Review and Giveaway of Playing (Less) Hurt!

Recent years in music pedagogy have given rise to discussions on injury prevention. Janet Horvath, author of the recently-revised book, Playing (Less) Hurt, makes note of this in one of her introductory statements: “Only in recent years, though, have we begun to acknowledge perhaps the biggest challenge of all: the very real obstacle of physical pain.” One need not look far to find formerly aspiring musicians whose hopes and dreams have been circumvented by physical pain and injuries. Even though I have never personally dealt with such a disastrous experience, this is a topic that has become very important to me in my roles of musician and teacher. Again, Janet expresses my sentiments well, “The elimination of pain is not simply an end in itself. True ease of expression allows you and your instrument to resonate freely, and when you achieve a state of physical serenity, your audience can feel it.”

Cellist Janet Horvath was a literal victim of the pervasive “no pain, no gain” mentality – a flawed maxim whose death cannot come too quickly for those who have been destroyed by its assimilation into the habits of the practice room. After going through an intentional process to recognize her limitations and learn proper technique from the ground up, Janet experienced victory and has since become a strong advocate for injury prevention. Playing (Less) Hurt is full of the realities of life as a musician, and does an excellent job of both identifying and then addressing the issues that face all musicians, but particularly those who perform regularly. I especially appreciate the “Top 10” lists scattered throughout the book that provide an easy overview and reference for the topics covered.

Top 10 lists include, “10 Potential Factors Contributing to Overuse”, “10 Danger Signals”, “10 Onstage Tricks That Can Be Done Even While Playing”, “The Musician’s Survival Kit: 10 Essential Items”, and many others! As you can probably tell, Playing (Less) Hurt is highly practical. It is also chock-full of thorough explanations of various types of injuries, accompanied by illustrations and photographs to aid understanding. In fact, the wonderful illustrations are perhaps the best part of the book for me! I have been to numerous workshops on the importance of warming up and practicing good injury prevention techniques. It’s usually not too hard to implement them when I’m teaching a student at the piano, but I always forget the specific activities that are good for warming up prior to playing. No more! This is a marvelous reference (for my students, too, who will realize that I’m really not crazy for having them warm up prior to practicing!).

In addition to all the great content on injury identification and prevention, Janet also includes several heartening chapters for those who have experienced injuries and want to regain the ability to play their instruments. The final part of the book is a collection of related resources for everything from books to practice planners to websites, and more. I am so grateful to Janet for drawing on her experiences and expertise to provide us with such a tremendous resource that can help other musicians, teachers, and students avoid having to go through the same painful ordeal she did!

Janet Horvath has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of her book, Playing (Less) Hurt, to one Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing to win the autographed book. The drawing will end at noon on Thursday, October 28, 2010. The winner will be selected using a random number generator.

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