As a musician, it’s so important to take care of your body. Repetitive motions, unnatural positions, and built-up tension can wreak havoc on your playing if you’re not intentional about how you take care of yourself. That’s why I’m excited to share the three biggest things that I do to take care of my body as a fiddler:

1. Massages

Especially if I’m practicing a lot, getting massages is a game-changer for me. It helps release the tension that gathers in my shoulders (even with lots of stretching).

I used to get frequent headaches that stemmed from my shoulder tension. Since I started getting massages, the headaches have practically vanished.

2. Targeted stretches for violinists

Anything that moves my body in the opposite direction from playing helps. Here are a few of my favorite stretches for fiddlers and violinists:

Wrist & forearm stretch

Face your palms away from you. With your fingertips pointing toward you, gently press your fingers and palms down onto a table or the ground. Feel the stretch on the inside of your wrists and forearms.

Upper arm & shoulder stretch

Stretch your left arm across your body, parallel to the ground. Bring your right hand up to cradle your left bicep. Pull inward with your right arm to feel the stretch in your left shoulder and upper arm. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch arms.

Arm & shoulder tension release

Start by shaking your hands vigorously, then your hands and forearms; then your hands, arms, and shoulders. Shake it out!

Upper arm & chest stretch

Stand near a wall. Outstretch your arm behind you, palm flat on the wall. Turn your body away from the wall until you feel a stretch in your upper arm and chest. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch arms.

3. Tension check-ins while playing

Even after decades of playing fiddle, my thumbs still have the urge to squeeze constantly. If I don’t remedy it in the moment, it can cause extreme issues (like cysts and tendinitis—oh no). Plus, physical tension contributes to mental stress too. Here’s how to release thumb tension as a violin player:

Release tension in your left thumb

With your fiddle in position, gently tap your thumb on the neck three times. When you do this, your thumb has no choice but to release tension and reset.

I do three thumb three taps whenever I feel tension there during my practice. If I get my thumb to relax during my Foundation Time (warm-up), then it stays fairly relaxed throughout my practice. If I can’t get my thumb to relax, I slow down my tunes until my thumb will ease up.

Release tension in your right thumb

In general, my right thumb squeezes when my index finger is pressing heavily. Now I check that my right index finger is gently leaning on the bow, not pressing. Follow these steps:

a) Engage your back muscles by pulling your shoulder blades downward.

b) Tap your rounded pinky on the stick of the bow

c) Pet the eye of the frog with your third finger

d) Pet the side of the frog with your second finger

e) Gently lift and tap your rounded first finger, then gently lean into it.

e) Settle your bow hair onto the string of your fiddle. Hold all four of your fingers in place as you gently release your thumb and tap, tap, tap it on the underside of the frog.

I hope these tension release exercises and stretches for violinists help you feel better and sound better. Have more questions about how to stay relaxed when you fiddle? Check out these resources to aid physical relaxation for fiddlers: