The past 5 days have been especially fruitful for me. I participated in a long, in-depth online workshop about the pedagogy of Paul Rolland. His principles and Action Studies focus on creating healthy movements with good balance, which allow one to develop stellar technique (including the basics of advanced skills within the first 2 years of playing the instrument), find more potential for musical expression, and play with minimal to no excess tension in the body. Continue reading “A Holistic Approach to String Playing with Paul Rolland’s Principles”
Sometimes orchestra rehearsals and concerts are not held in the most ideal spaces. Have you ever sat in a section with so little room that you had to contort your body and hold your instrument in the weirdest and most uncomfortable ways to make room for your bow and the musicians around you? Now imagine playing in a 3-hour rehearsal like this. To make things worse, the chairs are terrible and don’t allow both sit bones to distribute your weight evenly to align the back properly. Oh yea, and you also have to make sure that you can see your music and the conductor reliably.
Statistics show that around 85% of violinists & violists will develop a playing-related injury at some point in their performing lives. That is an insane number. Unlike sports in which athletes retire around the age of 40 on average, musicians play pretty much their whole lives… or at least, most of us plan to… right? How terrible it would be for our performance timeline to be cut short by an injury that could’ve either been prevented or kept under control.
This week, I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite recovery exercises for violinists & violists, with focus primarily on the areas that get overused and hurt most often, which are the upper back and neck on the left side. Continue reading “Recovery Exercises for Violinists & Violists”
Why is everyone suddenly ditching the shoulder rest they’ve been wearing for years? Ok, it’s true – the shoulder rest can lock the shoulder and violin in one position and prevent freedom. It can also lead to imbalance in posture, such as raising the left shoulder, thus putting one at risk for neck injury. However, the shoulder rest still work well for certain folks, although it’s being demonstrated by specialists over and over again that many players benefit more from an anti-slip material such as a sponge along with a customized chinrest to fit the dimensions of their jaw, neck, shoulder angles, etc.
Every spring (not counting 2020) toward the end of the academic year, many freelance musicians get BOMBARDED with gigs after the quieter months of January and February. Even those of us who spend a healthy amount of time practicing during the “off-season” suddenly experience a huge uptick in daily playing hours come spring. Continue reading “Injury-Prevention Exercises for Violinists and Violists”
Two summers ago I developed severe pain in my left trapezius (specifically, the back of my neck extending toward the shoulders and across the upper back) while playing two Mozart operas back-to-back for an opera festival. This went on for a week straight with no days off, and was followed by a Wagner opera a few weeks later. The pain lingered around for hours after playing, and my own default “quick-fix” methods to relieve the pain were no longer working. It was time to take action beyond my instinctual behaviors (ie – limiting physical practice time, making sure I am sitting “correctly,” etc). Thankfully I was able to find an excellent physical therapist at Motion Sports PT in midtown east in Manhattan, and I didn’t have to take any “extended break” from playing the violin, which wouldn’t have helped anyway.
Last week, I had the privilege to attend Juilliard’s virtually-held Starling-Delay Symposium. One of the best events for me was focused around longevity and injury-prevention. Much of what I learned in physical therapy was echoed and explained in greater detail at Pamela Frank and Howard Nelson’s workshop titled Don’t Let This Happen To You. After overcoming a debilitating playing injury, Pamela Frank spent over a year retraining her posture and fundamental movement patterns both during violin-playing and other everyday activities (ie – sitting, standing, sleeping, etc). In this workshop we focused on how to keep a healthy body alignment and how to be more efficient in the practice room.