A masterful violin posture is the single most important component of learning how to elicit a rich, full sound from your violin, and allow you to perform at the highest levels.
If you experience pain while playing it is most likely related to muscle tension; either you have proper posture and are unconsciously tightening muscles, or your posture is improper which in itself forces your muscles to tighten to compensate for the lack of correct physiology.
When either occurs, stop and review the steps below before playing again.
1. Are you completely relaxed? Gentle stretching and “rag dolls” are an excellent way to prepare for a practice session, lesson, or performance. Make slow, deep breathing a priority for all practice sessions.
2. Is your bow hold correct? Your right hand should be relaxed and rounded, with all fingers hanging over the stick (except for the pinky which is lightly curved with the very tip touching the bow), ring finger on the dot. The index finger leans against the stick between the two finger knuckles. Thumb is bent, with tip gently biting into the stick to provide control and strength. Wrist should be relaxed and very soft.
3. Stand up straight with feet shoulders-width apart, knees slightly bent, legs and trunk relaxed and balanced wherein your weight is evenly distributed and can shift easily. Make sure your torso is not twisted or turned.
4. Is the violin placed correctly? Put it on your “shelf” (violin rests on the collar bone – no shoulder involved!!), tuck in comfortably, and let the weight of your head hold it easily in place. Don’t squeeze or use tension in shoulders or neck or chin to support violin (left hand helps support lightly).
5. After the violin is in place, bring the left hand up and place fingers lightly on the fingerboard keeping the thumb soft and below (or just peeking over) the fingerboard level – don’t grab. Look in the mirror to be sure your left wrist is relaxed and soft (flopping slightly open).
6. Once you are ready to begin moving the bow, play some detache strokes on open strings and use a mirror to determine if your bow path is correct (bow pulls towards the bridge, slight “oval bow”), and your bow hand flexible.
7. Consciously keep every muscle in your body relaxed, fluid, and soft, while continuing to breathe slowly and deeply.