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#1088420 - 12/17/08 09:59 PM Which is easier to play with arthritis, piano or violin?
Barbara C Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/06
Posts: 90
Loc: California
I have been learning violin for a year, with my granddaughter, while I keep up with my piano. But recently, it has become obvious that I have increasing arthritis. I am 57. Right now, it seems to mostly be in the base of my thumbs. It tends to interfere with piano a little, in that I have to ignore the soreness when playing. Thumbs are not needed for violin as much - there, it is more the fingers. Even then, my left thumb hurts when I hold the violin too hard.

So, as arthritis progresses, the fingers are more affected. Will this curtail my piano or my violin first? As it spreads to my fingers, it seems like it would become more difficult with the violin.

My 80-year old mother still plays organ for her church, despite considerable arthritis. I look at her and figure I will have similar problems. If I have to give up one instrument or the other, I wonder which one it will end up being.

Can anyone comment?
Piano: Kawai MP8; Interest: classical, self-taught. Occupation: electronics engineer 25 yrs.

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#1088421 - 12/17/08 10:16 PM Re: Which is easier to play with arthritis, piano or violin?
verania5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/08
Posts: 386
Loc: Michigan
Having played both, though I gave up on violin fairly early on, I can say that learning violin is hard on the left hand - really hard. I didn't get to the point where I can relax enough to the point of being able to fly up and down and depress strings with ease and relax my wrist. I always experienced cramping of my wrist and fingers during my attempts at learning violin. I can't imagine taking it up with arthritis. I feel the piano would be easier since you can do a lot with simple lifting and dropping of the forearm.
Steinway M & Yamaha P120

#1088422 - 12/17/08 11:00 PM Re: Which is easier to play with arthritis, piano or violin?
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
You could always take up the theremin - that requires no force from the fingers at all. I have a bit of a hand/finger problem myself, and I can still play it effortlessly when my hands hurt. (badly, mind you, but that's because of lack of skill, not any hand trouble)

I imagine a trombone would be similarly arthritis-friendly. No finger movement at all.

#1088423 - 12/18/08 04:13 PM Re: Which is easier to play with arthritis, piano or violin?
Ken S. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/08
Posts: 87
Loc: North Carolina
You are the best judge of which instrument you enjoy most and can play most comfortably.

Violin can put a lot of stress on the neck and shoulders. Others here have mentioned stress on the left hand. Proper bow grip certainly could stress the base of your right thumb. Violin seems to require more very fine motor control, if that is an issue.

In my experience, violin is a more challenging instrument to play from the physical point of view. (Attention: Please do not understand the last statement as a comment about whether one instrument or the other is more difficult to master.)

#1088424 - 12/18/08 04:41 PM Re: Which is easier to play with arthritis, piano or violin?
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3487
Loc: Virginia, USA
I'm guessing piano is easier. Violin is quite one sided, and during your flareups there is no way to get relief.

I'm sort of in this position on trombone at the moment. A shoulder injury (complicated by arthritis, but most of the pain is from the tendonitis) means I can't play right handed. I've switched to left which is enormously frustrating. But you can't really do that on violin.

On piano, if you worsened to the point you couldn't deal with key weight, you could always switch to an organ or keyboard that doesn't need full pressure.
gotta go practice

#1088425 - 12/22/08 03:56 PM Re: Which is easier to play with arthritis, piano or violin?
Barbara C Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/06
Posts: 90
Loc: California
Thanks so much for the insight.
One factor is that I have to stick with violin, to whatever extent possible, in order to support my granddaughter.
Piano: Kawai MP8; Interest: classical, self-taught. Occupation: electronics engineer 25 yrs.

#1088426 - 12/22/08 05:14 PM Re: Which is easier to play with arthritis, piano or violin?
SantaFe_Player Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/31/08
Posts: 610
Loc: New Mexico
I think the arthritis will affect the violin first. There may be things you won't be able to do on the piano, really loud, fast, technical passages and cadenzas, but the shape of the hand is more natural and the movements are a little less contorted (or they will be if you have been taught proper technique). I recently attended a piano/cello recital. The cellist was an aging but formerly very accomplished player. You could see how swollen her joints were and it was painfully obvious that she was having great difficulty executing the material. Of course the bowing hand isn't such a problem. I'm guessing from your description that this is rheumatoid, rather than oseto arthritis? There are probably therapies that can help, including a change of some aspects of diet. If it's osteo, then short of joint replacement about all you could try is the hyalic acid and taking glucosamine supplements. Maybe a warm hand whirlpool massage before you play?

If your troubles are only in the thumbs, maybe you could consider switching from violin to cello? You don't have to support the instrument with a cello, in addition to worrying about fingerings.
Heels down, and tickle the bit.

#1088427 - 12/22/08 05:58 PM Re: Which is easier to play with arthritis, piano or violin?
g#maj Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 126
Loc: No. Va
I agree that violin playing would aggravate arthritis more. I used to play violin, but switched to cello partly for that reason. I had taken up violin late and found that it stresses too many parts of the body that I had injured one time or other: neck, shoulder, elbow, fingers. Correct technique was not kind, and any poor technique made things worse quickly. Age didn't help (I'm about your age, it seems.)

None of this hurts on piano, although I have a spot of arthritis on the edge of my left thumb where it lands on the keys. Even so, when it flares up I can adapt how I play or, in some cases, just put a bandaid on to cushion the blow.


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