Posture: The 1 minute exercise that could change everything about your playing
Violin can be overwhelming in its complexity but there are technical fundamentals that if you understand and employ can unlock massive returns in the quality of your playing.
One of these is posture.
As simple as it would seem, posture is a problem for 90% of violinists at all levels. The physical asymmetry of violin playing along with the extreme demands of accuracy, coordination, and tone production can lead to a slowly devolving posture that in turn makes everything you do on the violin harder. Even posture that appears straight can be holding large amounts of tension that are inhibiting you from playing your best.
But there is a fix that doesn't require advanced degrees in anatomy and physiology to start you on the right path. And it is this:
1. Stand with your back against a wall. Note if your calves, butt, thoracic spine, shoulders and head should all be touching the wall. No? Try to slowly adjust so that they are. Most people who spend long hours practicing or in front of a computer, find that their head and shoulders are much farther back than expected.
2. Maintain this posture and take a walk around your room. Different no?
O.k. now to apply this to your playing.
3. Find an open doorway. Bring your instrument and bow. Stand with your spine against the frame of the door similarly to above then set up ready to play (watch out not to hit your bow or violin against the door frame!) but keep your the back of your head and at least your spine against the frame.
4. Begin to play a piece or scale of your choice. Bring your awareness to any adjustments in your set up.
5. Take a step away and notice the freedom and ease of movement.
That's it. For most players this simple process is a revelation. To maintain and engrain this easy and erect posture, return to the door frame briefly during daily practice. If you are having trouble with a passage, the act of finding your best posture may solve the problem as it frees up your shoulders and releases tension from your neck.
We will dig deeper into the relationship between posture and performance in later posts but for now, this simple method can build your awareness and start your own enquiry into your posture and its effects on your playing.