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Is a little pain normal?


Pete
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Hello everyone, I'd really value your opinion on something.

Let's assume that someone with small hands, is sure that their hand position (total body/arm position) is correct, and they can reach each note. Furthermore, they utilize all of the correct hand/arm/body movements necessary for good intonation.

The problem is that they feel stretched to the maximum extent of their reach.

This makes their small hand ache after a short time.

My question would be this ... is that a normal thing to expect after one year?

Do you think it would imply that the person needs more exercise of the fingers?

Maybe a year is not sufficient time to naturally stretch the fingers of a small hand?

Perhaps it's simply a burden that the small handed must bear forever?

OR:

Could it be a sign of an overly extended finger span and show a need for the next lower size violin?

I would appreciate hearing from anyone about their experience, especially of those with short fingers themselves.

Thanks a lot,

Pete

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Pete, are you talking about playing stuff like double stops which would tend to stretch/cramp the hand in odd ways now and then, or are you talking about feeling stretched all the time? Having small hands, I can't say that it sounds normal to me to be stretched to the limit all the time -- rather it sounds like there's tension somewhere that's unresolved and causing the pain. However, when playing extreme and contorted double stops for long passages, I do find I have to stop and shake out my hand. So really, it depends on the frequency -- yes, a little pain, every now and then in extreme circumstances, is acceptable, but not recurring pain in ordinary music.

There are any number of things which can cause tension. Recently I've been playing on a few different instruments, giving me the chance to compare and contrast the ease of playing with my 'good' instrument. One violin causes tension in my forearm, making it uncomfortable to play for long. Taking the chinrest off it entirely helped, but didn't solve the trouble. Another instrument has a much wider nut than I'm used to, causing me to reach further than usual. All in all I find that my good violin is far easier to play than any of these others -- and I was surprised and what a difference it can make.

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Thanks guys.

You ask a valid question Laurel. The exact position now used is not the same for the whole year. I didn't specify this because I have used other, incorrect positions for months at a time, that stretched the fingers further than they do now, but I see how that would not necessarily be the same.

Arinnen, I'm only playing simple, one finger notes so far. Nothing too complex. In fact, I'm almost convinced that I will be able to handle things as they stand now, with the 1/2 positions that Laurel talked about. I'm only concerned that that puts one at a disadvantage to the way others play with no such 1/2 positions. (Laural) Can I trust that these 1/2 positions will become as smooth as someone playing without them, over time?

HuangKaiVun,

the right hand feels pretty comfortable with thumb and 2nd fingers together and the 4th finger curved a little.

The left hand fingers are spread, fanned from front to back like Alison was talking about recently. (I was already doing this, though she gave me the confidence that it was correct)

The hand is slightly slanted more open to accommodate the spread of the fingers.

With no 1/2 position used, I can hit a low one with a lot of stretch. When using a 1/2 position, there's really no problem with reaching anything. I'm only concerned that using 1/2 positions, slows down the speed and accuracy of the finger action.

That 1/2 position consist of the thumb being used as an axis between the span of the 4 fingers. The index finger moves back for the low, causing the palm to open a little more, and the index fingernail faces the bridge more than in the "home" position.

Hope this gives you guys a clue.

Always needing and appreciating your help,

Pete

PS, in one of my beginner's books, there's a note to teachers, advising them to chose the size violin for the student that is "smaller, rather than too big."

Would not the necessity of using 1/2 positions, indicate that the distance between notes are too far?

[This message has been edited by Pete (edited 05-14-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Pete (edited 05-14-2000).]

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I have small hands; I do get pain sometimes when I'm stretching to do double-stops or whatever. Normal? I guess so - my teacher does recognise that it's the stretching that causes it, not a poor hand position. Often, though, it is a result of too much tension (like so much else in violin); apparently it is possible to stretch the fingers into position AND be relaxed at the same time! smile.gif

You might want to try the next-lower-sized instrument, just to compare. Little half-shifts higher or lower work for me sometimes! You mention playing for one year; are you referring to the same motions for a year? I find that a new "stretchy" exercise will be painful for a while (weeks or even a few months) then become more comfortable as my hand adjusts. If the same motions always cause pain, that's a bad thing!

Thanks

Laurel

[This message has been edited by Laurel (edited 05-14-2000).]

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Pete,

I'm still not convinced that you don't have your hand in what is overall a grotesquely incorrect position, and/or placing the fingers down on the wrong part of the finger or at the wrong angle. This is especially true given that you're using a three-quarter size violin already.

The distances between notes on the violin in the first position is measured in fractions of an inch -- not very much more than the width of a finger.

The virtuosi of the early part of the 20th century were short people who didn't have large hands. It's plenty possible to play the instrument with small hands. (The modern Asian-female virtuosi obviously have similar issues.)

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Thanks Lydia, I don't know how I could make it any better though. Three teachers have said it looks good, and I match every diagram I have seen of the proper hold. Another thing that tells me I'm correct is this ... if I were to put tapes back on the fingerboard, I would be able to put all four fingers, simultaneously, on the G string, and then as I rotate my hand, all four fingers would move across the four strings, while staying in line with the tapes. I have no problem at all, telling if I'm sharp or flat and I couldn't be happier with my intonation.

I did think about something after reading all of your replies.

Soon after I started playing the violin, I hurt my index finger.

I remember the particular day it happened. It was before I knew about 1/2 shifts, and I was trying to reach the low ones by twisting and stretching my index finger around.

For the last 3 or so months, my finger has been numb when I awake every morning. Over the day, it loosens up, however, the joint in the middle of the finger is always sore to the touch.

I can't see anything wrong with it, but it feels like I hit it with something. It feels bruised.

I am now thinking that maybe, I have been favoring this sore finger and I'm not sure if the pain is from the stretch as much as it is from the injury?

HuangKaiVun, you're a doc, what do you think about that finger?

Should I amputate it?

Thanks all,

Pete

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Advice: Continue to talk to your teacher and go to an osteopath if you're really worried.

Also, the strengthening exercises in Sevcik, Op. 1, part 1, are really good. (They're helped me a lot, and I doubt seriously if your hand is smaller than mine.) Your teacher can show you how to bring variety to each measure through rhythmic changes. Sevcik suggests changes, but some editions don't include all the changes.

My own teacher said, "Practice Sevcik every day, but be careful not to overpractice. When your hand feels tired, do stop." He's assured me that Sevcik will strengthen my fingers and some of the problems I've encountered due to hand size will disappear with strengthened fingers.(Make sure you keep your fingers down, down, down on the string when playing at least the preliminary exercises--since I've only experience with the first three and the 12th and 13th (scales and thirds), I can't vouch for whether fingers should come off the strings for other exercises. Probably not, but I can't vouch since I haven't played 'em yet.)

As I mentioned, Pete, I can tell a definite difference since working Sevcik--approximately one month, maybe a few weeks more.I continue to detect a bit of discomfort in my thumb--but it's not bad at all.

C'est tout,

Theresa

[This message has been edited by Theresa (edited 05-15-2000).]

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In trying to perfect her all-state audition piece, my daughter is complaining of pain in her left hand. This is the first time she has expressed this.

I suspect that much of this is due to tension. All kids are under a lot of stress right now with school finals, etc., and the music students have the additional stress of youth orchestra and other auditions.

This piece has complex chords and big reaches (tenths, I think?), and she does not have big hands either.

I know that she should be asking these questions herself, but I am the family early bird--she is asleep and will have to rush out to rehearsal when she gets up. So I am posting this question to bring the topic back up. Hopefully she can share more details with you later. Thanks.

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viola-mom,

There seem to be different types of pain and soreness when playing music. In increasing the amount of practice, or training the fingers to move into a new position or stretch, then I would expect a small amount of temporary stiffness, just as if you were training for a new sport.

However, an apparently minor stiffness can also be the very beginnings of an ongoing problem. So be open-minded. I suggest discuss with your daughter what is happening. I hope that her teacher is sympathetic, in which case this should also be discussed with them.

I personally have developed so much tension that I cannot play the violin for more than a couple of lines of music. This happened about 10 years ago, just as I was leaving school. But I looked back in my teenage diaries and found that I had written about pain on playing when I was about 14-15 years old. This pain had just been dismissed at the time and I had played through it.

I wish that someone had taken me aside at that stage and helped me get over it before this was too late. Admittedly, violin-playing was a major part of my social life at that stage and it would have been difficult to take a step back from all the ongoing success and achievment.

Please let me know what happens, and I wish your daughter well.

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Dear fiddler:

Thank you so much for responding with such clarity and insight. I am SO sorry that you are unable to play without pain, and I thank you for sharing your personal story. My daughter's teacher is absolutely wonderful and she will certainly address this at the next lesson. My daughter is also fortunate to have a good relationship with several other professional players who are happy to advise students. So we will most certainly address this and not simply dismiss the pain.

I wish you the best, and hope for a miracle.

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I earnestly believe that ViolaMom and FOTH are completely right. One can be holding an instrument in perfect holding and playing position and still have "tension pain". As some of you know, I recently went from a relatively peaceful employment setting to a highly stressful one. Although nothing changed about my playing, I almost immediately began to experience pain. I too went through the process of stopping viola, finding a beautiful little 7/8 violin, etc. etc. Finally I came to realize that the external pressures of my job setting cause my hands, arms, and back to hurt- I can play literally for hours at a time in comfort if things are calm. There are some good stress reduction materials available that will allow you to become familiar with what you must do to be aware of your own level of tension. Unfortunately, most teachers don't address this issue, and many times, we as players are unaware that it is going on in ourselves. Pete, you obviously are very driven by the love of learning the violin. You may in a sense be working against yourself. Try some of the Kato Havas things. She uses such wonderful ideas-caress the neck of the instrument for one. After several months I can now play a 4/4 violin w. comfort for a limited amount of time. I believe that ANY pain means that something is not working as it should. I also think that some of the pain you MAY feel on a 3/4 instrument may be cramping because it is actually too small! Best of luck!

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Thanks- I'm experiencing pain in my left hand and wrist. It has gotten a little better but I am curious to find out what's causing it. I think it's my piece which is full of horrible intervals and double stops like tenths and strange string crossings. I feel like I've been working really on it- does the pain mean stop or keep going? By reading these posts I realize it could be anything but I have stuff coming up and I want to be ready!

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