Re-learning to play

I played the violin for about 25 years – once I got out of the exam treadmill, I played folk, and acoustic rock and was much happier. During my twenties, it was a big part of my life, and music was central to how I communicated with people, and to a number of my most cherished relationships.

Some years ago, an elderly and much loved cat decided he wanted to spend the winter (his last winter, it turned out) sat on my left shoulder. He was not a small cat. He’d get up there and I’d let him stay until my left hand went numb – which it invariably did. The result of this, after some months, was some kind of compression injury, and my shoulder joint locked down. I lost a great deal of mobility. I couldn’t swim, I could barely get my hands round the bouzouki and I could not get my left arm to a place where I could play the violin. At its worst, I couldn’t reliably dress myself.

It took me a long time to rebuild strength and flexibility. I’ve been able to swim for the last few years and I can do most everyday things with no trouble. I don’t have full movement and most specifically, I cannot get my hand into a position that would allow me to play the violin. I’ve come to a point of accepting that I might never get that back.

I do have enough flexibility to get my hands round the viola – which is bigger, and doesn’t require getting my hand as close to my shoulder. For some time now, I’ve been relearning my violin repertoire on this instrument instead. Given that most of what I know is in terms of muscle memory, and the physical shape of tunes is different on a bigger instrument, this has been a bit of a thing. I’m nowhere like as good as I used to be and I have a lot of work to do.

On the plus side, the viola is the better instrument to sing with. I have ventured a thing…

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Re-learning to play

  • John Davis

    Good to hear you sing and play. Where we used to live, there was a guy called Fiddler Jim Elden who, among other things, used to play shanty music on the Yorkshire Belle’s one hour cruises to entertain the visitors as they were being seasick in Bridlington Bay. There’s a YouTube video of his playing style….the fiddle never went near his shoulder. Have you ever tried that?

    • Nimue Brown

      thanks for the though! I have tried that. part of it is that I’d have to entirely relearn how to play to do so in a radically different position – makes the bowing work in a different way. Part of it is about where the weight falls – there’s a lot of hypermobility in my hands and that affects how I can hold an instrument if i want to be able to play for more than a few minutes at a time. If the instrument is lower, there’s less weight on my shoulder and more on my hand.

  • emberbear

    A lovely rendition of a classic, Nimue. Thank you for that.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    A friend of mine once played the violin as a kid. She restarted at age sixty.

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