Doing It Wrong

In the last analysis, playing a musical instrument is a form of athletic activity. Muscles, tendons, joints, posture — it all matters. When you’re young, you can get away with a few bad habits, because your body is resilient. Once you pass 50, though, the bad habits will start to catch up with you.

Right now I have what seems to be epicondylitis in my left elbow, presumably from playing the cello. The elbow is sometimes stiff, and occasionally it hurts. It seems vanishingly unlikely my M.D. will be able to refer me to a physical therapist who knows about cello technique, so I posted a message on the forum at the Internet Cello Society asking who to talk to in the Bay Area. I was referred to Irene Sharp.

In my lesson with her this afternoon, she recommended a completely different way of using my left arm. It feels awkward — like trying to swim while wearing a raincoat. But her approach makes sense, I can see that. At least it’s worth working on it for a couple of months to see if I can adapt to it.

Fortunately, I don’t have any gigs coming up. It will take a while for me to get used to these techniques and learn not to slip back into my old habits. Also, I expect that changing things will put some strain (temporary, I hope) on some tissues that aren’t used to what I’m asking them to do.

Just what I need — another adventure. Wasn’t I supposed to have worked through all my bad habits by the time I got to be this old?

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One Response to Doing It Wrong

  1. What a great opportunity. I’d be interested in seeing some before and after pictures. And don’t write off Occupational Therapists just because they aren’t specifically knowledgeable about cello playing. If you are still having pain, some of their physical modalities can be very helpful in breaking the pain cycle while you are modifying your technique.

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