1) KEEP MOVING
Our bodies grow old because we stop moving. Inactivity accelerates muscle and bone loss, and stiffness may occur. Research indicates we can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, by regularly performing weight-bearing exercise, such as walking and lifting weights.
Flexibility is crucial to musicians to avoid overuse injuries. Good flexibility enables your body to align properly. Some form of strengthening exercises and aerobic conditioning is very important to improve endurance. After years of playing in postures sometimes required by our instruments, asymmetrical body development may occur. If you feel pain and stiffness consult a physical therapist or trainer who knows musicians’ issues. They can help you create a training regimen to fit your needs, as well as alert you to effective injury prevention exercises.
2) BE PREPARED AND STAY IN SHAPE
More is not better. Practice smarter not harder. Our motions tend to be jerky when we don’t know what is coming up in the music. Whenever possible, if you are able to plan fingerings and study the music, you will be more likely to maintain ease and flow of your body motions. Try to be consistent with practice. If you have taken several days off get back into condition gradually.
3) WARM UP MORE SLOWLY AND THOROUGHLY
Muscles need to be actively moved to increase blood circulation and deliver a greater amount of oxygen and nutrition to cells. Moving slowly loosens fascia and tendons, allowing them to be more flexible and pliable. Warming up also creates more synovial fluid release, which allows your bones to slide on each other with greater ease. First, warm-up away from the instrument. A few minutes of aerobic exercise even jumping in one place or a brisk walk will do the trick. Then warm-up at the instrument in the mid-range of your instrument- playing not to high, not too low; not too fast and not too slow. The key is to start slowly.
4) EXAMINE YOUR TECHNIQUE
Release at every opportunity. Don’t hold awkward positions. Make sure you release fingers and thumbs. A fluent technique is from lifting quickly. Keep your shoulders down, your torso facing forward, keep your head in neutral and upright, and alternate standing and sitting if your instrument allows you to do so.
5) TAKE MORE BREAKS
Underplaying may be an issue with aging musicians but overplaying is as well. A few-minute break every hour helps to alleviate tension that may build up. While performing keep tension at bay by rolling your shoulders, letting your arms hang down, and moving and wiggling whenever possible.
6) ADJUST YOUR EQUIPMENT TO FIT YOUR NEEDS
Make sure you have eyeglasses for the exact distance to your music stand. Place music stands directly in front of you at eye level. Move your instrument rather than twist your body to see better. Purchase ergonomic cushions that allow your chair to be at a proper height for you. Your knees should descend from your pelvis, your weight on your feet and forward, with a natural lumbar curve in your back. Make sure instruments are properly adjusted so that they are as easy to play as possible.
7) CARRY EARPLUGS
with you at all times for unexpected assaults from loud volumes and wear them when the sound goes beyond safe limits of 85 decibels. Take silence breaks of several hours after loud concerts.
8) SEE A LICENSED HAND THERAPIST
If you have finger or thumb arthritis see a PT. They can fit you with ring splints, a fitted prescribed medical device, or use other modalities to help.
The goal as we age is to play within our own tissue tolerance by monitoring our posture, the force and intensity with which we play, and limiting the duration and repetition from day to day. Keep tabs on how your body feels and make necessary adjustments so you can continue to play for years to come.