TomTom Announces New Fitness Wearable Featuring Activity Tracker and Music (PRNewsFoto/TomTom)

How is playing an instrument like exercising? Here’s a hint: it won’t give you big muscles. Apart from building muscle mass, there are many similarities between improving your fitness and playing music. The most obvious is that they are both extremely beneficial, but here are five more similarities you might not have considered.

1) Progress can be slow

It takes lots of time and consistency to develop your skills as an instrumentalist. Just like you can’t become an olympic athlete in a month, or even a year, it takes time to become a proficient player. Patience is key.

2) You have to pace yourself

Anytime you take up a new activity, you have to pace yourself. It’s exciting to start something new, and you may be tempted to push yourself too hard in the beginning. Fight that temptation! It’s important to take it easy and not burn yourself out. Playing for hours a day when you are starting to learn a new instrument is like doing too many reps at the gym. Aside from getting discouraged, you could end up in pain or even injured.

3) Form is important

It’s hard to make progress toward your fitness goals if you’re working out with poor form. Technique is similarly crucial when playing an instrument. Playing with good form helps keep you from getting injured and ensures that you’ll be able to continue progressing without having to backtrack to fix bad habits.

4) You need to follow your trainer

Your music teacher is like your personal trainer: he or she will help you reach your goals. Many students struggle to objectively evaluate their progress, know what to practice next, even know how much they should practice. That’s where a teacher comes in. Like a competent personal trainer, a good teacher knows what students should expect of themselves, how fast they should be progressing and how much they should be practicing. Follow your teacher’s lead–he or she can guide you and help you set realistic expectations.

5) Mix it up

If you are striving for a fit physique and healthy lifestyle, you don’t do just one kind of exercise. The fittest folk know the importance of including variety in their workouts: weight training, cardio, interval training, sports. Playing an instrument is much the same–it’s important to include variety in your practice times. Try including scales, etudes, solo pieces, and duets or chamber music. Are you a classical player? Find a jazz piece you enjoy and master it. Fiddler? Pick a classical piece and learn it well (then audition for a local orchestra). Playing a variety of music and exercises will keep boredom at bay and help you become a well-rounded player.

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57 replies
  1. awmarker
    awmarker says:

    Exercise and violin practice are astoundingly similar. Both are incremental kinesthetic skills. For both, it’s a good idea to “look at your feet.” That is, to stay in the present moment without worrying too much about your progress. Progress will come as a natural result of deliberate practice but can be all the harder when you focus too much on where you want to be instead of where you are.

  2. muse725
    muse725 says:

    me and my friends talk about this all the time. when i meet new people and they’re like, do you play any sports, i say i play violin. they always nod and then take a double take. it’s really funny but true.

  3. Mariko
    Mariko says:

    It’s indeed about perseverance. I had this goal for November to practice with full concentration scales and intonation for at least 40 minutes a day. And only after doing that I got to play etudes and pieces. I managed to do this an entire month and I must say that it makes a huge difference in my playing. So, now I just have to keep doing this and in the end it will really pay off. 🙂

  4. AutumnCleveland
    AutumnCleveland says:

    I experienced this in my own life, I was so excited to start and then seemed to hit a wall. Thankfully, I have a fantastic teacher who patiently encouraged me to stretch myself. Great article.

  5. margaretellen
    margaretellen says:

    A similarity I find is both are great for stress relief – that’s actually the reason I bought my violin, to help deal with stress during a difficult time in my life – and its working! I can forget all about my problems for a while when I practice. I was actually kind of wondering if that was what this article might be going to say…that somehow on a neurological level there is a release of chemicals in the body or something similar to what happens when exercising. 🙂

  6. JudithC
    JudithC says:

    Good article and perspective! Pacing, persistence, practice, and patience are so important in progressing fitness and any learning. So much is possible if we follow the “P”s 🙂

  7. Stradplayer96
    Stradplayer96 says:

    If you are active in both, like I am, be cautious- if playing violin- not to build to much muscle in your arm region. We need the smaller muscles to play violin and if the bigger muscles get too big, they will overpower the smaller muscles and restrict your playing immensely, I speak from experience.

  8. thinkoutsidethebachs
    thinkoutsidethebachs says:

    I concur with part that stated that form is important to prevent injuries. Last summer my teacher was away for several weeks. During that time, I started developing bad habits which created a strain on my left wrist!

  9. Ariel Polycarpo
    Ariel Polycarpo says:

    And I think it is also important to do any other kind of sports, like tennis, swimming, running, to develop strong muscles, especially those that support our body (back especially) Usually when we practice we spend a good amount of time in the same position…And yes, warming up and stretching are fundamental for a healthy playing.

  10. Chrystal
    Chrystal says:

    We small motor muscles athletes. Just like building our physique takes time to get the definition we want , same thing happens when we practice our instrument. Our fingers become stronger and more agile, and our tone quality gets more beautiful….slowly but surely

  11. sarajoy024
    sarajoy024 says:

    I like the bit where you’re telling us to mix it up. Makes sense to have a few different things to work on instead of focusing in on one thing. Good advice.

  12. Emi Smith
    Emi Smith says:

    I like the comparison here. I recently started a post-pregnancy diet and work-out plan. I may start comparing it to music to make it more appealing mentally 😉

  13. Dianne Adkins
    Dianne Adkins says:

    Thanks for this article. There are many relationships between athleticism and violin playing. With awareness of how our anatomy works, we can make sense of any challenge in violin playing, from holding the violin properly, to using the bow arm efficiently, to playing a passage of running 16th notes with ease, or having the stamina to stand during an hour lesson, or play a 4 movement Brahms symphony.

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