Tense shoulder/left arm in general while playing

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by funBox, Sep 17, 2010.

  1. funBox

    funBox New Friend

    Sep 13, 2010
    Statesboro, GA
    As the title suggests, during my own private practice time, after playing for awhile, my left shoulder/arm begins to tense up immensely to the point where I can barely stand to keep the horn up and continue playing.

    Has anybody had any experience with something similar?

    As a little back story, starting out in high school, I never had a private instructor so I was self taught for the most part, outside of generalized teaching my band director gave during class, (his primary is the French horn, so I never really got a lot of good advice from him).

    Anyways, since I never had any true guidance in my developmental stages, I substituted good air support with good old fashion, lip bleeding pressure on my top lip to produce what I wanted to produce, (though, in retrospect, I don't think I ever truly produced what I wanted, anyway...hmm.).

    Do you guys think the tensing of my arm/shoulder is in any way correlated to my bad habits growing up, (I'd like to put on record that pressure is no longer an issue, or rather, as much of an issue :-P), and if you guys know of any methods to relieve this tension?.. Or should I start looking for my health insurance card? :thumbdown:
  2. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    I don't see how you can have tension in the arm/shoulder and not have mouthpiece pressure problems. Nevertheless, when you play, notice when the tension comes on. Is it when you come upon a difficult piece of music? or a piece of music in the upper register?
    Work on:
    1)Finding the musical triggers that cause you to tense up
    2)Work on easing up in those situations
    3)When the tension is there, STOP! take a drink of water or something to break the cycle of tension and start again.
  3. RichJ

    RichJ Piano User

    Jan 16, 2008
    Northern Virginia
    Dumbells? Seriously, is this just muscle fatigue? That definitely can be an issue for me with a heavy Monette horn in a strenuous long rehearsal if I haven't been using that horn much.
  4. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    Maybe try a chiropractor? Heaviest horn I have is an Olds Ambassador and I don't remember having this issue at choir rehearsal(2.5-3 hrs). I only tense up when the choir starts singing :lol:.
  5. jongorrie

    jongorrie Pianissimo User

    May 9, 2010
    Do you rest as much as you play?
    Put the horn down a lot - and do a LOT of stretches, windmills etc. That should help the circulation.
  6. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    What kind of grip are you using. Are you squeezing the horn with your left hand?

    Try a relaxed grip where the palm of your left hand forms a triangular space with thumb, index finger, and the valve block each making one side of the triangle. Let the weight of the horn rest on your thumb and index finger. Do not pinch them towards each other.

    Tension can begin in your hand and work its way up your musculature into your triceps, biceps and shoulder muscles. So relieving tension in your grip is a good place to start.
  7. Kent

    Kent New Friend

    Apr 25, 2007
    Vancouver, BC
    I have been working through this issue as well. I am a comeback player now taking lessons and have resolved any mp pressure issues etc. However, with the assistance of a very good physio and RMT, i have identified my roblem lies mainly in my left hand grip and my tendency to lean forwards, up on my toes and towards my right, especially when i am working through something challenging. Everone is different, of course, but my pain is now much less by having better posture, really making sure my air flows freely and I breathe correctly and to stop playing as soon as I feel my grip pain coming on and readjusting my posture etc. Good luck and maybe find someone to check you out.
  8. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    This is good advice. Tension in the arm/shoulder can start with the grip. Is your wrist straight from your hand to your forearm?

    When you played before and used pressure, in using the pressure your left arm and shoulder would tense up. So this is an old habit that hasn't been resolved. But the severity of the problem tells me you need to have it check out by a doctor
  9. funBox

    funBox New Friend

    Sep 13, 2010
    Statesboro, GA
    Sorry it took so long to respond!

    Regarding my grip, when I was younger I fell off a bike, (which subsequently managed to fall back on ME xD) and broke my arm. Ever since then, I have never been able to bend my wrist forward while clenching my fist, causing me to have somewhat of a tense, awkward grip. Outside of physical therapy, are there any alternative ways to hold the horn other than the traditional grip? I will try what veery suggested and post the results.

    Also, in regards to the rest/play time ratio, I'm a college student taking max hours, so my schedule stays tight. Because of this, I try to get as much practice in as possible before my next class/rehearsal, so the ratio is usually pretty one-sided.

    And finally, in regards to when it begins to hurt and tense up, it usually only happens when I'm in a practice room doing individual practice for a long period of time. Perhaps its just nerves because the rooms are anything but sound proof. =P Oddly enough, I don't think its ever happened during a rehearsal, probably since the majority of our rehearsal consists of rehearsing parts where trumpets have rests, (because were so awesome, we don't need to rehearse! =D)

    Anyways, thanks for the input guys, and let me know if you can think of anything else!

    [Oh and @ Bob, with my current grip, my left hand almost looks contorted; its almost completely bent because of (what I'm assuming) is a stiff tendon.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2010
  10. Ed Kennedy

    Ed Kennedy Forte User

    Nov 18, 2006
    You can try a "pistol grip" where you grasp the valve casing below the slides. Old Bessons and the new Callets are designed to be held this way with the third slide arrangement reversed with the ring on the bottom. You might also look into Alexander Technique to learn to carry yourself in a relaxed way.

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