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 When a musician starts feeling some pain in any part of his or her body when playing and also when not playing, it doesn't really matter which part of the body.

Like all classifications, they are interesting but don't help to eliminate the problem. When there is any pain, it is the body that is telling us that something is not quite right in it. We are doing something wrong so we'd better listen to our body's messages.

The first thing to do is stop doing what causes the pain, it seems so obvious yet many players don't do it, they keep playing only to get to the no-return point. I'm totally amazed when I hear of those who do so, it would be like feeling pain because you hit your head with a hammer and taking painkiller to keep hammering your head!

In my opinion taking painkillers serves only to silence the alarm bell, so you can forget about the pain for a while. You wouldn't do that with a fire alarm!

Then you have to find a real solution, one that goes to the root of why you got this pain and tendonitis and the cause is related to what you do when you play, the way you play.

Taking rests, massages, apply ice to the aching part, stretching, may help temporarily to relieve the pain, which is a good thing, but when you start playing again sooner or later you'll have the same problem and a some point you'll have to really stop for a quite long time.

This because those are palliative remedies, they don't eliminate the cause. Also, often professionals and students under the pressure of exams cannot afford to stop playing for some time so they keep playing despite the pain.

The ideal solution then is one that enables the player to play in such a way that doesn't cause pain regardless of how long the player plays.

Years ago I came across a way of playing that is based on the use of natural balances that are inherent in all body movements, the natural weight of the body parts, without the use of force and pressure.

It's like walking: we naturally swing our arms back and forward to balance the leg movement and the whole body continually adjusts its position.

The same can be done in violin and viola playing. This way of playing was developed by Kato Havas. She is now the specialised teacher on this subject of prevention of physical injuries in violin and viola playing and that of the elimination of stage fright (which is closely related to physical tension). She started as a child prodigy on the violin in Hungary and got to the Carnegie Hall at 18. Then, when she started her family and withdrew from the concert world, she remembered the ease of playing of the gypsy fiddlers she had met in her country. By remembering how they did it, she started teaching this way, obtaining astonishing results in a short time.

The whole concept is about using the body doing the natural, everyday movements, not any imposed contortions. It's about knowing where the source of movements is and using that source as the motivating power of each movement.

The release of tension in one part of the body immediately releases other parts (and the opposite is true also) and this leads to an improved tone and facility in the movements. The focus is on the quality of tone production. The quality of the tone you get will tell you if you are doing right, not somebody's opinion on how something should be done. So, in this respect, I consider this an exact science.

This way of playing is explained in several boos Kato Havas wrote: A New approach to violin playing, The twelve lesson course, Stage Fright, a New approach teaching DVD.

Kato Havas received the "Isaac Stern International Award" from the American String Teachers' Association for "unparalleled results" and her books were praised by the great violin player Yehudi Menuhin and was appointed OBE by Queen Elizabeth for "services to music".

"Miss Havas is original in her approach to the violin [& viola] playing because she insists that technique must be reducible to basic motions involving more than the fingertips"

Sir Yehudi Menuhin

"Dear Kato Havas, I would like... to congratulate you on your book Stage Fright... It is the most realistic and practical approach imaginable... it should be worth its weight in gold to every student and many a performer"

Sir Yehudi Menuhin

Kato Havas has always been very keen on spreading the word to everybody and recently she wanted to have some videos of a workshop of hers broadcast on YouTube. She has always been teaching anyone, without selecting through auditions, because she thinks the job of a teacher is to teach those who want to learn.

Years ago I was asked to translate a book of hers then, having experienced the exceptional results from the new approach, I insisted to have other two published. Also I did the YouTube videos and now I'm spreading the word about her DVD. There are so many players who suffer from aches and pains, tendonitis, horrible stage fright. You don't have to, you can learn to play without pain and be happy. I want to let everybody know about the new approach to violin and viola playing, because IT WORKS!

Monica Cuneo

Viola Player, translator of Kato Havas books into Italian, author of a website about the viola included by the Encyclopedia Britannica in their list of recommended External Web Sites.

She is also an enthusiastic teacher of the new approach.


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