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Calluses and Musicians

I’m guessing you haven’t thought much about this, but one of the things we musicians have to put up with is calluses. Not feeling sympathetic? But what if the calluses are peeling, or bleeding, or have bruises under or around them, or make you look like you’ve been attacked by a vampire? You can probably guess that string players have calluses on the tips of the fingers of their left hands, and you’ve seen the indelible marks on the necks of violinists and violists. But did you know that cellists sometimes have calluses on their chests, from where the instrument leans against them, and that clarinetists and oboists can get painful calluses on their right thumbs, and that brass players can get calluses on their lips? And the poor harpists! If a harpist happens to take a vacation, and she lets her calluses get soft, getting back into shape can be exquisitely painful. Harpists may sound like angels, but bleeding fingertips are not very angelic.

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.