October 4, 2011 at 2:08 AM
I've said it before, I struggle with my setup. What I've started realizing (with the help from my teacher), is that is is more about posture than setup.
My teacher and I have been focusing on tension issues. During my last lesson she asked if I had always held my viola so far low on the shoulder. Luckily, I have two pictures inside my case of me playing as a young child, so it was easy to tell. In the first one, the viola was almost straight in front of me with my nose pointed down the fingerboard (granted, I was playing with my music on the floor while I sat on the bed - not good to begin with). In the second, it was indeed low on the shoulder.
She suggested (again) that I consider moving the viola up higher on my shoulder. After going home, I took off both the chin and shoulder rests and started playing scales. It was quite comfortable except for the down-shifts. The viola teeter-tottered all over the place. But what I discovered was that the comfortable spot was indeed higher up on the shoulder.
I dug through my collection of chin rests and found one that could go over the tail-piece a bit more and did my scales again (still no SR). It was still comfortable. Once I started adding SR's, it became a nightmare. But still, downshifting was an issue without support on the right side. I settled with a SR that is extremely low on the left with a support on the right and hiked my viola up on the shoulder.
My left hand was quite comfortable and after some scale and bow work, my bowing straightened out and I was making it to the tip even on the lower strings, something I haven't been able to do - ever. Instead of under-shooting the shifts, I was over-shooting them since my left hand was more free to move about. I had to remind myself to not clamp down with my chin or scrunch my shoulder, but after a few days, that issue diminished.
So far, there has been no bow-arm / neck pain. When I look in the mirror, I'm standing up straighter and am not hunched around my viola. In a word, more relaxed.
Now if I can only adapt this while sitting down.....
wow. my commendations for being prepared to tackle such a complete overhaul job.
awesome! Sounds like you're on the right track.
I'm really impressed. Like you, I've discovered posture contributes to tension, and vice versa. I'm still working out a good set-up for viola (I have the violin one pretty well sorted).
I had a friendly luthier cut me a taller chin rest. I think I'll still need some sort of sr, but only to secure on flights down the fingerboard. What one did you finally settle with? I'm curious (and NOT interested in starting any sr/no sr wars!)
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