If you play a stringed instrument and suffer from problems such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome or other physical injuries, then a forthcoming workshop in Oxford could be the answer to your prayers, writes NICOLA LISLE.

Based on a new approach to violin and viola playing developed by Hungarian violinist Kató Havas, the workshop teaches new ways of holding the body to eliminate a range of physical and nervous problems, which in turn improves tone and agility in playing.

“It’s a whole new approach to violin playing, which eliminates the physical blockages that string players often experience,” explains violinist Caroline Huffner, who will be running the workshop with viola player Monica Cuneo. “It’s an approach based on finding the fundamental balances in playing, and finding spontaneous, natural movement that’s normal to the body.

“Holding the violin is quite unnatural, and a lot of players may be familiar with that pattern of severe injuries — mostly professional players, because they are under the most strain and pressure. But even amateurs often find themselves under incredible discomfort, with all these aches and pains.”

Now in her 90s and living in Oxford, Kató Havas was a former child prodigy who recognised the need for this new approach to playing when she returned to teaching after bringing up her family. She has given workshops in Oxford for many years, as well as in countries all over the world.

As one of Kató Havas’s pupils, Caroline has given many workshops herself focusing on this new approach, and this year takes over the Oxford workshops for the first time. “We felt her tradition should be continued,” she says. “Lots of professors give workshops, but I think this one is very special because people can come and really get the release they need to perform and get rid of stage fright. That’s another very important issue — the physical release and being able to perform in front of a non-competitive audience.”

So what can participants expect from the workshop? “The morning session will be explaining the principles, but with people participating and doing exercises together to find the balance with the instrument.” The afternoon session I would like everyone to get some time to perform, and try the balances that we learnt in the morning session.”

Although the workshop is aimed primarily at string players, Caroline is keen to emphasise that it is open to all musicians, professional and amateur. “Finding the basic balances and ease in holding an instrument apply just as much to a bassoon player, a clarinettist or a singer.”

The workshops are at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, from August 31 to September 2, 11am-5pm. For more information and to register, visit www.monicacuneo.com/workshop2012 or email Caroline on violinist@gmx.at