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Admittedly, I'm not the most consistent person when it comes to the violin. The old saying "The spirit is willing, but the flesh can't seem to keep her head on straight to juggle real life and hobbies" is very real...whoever it might be attributed to.
I've been having problems with my left hand (or rather, the thumb) holding too tightly to the neck of the violin. So, I decided to rotate my arm a bit counterclockwise so my forearm is more perpendicular to the ground (which, apparently, is proper). Of course, that has my shoulder muscles all but SCREAMING at me within a few bars. What was tolerable the way I used to play is now downright painful when it comes to my left shoulder.
It's not joint pain or anything serious, this is merely muscles trying to figure out WTH I'm doing and learn to survive or whatever in this new position. Frankly, it's more annoying than anything else; I'm trying to learn this Christmas' FM project and, even with pain pills ahead of time, I can barely get through 3/4 of the song before I gotta give my shoulder a break.
Rant aside, I guess what I'm asking is how long did it take you peeps (especially adult learners) to train your body to grow accustomed to playing fiddle? I'm not getting pain anywhere else (well, okay in my left hand because of my neck strangleholds, but I'm trying to fix that) and it goes away after a moment when I put down the violin, but it's so annoying and more than a little disheartening when practicing and I can only go in 5-10 minute stints before needing to rest. (Gah, suddenly I feel so old, and I'm not!)
Is there hope for me, doc?
I hear you!! - "I started holding the violin down more and more toward the front,..."
I started violin at age 58 I took a handful of lessons from a Suzuki teacher who had worked with a few older adults. I never had trouble with the bow hold but did with where I placed the violin on my shoulder. She helped me modify my hold - more to the front.
Now I have noticed that for some reason I have moved the violin into the more standard position!! Did it take that long -2 years for my muscles, joints to loosen up?
The death grip!! - Early on I had trouble gripping the neck of the violin in a death grip. Suzuki Teach had me play with my thumb sticking out - no contact on the violin!! Now my thumb sometimes lies parallel along the length of the neck, or just moves to where ever it wants!!
Violinist start date - May 2013
Fiddler start date - May 2014
FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius. BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.
I'm doing the parallel-thumb technique myself now to try and convince my brain/body that it can be done. I use a shoulder rest so things are quite stable, I just can't seem to convince my subconscious that I'm not going to break something.
Right now I'm debating whether to put off any more technique changes until after I finish the Christmas FM challenge. It's been tough to incorporate new holds, fingering pressures and bowing while trying to learn to follow the click track.
I am in great pain when I try to play but have decided to do it anyway. I try to let the sound of the strings, when I hit a proper note relax me and forget about the pain. I try to use my 3rd and 4th finger but it is hard and I do it any way.
What I am saying, try to forget about the pain and listen to the music you are making.
I don't think it is that unusual, ladyeclectic. Even after over 30 yrs of playing guitar and other instruments, when I started playing violin/fiddle I ran into achey shoulder, kinks in my neck, weird aches in wrist and elbow and especially... The thumb muscles, because of the infamous "death grip". LOL There was this one section of muscle at the base of the thumb that would just burn after I'd played for only 10 or 15 minutes.
I found it very annoying, since I have strong hands, and I'm used to being able to play for quite a while without fatigue. But the violin, it was kinda like starting music over. I had to figure out how long I could actually practice/play before needing to take a break, and to avoid needing long breaks, I broke my practice and exercises down into 5 minute mini-sections and over the first year I worked my violin practice time up from 15 min to 45 min a day. It took patience and I found it very aggravating.
Basically, you have to be gentle with yourself, while persistent about practising. Try and find how much you can do at one time right now *before* you run into discomfort or pain (including pain later). Get a timer if necessary, and stop yourself before that point. Let the muscles and joints have time to heal, grow and adapt to the new strains and odd positions. You may be able to do a few short sessions spread out through the day with less trouble.
If you end up overdoing anyway, then take it real easy for a day or few. In the long run, it adds up to getting more practice/playing time, since you will definitely end up getting less if you give yourself an injury that has to be rested for weeks or even months.
Pain is a warning sign, though. No extra points are awarded for ignoring it, and any good teacher won't advise you to ignore it (unless they like lawsuits). Check your method/technique/form, and back off and rest when something starts to hurt, or better *before* it starts to hurt.
That isn't just for beginners, though. Denny already told of some wrist troubles, and I recently ran into some myself.
I've been playing violin for 3 yrs, and guitar since 1976, so def not really a noob. A few months ago I ramped up my practice routines with a lot more time spent on scales and exercises. Like some hours on just scales and exercises every day and pushing up metronome speeds, as well as regular playing. I was getting into feeling "serious", you understand.
Started getting some tingles and aches and numbness in my left hand. Nothing major, and I figured it was just fatigue. So I gave it the popular thought "What doesn't kill me just makes me stronger" and tried to blast through that "barrier". The next day my wrist was swollen and inflamed and even doing just everyday non-musician stuff was disturbingly painful. Like cutting an onion with a kitchen knife or buttoning a shirt being difficult and painful for that hand.
Now, I may do some silly/stupid stuff trying to "feel" serious, or to think of myself as serious in ego-gratifying ways.. But when it comes right down to it, I am very serious about my music and my playing. So I called my doctor and got it looked at and got referral to a specialist for x-ray and ultrasound pics and then regular appointments with a physical therapist.
On the good side, it wasn't carpal tunnel, as I had been worrying. On the not so good side, it was seriously overstrained and inflamed and probably due to the "repetitive stress". At first my PT said to cut down to an hour a day of playing (that's combined, all instruments, not an hour of each, I asked). That and the stretching exercises showed some improvement by the next appointment, but not enough for her to be happy (and I still couldn't play much or for long without pain, even with ibuprofen). So she asked me to take a week completely off from playing and to use that hand as little as possible other than stretching exercises several times a day. Which became two weeks. Then almost a month before the wrist has recovered enough that finally I could start playing again, carefully, and I'm working my time up gradually now. Carefully.
In all honesty, it might not have taken that long if I hadn't "cheated" a few times and played anyway. But hey, family and Thanksgiving and a couple visits from musician friends.. I knew I was risking additional setbacks, even keeping it to short sessions of just a couple songs at a time. And I got them. No big surprise there.
I'm doing ok now. Using a timer to remind myself to take breaks and not get so lost in playing that I lose track of time, wearing a brace on that wrist when I sleep or practice or do anything else that is repetitive. I'm back up to being able to play a few songs at a time and then rest and play some more, and being able to spend at least a few minutes a day on "repetitive stuff" like scales and exercises. Which feels great after being shut down for over a month.
You don't want to deal with that. Nobody does. So don't push yourself too hard, and if something starts to hurt, back off, make sure you're doing everything right and take it easy. If it keeps happening, see a doctor and make sure nothing is going badly wrong.
No extra gold stars are getting handed out in music for risking doing yourself some damage so you can't play.
"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman
What I've been doing for the most part is playing/practicing until it hurts (about 5-10 minutes), then taking a break. The practices are spread out through the entire day, and while I'm not sure how much I actually practice, I know it's more than 30 minutes total daily (never really timed myself, that's a good idea). So far the pain's only been in my shoulder; I'm trying to focus on my hand right now to keep from the chokehold grip on the neck of the violin.
All this while still trying to learn the Christmas FM part (which I have mostly down, I just get screwed up whenever I play it with the click track ). The issue I'm having is that I can only get through 3/4 of the Christmas piece before the pain is really annoying. Good news is that today, I played all the way through after a short break and managed to only have slight twinges by the end. So, woohoo, it's getting better!
I'm just glad there's a light at the end of the tunnel. In weightlifting, they say to only train certain muscles every other day at most, every few days at best, and I've been practicing daily. Lol I should probably give my shoulder a couple days rest and see what happens, but I'm under deadline between Christmas music and learning carols for family, so that's not going to happen until after the holidays.
It might be a good idea to look up some stretches to help ease the muscle pain, and help prevent any damage. I only know a few for fingers and hands from my years of knitting, and I figure the same things will help when my hands and fingers get sore from playing.
World's Okayest Fiddler
I am so glad I found you all talking about this pain thing. I thought it was just me. When my grand daughter first showed me how to hold it, I said that's ridiculous. So I tied it around my neck with a scarf. I don't do that anymore, but it's sometimes hard for me to hold for long periods of time. I play sitting down as I have a bad hip. I'd play lying down if I could! I have never played anything that hurts as much as this little violin. My neck, left arm, fingers, and back, then yesterday I got a killer headache. Sometimes I take a break and play the piano for a few minutes just to prove I can still make a pretty noise and not hurt.
So I took today off practicing to let my shoulder rest up a bit and, dangit lol, I'm seriously chomping at the bit! It's probably a good idea though because, ugh, my left shoulder muscle is really tight today. I seem to be mainlining fiddle music videos today in response though; ended up with a bunch of sheet music of celtic songs to try in the future but, alas, I can't poke at them on my violin. ARG.
I need to be somewhat careful not to overdo it because, later this week, I've got a FM 5-string fiddle on the way and REALLY don't want to be all injured and hurting when it gets here. I've probably been overdoing the practicing since I've been away for a good while; I'm guessing I do at least 2 hours of practice spread out over the whole day (basically play until it hurts, rest up, then go again until it hurts; rinse, repeat). Some of the stories in this thread are making me nervous lol so I'm going to cut back on the practice.
Lol just hope I don't mess up on the FM Christmas jam, still having issues playing through that click track.
Maybe some yoga exercises would help?
I got quite a few aches in my left hand and in my neck and shoulders when I first started, but it's eased off as time went on and I was able to relax more while playing.
Also, I've gradually moved into a better overall body position (particularly my left arm) as I've got used to holding the violin up.
Well, donkey poop: after taking a day off I picked up the violin and just did a few exercises, nothing major. Now my rotator cuff (or the muscle by my shoulderblade) is hurting, and I've no idea what I did. This ROYALLY sucks because I restart lessons freaking tomorrow with a new teacher and I'm super excited, except...pain.
I guess this means that, at the tender age of 36, I'm officially getting old.
While your teacher isn't a doctor, they will be able to evaluate your posture and hold, and maybe will be able to correct what you are doing that is causing you pain. You don't want to mess with an injured rotator cuff, or even a frozen shoulder, so if the pain is really bad, it might be worth a doctor visit as well.
And since I'm 36 as well, I refuse to say you are getting old, just more aware of pain
World's Okayest Fiddler
And since I'm 36 as well, I refuse to say you are getting old, just more aware of pain
LOL so true, so true. I'm going to take the morning off from practicing and let the arms rest until the lesson this afternoon. The gentleman I'm meeting is new to me, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to pepper him with all sorts of questions. Hopefully it's a good fit but I guess we'll just have to see. He was told (I think?) that I'm not really interested in the classical route, more into fiddling and contemporary tunes, but I do want somebody to critique/add to my stance, technique, and hold.
Woke up with my fingers all numb too which was more than a little disconcerting; index finger of my right hand is still that way and I'm not sure why. Maybe time to go see a chiropractor?
@Fiddlerman Sundays are my favorite practice day for this reason.. My practice sessions are much shorter, usually 15 minutes, but are peppered through the whole day, instead of my hour or so squished in after a long workday. Less stress on my hands and I feel I learn the most this way.
World's Okayest Fiddler