Thinking Thursday — Posture

Posture is perhaps the thing that has the most influence over how one sounds. It is the base from which all other components of violin-playing are built. Good posture is critically important to the ability to play in tune, and how we use the bow. Maybe we should start by defining good posture. The place to begin is to look at a dictionary. The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines posture as, “the position or bearing of the body whether characteristic or assumed for a special purpose.” The American Heritage Dictionary has several definitions that are appropriate for our purposes: a position of the body or of body parts; a characteristic way of bearing one’s body; carriage; relative placement or arrangement. And there are certainly many others that I could have cited.

 

For many of us, we hear from the time we are knee-high to a grasshopper, “Stand up straight. Look me in the eye. Tuck in your shirt.” And any number of other things related directly to posture. Violin playing is no different. Standing up straight is a given. Looking the violin “in the eye” is also pretty important, and can’t be done if you’re not standing up straight. “Tuck in your shirt” can be translated to mean that your posture must be centered and balanced.

 

Good violin posture is an extention of the natural, free movement of the body. The feet are flat on the floor, and slightly separated to provide balance. The arms are assisted by gravity to keep them from getting tired or overworked. The violin is held in place by the head, and should feel like it is floating on top of the shoulder and hand. All motions originate from the perception of “roundedness”, even though they might sometimes look like straight lines or angles. When I place my violin and prepare to play, it feels like I am hugging an old friend.

 

Posture can be a help or a hindrance. Does your violin feel like an old friend or an awkward implement of musical torture? If it feels awkward, look for clues in the mirror (or video yourself playing) and see if there is something stiff or painful. It might indicate that a different posture might work better. But keep in mind that anytime you change something in your posture, there are repercussions. That one change might lead to several other necessary ones for it all to “click”. And it will probably feel very strange, because your muscles were trained (and became accustomed) to doing it differently. In the end, though, it’s worth it to investigate your posture and make changes as soon as possible.

 

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