Anne Akiko Meyers Shares the Essential Stretching Exercises for String Players
"What are the essential stretching exercises for string players?" We threw the question over to American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers to get her expert advice.
Warm-ups and stretches before starting your daily practice can go a long way in keeping the relevant muscles active as well as reducing the chances of performance related injuries. How then, should we approach such crucial exercises? VC reader Richard wanted to know.
What are some stretching exercises that you know of? How have they been working for you? Please leave a comment below, we are keen to know your thoughts.
Anne Akiko Meyers discusses the Essential Stretching Exercises for String Players
Having performed professionally for more than 30 years, I am keenly aware of how my body is affected and feels before, during and after practice/performing. Musicians are definitely athletes. We use our fine motor skills and muscles repetitively and require our bodies to be able to hold up to demanding practice and touring schedules. Not to mention the strain of carrying our suitcases, carry-on luggage and violin case. Fly 15 hours scrunched in a plane and jump 10 time zones to perform a Prokofiev Concerto without getting hurt or jet lagged, sure, no problem!
I believe deeply in cardio exercise, stretching, deep tissue massage, rolfing, acupuncture, rest.
Eastern medicine remedies for our very Western music making. Many of the therapies have helped me tremendously to stay active, keep my tissue healthy and body calm with the challenging travel and strenuous performance schedule.
Playing the violin or viola puts tremendous strain on one’s body. Your head is torqued, while compressing the instrument with your neck. Your arms are working in opposite directions and the weight in your body is not evenly distributed, with the bow arm resembling a bow and arrow. It puts great strain on your shoulders, arms, hands, neck and back.
The door jam is extremely helpful for stretching shoulders and arms and requires no equipment to pack in your already overstretched luggage (I am speaking for myself!) Put your arms in the door jam, like you are in a hold-up and walk into the stretch.
Another great one is to go into a corner and put your weight into the stretch in your chest. For your wrists, make a fist, with your arms in front of you and gently push down the wrist using your opposite hand.
In addition to stretches and therapies, being aware of your breath is incredibly helpful. Walking while playing or warming up with your scales, will focus you on your breathing. Music making is not possible without your body feeling relaxed and calm.
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Anne Akiko Meyers has enraptured audiences around the world for decades. Regularly performing on the leading stages, Anne has collaborated with many of today’s most important composers, resulting in significant works for the violin. She has made close to 40 recordings, many of them debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts, which are staples of classical music radio stations and streaming platforms.