Muscle-tendon injuries can be avoided. Tension and muscle strain must be kept at bay by paying attention to your posture, by being conscious of releasing your fingers and thumbs, by avoiding awkward positions, by keeping your shoulders down,and by warming up and taking adequate breaks. The following are several “Onstage Tricks” (c) that can be done even while performing. These strategies can give you “mini-breaks” to keep tension at bay:
Fingers: Release. Avoid holding stretches, double stops, or chords. Avoid gripping and squeezing fingerboards, instruments, or mallets. Lift fingers quickly and lightly.
Thumbs: Release your thumb when the opportunity exists. Allow your left thumb to gently slide along the fingerboard. Avoid pressing with either thumb and release often. All instrumentalists: hold your instrument with a minimum of pressure. There are many products available to help support instruments.
Arms: Allow your arms to dangle whenever possible. Uncurl and unbend your arms and lower your instrument often. Upper strings: slip your instrument under your right arm to allow your left arm to dangle when you’re not playing. Wind and brass players: put your instrument down or between your legs to allow your arms to hang.
Shoulders: Shoulders are vulnerable and need to be kept lubricated and mobile. While playing, keep your shoulders down and not pulled forward or backward. Keep your head and neck in neutral. Whenever possible, do a big shoulder shrug, or circle to eliminate tension. When you rise to take a bow, hold your instrument with one hand. Bend your elbow and extend your other arm behind your back and across your body, trying to touch your shoulder blade for a shoulder stretch.
During a rest, hold your instrument with your knees or put your instrument down for a moment and reach behind you at waist level, interlace your fingers, palms facing each other. Turn your elbows inward and try to straighten your arms, gently raising your arms as much as you can comfortably, and pull your shoulders back. Or try sitting near the edge of your chair and pull in your abdominal muscles.
Reach back behind you with your right arm. Grab the chair back, keeping your arm as close to shoulder height as possible. Gently turn left,away from that arm. Do one arm at a time to be unobtrusive but if you can find the opportunity, grab the chair back with both arms behind you. Lean forward and look up, thereby stretching both your chest and shoulders.
Keep moving: Static postures held for long periods of time cause strain and stress on your muscles. Take every opportunity to fidget, to wiggle, to adjust and move your feet, and to adjust your pelvis to keep tension from building.
From Janet Horvath’s
Playing (less) Hurt – An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians
Available for $23.95 at www.playinglesshurt.com.
© 2002 and 2006 by Janet Horvath