Classical music

Violinist bows to need for exercise

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 March, 2015, 10:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 10:40am

Tsai Loo has just had a game of tennis. It's not something the 41-year-old violinist often finds time to do these days but on this morning, he has managed to squeeze in an hour of exercise, under the watchful eye of a coach, before an afternoon rehearsal with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.

"Because of my profession, I need to be more careful as I don't want to injure myself," says the orchestra's second violin assistant principal. "I exercise whenever I have time."

Like many professional musicians, Tsai has to juggle practising, rehearsing and teaching throughout the week. Time is scarce. However, he sees benefits in exercising, especially when he trades the violin bow for an archery bow (above).

"I'm right-handed so I rest the violin on my left shoulder," says Tsai, explaining that after years of playing, this posture would lead to stress and tightness on his left shoulder. "Without exercising to ease this stress, it's easy to end up with lopsided shoulders and hunchback in some cases."

During archery practice, he uses his right hand to hold the bow while pulling back the arrow with his left. The exercise is a counterbalance to his violin playing: "This way I got to exercise my left arm … and that, in turn, relieved tension in my left shoulder. I felt better physically."

But he cautions that if you are not mindful while exercising, that "would just lead to other problems" such as injuries. Tsai says that ideally he would like to have one and a half-days off each week but "whenever a student asks me for an [extra] lesson, it's hard to say no."