stand so that the visual distance between your music and the conductor is less. I learned this trick from a local cellist. We were playing in a pit orchestra and the conductor was up on a high pedestal so he could be seen from the stage. This cellist had his stand almost all the way up!

Finally, be sure to talk to your teacher and get their input. Fatigue is one thing ... but as the previous response made clear, pain is not acceptable.

March 1, 2020, 11:02 AM · Excellent responses above. I certainly agree on getting your teacher's input. There is one thing that I would suggest you observe. Do you raise your left shoulder while playing? Or do you pull it forward? Perhaps your neck has gotten a little longer lately and you need to raise your shoulder rest slightly to accommodate.
March 1, 2020, 4:04 PM · You're probably pressing your sholder against your head, with the voloin in between them. You need to relax your sholders down and relax your head, try moving it while playing.
March 2, 2020, 1:14 AM · You might wanna work on your posture. 2hrs should not be enough time for pain to come.
March 2, 2020, 4:35 AM · By coincidence I just found a copy of this on my C drive. I probably saw it recommended here, lol. I can't vouch for it.


March 2, 2020, 4:41 AM · In addition to the great advice already given, I think you should try to consider the amount of time playing compared to the amount of time resting.

It may be that the concert was essentially a constant amount of time playing for two hours, while even a two hour rehearsal often has fairly large blocks of time when a musician isn't playing while the conductor works with a different section of the group.

In our personal practice time, even if we think we're practicing for two hours, there are lots of times when we lower our instruments to think about what we just played or to move to the next section or etude or scale we want to work on.

Rarely do we play for two hours constantly. Yet in a concert, except for the brief pauses between movements or the intermission, the strings play almost constantly.

So if the concert experience is very different from your daily practice or from your rehearsal experience, you need to start to increase the amount of time that you actually have the violin under your chin on a daily basis so that your body can adjust to that situation.

But as others have said, posture is very important and if you practice standing up but perform in the orchestra sitting down, you should start spending a good amount of your practice time sitting down in order to allow your body to adjust to that position.

Your teacher should be your first consultant about those issues -- be sure to be clear when you talk to your teacher. "Starting to kind of hurt" may simply be fatigue. Or it may be indicative of something much more serious.

Music stand height is an important issue, as is music stand placement. If you're in a typical orchestra where you share a stand, is your stand partner shorter or taller than you and had the stand at an awkward height for you? And whether you're on the inner or the outer seat can make a difference in how you need to contort to see the music and the conductor at the same time. Were you twisting slightly from music to conductor and back to music again throughout the concert?

If you don't experience that sort of pain again during your normal rehearsals and lessons and daily practice, when the next orchestra concert comes around ask your parents to videotape you. Specifically you, not the whole concert where the whole orchestra can be seen, but zoomed in on you directly so that after the concert you can see (and possibly show your teacher) what you're doing when you play in the orchestra.

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