teaching for long periods and back/shoulder pain

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I sit in a chair next to the piano bench when I teach and occasionally will lean forward and point at a note for my student or to pencil something on their music. I also will use my right or left hand to play short passages while seated off to the side. I know that because I am not directly in front of the piano I create strange angles in my wrists but I do it anyway to save switching back and forth too much. This is not to say that I never sit at the bench, I do, it's just for those small passages or short problems that I'll play from the side. After a long day teaching, I have soreness between my shoulder blades and my shoulder itself. I stretch regularly and it helps, but I really want to just sit comfortably without all that leaning and extension. What do other teachers do to prevent this? I though about getting a laser pointer but figured it would be a distraction to have a red dot moving all over the music. Maybe a 4-foot pencil is the answer!! Thanks in advance for the help.

-- Kyle Johnson (keyboardkyle@yahoo.com), March 09, 2005


Hi Kyle,

I like the 4-foot pencil idea! I have the same problem. Standing up during several lessons helps me. The best thing so far? A deep-tissue Swedish massage. Yes, really!

-- Lea Johnson (clearfuture@erols.com), March 09, 2005.

They do make the laser pointers in different colors.

You might want to try educational catalogues/stores and look for something similar-- remember the metal chalk holders so you could draw a music staff on the board? I remember watching an old film where the teacher actually drew a human figure using a long pointer with a piece of chalk attached to it--this was filmed in one of those lecture halls with the chalk boards that could be rolled up to the ceiling level so everyone could see it from the back....

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), March 09, 2005.

I have back problems too. I've found an office chair with wheels helps me move back and forth a bit better. I purchased a long pointer stick with an apple on the end of it. But the students thought I'd hurt them. So that was pointless.

You can spend a little more time directing students verbally by teaching them bar numbers and systems and beats.

Also include enough 15 minute breaks for yourself. And try swimming to strengthen your back muscles.

Good Luck.

-- Anita (anitagreenways@hotmail.com), March 09, 2005.

If you can find a copy of Callanetics for Your Back, by Callan Pinckney (yes, of Callanetics fame), there are several good, safe back exercises in it. It is out of print, but you can find it in thrift stores, used book stores, and used on Amazon. Check if it is at your library, too. If you have a separate (where you can close the door) office, you can keep an exercise mat back there and take a break between students too.

She has some back exercises on one of the videos, I think. I'll check which one and post back. I see now that all of her workouts are "exclusively from Amazon" on DVD now, but the critiques have mentioned there's no chaptering, so if you can get a tape cheap, you might as well.

One thing she recommends in the book is sitting in a rocking chair when you can. I saw in Family Handyman a while back a hint to glue bicycle innertubes to the rockers so they don't damage the floor.

Also, what about two copies of music, both with the measures numbered in pencil? That would eliminate the pointing altogether.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), March 10, 2005.

The back exercises are on the "Beginning Callanetics" tape, at the end of the tape.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), March 10, 2005.

Thanks for the input, I'll do more verbal direction using numbered measures. I found yesterday I was more aware of each time I leaned or reached, which by itself helped me to correct myself. I'll look for those back exercises, too. If I refine my techniques enough, I should be able to teach lying down on the couch with a bag of potato chips and a pair of binoculars to see the students music! Just kidding. KJ

-- Kyle Johnson (keyboardkyle@yahoo.com), March 10, 2005.

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