Playing the Violin and Tongue Position

By John Diamond, M.D.

There is a problem I have found with violinists involved with bowing at the tip, which is present at a deeper level than the problems I have mentioned. It is found in virtually every violinist, even those who maintain the convex wrist angle.

As strange as it may seem, this will be corrected if the violinist places the tip of his tongue in the normal resting position – that is, up against the roof of the mouth with the tip touching the rugae, which are behind the upper incisors [See my Your Body Doesn’t Lie]. I have demonstrated previously that when the tongue is on the rugae, the Life Energy of the individual is greatly enhanced, and so it is with the musician.

Violinists and violists almost universally hold tension in the muscles of the neck and the floor of the mouth. The way in which the instrument is held of course contributes a great deal to this problem. This tension is also felt in the tongue muscles, which rather than being in a normal position, or even just lying flat on the floor of the mouth, tend to be thrust against the teeth as if to brace them against the stress of holding the instrument.

That is to say, the tongue is not just passively out of position, but actively out of position. It is out of position and in tension. In fact, some players tell me that after they have played for a while their tongues are so sore that they can barely talk.

Perhaps this seems somewhat bizarre to you. What difference could the position of the tongue possibly make to the playing of the violin? Try it. If you are sensitive to music you will certainly hear the difference.

The correction of this faulty tongue habit is part of the work of myofunctional therapy, developed by Daniel Garliner [Myofunctional Therapy in Dental Practice, Bartel Dental Book Co., New York, 1971]. My opinion is that every violinist and violist with this problem would benefit from myofunctional therapy just as they would from training in the Alexander Technique. Of course, not only violin and viola players can benefit from this work. With all except the wind instruments, naturally, the player’s energy can be enhanced through proper posture, including correct tongue position.