From bruises and blisters to repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and tendonitis, musicians are no stranger to physical injuries.
Chloe Goh: Violinist with violin “hickey”
For Chloe Goh, having violin “hickeys”, or bruises and blisters along her jawline is part and parcel of mastering the instrument.
The 17-year-old picked up the violin when she was 5. When she was 8, the violin gave her a permanent scar along her jawline when a painful blister burst during an intensive examination rehearsal.
That didn’t stop her from practising harder. Chloe went on to play for 6 years in Singapore’s Kids Philharmonic Orchestra, and has also performed at the opening ceremony of Mediacorp’s Star Awards 2016.
She said that “hickeys” aside, young violinists also tend to suffer from clavicle bruising and swollen or tender fingertips until calluses form over time.
Abhay Barthula: Clarinetist with Bleeding Lips
Abhay Bathula is a 19-year-old clarinetist who’s performed with Philharmonic Youth Winds and Mus’Art Youth Wind Orchestra. After 7 years of constant practice, he’s used to having swollen and bleeding lips.
To him, the pain is unavoidable. “You only get better through hardships,” he said.
Most clarinetists press their lower teeth into their lower lips so hard that the flesh splits. To lessen the impact of these injuries, many put cigarette paper over their lower teeth when practicing.
“Performance is about presentability, and no one wants to present injuries.
“Musicians often have to tough it up and hide that injury from public view.”
Nicholas Kok: Bass Guitarist with Tendonitis
Wrist injuries are many musicians’ biggest fear.
For 20-year-old Nicholas Kok, playing the bass guitar regularly for 5 years has resulted in mild tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendons at the wrist joint.
Tendonitis is typically a short term injury, but can become chronic if left untreated.
Nicholas, who has performed in venues like the Blu Jaz Café, is slated to perform in Tones 2019. After feeling sharp pains in his right hand, he decided to take a short break and refine his playing techniques to prevent further injury.
He said music making “is usually seen as something that’s pretty chill and isn’t high risk”, but this isn’t always the case.
Ng Kheng Chew: Pianist with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Ng Kheng Chew, 20, start playing the piano when he was 5. He is now pursuing a diploma in piano performance, but has to cut down on practice hours after developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) last year.
CTS is a result of the compression of the median nerve, which causes pain and tingling in the fingers. Severe cases require surgery, but full recovery is common.
“[Music] has kept me going and enables me to express myself. Regardless of whatever pain that may occur, I will always continue to learn,” said Kheng Chew.