All for One, and Posture for All
Good posture is the key to good health. It is doubly important for musicians. Not only is posture needed to keep the body aligned, it is also needed to allow for proper body mechanics while playing. These postures have been developed over centuries, and while not always ergonomically perfect, they are very good at allowing the fingers, hands and arms to perform the necessary task efficiently.
For wind players posture plays an even more important role. Holding a good posture, with your instrument properly held, opens up the chest cavity allowing for good breathing.
It is important to keep in mind that sitting and standing postures are different. Sometimes they are radically different. If you have learned to play in one position you may not be able to play in the other. Both postures need to be exercised in order to strengthen the necessary muscles.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive Stress Injuries are almost a given to the musician. Tendonitis, Bursitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Back, Neck and Shoulder Pain and Calluses are just some of the possibilities. If you play for any length of time, whether a professional or hobbyist, you will most likely suffer from some level of repetitive stress sometime.
Playing and practicing music requires repetitive motion and lots of it. That is a problem. To counteract it you need to know what causes repetitive stress injuries and ensure that you:
- Hold a good posture
- Maintain a healthy wrist
- Stretch before and after playing
- Properly warm up
- Strengthen the arms, wrists and hands
- Strengthen the core trunk muscles and diaphragm
- Take adequate breaks
- Relieve stress on the arms wrists and hands during other, non-musical activities
- Maintain a healthy body weight
There are a number of non-traditional instrument designs available on the market or custom made. If you are serious about music and your health, then you should seriously consider these options. An instruments shape and key/string layout does not necessarily alter the sound it produces. Clever engineers and designers have used this fact to adjust a traditional form to provide the same sound while making it easier to play.
More On Ergonomic Instruments
Kids at Play
A lot of parents either do not know or do not believe that children can have the same problems that adults do. Repetitive stress injuries in children are real. Furthermore, children that are learning to play an instrument are at greater risk.
Children need to be especially aware of their postures while performing and practicing. Bad habits formulated young can lead to a lifetime of pain. Keeping a good posture will train the right muscles to hold that posture and keep the body in balance and the lungs free to move during the many hours of practice.
Children also have a special consideration due to size. Most instruments are designed for adults. Spacing of keys and strings can be a severe strain on a smaller hand. Larger, heavier instruments can also be too much to handle.
In these cases you should study on a smaller instrument, a piccolo or alto as opposed to a tenor or base instrument. You should also ensure ample breaks are taken and that finger and wrist strengthening exercises are a regular part of the music curriculum.