Reducing Tension

     Many musicians suffer daily from playing-related pain and discomfort, and an alarming majority of them believe pain is a normal consequence of perfecting their craft.  At its core, all playing-related pain is due to physical inefficiency.  Watch out for these three common problems:

Rigid Bow Holds

     Most players don’t realize that the majority of the bow’s weight rests on the strings while playing, minimizing the amount of effort needed to hold the bow.  Instead, many people try to control and suspend the weight of the bow with the fingers and thumb, causing plenty of undue stress.  

     With the middle of the bow on the string, challenge yourself to relax the fingers of your bow hold so that more of the arm’s weight sinks into the string, instead of creating weight through the index/middle fingers & thumb.  Remember that leverage for your bow is best supplied from the height of your elbow, rather than from the small, weak fingers of your bow hold.  Be careful that you don’t drop the elbow too much, otherwise, you may supinate the hand so much that it peels the bow off of the string.

Excess Left Hand Pressure

     Many string players tend to push down harder than they have to, especially while using vibrato.  Often, the intensity of the music is so great that this bleeds into our playing as physical tension.

     Try an easy one octave scale and notice how hard you are pressing into the fingerboard with your fingers.  Do your fingers have to press that hard?  Try to reduce the finger weight until just before the sound becomes fuzzy.  You want the finger to stop the string, creating a new pitch length, but you don’t want to play so lightly with the fingers that it doesn’t produce a stable sine wave.

Raised Shoulders

     Your shoulders should be relaxed and “stacked” on top of your ribcage, instead of suspended by the rhomboid or trapezius muscles.  

     Violinists & Violists: Check that your chinrest/shoulder rest combo is the proper height and angle so that both arms can be level.

     Cellists: Check the height of your endpin, and the angle & tilt of your instrument to make sure that your arms are able to access the instrument easily and efficiently.