Your Body is Your Instrument

“My pain has gone and I’m able to play again. More importantly my playing efficiency and tone have improved markedly.”
Professional Violinist

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Playing a musical instrument represents one of the most complex neuromuscular skills we can perform.
Specific movements are required to produce specific sounds and rhythms and to convey the desired emotional tone in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Musicians are generally very careful with their instruments. They avoid subjecting it to extremes of temperature and sudden changes or extremes in humidity. They don’t force the case closed or leave their instrument in the car.

Many musicians do not look after their bodies with the same care and understanding apply to their instruments.

In my practice I see two main groups of musicians. Those with:

  • performance related injuries, pain or conditions – something that is caused by the way they interact with their instrument that affects their ability to play. This could be how they play their instrument, their performance or practice schedule, the way they lift or carry their instrument or related to performance stress or anxiety; or
  • non-performance related injuries, pain or condition, that is something that is not caused by playing their instrument, such as a car accident, falling down some stairs or an inherited or lifestyle condition.

“I used to feel uncomfortable all the time when I was playing. It all seems so much easier and more enjoyable now.”
Tertiary Student Cellist

Pain, muscular tension and discomfort are not necessary when playing music.

If you feel any of these you can seek advice from an appropriately qualified health professional. People often don’t which can be for one or more reasons. Sometimes it is because of not knowing where to go, especially if they have been told to give up playing music in the past as the solution to their problem. Some are scared how others in the profession may treat them if their problem becomes known.

Prevention of problems or early intervention is ideal to allow it to be addressed rather than becoming the beginning of chronic or other problems. Your health professional should help you understand the problem in a way that empowers you to help yourself.

Each element of the problem should be weighted appropriately. Things to consider are:

  • involved tissues
  • posture
  • movement
  • instrument setup
  • the impact of stress or anxiety.

It is important that your specific problem is addressed in harmony with your chosen instrument.

“This is a different approach. You help us to learn how to help ourselves.”
Tertiary Student Violinist