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Chinrest geometry for long necks.

Health: If you fit a high chinrest ,should it be clamped more to the left.

From John Cadd
Posted June 22, 2010 at 03:09 PM

As a player with a short neck I was puzzled at where a long necked player should have the chinrest attached to the violin.If you simply measure the neck gap and fix a chinrest that size it all goes pear shaped when the violin is tilted at 45 degrees.( James Ehnes  recommends that so you can argue with him about the exact angle.)    How far round to the side should a player fit the chinrest clamps? A long chinrest will rotate well out of position if it`s tilted. Or do they make them like the leaning tower of Pizza.( I spelled that one wrong on purpose.)

From Lyle Reedy
Posted on June 22, 2010 at 09:55 PM
I don't think you can generalize. It depends on the individual. The tallest chinrest I've ever made (about 30 mm) was for a lady who places her chin directly over the tailpiece. I don't remember at what angle she holds the instrument.
From Roland Garrison
Posted on June 22, 2010 at 11:28 PM

I think the shoulder rest may be a factor also, but some players prefer to not use a shoulder rest.

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on June 23, 2010 at 07:07 AM

It will depend on the scoop or angle of the cup in the chin rest and the average angle you'd like the violin to be tilted (  which you could adjust  flatter or more tilted so it is not fixed in only one position). I  have several students with very long necks and sloped shoulders which increase the distance between the violin resting on the collarbone and the place where the chin rest would touch their jaw and chin. I prefer them to have the violin angled similar to the angle David Oistrakh  seems to use which is more tilted and not as flat as, for example, Jascha Heifetz. I also believe they should not have to turn the head too much, if at all, to the left, so I find a center mounted chin rest, like Berber or Ohrenform, with a wide enough cup to accommodate broad jaw bones, to work for most students quite well. We add wood or cork until the gap is filled and the angle consistent with David Oistrakh's.The fit is not snug but just loose enough to allow ease of manipulation with the hand to move the violin to the left or right, up or down, tilted more or less.

From Barry Dudley
Posted on June 23, 2010 at 12:56 PM

As a violin maker I will say that I prefer that the chinrest be clamped on either side of the tailpiece. This keep the chinrest from restricting the movement of the plates as much as possible.

I my opinion the farther you move the rest around to the side the more restriction the chinrest places on the top of the violin.

From John Cadd
Posted on June 23, 2010 at 12:59 PM

Ronald   What --you mean a bit like the deck of an aircraft carrier?  Sorry ,I knew I was going to have trouble not poking fun at long neck players. Maybe I`m getting even for being 5 ft 6 1/2 ins. But the more you think about it the worse it gets.  If you fix it at the centre,---then tilt to the Oistrakh position and they will ,of course ,disobediently want to squint along the fingerboard when you`re not looking,a few will get the mother and father of a stiff neck. It`s called chasing a chimera.

From Lawrence Proulx
Posted on June 23, 2010 at 03:34 PM

John, as a long-necked beginner who's still more of a juggler than a player, I'm very glad you're reaching for new ideas.  Maybe these reflections will help: (1)  I'm not a physicist, but the mechanics of a short-necked hold and long-necked seem different to me.  The first is almost like a sandwich of flat bread with a flat piece of cheese.  But when the neck is long it's more like a sandwich with an apple in the middle.  It's a lot harder to see just what is pinching (gently, of course) what.  (2)  Is it possible that having the back end of the chin rest flush with the back end of the violin is not appropriate in all cases?  Maybe it could pull slightly back from flush (toward the neck) as it gets taller?  (3)  Maybe some curve could be fashioned so that the rest curves forward, so that head-turning is not needed? 

 Ronald, I'd love to see pics or video of those long-necked players you teach.  Otherwise, I might think long-necked violinists are a pure invention. :-)  Don't see many among the greats, I must say.

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on June 23, 2010 at 06:19 PM

I have  not had a problem with the students developing stiff necks. To the contrary, the natural curve in the back of the neck is preserved and there is no tension in the neck from twisting to the left as a default position. When they feel a need to turn their head to look at their fingers I let them do it but that happens very infrequently. Mimi Zweig has stated that we can avail ourselves of peripheral vision too without disturbing the relaxed forward looking head/neck position. In fact, at one of her workshops, she had us moving our eyes to the left and right to learn how much flexibility we can have there.

Keeping the head and neck most often turned to the left to face down the fingerboard  is not necessary. There is nothing wrong with  allowing the head and neck to move  to the left and right  within reason but relying on a left centered chin cup to coax  a player's neck into a turned to the left position as a default position is , in my opinion, a potentially harmful thing to do.  Also, attempting to narrow the gap  between chin rest and jaw by dropping the head too much  compounds the problem. 

Besides the hand manipulates the angle and tilt of the violin depending on what string and what position the notes are played. I have just taken pictures of one student who has a very long neck and will process them  ( please give me through the weekend to get this done since  I am busy with other things at the moment) and  share them so you can see from various angles how the violin rests on his collarbone and how his chin/jaw rests on the chin rest.


From John Cadd
Posted on June 23, 2010 at 11:57 PM

I`m glad I started a chat about this because there is a substantial difference that was hidden from me .If you wanted the ideal setup I would have the player looking forwards as he/she plays,with the 45 degree tilt which ( if you used a plumbline would put the left jaw vertically above the left side of the violin belly.    But if you look at Menuhin jamming with Stephan Grappelli on u tube Menuhin has a chinrest on the left and his whole chin on the right side of the tailpiece. (Just to confuse everybody) Maybe a bad example as Menuhin`s neck was short like mine.  The current fashion for centre block chinrests with an overhang to the left will make an enormous increase in weight if you add on the extra height. Think of all the extra leverage as you move further away from the fixing point.A straight down clamp will not harm a violin in such an insidious way. Heifetz got by with a sidemounted chinrest.  If the chinrest cup is directly over the taipiece then I would agree with that. But you have to twist the old left arm a bit further round then. It`s going over to the dark side.

From John Cadd
Posted on June 24, 2010 at 10:45 PM

Ronald     Why do you say the hand manipulates the angle of the violin.That should be controlled by the chin and head position.Head dropped tilts steeper for G string .Head up and to the left makes it more level for E string. Oistrakh does that rapidly in the Tchaikovsky 3rd movement to cut down on bow arm movement at speed.   A clamp on shoulder rest makes this a lot harder .

From John Cadd
Posted on June 24, 2010 at 10:54 PM

I want to see if the photo has the centre of the chin in the centre of the chinrest.I don`t like that way personally.If I have the chinrest to the left it fits my left jaw.The head is in a straight ahead position and the violin to the left like Milstein.Women always seem to play much more with the violin pointing forwards.That is easier if they have more flexible shoulders.   It makes another interesting topic on it`s own.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 25, 2010 at 12:08 AM

Ronald, as a long neck (really giraffe...) player who have chosen to play restless, I really prefer to have my violin very tilt. And no, it isn't to copy Oistrakh who is my favorite player lol.  Seriously, it's the only way I can touch to the chinrest! 

Although long necks may have the violin more "tilt", they usually don't have the "Oistrakh" head! I mean that super straight neck and head as if a bar was holding the spine and head straight.  I have about never seen a very long neck soloist who had a straight head. They very often sort of lie down on the violin or tilt their head.   The reason is (in my opinion,) simple.  If you take pictures of a long neck and a no neck person sideways (with a sweather that hasn't a collar to see better), you'll notice that the long neck persons have a curve behind the neck. The spine naturally curves there but if your neck is long, obviously, you'll have more of this curve and your neck will be more forward.    This makes it's pretty hard to have your head streight like people with short necks... 

Also, I think the shape/width of the jaw may explain this phenomenon. Usually, when you have a long neck, you usually don't have a round face with wide jaw bone.  With narrow jaw bone like me, the chinrest feels very empty whatever the modal...  The contact point of your jaw and the violin is very little and it makes the violin less stable.  A good way to compensate is to tilt your head or bend your neck to actually increase the contact point of your jaw and violin and fill more the chinrest. (but I dislike this very much and try to do it the least often possible although it would be totally natural for me to do it.  When tilt your head and bend your neck, you actually tense your shoulders and the playing begins to sound narrow and tense...   in my opinion)

What a complex issue.  I might as well make myself yellow brown spotted friends at the zoo, enjoy eating tender leaves of high branches with them and just relax.  Might be a good solution ; )


ps: Lawrance, the long neck gene must be quite strong even in the extended family! ; )

From John Cadd
Posted on June 25, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Anne-Marie      Ronald`s tip to add some extra to shape the chinrest is good advice for you.Cork is a good material and it can be cut and sanded to shape.The finished shape can be covered with leather with a weaker glue to give you a chance to refresh it completely rather than cleaning.   

  Now then here`s something I was digging through yesterday-----.My rough and ready rule for tilting a violin.----The players examined on u tube were  Oistrakh , Kogan ,Milstein and Perlman.      The "rule"is to play a sudden G string after high notes is to drop the chin.To change back to higher notes either turn the head a bit to the left or lean the head to the left.     Remember none of these is using a shoulder rest.    First example begins with Oistrakh---Variations on a Theme of Correlli.Many examples of the head controlling tilt-----.Chin down =Gstring  Look out for that.  Higher notes turn or lean head to left.Generally some passages with arpeggios and where extra accuracy is needed the violin is played at one angle .If that string is played continuously the head is often kept off the violin and the vibrations are allowed to be unrestricted.  

  Next Oistrakh example is Debussy Sonata in Gmin Pt 1.            At  2.30  ,   2.54   ,  5.04  ,  5.30   Look at the head tilt ---high,low note connection.

Tzigane      7.00 ,  7.18 .Distinct left /right head movement  E-G.     

 Brahms Vln Concerto 3rd movement  1.00  to 1.07  G to high E  watch the head. 

Sibelius Concerto 3rd movement   40 seconds---G.     2.40  Drops to G.      Watch head at      3.47  ,  4.04  ,  5.08 .                                                                            

Next up is Nathan Milstein  In the Paganiniana .We all need to drink from this well now and again.  The whole thing must be proof that God exists.     33 secs  55  ,Keep looking for a sudden down chin .I wrote 55 but may be wrong on the timing.It`s a definite down chin for the G string. 

Novacek Moto Perpetuo   1.30  and at 2.20 Left ,left,left.  High ,high,high. Hope you don`t mind the shorthand system this turns into.                                            On the final chord at 2.42 a large right to left head movement     low note to high note on E.

Itzak Perlman playing in his youth invited back  by popular demand on smudgy black and white tv does all the same head and tilt movements.

Leonid Kogan   A very clear and slow tilt in Bach sonata Partita No 2 .                  At 1.08---1.11   slowly tilts to change strings and keep a smooth slow flow to the music.At 2.40 head down ---G.    Finally at 3.02  there is very much tilt control.  

Each one is a good example.


From Lawrence Proulx
Posted on June 25, 2010 at 01:07 PM

Anne-Marie,  Your point about jaw shape is a good one.  A short round-faced person can turn his head and at the contact point of the chin rest it's like rolling a soccer ball.  A tall long-faced person tries to do the same, but with him it's more like rolling an American football. 

That's why I maintain that telling us long-necked ones to watch what Milstein or Oistrakh is doing is almost pointless.  John, I called up that Milstein Moto Perpetuo you referred to.  The first thing I see, right off the bat, is him holding the violin outright without his left hand in order to tighten his bow.  He may not have a shoulder rest, but he sure has something -- flesh, cloth, sponge or whatever -- underneath that i do not have.  My violin would be on the floor in a second if I tried that. 





From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 25, 2010 at 02:30 PM

Hi Lawrance, I agree that of course, it is pointless to say to somone like us to play exactly the same (position wise) as Oistrakh and Milstein.  Except that I naturally tilt very much my violin. (Perhaps for a totally different physionomic issue than them.) and made myself a thick cushion in order to do the restless method. 

As you, I can't hold my violin with no hands because my shoulders and neck can' be tight ennough around the violin to do so.  This February, I went (as an audience member) to a master class with Vadim Repin.  With about no neck, he was able to hold his violin with no hands on and just have a cosmetic sponge under!  (lucky... ; )

Perhaps this is why I am always a little nervous in F and F sharp 3 octaves scales,  one has to move fast and with my small hands, their is not much thumb left under the neck to hold my violin. I know very well that if my poor little left thumb slips, the violin is going to be scrap by falling on the floor...   Not being able to clamp the violin as a "safty net" is not very fun but we don't make an "omelette" without breaking eggs.  Just hope that the same does not apply for the violin!

I like your soccer vs football ball jaw anatomic comparison!


From John Cadd
Posted on June 25, 2010 at 10:58 PM

Lawrence     You can use a pad below the violin but I think a firm material would work better than foam.Foam deceives you by changing shape like so much modern cheap furniture.   It`s good to discover the very specific problems faced by long neck players.Anne-Marie you should get a small violin as well as your full size one to discover your true potential.You could spend years not realising what a small one could do for you.Don`t worry that you will suddenly play out of tune.It never happens.Don`t ask me why though.                                                             So what was the verdict on the tilting?  You could start some practice slowly between two strings with a slow bow.     There has to be a " pivot point " or "pivot area " on the pad and a foam lump would not do the right job. It would spread the contact too wide.   You only need a few degrees movement but it mustn`t be unstable.  Positioning  it  is the Important thing.                The point of the chin idea is wrong for tilting.The chin is for tilting the violin steeper  .The side of the jaw is for leaning the head left or turning the head slightly for raising the angle.Think of them as two separate things , giving control and stability.                                                                                                    The problem of remembering might even be simpler as the body is getting a different feeling in different parts of the music.Stifness in the neck would be less likely.  For the terror of dropping the violin tie a cord round the tailpiece connector and tie  the end to your clothing. A breakage would be impossible then. Convince yourself.

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on June 27, 2010 at 05:33 AM

I now have the pictures available for you to see what one of my students looks like using a center cupped, center mounted  chin rest that has been raised to fill in the gap between jaw and cup of chin rest while still allowing the student's violin to rest on the collar bone. Please write to me and I will send them to you. 

Michael Schallock has an excellent article about the violin support that has been referenced by others on other topics that I recommend to you all as well:


As for the videos showing the head tilting down when moving quickly to the G string or even gradually from E to  A to D to G , the examples given by  John Cadd  do indeed show this. However, in watching the videos, there were times when nothing happened moving from  E to G and other times when it appeared the hand played the role in changing the violin angle to the left, or more up or more to the right. I could not determine if it played any role in tilting the instrument. In Perlman's case, for the videos I watched,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkipsBpOkYI&NR=1 and


his upper body appeared to have a role in the tilt and the height of the violin along with some chin movement. I did not notice much left or right angling of the violin. His head faced straight out with no turning to the left.

 It is interesting to note that  Oistrakh, Kogan, Milstein  and Perlman  used a chin rest whose cup was to the left of the tail piece and who did not have a long neck or severely sloped shoulders.  It is possible that the technique of dropping the head to change the tilt for the G string is instinctive for people of this build.

It is also possible  that people who use a pad or a shoulder rest  have the tilt automatically sloped to favor the G string angle and that they do not instinctively push the chin down to adjust it further but may, as I find myself doing, manipulate the violin height, its position to the left or right and the tilt with the hand. I find that I keep the Oistrakh tilt as a default but do not really flatten the violin much for the E string because I ran an experiment with my colleagues some time back and found that letting the bow feel the resistance of the violin pushing up into it  ( like two hands coming together to clap) gave a more resonant tone than adjusting the angle of the violin flatter to play on the E string. This is not to say that there is a severe angle to the bow on the E string but that one may achieve greater resonance feeling this pulling together without flattening the table of the violin for the e string. Even if the head does not deliberately drop and lift, this more "still" position does not necessarily mean the neck is stiff. There is still movement and flexibility going on even if not consciously. The emotional reaction to the music one plays might almost guarantee it.

Though I have studied with teachers who advocated no shoulder rest and used chin rests whose cup was to the left of the tailpiece and who did not have long necks none of them mentioned the tilt being adjusted by the chin drop. As I said before it may have been instinctive and not something consciously examined and elaborated as a technique to be taught.

 Those who use no chin rest in early music ensembles would have to adjust the angles and tilt with their left hand or their body.  Also, by way of example, I have seen members of the Berlin Philharmonic with shoulder rests who often lift their heads off the chin rest entirely and play adjusting any tilt or angle with their hand or body.

I do not know if one can reach any definitive conclusions, but I believe it is not necessarily wrong, if your physique works for it, to emulate the brief head drop that causes the table of the instrument to tilt down or up favoring the G string or E string. I think it also entirely possible to play well on all four strings without using your head to drop on the chin rest to change the table or tilt and do so with the hand or gently with the body.

  I believe a good fitting "chin" rest that matches your jaw reasonable well and is high enough to fill up the gap with your violin still resting on the collarbone and that is placed to allow you to reach to the end of the bow reasonably straight  with a little leeway so you are not over-extended in your elbow  are the  primary considerations for achieving comfort , flexibility and fluidity in that area of the support of the violin.


From John Cadd
Posted on June 27, 2010 at 09:51 PM

Ronald   I also noticed there was not a rigid connection between head and tilt.Maybe it feels better to the player now and again.  It is amazing to see so much movement without them dropping the violin.  How many players will have a big white handkerchief to dry their chinrest and jaw between movements?  Only one seems to do that regularly.That must be important to keep things in place.

From John Cadd
Posted on June 28, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Ronald    A good selection of raw material here for teachers and players to sort through.  See if you can pick out a few "hand turning" examples from u tube. I was only looking to see head tilt so I was biased.       When you refer to the collarbone contact are you imagining playing while wearing a T-shirt or a jacket?  Also how does AnneSophie-Mutter manage? The edge of a violin pressing across the collar bone is not a pleasant thing at all.    Why do so many players aspire to that?  Is there an unhealthy copy-cat element in violin playing.  Many guitar players refuse to learn to read music because Paul McCartney told us he never learned.  Pity!

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 28, 2010 at 07:54 PM

"How many players will have a big white handkerchief to dry their chinrest and jaw between movements?  Only one seems to do that regularly.That must be important to keep things in place."

Haha I think I can guess who's this ; )   Is this really to keep things in place or just a consequence of what happens when a player who obviously has no problems to stay warm has to play with 3 layers (long sleeve shirt, the little vest and long sleeve coat) on a boiling stage with the stress of a whole nation on his back...   I mean, who wouldn't sweat in these conditions?



John, For the smaller violin advice, it could maybe work.  I'm plenty tall ennough for a full size but my small hands would perhaps like a 3/4.  I know that I played well one time with a violin that had a thinner neck than "normal".  

But... I love my violin because it has my dream sound and all the qualities I want + a story that means alot for me.  I could not imagine playing on another violin.   I think this opportunity outweights it's 4/4 size and normal neck width. I am willing to do everything possible to adapt the equipment to me but if this means finding another violin, I rather adapt myself to this object that has the capacity to produce the sound I'm crazy of regardless of its size! ; )   But this doesn't mean I'm not curious to try a 3/4 violin somewhere for fun to see if I play better with this size. I'll keep your advice in head!



From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on June 28, 2010 at 11:46 PM

With regard to the collar-bone contact, yes there would be some material between the skin and the violin such as a T-shirt  and the collar of the shirt and in performance, the jacket as well. With ladies who are not wearing a jacket, there is some kind of protection, a cloth of some sort so that nothing hard-edged jabs into the collar bone With some students, I also add some felt under the metal base of the chin rest so that that does not irritate the skin either.

 But the collar bone contact is important. It allows you to keep the violin at a low enough height that the raising of the arms to reach the instrument will not be so high as to cause rotator cuff damage over time. A raised chin rest helps fill in the gap whereas a very high shoulder rest used improperly to fill in the gap may lift the violin off of the collar bone and lead to an unnecessarily high reach up with the arms in addition to destabilizing the instrument.

Here is an example of an adjustment in the violin that appears to be done by a subtle "push" of the hand though it can also be done by leaning the upper body to the right or left through a rotation of the hip. The thumb maintains its stable position on the side of the neck of the violin.


Another example of a slight upward and to the left push is at about 26 seconds and 51 seconds  into this video at the end of a phrase:


Here is Jascha Heifetz adjusting the elbow and hand to reach the 2nd and 4th fingers on D & G at the end of this phrase- 1:34-35-36 and at 2:03. Note that his head is not doing an obvious drop but moves a bit in reaction to the energy from the bow. as the sequence descends the energy level drops and the head movement is smaller in reaction to the change in dynamics. The  head , therefore, does not appear to be reacting to the string changes back and forth between A & G.


In this example, the body is moved to change the angle of the violin for the g string as at 1: 13 and 1:31, for example. Note the chin to the right of the tail piece.


The key I think is that you allow the violin to move to make more efficient movements whether to shorten the distance the bow or the left hand must travel from one string to another or to gain an advantage in tone and leverage on a particular string, or to make it easier for the left hand to reach the highest notes on a given string without having to pull the arm around a great deal.

 Whether this movement involves dropping or lifting the head ( neck, chin), or moving the body, or using the hand and arm or a combination of any of these may be subject to the physique of the player, their use of a shoulder pad or rest or nothing at all, or the natural physical responses associated with the emotions or moods they are conveying. As long as these movements are not causing pain or tension, chacun a son gout.


From John Cadd
Posted on June 30, 2010 at 02:56 PM

Ronald   What`s happening ?--I tried your first reference and got a site for dating.Meet Muslims in Manchester it said.  Yesterday I couldn`t kick start this site at all .What`s happening?

From John Cadd
Posted on June 30, 2010 at 03:08 PM

No luck.. None of the youtube references worked for me.It varies round the world.   In China there is censorship that everybody screams about..But-------why can`t Americans enjoy Father Ted videos????? The Catholic Church has an organisation that twists people`s arms and stops it happening.  I hope they don`t ban me from this site.     Father Ted Rules!

From John Cadd
Posted on June 30, 2010 at 03:08 PM

Anne-Marie      When you try a smaller size make sure the body edge divides the string in the right proportion. The Mensur.That will keep it all in tune.It`s a long term curiosity for you to solve.  Tall ,long neck, small hand.Darn!

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on June 30, 2010 at 04:17 PM

Here are the titles of the you tube links: If you do a search for these titles hopefully, you'll see the videos without difficulty:

Ilya Kaler  Brahms Hungarian Dance 1987

Ilya Kaler records Bach for Naxos 2007

J.S. Bach Partita in d minor, 1   (Itzhak Perlman)

J.S. Bach Partita in d minor, 2  (Itzhak Perlman)

and Paganini Caprice No. 17  ( Shlomo Mintz)

By the way, one of my students uses the shoulder pad you invented with a chin rest built up by Frisch/Dening and his violin moves the opposite to what seems to happen in the videos you posted for Oistrakh, Milstein, etc.  When he drops his chin, the instrument tilts flatter and when he lifts his chin the instrument tilts more toward the E string with a steeper tilt.


From John Cadd
Posted on June 30, 2010 at 11:16 PM

Ronald  I never knew about that.   You have worked out what they`ve done haven`t you ?  I did a chap a  "favour" once and fixed his son`s skateboard. Only I fixed it ,unknowingly , to tip the rider off. The wheels tilted the wrong way. Silly me.   So have they put the extra bit in the wrong position.  ( It must be too far to the right )  I know you can learn to ride a bike with the handlebars working in reverse. Is he happy with it ?  Get him to send a photo. You can google the patent number and it just pops up. I found that out yesterday. Are you sure I invented it? 

From John Cadd
Posted on June 30, 2010 at 11:44 PM

I love the second Ilya Kaler   Bach Sonata. Very charming and graceful.   I thought about the chinrest .It must be tilting the wrong way. Too much chin end and not enough side of cheek. It should all create an overall wedge shape pointing right.The wrong chinrest tilt will reverse the "wedge"----If you follow me.  Now the point is going left.   It`s actually rolling left on the collar bone section.  Google patent GB 2461063 for details.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 30, 2010 at 11:56 PM

John, actually, my hands wouldn't be that small. I have long fingers but the palm is so narrow that my overall gap I can stretch is riduculously small...  I mean, I get surpass by people with smaller fingers and wide hands like my mom.  I sometimes imagine all the extra extension my hands would have and all the tension that I wouldn't have if my palms were wider.  But this is life...  (some say that you always struggle with the parts you need!)   I often got told by accompagnists and my teacher that I should do ballet but I want to do violin!!!  ; ) 

Anyway thanks for the ideas!


From John Cadd
Posted on July 1, 2010 at 10:55 AM

Anne-Marie    Now you need to make sure the questions that arise about your hand and playing keep gently ticking over in the back of your mind.Collect as much background information about the subject as you can .One day your penny will drop.                Ronald has given me some useful clues to help Smiley with his problem. He did say that his right shoulder was bothering him.He was reaching up too high. Not being in the room with a player makes the solution much harder.  The original question I put in the title still applies here. The chinrest and shoulder rest combination has gone "out of range".  The contact between violin and shoulder rest is right at the centre of the chinrest clamp plate. That contact can be shifted to the right by adding a blob of silicone sealant to the flexible wing of the violin attachment.Add a piece of felt on the violin side while the silicone is wet.The next job is to add something to the chinrest surface on the left side to give the control of violin angle.  Ronald  -- See how well the chinrest fits the jaw.Is there any need for such  a steep rise towards the right side.It almost seems that he has a chinrest for players doing it all round the wrong way.( A right handed player.)     If you keep in mind  the line of        left edge of chinrest and right edge of shoulder contact        the " pivot " line can be re-established.Then the wacky out of line Oistrakh position can become a reality. What you describe as the default position. The words  "default position " makes it sound like there`s something wrong with it.    Oistrakh was a product of the Russian violin tradition .They put as much thought into Violinists as Chess. Get as close as you can to all that.  The shoulder rest I made will not impose anything on a player,but if he/she wants to adapt the tilt during playing there is nothing to prevent that.The choice is there.  Certainly ,the violin will not slip when this rest is used. 

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on July 2, 2010 at 03:53 AM

In looking over the original comment, I wonder about the following:

Do you want the violin to be tilted such that the chin rest fits into your jaw and chin in such a way that dropping and raising up the head from the neck  at the base of the brain in the back to change the tilt toward the E string or G string is not a necessary movement?

If so, the properly chosen chin rest that has the kind of scoop and angle in the cup that allows for that position or will allow for that position with the use of a sponge, shoulder pad, or shoulder rest , or modified angle with cork added underneath the chin rest may be all you need to find.

If you feel it is essential to preserve the ability to cause the violin to tilt one way or the other by dropping the head as seen in the videos of Milstein, Oistrakh, Perlman, Kogan, and others, then your chin rest will be designed differently to accommodate that drop. It may be that the unraised left of center chin rests seen in the aforementioned videos in addition to the fact that the players did not have long necks and were not using shoulder rests made this tilt possible, easy, and second nature.

There are many different kinds of chin rests though my understanding is there are just essentially a few different chin/jaw shapes from which come smaller subtler variations, so there are models to go by that fit certain jaw types. these are described here: 


Some players turn their head to the left and keep this as their default position.  What I mean by default position is that it is the position they find themselves in as their basic, from the start, position. They may change it  from time to time but go back to this as the default setting, so to speak. Some players keep their head facing straight ahead and do not  keep it turned to the left, so their default position or setting is different. 

Regarding the tilt of the violin, as I observe with Oistrakh, there is a certain tilt different than Heifetz and I describe it as his default position or setting  from which, as we observed in the video, he deviates for specific purposes.

I do not mean to imply that a default position is  a position one uses for lack of a better idea nor do I mean it in the sense of someone defaulting on a loan.

 I do maintain that allowing the violin to go flatter on the E string from a more tilted position on the G string is not necessary. The ability of the instrument and the bow to meet each other as if two hands are being brought together to clap to make a rounder, louder clapping sound than if the direction of the clap came only from one hand moving towards the other,  seemed, in my experiments and observations and feedback from colleagues and students,  to produce a stronger more resonant tone on the E than when I shifted the angle of the violin flatter for the E string. This would therefore seem to call into question whether it is necessary to consciously always make the instrument flatter on the E string and whether, or not, a general angle that favors ease on the G string for both bow and left hand might not still work for the E string if one applies the concept of the  violin meeting the bow with resistance and vice versa. Mind you I am not talking about an extreme angle where the bow would be almost straight up and down on the E string.

  As for Anne-Marie's hand breadth or width, you might try this specific exercise to expand the opening in between the fingers with the interossei muscles that Ricci describes in his book on left hand violin technique.

Start in fifth position playing an octave between F , first finger on the A string and F, fourth finger on the E string, keeping a comfortable curved shape to the fourth finger. Allow the first finger to extend backwards as you gradually increase the distance from the original octave to a minor ninth and so on going backwards with the first finger as far as you can reasonably reach ultimately down to a B-flat  in first position on the A string. Try to keep your fourth finger in its original position. Do not extend backward with tension in the thumb or gripping the fingerboard tightly with the fingers. Stay as loose and pliable as possible as you challenge your fingers to open up  more and more overtime.

From John Cadd
Posted on July 2, 2010 at 01:17 PM

Ronald       Sorry if I was teasing about the default word. I was being a bit naughty.  One good reason I have for not looking along the strings is that I use glasses and it would be a blur anyway.  Come to think of it you won`t see much . Your brain can cope with which finger is down.You won`t see how far apart they are.So "looking " is like the tail on a Manx cat.  Vestigial  .  Like your appendix. It had a use once, but not now.  But it`s not hurting anyone.     One technical reason for flattening the violin for the E string is connected with the design of the bridge and leverage.  The leverage word here sounds wrong as it is more delicate. The rosin contact at the string connects to the centre of the bridge where  sideways bow movement transfers to a vertical movement of the bridge foot.Drawing a circle from the bridge centre to the string and then making a tangent to that circle will give the steepest bowing angle on the E string and so maximum volume.  As it happens  the tangent to that circle just fits close to where  the edge of the violin happens to be.  ( Clever old stick that Stradivarius! ). Did he mean to do that? I wouldn`t put it past him.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 12:13 AM

John and Ronald, thanks for the great ideas!  I didn't want to interfere with tho original subject though!  

I do beleive that there is many ways to improve a situation but that there is certain things that, once many effort was put to find the best solution possible, you just have to learn to work with it or...quit!  I don't think any device or modification will totally erease the "complexity" of learning to play with a physical particularity.  Any sport or musical activity implies that some will be naturally more "lucky" than others to fit with what is required to do in that sport or instrument. But what a joy that there is so many ways to improve drammatically the situation!   That are the good news!



From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 03:04 AM

Anne-Marie, you are welcome and I wish you happy practicing and appreciate your positive and enthusiastic attitude about working through all the challenges and complexities. Indeed, everyone must find ways to work with their own physiology. It is always good to have certain principles in mind as a starting point from which one could explore exceptions to the rules or modifications that suit the individual. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, there are wonderful violinists who play with and without shoulder rests, with lower held violins and higher held violins, with arm vibrato more so than hand vibrato and vice versa, with more curve in the fingers of their  bow hand or less curve. There are different traditions and even within a given tradition there are variations. It is good to  bring them to light and, as have all the great players done in the past, assimilate from the large pool of knowledge out there and find their own personal way of expression. In the end, all we can be is ourselves.

  John, no worries about "default". I am not sure I really understood the geometry of what you were describing regarding the angle of the bow in relation to the bridge. Sorry, I 'm having trouble following that.  I am only going  by what my ear and others' ears hear  as the difference between using the principle of resistance where violin and bow come together at a steeper angle than when the violin is more parallel with the floor and the bow pulls and pushes on the e string at a flatter angle to the string. Perhaps there is some other thing  going on acoustically that accounts for the richer, more resonant tone?  Try experimenting with this yourself and see if you hear a positive difference?


From John Cadd
Posted on July 3, 2010 at 06:54 PM

Ronald        The bow angle point connects to the way a guitar string is plucked.A guitar will give a stronger tone if the string is plucked with a movement towards the top.This is a very direct way to make a sound.The violin does this in 2 stages.Bow goes sideways and the bridge translates that into a vertical vibration.  There is a continuous input from the bow .Only a momentary input with the guitar.The angle of the bow will give maximum "disturbance "to the bridge at the 90 degree to "bridge centre" angle. If the violin is held unmoved the 90 degree angle will result in a cramped bow arm movement and players will shift the violin to give the bow arm and wrist a better chance to work smoothly.The wrist especially will not function very well if the bow arm tries to almost reach under the violin.On the G string side there is not such a problem and you can simply reach higher.  So tilting can give you volume and also a more effective bowing position.This will allow more freedom of expression all round.   It`s best to ,at least , try all the alternatives before a final choice is made.        Anne-Marie      I was out today when Argentina were demolished by Germany.When I got home I switched on the German satellite program to see how the Germans were feeling and on came a full face interview with --David Oistrakh.  I think from 1970.  That long ago. --My word. On my homemade large screen projector. All in German.  I was fluent in three words.Langsam ,Sibelius  and Tchaikovsky.  But just hearing him speak and smiling and sometimes chuckling was brilliant.Such a natural conversationalist.with pauses ,changes of expression, hesitations .As good as his music.He had a deep "soft gravelly" voice.    It was just the best.