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Cello Lessons: Identifying Causes of Muscle Pain & Tension

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This page contains a transcription of a video lesson from Multi-Style Cello with Mike Block. This is only a preview of what you get when you take Cello Lessons at ArtistWorks. The transcription is only one of the valuable tools we provide our online members. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

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[MUSIC]
After playing cello for a few hours or
a few years or even a few minutes,
sometimes we can get sore.
It's an intense, physical activity.
And basically,
anything that you're overusing has
a tendency to get tight or painful.
And luckily, it's not rocket science to
figure out how to remedy this problem.
Anywhere that you feel tight or
tense or painful is pretty
much a direct result of just a chronic
tension that doesn't get released.
okay So we wanna, it does require tension
and strength to play the cello, but
the key is to constantly be releasing it.
So I just wanted to go through a list of
some common places that cellists will
feel pain or feel tightness and just give
you a way to think about the way that
maybe it's being caused, so that you can
think about it in your practicing and
try and remedy the situation on your own.
So a lot of cellists, when we're sitting,
we get lower back pain,
like right around here.
And that's often,
because we're overarching the back.
If you're try to sit up too straight,
often times you'll hold a lot
of tension in the lower back.
So you wanna allow the lower
back to sort of sit
back on the tailbone a little bit.
Also the upper back,
often has similar problems when cellists
trying like to open their chest
with maybe a little too much,
a little artificially and your shoulder
blades gets squeezed together.
And then your going to feel tightness in
the muscles between the shoulder blades.
So if you feel that, try and
think about your back being really big.
If you make your back small like this,
you'll get tight.
But if you think about your
back being really big,
then those muscles can stay relaxed.
Oftentimes, cellists get neck pain.
Sometimes when cellists have a C peg here,
it gets in the way of our neck.
And we end up kind of sticking our
neck forward a little bit like this,
just to allow the C peg
to be behind the neck.
As you can see,
I've actually gotten rid of my C peg.
I highly recommend anybody
who's kinda like tall, or
if you feel like the C peg is getting in
your neck to go to cellostrap.com and
you can get a string vision key peg.
And basically,
it get's rid of the head of the peg and
then I have a key with which I can
actually still tune this string, but I had
to do that back when I was in college is
the first time I got rid of my C peg here.
Let's go to the arm.
So if your right forearm is feeling tense,
chances are your
kind of like over pressing with
your arm in this kind of manner.
And so oftentimes, that's an instinct
we have to try and play louder.
But if you keep your wrist smooth,
so your arm has the gentle
slope into the cello, you can make
sure your using arm weight for
your sound rather than force
from the forearm and wrist.
The left wrist is very vulnerable for
getting hurt,
because people often play with
a collapsed wrist like this.
It's not very frequent,
you'll have a concave wrist, but
the collapsed wrist is pretty common.
So you wanna really make sure
like I often put my bow on my
forearm just to really show that
you want forearm, wrist and
outer part of the hand to be
a straight line at all times.
You never really want to
play with a bent left wrist.
The pinkie often gets ignored
in our left-hand position,
because it tends to be maybe
the least used finger.
And when we're not using it, it often
ends up sticking up straight out and
just kind of hanging out there.
And you'll see a lot of cellists who
look like this when they're playing.
[MUSIC]
This pinkie just kinds of hangs out there,
doing nothing and
making life difficult for you.
And so
that can obviously result in some tension.
And so whether in thumb position or
in first position,
you wanna leave your pinkie relaxed, so
that it has just a gentle curve kind
of in line with the other fingers.
[MUSIC]
Let's keep trucking along.
So often,
this muscle in the bow hand gets tight.
This muscle is, you know,
the grabbing muscle for the thumb.
And if you're squeezing the bow too
tight and your thumb is straight,
often times this muscle will go a very
long periods of times without relaxing.
And so that can get really hard,
if this muscle in your thumb is stiff and
you can't really rub it,
then that's a sign that maybe your
thumb is straight and not relaxed.
And actually, the same thing goes for
the left thumb.
Sometimes, there's this instinct we
have to sort of grab the fingerboard and
the thumb ends up pressing up
into the back of the neck.
And again,
that's gonna overextend this muscle and
not give your thumb
muscle a chance to relax.
And also, it actually does nothing for
your playing coincidentally,
cuz it actually counteracts any of the arm
weight that you would wanna be using to
play in the cello.
These are some of the common culprits
of tension that cellists have and
you may have experienced
this at one time or
another or
you may have another place of tension.
If you're feeling tense pain or anything
related to these muscles or other muscles,
feel free to send me a video and just
sorta tell me what you're dealing with and
I'll be happy to help diagnose,
maybe what's happening that's causing
the pain and
we can find the right muscles to relax.
[MUSIC]