“Try to be a lazy violinist!”

Yesterday I told my student Adam that what he really needs to play his piece well is to be a lazy violinist. His eyes bugged out and he definitely could not believe what I just said. Yep, he needs to be more “lazy.”

So here’s a big secret that nobody knows: Musicians are jocks. We’re all athletes who are working out very specific parts of our muscles everyday.

The stigma of the nerdy musician who is as pale as a vampire because she never sees the sun, wearing glasses while squinting at small music notes, and whose backside is shaped like the practice chair may have some legitimacy…

But we’re actually pretty amazing athletes. I dare you to challenge me to a thumb war!

lazy violinist

Injured Violinist

When I was in college I practiced violin for six to eight hours a day, which is pretty standard for string and piano majors. By my junior year I developed severe tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my hands due to overuse and bad technique.

I literally couldn’t hold a fork for a while, or even turn a door handle. The doctors told me I couldn’t play violin again. They said that I should just quit and do something else with my life.

Well, tell that to someone who is in their junior year of college, only has one legitimate skill and 3/4 of their music credits done, and watch them dissolve into a puddle of despair.

I stopped playing for about nine months and slowly worked myself back up to practicing as much as I could. Not eight hours a day, but several.

Lazy Violinist

The way that I got my violin back was through being “lazy,” believe it or not. In the past I had tried to muscle and power my way through playing violin for hours on end. But the real trick is to simply relax and not move any muscle you don’t have to. Hence the “lazy violinist” idea.

Now I teach my students to maximize their body’s natural shape and movements, and to let gravity do the work for them.

  • String players can relax their shoulders and let the natural weight of their arms drop into the strings through a relaxed bow hand.
  • Piano players can let gravity help them drop arm weight into the keys for a beautiful, strong tone without unnecessary effort.
  • Singers and wind players can use their core muscles to relax and control their breath without tensing up.

Lazy Violinist > Injured Violinist

I’ve got a big challenge coming up in February – I booked a gig playing violin for a furniture store, of all things. I have to play solo music for four hours. I have breaks, but I still have to play for four hours straight.

I’m out of shape since the eight-hour college days, so the only way to physically survive is if I relax my technique to become a lazy violinist. I’m going to try to be completely flexible except for the few muscles that I have to move in order to play.

And you know what, I should be playing like that every time! Not only do I protect my body, but it sounds a lot better, too. Wish me luck!

Check out how relaxed violinist Alexander Markov is playing the killer Paganini Caprice No. 5. You won’t believe it!


So take a look at yourself and your kids and see if you are holding tension anywhere.

Then talk to your teacher about how to relax and maximize your efforts for a beautiful sound.

Be (the right kind of) lazy violinist! 🙂


Staying lazy,



Originally posted January 24, 2013 by Katie Mattix.


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