July 8, 2012 at 7:38 AMReading the study on http://www.violinistinbalance.nl was rather satisfying for me. As a violinist with severe back problems and chronic pain, an ergonomic setup is a playing vs crippling myself for life issue. Thankfully, this study confirms pretty much every suspicion I've had concerning violin ergonomics, through 6 months of trial and error.
I started out restless, and am still quite comfortable that way. If I were to join one of those early music performance groups (which would be a dream!) I would only have to raise my chin rest with some cork. Ever since I started my body seemed to know how to balance the violin using chin and arm equally, which along with the higher chin rest is the secret to restless playing if you ask me. However, when I started my chin rest was side mounted, causing me to put my chin on the tailpiece, and was low enough to cramp my neck anyway.
My teacher was concerned with the violin's stability restless and suggested I try shoulder rests. Her's is one of those metal bendy ones that hooks over the shoulder a bit. At first I rubber-banded some cloth to the back, but it always slipped anyway. I spent a lot of time trying different models, especially Wolf and said bendy one I forget the name of. The metal near my violin's precious varnish scared me to death, though, and it felt so darned high.
Meanwhile, I changed my chin rest to a center mounted one that flares to the left a bit. It fit my jaw much better, for the unflared ones forced my jaw into odd positions. Recently I raised the very low cork a bit, and may raise it a bit more in the future.
The final piece of the puzzle came in when I bought some foam rests. As the study described (though before I had read about it) I cut the foam so that it was thin near my collar bone and neck, and thicker where is pointed towards my shoulder. I secure it with a rubber band configuration.
My set up feels perfect now, and my trial and error saved me from even more trouble later when I acquired a viola. My viola is so thick I laugh at the idea of a shoulder rest, a fact that may have eluded me and cause quite a bit more issues due to the size magnifying everything. However, I still need that new chin rest for it though, my neck hurts like heck right now. Hopefully on Tuesday I can get it.
I came to an amazing setup so quickly because I have had enough problems with my body to respond quickly to a problem. Also, my boyfriend has carpal tunnel or tendonitis from coding all day for work and school, so he gave me quite the scoldings for any procrastination in finding a way to play without pain. However, one shouldn't need either of those to be motivated to spend a few hours in the violin shop trying out every possible setup and then some. We need to remember how the violin is supposed to sit, scroll parallel to the floor, balancing on the collar bone and supported by the chin and hand evenly, so that one can easily support it more with one or the other when needed. Our necks should be straight, and often a higher chin rest is so much more necessary than a higher shoulder rest that lifts the violin off the collarbone where it doesn't belong. Center mounts tend to be best for most, though try everything, including adding or removing cork. Find or modify or make a shoulder rest that make sense, instead of settling for one that is not meant for your body type. We are all different and we must remember to take the care to set up our instruments properly and customized to our bodies just as we take care to select the perfect instrument, case, and bow. How can we remember those things, but forget or refuse to select the one thing that will insure our playing for years to come? It makes no sense at all.
So please, do your body good, don't ignore what it's trying to tell you about your setup. Even if the prospect of pain can't motivate you, your playing will improve tremendously. I know mine did!
I have also found a center-mounted chin rest improved my playing. Much straighter bows.
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