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violin backache


Emma Lily
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I have been reading some topics from the archives about shoulder rests and the drive to "restlessness", so this is not a completely ignorant question, but based on personal problems.

I have never had a injury from violin playing that I know of.

But, now that I practice much more (3 hours a day is still a lot for me), I have noticed this: after a short time (20-30 min.), my upper back feels tired, like I am supporting a heavy weight on it. I figure I am not strong enough yet, put my violin down for a moment and rotate my shoulder blades until I feel less tense. Or I lay down on the floor on my back to rest. My feeling is that it is simply the gravity problem of standing up and holding the violin. Completely natural fatigue, and I'm a physical wimp anyway.

I am 5'2", not very well-developed in the upper body, and I play with the lowest Resonans (height 1). I started out with height 2, but ditched it after my first encounter with a restless master teacher. I know people who do fine with Kuns (e.g. my current teacher), but I hate them because they swivel when I hold them under my chin and touch the back of my violin. Horrible.

I also reject cushions and sponges, as they look bad and soak up sound.

I have a nagging feeling my rest is too high, causing strong pressure between chin and shoulder.

However, I dont know of any better shoulder rests. Trying a cloth/foam pad recipe sounds risky, and dependent on too many variables. I also wear different kinds of shirts and dresses everyday, unlike men who always perform in a certain kind of shirt and jacket and usually wear the same type of shirt on a consistent basis.

When I try to play without, my collarbone really hurts. Also my violin doesn't seem to fit anywhere on my neck/shoulder/collarbone.

Also I'm not in a position where I can experiment for a long period of time with my development. I have to learn and polish some advanced pieces in three months and I don't have much time to spare.

I'm not sure why I'm posting this, if I don't want to consider anything different. I guess I want to hear:

1. Just relax more and you wont get tired

2. Keep building endurance

3. Losing the rest is guaranteed to make you sound like Perlman after 3 days of feeling very wierd

4. Something I haven't thought of yet that will solve the problem

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quote:

I guess I want to hear:

1. Just relax more and you wont get tired

2. Keep building endurance

3. Losing the rest is guaranteed to make you sound like Perlman after 3 days of feeling very wierd

4. Something I haven't thought of yet that will solve the problem
[/b]

1. Yeah it sounds like a good concept, doesn't it? Just relax and it will all be good. But really it's harder than it sounds. You need to figure out what is making you tense. You think it's the shoulder rest? Are you willing to just experiment with "risky" things just to see if they work right for you?

2. Endurance is a good thing.... I don't know, but it seems for me that there is a definite limit to how long I can play before I start to get tired. Even extending my practice sessions aren't helping me build endurance. Is it possible to reach a time limit where you just can't play any longer?

3. Right! Everyone who is "restless" sounds exactly like Perlman. I wish it were that simple! It depends on the person, really. Personally I like playing without a rest, after 7 years of playing with one. I found that the rest pushed my chin upward too far and I ended up compensating by pushing down with my neck. Without the rest I am much more relaxed. But you have to try it, and give it a fair chance, to see if it works for you. I've been restless for about a month and there are still times where it can get very uncomfortable, but overall I like what playing without a rest does for my posture.

4. I think you just need to try many options, ask your teacher, and figure out what works for you. Good luck!

~Julia~

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I had a similar problem, which I posted a month or so ago. My problem was more a of a crick in my neck. I found that relaxing helped a great deal.

I've subsequently discovered that much of my problem was the need for excessive force to keep my violin from sliding off my shoulder; though I prefer to fiddle, I hold my instrument consistent with my classical training.

For the past two weeks I've been using a piece of chamois leather (the stuff car types use to wash their cars with)under my violin: no more sliding and no more neck pain. I heard about the trick from mountain dulcimer players who use it to keep dulcumers from sliding off their laps.

[This message has been edited by BrooklynFiddler (edited 11-09-2000).]

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I think upper hack pain, as you describe it, might be due to holding the violin scroll end down a bit too low. Raising the music stand a little might help. Also, be sure your legs are somewhat apart, with the left foot a little forward of the right, to allow you to "lean into the instrument" some.

Of course, you will perform solos and have your lessons standing, but if it helps, I see no reason not to do some of your practice sitting. I have, for 40 years, since I first herniated a lumbar disk in my lower back (two additional ones have gone since then).

Andy

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As I said before, why would anybody want to sound like Perlman?

My thing is that I like to keep the back and head straight while being restless.

I also raise the left shoulder and flare the right elbow using an Auer grip (old Russian school).

The problem with people who go from rested to restless is that they tend to point the violin too far to the left (9:00 if a clock is put over your head with 12:00 facing straight ahead).

Ideally, the violin should point from 10-11:00.

Choice of chinrest also makes a difference. If you hold the violin properly, you'll need a chinrest that DOESN'T go over the tailpiece in order to avoid the collarbone trauma.

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quote:

Originally posted by Lydia Leong:

Is there tension in your shoulders when you play? Are you standing up straight but not too stiffly? Is your music stand positioned at a comfortable height? Do you also experience this when you sit to play, such as in orchestra rehearsals or when playing chamber music?

I am working to avoid tension level, strive for correct posture (I admit my teacher pointed out to me that I have not been standing straight, so I also consider that) and my music is at the approximate level of my nose. I also experience fatigue in sitting in orchestra, but not as much because I can put my violin down frequently and wiggle my shoulders. (After two rehearsals in a row on Monday nights, however, I sometimes feel completely wiped out by sitting with my violin for 4 hours).

I'm trying to figure out what is avoidable and what is not. I think it's a posture habit/shoulder thing, so I'll continue applying my mind to the problem for further insight. Thank you all for advice.

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quote:

Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

Choice of chinrest also makes a difference. If you hold the violin properly, you'll need a chinrest that DOESN'T go over the tailpiece in order to avoid the collarbone trauma.

Do you refer to the "Flesch" chinrest(chin over tailpiece)?

My chinrest is closest to what is sometimes called the "Strad" type. It attaches over the tailpiece, but the "plate" on which I rest my chin is to the left of the tailpiece

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Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

As I said before, why would anybody want to sound like Perlman?

HKV....I think your pedestal just cracked with that crack about Perlman....HAHA

for those of us starting out...Perlman IS

perfection. HMMMMMMMMM we can't atually compare between you and he until we have actually HEARD you play laugh.gif

No, I am certainly not joining the ranks of

HKV bashers by any means....I appreciate and admire you emmensely..hense the pedestal

But I have to say...I LOVE the way Perlman plays Ronde des lutins!!!!!! laugh.gif

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This is not to cast personal disrespect on either Perlman of HKV.

Why wouldn't anybody want to sound like Perlman? What in particular is there about his sound that anyone could not like?

One other interesting clarification: I never said my back hurt, besides that misleading title. It simply feels stiff, tired, and uncomfortable at times. So I wonder if it's the weight of the violin and the pull of gravity, or some fault of mine.

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Emma Lily, you may be getting the discomfort in your back as a result of bending backwards slightly while you are playing - some people try to counter balance the weight of the instrument by doing this and it puts the spine a little out of alignment and leads to fatigue and pain. It is often caused by upper arm muscle weakness and also weakness of the muscles on the side of the spine. It can also be related to trying to stand up too straight while playing, and not moving around enough. I suggest you have a look at the book The Athletic Musician if you can and possibly have someone like a Feldenkrais practitioner have a look at your posture. It may not be painful now, but these problems do often lead to pain in the future. Best wishes.

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I too am perplexed by the shoulder pad thing. As we age, we loose height, neck height shortens in the process. Hence, the shoulder pad becomes uncomfortable and options to make one more comfortable are sought unless you have a tall neck to begin with.

You would think someone would invent a shoulder pad that doesn't inhibit the sound and tone of the wood but still be ergonomically comfortable. All violinists are NOT alike. If you've been raised with a shoulder pad, it is very difficult to adjust to other methods.

As for the backaches, we are holding our violin in a lifted position in front of us, arms stretched out, and at the same time, requiring our muscles to do strenuous excercises. All this for several hours at a whack... Who's back isn't going to get stiff? What we violinists do to continue one of our favorite pastimes!

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