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AdministratorNovember 23, 2016 at 11:21 am
You’re not alone in this; muscle tension is probably the most impactful of all the things that happen when we get nervous. Sure the other things are distracting, but tension is going to affect our playing the most.
The exercise that helped me most is designed to give us a much greater awareness of the range of finger pressure/tension we can play effectively at, as well as giving us greater control of how much tension we use when playing – even when we’re not under pressure. The idea is to take a scale or something relatively easy, and play it forte (using full bows and plenty of arm weight to draw out a nice big sound with the right arm), but finger everything in the left hand as if every single note is a harmonic. That is, to apply only enough finger pressure and tension in your left hand/arm to make contact with the string; not to depress it.
As you can imagine, it’s going to sound horrible, because most notes are not harmonics. Plus, your right arm will have a tendency to lighten up since your left hand is light. Work at it until you can play with full forte right arm, and super light left arm. Once you get used to that, you can gradually increase the amount of finger pressure you use in the left hand, one level at a time, until you get to a point where it’s just barely enough finger pressure to produce the kind of sound you want. Hang out there for a while too, and get used to what the minimum threshold of finger pressure feels like. Then you can add just a tiny bit more finger pressure to give yourself a safety buffer, but even that will be less than you’re probably accustomed to using.
You can probably see where this is going by now, but the idea is to be able to get more comfortable with playing with much less tension than we’re accustomed to. So that way when we get on stage, and have a tendency to tense up, we have developed the ability to release tension, and play comfortably at a much lower level of tension.