A good posture for violin - shoulder rest?
Technique and Practicing: I can't find a good posture for me, so I would feel comfortable when playing.
From Mateusz Papiernik
Posted October 15, 2004 at 03:15 AM
The height of my violin+chinrest is smaller than the distance between my collar bone and a chin, so when I played I had to raise my shoulder to support the violin. I bought a chinese shoulder rest for 5$, but I can't get it comfortable, no matter how I set it. The next thing is that I'm propably moving my head to far to the left - I think it shoudn't be bent to the left to rest on the chinrest. I've got two questions:
1) Where can I find a good instruction about violin playing posture? I don't want to injure myself with wrong head position (too far to left, and bent).
2) Is something wrong with my shoulder rest, or I just can't set it up properly if I can't feel comfortable with it? IT depends on the set-up, bot sometimes it hurts me at my arm (too much pressure from the edge of the rest), sometimes it's quite comfortable, but it's not supporting my violin well (when I relax the violin is slipping). I don't feel it's ok, and I'd like to do something with my playing postition - but how?
the maxim `bring the instrument to your body, not the body to the instrument ,` is always important.
You could practice standing in a relaxed straight posiiton and then putting the violin up with the right han whike leaving the left arm dangling . Then bring the left arm up. The head moves last and it moves in two motions not one. The fiast is simpkly the turn to the left. The second is a slight drop but this should be miniscule. If you combine the left turn and the drop you create a corkscrew effect which is veyr damaging in the long run. It is also very common!
It is not so9 easy to find the right shoulder erest of chin rest and it can be very expensive. I kuess you may hasve the Kun rest? But I have noticed this one cause more trouble than people realise. If you have a long neck then consider the forte primo or forte secondo. these are oldies but goodies. Other rests which are sensible and not overlarge inlcude the Menuhin.
There is a kind of illusion which often cause the instrument to slip. taht is, the player feels insecure and reason that the gap is not filled. So the raise the rest which pushes the head back more so still the y feel the gap is not filled in an unending cycle.
I have found the best way to experiment weith shoulder rests is to go in the counter-intuitive direction. That is try for the smallest one possible with a small setting. Players with giraffe necks do exist (I know of two on this list and then ther eis Mullova) but frankly they are few and far between.
The real importnat thins is the chin rest. remeber, you are not supporting the violin by @resting ` the hesd on the rest. The hea dis incredibly heavy anyway but this also makes one start squeezing. The chin rest is merely a hook that the jaw (not chin) may touch lightly , a little more pressure when shifting down and it may even be completely away from it at times. Check out Oistrakh and Milstein DVDs to se ethis happen. That is the way to freedom and relaxtion. Ricci also commenst on this in the last Paginin edition of the Strad magazine.
But the next question is wether or not you want to use a rest or could you get by with just some faom padding stuffed under your shirt. This is cheap and easy to modify. the down side is that you will lose some sound but Stern recommneds this and Rosand also plays this way.
Many of my stduents have changed to this and enjoy the freedom from the rest.
I dont use anything but i have a very high chin rest. The model I use is called SAS and i bought the tallest which is 3.7 cm high. That`s all I need and it true for a lot of people. That particular chinrest is from East Europe and is actualy rather cheap I think.
Otherwise I personnaly recommend a chin rets that sits over the tailpiece rather than to the left. These are often called the flesch model.
From Sam Li
Posted on October 15, 2004 at 03:21 AM
In my quest for the right shoulder rest I accumulated over a dozen pieces before choosing the Mach1. I did not like any of the Kuns, hated Resonins, liked the Wolf Segundo, but not the Primo. You just have to try several types to find the one best suited for you. Also consider the chinrest. I'm using a Fleisch chinrest with the Mach1.
I have had also problems for a long time trying to balance posture, technic and and projection. lately i have been playing with no chin rest and no shoulder rest and it has been comfortable for me. the only thing is that i play with no shirt on and my skin glues it to my body. i play some of the paganini caprices this way and some other difficult pieces. the only problem with my method is when i do put a shirt on and play this way the violin slips from me. when i do use a shoulder pad i use the wolf shoulder pad it is ok and much better than the kun. the way i use the wolf is to adjust the length of the screws that hold the violin and it makes the violin come high to meet my chin i do have a somewhat long neck. my general opinnion as far as i am concerned is that it is a problem facing many and i think the wolf rest is better that the kun and i personaly plan on experimenting with others. what surprises me is how people like hifetz and i think perlman play without a shoulder rest even amazing players like accardo and do all those tricks any way securing the violin to your body is of the essence and deeply important. good luck.
I also have the Mach 1 and I really like it. I have a long neck and it works well for giraffes.
the Mach one hyas some very good points. Howver, there is one aspect of it which also characterizes the Kun which I dislike. Namely, the claim that it is nice and ergonomic and fits the shoulder. How can this be true? Every shoulder is different and changes constantly during playing. It is this kind of curve which feels nice at first but often begins to lead the player towards a slight hunch of the shoulder after putting the violin up. Of cours ethis is not going to be true of everyone, but if you do find this a problem it is easy enough to correct. just wrap a little foam padding around the inward curve of the rest so it makes more of a straight line,
I have previoualsy asked a similar question. Still searching for something comfortable, have tried the Kun and Wolfe primo i think. Neither are comfy. now back using a small foam pad with a piece of suede that I cut from an old hand jacket. My chin/jaw feel as though it is sliding off the rest, I am going to try a fleisch style with a pad.
without the shoulder rests, most of the tension in my left shoulder and neck has gone.
Sharelle,have you tried putting chamois leather around the chin rest?
You might want to try going to www.violinmasterclass.com. This website is wonderful! I think that there are sections on the site that show pictures and examples of posture and how to hold the violin, etc.
As far as shoulder rests, you really just need to experiment with different models until you find the right one. I went through several before finding the Bonmusica. It allows you to mold it to your body as necessary to make it more comfortable. Give it a try!
From Adam Smith
Posted on October 15, 2004 at 12:05 PM
chamois leather? please explain Buri, This is something I may greatly benefit from.
From Inge S
Posted on October 15, 2004 at 12:56 PM
I'm long-necked and have never been that comfortable with the shoulder & chin rest thing. I finally decided that I wouldn't bother trying to feel comfortable and just play. However, there is a site that has an unusual way of teaching. This person suggests "spreading your many chins" onto the chin rest. For some reason it works for me - it's like getting one's wattles to become a fatty cushion or having less hard angular bone against hard ungiving wood/plastic.
Adam, not so much to explain. Chamois leather used to be the material used primarily for cleaning cars but it may have gone out of fashion. It varies in degree of softeness but its super quality is thta it is non irritating and slighly 'gluey' to the skin and instruemnt while protecting it at the same time. It is thereofre perfetc fro preventing slipping, unlikenormal material. Some peopel actually mold it around the chin rest and then sew ittogether like a small bag to be neat. I just chuck a large sheet of it between me and the fiddle like a hankerchief.
Buri, I agree about its impossible for a shoulder rest to fit everybody's shoulder individually. But the Mach 1 has a feature I like which is a piece of chamois leather across it that is taut so it's raised from the surface of the actual hard part of the rest. This makes it adjust on your shoulder. You have to try it to see if it works for you or not.
NickI wasn"t aware that that piece of chamois was meant to be raised. It has glue across it toally and I have never seen it used thta way. But you have shown immense initiative and imagination in doing what you do for which I award you ten metaphysical points.
I have tried every bloody rest under the sun and then some. I don't need one, don"t want one and think they are the pits of the earth. Be reassured I am completely open minded about t hem with my students though and spend a good deal of time researching the pros and cons of both ways of playing. I think (hope) that is refelected in the way Iwrite about them here...
From Inge S
Posted on October 16, 2004 at 02:09 AM
Crutches for the able-bodied? An idea: if a chin rest is actually a jaw rest, is a shoulder rest actually a shoulder-and-chest rest? I'm not in a position to get rid of mine but I refuse to be glued to either shoulder or chin rest. Walking sticks rather than crutches?
From Adam Smith
Posted on October 16, 2004 at 03:57 AM
Where would I be able to pick up some of this chamois leather? Hardware stores?
sure. Big supermarkets and so on. Its pretty common,
Thanks for responses! The only problem is, that there is almost no possibilty to try shoulder/chin rests before buying them - and buying many types is a quite expensive thing , isn't it? My chinese is not even a Kun, it's something really cheap and crappy :)
I recently saw a baroque orchestra video.They have no chin rest no shoulder rest but a scarf passed under the tail piece and fasten around the neck.
Few years ago Some violonists used inflatable cushion ,named Play on air (with Menuhin's agreement) . it was confortable and could be easily adjusted to neck length.I'm not sure it's still available.
From Arjun Mudan
Posted on October 17, 2004 at 10:56 PM
I use a viva shoulder rest with Kun extra long legs and I use two folded handkerchiefs on the chinrest. It is quite comfortable with my long neck.
Alain, the Playonair is widely available these days and quite popular. I used one when they first came out many years ago. The problem then was akin to middle age: they sometimes deflated in mid-performance,
From Ed Barreto
Posted on October 19, 2004 at 03:26 AM
I thank you for www.violinmasterclass.com, it is the most helpful than all websites i've been to. Odd that google searches never yielded that site. If I could have given you a star, I would have, because that site is going to be really helpful for me.
Buri, the chamois on your Mach 1 was glued down? Maybe someone made a mistake with yours? Or with mine! LoL
Nick, the leather came with a sticky back and wax paper. You remove the paper and stick it in. Make sure a parent is in the room while doing this...
Buri, that is really strange. My Mach 1 came with a piece of chamois that is glued on the back and INTO that piece of chamois at each end, like going into a hole, is another piece of chamois which is taut and shorter than the other piece, so there's like a space between them and the stretched chamois adjusts to your shoulder. I can't explain better than that. When did you get yours? Maybe they changed their design?
Is yours plastic? or wood? Oh, yeah, I just realiced that underneath where the stretched chamois is, you can see little pegs and there are holes in the upper stretched leather so you can adjust it that way too. To loosen it or tighten it.
My violin teacher said that the piece of leather came off of hers and she can't get a new one.
Sounds like things aren't all they should be at the Mach 1 factory.:)
I feel I need some support under my violin - or my left hand position gets sloppy. But I don't feel comfortable with a ridgid rest. I just picked-up a "playonair" shoulder rest that looks like the solution. It is a sort of flattened egg plant shaped air bladder (inflateable) with two elastic hooks. The hooks hold the bladder to the violin back, and the bladder settles well into my shoulder. In essence this is a pad strapped to the violin back. Saved me having to invent this. The violin feels great on my shoulder - secure but not clamped in place. (Model # 1611)
From D Kurganov
Posted on October 19, 2004 at 04:31 AM
Mateusz , you will never feel "comfortable" playing...violin is uncomfortable to begin with...just dont complicate it with crazy gadgets and youll do well :)
Thanks, you clarified me many things - that was really helpful ! :)
From Ed Barreto
Posted on October 19, 2004 at 05:08 AM
from what i've heard, you should be at least comfortable enough to play :)
when my head is at rest and I put my violin on my shoulder, there is a bit over a one inch clearance from chinrest to my head. It is uncomfortable to lean my head down onto the chinrest, so I guess I need a shoulder rest?
Nick, just goes to show that at Mach 1 all sorts of funny bits can get lost...
Clearly we should send the people at Mach 1 a shipment of prunes!
you have graduated. You may leave the temple.
PS why are you playing so many sonatas?
I love my bonmusica, heh
I'm with Tristan on this. I'm a Bonmusica girl all the way!
I must look around and try Wolf and Bonmusica before buying :) Thanks! I'll look at some chinrests too.
From Sue Donim
Posted on October 20, 2004 at 02:19 PM
Am I the only Kun supporter here? I've used it for a few years, and it's comfortable and fits me perfectly. But I would argue that it's intended to fit the collarbone curve, *not* the shoulder.
Mateusz, the first thing in your initial post which stuck out to me was 'Chinese $5'. Enough said. Spend decent money on a proper one, and make sure that violin+chin rest+shoulder rest=height of your neck.
I can check out anytime I like but I can never leave!
About all the sonatas--my teacher not at conservatory gave me Beethoven all summer and my ensemble coach at conservatory gave us the Mozart sonata and is talking about doing Beethoven next.
I see my conservatory violin teacher on Friday and since I just did a recital with Scene de ballet, I hope she will start me on a new concerto.
Sue - you're apparently right. When I bought it I didn't know about violin and it's acessories - I found it in a local shop, and just bought. Now I wouldn't do that :) I'll try some, and buy a comfortable one.
From Ed Barreto
Posted on October 20, 2004 at 11:45 PM
when my head is at rest and I put my violin on my shoulder, there is a bit over a one inch clearance from chinrest to my head. It is uncomfortable to lean my head down onto the chinrest, so I guess I need a shoulder rest?
I tried using a shirt, and the violin slips. If i try to grip the violin with my chin, the pain becomes unbearable after 5 seconds. Is it true you are supposed to hold the violin up without the help of the left hand? I cannot seem to do this, I need to use my hand just to give slight support-shifting is difficult obviously. And I cant use my jaw to hold it there, because playing is impossible.
sounds good to me Nick. The Mozart and Beethoven sonatas are the ones one sthat relaly show if you can play! I`m goignt o do a column on the Spring soon just to annoy you!
There is nothing wrong with looking around a bit and pickign out tehcncial (?) passages to work on from major works. The thirds from the Mendellssohn are a good example. Ditto the slow movement. Another good pice that gors well after that De Beroit is the Vieutemps Ballad and Polonaise. Ther eis an exciting but very truncated version avaialbe from Humber man at Amazon I think,
Ed, that thing about the violin staying up with no rest is a piece of nonsense that one still sometimes hears: if you have no shoulder rest then the violin is not going to stay up once you take the left hand away. In Menuhins book he shows that the scroll drops so that it almost point stright down. Watch Misltein or Szeryng making an adjustment to bow or whatever. the violin is always suported with one hand somehow.
Left hand support or chin is not an either/or thing. It is a sliding continuum ranging from the two possible extremes. It is useful to t hink this way because then shoulder rest user can experiemnt with left hand support and non users can think about how they are going to use the head or shoulde r or whatever.
The type of chin rest you use is really important if you decide not to use a shoulder rest.
It is not as simple as saying take off the rest and shifting is more diifcult- it is actually a somewhat differnt kind of technique but it can be every bit as fluid as using a rest.
I think a lot of these kind of points are covered in my column on shoulder rests. You might want to check that out,
Buri does not "hate" rests. In fact, he is taking every nap he can!
my name no more needs apostrophe marks than yours Sam.
I don`t really understand your point. If you took the trouble to read all the postings I have made on shoulde r rests over the last two years you will find that I am very careful to separate my personal feelings and preferences about the shoulder rest (and anything else contraversial for that matter) from what I do with my student The priority is to find what is best for them.
I also make sure my position on the subject is clearly udnerstood in order that people on this list who may not be sure what to do are not unduly inclined to close down options best left open.
Is that what you meant?
Mattais, I do indeed have a variety of uses for shoulders of all types. Of course yours gets priority when I need a good cry,
From Ed Barreto
Posted on October 21, 2004 at 04:10 AM
from the column, I see that both have their advantages. Isnt there guidelines where one or the other would be advisable? Like if you neck is long and you have to tilt your head down to keep the violin in place? Or can the left hand do all the work?
From the column I got that the left hand does not do all the support, but that is what I find myself doing.
Thank you for your help.
From Sam Li
Posted on October 21, 2004 at 04:31 AM
I'm sorry, I've only beem around for about 2 months, and I'm only going by this particular thread.
Okay, you don't like 'em. Personal taste. Complete agreement.
I like to use the shoe analogy. You don't expect everybody in the world to wear the exact same size and style shoe, so why would they use the same chin rest/shoulder rest/bow/mouth piece?
Ed, if you have a long neck then use a rest. Don`t let anyone force you into doing what they think is right for you if your gut feeling is against it. My only advice would be to pay a lot of attention to what chinrest you are using and when you choose the rest don`t keep cranking it up to fill the space. This creates the perpetual illsuion that you need -more- by forcing the head back and causing clamping.
It is, I`m afraid , a very expensive business. I might suggets you try a piec eof foam cut to your size before lashing out on a rest. Prejudice aside, it might save you some money.
Hmmm, interesting thread.
I also had the same problem of having a big space between my chin and my shoulder such that I used a shoulder rest for a while.
However, I felt that the rest was a nuisance because I couldn't play the violin right away anytime I wanted to; I always had to put the rest on and off each time I picked up my instrument.
I eschewed the rest when I tried adjusting my head differently, clamping down on the violin very very lightly --just enough to keep it on my relaxed shoulder. An added benefit of this is that the violin felt much lighter and I could move it around freely (like, say when I had to reach higher positions), with the chinrest as the pivot.
Maybe you could try experimenting in this direction. But to each his own, I guess ;-)
look at the way Oistrakh and Milstein freely floated their heads away from the isntrument wherever psosible. That`s perfect,
Sue, you`ve got a bloody funny collar bone. You couldn`t send a me a plaster cast of that specific part of your anatomy could you? I`m always willing to broaden my horizons,
What the heck happened to Sam's first response, the one with the apostrophe for Buri? DId I miss it? The dialogue became disorineted there suddenly.
Please don't tell me it was full of pornographic obscenities and was therefore deleted. I gave Sam more credit than that. And if he was deleted for disagreeing or being curt, then, delete this message as well.
Okay, so I've tried the sponge with suedw wrapped. for one week. anthen I notice that my left thumb and index finger were tingling - So, I'm back with the shoulder rests, adn the tingling has stopped.
Violin really is a pain you know.
buri, Yes, I have put chamois on the chin rest - it makes a big difference.
OFF TOPIC the straight bowing ex all suggeted suggested are working well, I am starting to hear the difference.
From Inge S
Posted on October 21, 2004 at 02:31 PM
Sue: "But I would argue that it's intended to fit the collarbone curve, *not* the shoulder." Could you explain please, though I think I understand. I have the Kun - have a long neck - have never liked having a shoulder rest but haven't found a good alternative. But lately I've been placing the violin "as if" I was imagining it being suspended from / over the collarbone as opposed to imagining the shoulder were holding it up. Is this anything close to what you mean or are you actually somehow placing it ON (over?) the collarbone?
From Sue Donim
Posted on October 21, 2004 at 03:19 PM
You know when your Kun is on the violin and you go to hold the violin in position, there is a curve to the shoulder rest, with a slight (upwards) dip on the left side? My collarbone fits into that dip, and the Kun follows the downwards curve towards the centre of my chest. If you stroke a line from the base of your neck (left side) to your breastbone, you may find you're drawing the shape of the Kun.
From Inge S
Posted on October 21, 2004 at 08:33 PM
Which would mean the Kun is sitting on top of the collarbone in your case? I'll have to experiment some more. Also to learn to simply not "clamp down" when things get intense. Yesterday I was sight reading a whole pile of scores in class in an effort to choose one by the end of which tone quality was done and that is always an indicator to me that I have lost good posture which in turn is usually a case of lining up along the shoulder rest as it were. What I hate about shoulder rests is that they seem to impose the relationship between player and instrument rather than the relationship between player and instrument determining how the rest goes. Still experimenting - still occasionally stuffing a sock under the lower part and other nonsense.
I used a Kun and thought the same thing about its fit. But then I was always fussing with it. I suppose it didn't fit after all. But I used it for eighteen years. It kept falling off. Do you have that problem, Sue?
From Sue Donim
Posted on October 21, 2004 at 08:43 PM
Falling off you or the violin? I have an adult student who finds that every shoulder rest he tries slips down his chest; after discussion with my luthier my final suggestion was the BonMusica since it seems to actually hang off the shoulder. The Kun was recommended to me several teachers ago and I've never looked back. Considered switching to a Wolf (which is the model I recommend to students) because it's adjustable in practically every area, but really the Kun's still working well for me after five years.
From Inge S
Posted on October 22, 2004 at 01:27 AM
Having just picked my rest up from the floor the umpteenth time I can easily guess -- falling from the violin. I laughed myself silly inside one day when there was a dull clunking sound and the two violinists both automatically scanned the floor for their shoulder rests .... which were still on their respective violins .... a book had fallen down. I suppose that just like with skis that come off the foot if there is too much tension, the rest has to be able to come off under too much stress or else the stress would damage the violin.
Is the Wolf the ultra-bendy one? I tried one for a while but my old habits simply bent it out of shape so I realized I had to work on habits more than equipment.
Buri, thanks for the suggestions. I have the Mendelsohn music so I will look at the section in thirds. I sometimes play it for fun when I'm not too busy.
Kun users: my Kun fell off constantly. It was very irritating. I liked it better than the Wolfe but since I got my Mach 1 that has become my favorite.
Perhaps the violin and I were falling off the Kun instead.
I play restless now simply for revenge, for all the times I was embarrassed at a concert with the clunk as it hit the ground during a break in the music, causing me to miss my entrance, for tangling in my hair and pulling it out, and for the one time I left it at home and barely avoided a speeding ticket to go back for it. My shoulder rest let me down. It was a wall between me and my passion.
There is nothing between us now; we've never been closer. The two of us play as one. My violin and I, that is.
Inge S - The really bendy one is the BonMusica. You can bend it about every way possible to fit you! I do nothing but rave about this shoulder rest!
I've played for about 15 years and have had nothing but problems with shoulder rests. Finally, I got the BonMusica and I'll never buy another shoulder rest again! This one is absolutely wonderful!!
From Inge S
Posted on October 22, 2004 at 06:37 PM
I'm note sure that's the one I had but I'll look into it. The one I used (I thought it was a Wolf????) had a little metal strip in the middle and after a week the strip popped out. Another family member tried it out for me and he found his good posture was turning into bad posture so that was the end of that. I think it (whatever it was) felt insecure so that I ended up concentrating on holding the violin AND the shoulder rest in place.
From Julie C.
Posted on October 22, 2004 at 07:07 PM
I used to use a Kun. I thought it was pretty good until one day I got sick of it because it just didn't do my posture justice. So I tried practicing without a shoulder rest, but it made my shoulder tense up. So I continued using the Kun until my teacher complained that the Kun was allowing my violin to slip more and more to the right and she wanted me to be in the "square position."
After that, I bought a Bon Musica and I really like it! I know that a lot of people don't really like the Bon Musica because it doesn't allow your shoulder much freedom in moving while playing because the shoulder rest pretty much molds over your shoulder, but I think it is great. It's really comfortable and it does not let my shoulder tense up. You can mold the metal to the shape of your shoulder! That fascinated me for a while haha. It's also great because it doesn't allow the violin to touch any part of your body. I know that sometimes with the Kun, the thick edge of the violin (from top to bottom) touches your neck A LOT. With the Bon Musica, the only part of the violin that touches your neck is the top most edge. Using the Bon Musica improved my posture and it also augmented the sound of my violin. I highly recommend it.
Anybody who wants to disagree with me, go ahead. I don't know enough about the disadvantages of the Bon Musica.
From Ed Barreto
Posted on October 22, 2004 at 10:58 PM
does anybody know if sam ash music stores have different rests and allow you to try the different ones? They are building one near me.
I am leaning towards the bon musica (I like products with freedom), but of course I need to try it out. The only music store around me is guitar center and they don't do orchestral instruments.
From Inge S
Posted on October 23, 2004 at 12:12 AM
I was just told that the Kun was invented by the Kun (Kuhn?) who used to own a violin shop near my first home. Apparently he passed away a few years ago.
May he rest in peace.
From Sue Donim
Posted on October 23, 2004 at 01:44 AM
From Sam Li
Posted on October 23, 2004 at 02:30 AM
The Kun shoulder rest was invented by Joseph Kun, who lost the company to his wife in a nasty divorce. Kun, son, and daughter later continued to make shoulder rests under the Kadenza label.
Thanks for the answers. I decided to choose between Wolf Primo and BonMusica (Wolf Secundo is unavailable in my shop), they differ in price, because wolf is about 20$, and bon-musica is about 70$ (!!!). The biggest problem is, that I can't try them and choose with one is better. Could you please make some list of pros and cons of these shoulder rests? I noticed, that for many people BonMusica is "the greatest thing in the world", but many people says it's awful and very uncomfortable. I'm quite afraid that I'll buy BonMusica and won't be happy with it - that's a possibility, isn't it? Please, help me choose the best! :)
Borrow one and try it.
From N.A. Mohr
Posted on October 23, 2004 at 01:51 PM
Yes, if you can, borrow one and try. Everyone is built differently so what works for one person might not work for another.
I find all the shoulder rests (own two - Kun and VIVA, tried another 2 -Wolf and I forget) uncomfortable...and have settled on a shoulder pad (ShoulderPet) instead...works very well I might add...with both violin and viola (what I mainly use it for)...
Main point...only use what's comfortable for YOU...
And then add shipping, which is next 40$ :) And about borrowing - I'm trying, but can't find any in my city :/ ShoulderPet... I'm going to google about it :) Thanks.
your problem is interesting butwhat I finally thouyght was it might be better o wait. I mean your first priority shouldreally be a teacher. And that eprson is going to have ideas about how you should have the violin relative to your physique so suppose you get taught something that means you need a different kind of rest?
I noticed I'm raising my shoulder to support the violin and I'm pulling my head to much to the left (after reading and watching Violinmasterclass.com) - and that taught me I need a shoulder rest.
What Buri is saying is that, you might have your head too much to the left in comparison to the person in the videos on violinmasterclass BUT that might be because that person's neck is different than yours. Or it might have to do with how you're standing. And a teacher can look at you and see how you individually play and help you adjust in the way that will be best for your playing.
A lot of teachers WILL meet with you once for free. It's like you are "auditioning" for them, or, it's like a consultation with a doctor.
I really encourage you to try just one lesson. If you don't click with that teacher, try another.
Mateusz, the video may have illuminated hte fact you are raising your shoulder (very common problem) but that does not mean it has taught you you need a shoulder rest. That is a false leap. It might be tru it might not. All it actually taught you is that you should not be raising oyur left shoulder. How you go about solving the problem really should be between oyu and a teacher. nothing in violin playing is that simple,
All the best,
Bon Musica...for necks that do not bend easily. I have arthritis and cannot bend the neck much, so I have a bon musica which can raise the violin high enough.
From Sam Li
Posted on October 27, 2004 at 05:09 AM
You can also give the harness a try.
Ok, time to reactivate the shoulder rest issue. I have been playing w/ a pad under my shirt (and a high chin rest) and it works great. I have difficulty using my left thumb using a rest because I tend to lift the violin w/ the chin (tension, nervousness, etc.), so it compromises my shifting and intonation. The only problem is that when I play w/ the pad, the violin tends to be "flat", i.e. parallel to the floor, which forces me to raise my right elbow unnecessarily to reach the G string, but it also forces me to rotate my left elbow too much inwards. All of this is stupid. W/ the rest (Wolf forte secondo), I can change this angle of the violin in relation to the floor, so I solve this twisted posture, but I prefer the pad under the shirt and my left thumb does crazy things when freed by the shoulder rest.
I feel in a no-win situation. Help? Thanks in advance.
I'm in the same boat, Tristan.
Hi, Emily, if I remember well, you were also gifted, like me, w/ a short 4th finger, so this doesn't surprise me. Btw, my phisio pointed out that my right hand pinkie is slightly longer than my left (would help if it were the other way around).
I forgot to add that if I remove the chin rest and use only the shoulder rest, then the violin falls into the left hand and the thumb doesn't go crazy, but there is always the issue of how to do the downward shift w/o the chin rest. It is possible, but as a practical proposition for actual performance: is it viable? If you're sweating even slightly, there is no way of holding the violin back w/ your chin as you shift down. Now, according to Ricci (_Left hand technique_), who emphasizes that 19th century virtuosi used neither chin nor shoulder rests, I would guess he would say: "So much the better, the violin will always be supported in the left hand".
1) High chin rest w/ pad under shirt: ok because the violin falls into the hand and this disciplines the thumb, but unless the pad is shaped in some inclined fashion, the violin is parallel to the floor, causing other postural complications.
2) Shoulder rest w/o chin rest: this allows the violin to be rotated on the horizontal axis to favor the left hand action and to lower the right elbow. The lack of a chin rest allows the violin to drop into the left hand, but it is unclear whether one can learn to shift down reliably using the thumb only.
Lest somebody think that I suffer from some kind of mental impairment, it is better to mention that one can also have a very low chin rest + shoulder rest. However, as soon as I hold up the violin from the chin I run into left thumb problems. There is a seesaw effect, the violin jumps up out of my hand and the thumb does not slide, it loses contact and also "jumps", spoiling the shift.
>Iif I remove the chin rest and use only the shoulder rest, then the violin falls into the left hand and the thumb doesn't go crazy,
Do you mean it drops onto the bottom of the v between thumb and index? That is not usually a good idea.(I know you are experimenting...)
>but there is always the issue of how to do the downward shift w/o the chin rest. It is possible, but as a practical proposition for actual performance: is it viable?
Yes. The downward shift is alwys preced by a thumb movement of some sort. Galamian claims in his book that from a highe rpsoition to the third position -may- be a special case in which it is better to move the hand and then the thumb a little later. I have never found this works for me or anyone else but I am sure he is right. (usually is...)
For me the downward shift is mostlytaken care of by the thumb movement but also paying attention to what the body is doing IE it doesn`t have to do anything but we have accumultaed all these minor contractions over the years (perhaps in the neck or whatever) and they may be the reason for a bad shift rather than focusing on the left hand as the more obvious culprit.
Interesting, Auer claims in his book that the holding the violin high and to the left with no pad makes downward shifting -more -secure and I actually tend to find this true.
>If you're sweating even slightly, there is no way of holding the violin back w/ your chin as you shift down.
It isn`t necessary.;)
Now, according to Ricci (_Left hand technique_), who emphasizes that 19th century virtuosi used neither chin nor shoulder rests, I would guess he would say: "So much the better, the violin will always be supported in the left hand".
1) High chin rest w/ pad under shirt: ok because the violin falls into the hand and this disciplines the thumb,
I wonder if this is a little bit of the problem. The thumb is actually much better left to work out things for itself as a rule. It isa bright little bugger- uses four times as much brain as the other other fingers and can develop very high levels of sensitivity.
A senior memeber of the Dounis tradition on hit list (Brian I think) recounted being told to @forget the bloody thumb` while practicing the shifting exercisesw in The Artists Technique.`
The method of pracitce was to play the exercises with the thumb off, the scroll supported and kind of shoot the hand in and out of the position letting the thumb do whatever it wants. Then practice the exericse as prescribed letting the thu8mb make its own choices on the neck of the instrument.You might give these exericses a try if you haven`t already.
>but unless the pad is shaped in some inclined fashion, the violin is parallel to the floor, causing other postural complications.
You are probably right but sometimes people think the violin is parallel to the floor when it actually isn`t. It just feles that way becuas eeverything is so differnt. But, you can cut and fiddle with foam iuntil it tilts at a confortable level for you.
>2Lest somebody think that I suffer from some kind of mental impairment,
I hope so...
>it is better to mention that one can also have a very low chin rest + shoulder rest. However, as soon as I hold up the violin from the chin I run into left thumb problems. There is a seesaw effect, the violin jumps up out of my hand and the thumb does not slide, it loses contact and also "jumps", spoiling the shift.
That would seem to me to be a problem of all kinds of tensing and contracting in the body (very small but problematic). might even be connected ot breathing.
Would it help to practice a lot of slow shifting with particular attention on the feel of the string on the pad of the finger? This is kind of the funadmanetal means of ensuring the left hand is kept under ones will. You may have had lots of old habits of jumping when you shift that one can kind of get away with when using a rest but become a real problem once the rest is taken off. Maybe you are anxious about shifting (I have the same anxiety if true) and so don`t realize that a shift can be real slow even in a fast tempo with the finger really sensing the string?
Just idle speculation,
Hi, Buri, thanks for your response. What you say about the role of the thumb in the down shift is what I had suspected and it makes sense to me.
Buri wrote:"Do you mean it drops onto the bottom of the v between thumb and index? That is not usually a good idea.(I know you are experimenting...)"
No, it doesn't fall into the V because the neck is resting on the index finger from the 3rd position downwards. The thumb makes sure of this.
Buri wrote: "The thumb is actually much better left to work out things for itself as a rule. It isa bright little bugger- uses four times as much brain as the other other fingers and can develop very high levels of sensitivity."
Bad choice of words on my part, as usual. By "discipline" I meant that, in the absence of chin support, the thumb had to act "responsibly".
Buri wrote: "You may have had lots of old habits of jumping when you shift that one can kind of get away with when using a rest but become a real problem once the rest is taken off. Maybe you are anxious about shifting (I have the same anxiety if true) and so don`t realize that a shift can be real slow even in a fast tempo with the finger really sensing the string?"
My old habits come from playing fretted instruments (guitar mostly). Intonation is taken care of by the frets, shifting requires non contact because of the rough surface, or because it makes no sense to add friction to movmts that may be relatively larger than on the violin.
Buri: "Just idle speculation"
Not at all. Thanks again.
Just thought I'd chime in with a little something I haven't seen anyone mention yet (the thread is long, so apologies if I missed it). I use a Wolf Forte Segundo, and have for some years with several instruments, being more or less happy with it. What I have found is that in order for the forte-segundo to work well, I have to position it in a particular manner on the back of the instrument.
This is hard to describe verbally, but I'll take a stab. (If anyone is really interested in this, I can post a digital picture of what it looks like if my description is unclear.) The rest sits against the ribs (purfing, really) of the instrument with four rubber-covered feet. Two are on the E string side, and two are on the G string side of the instrument.
I find that I have to align the rest at an angle such that the scroll-end shoulder rest foot on the E string side of the instrument is aligned with the tailpiece-end foot on the G string side. In other words, the E string side of the rest is lower on the instrument (further from the scroll) than the G string side. If I forget to align it this way, I can't play comfortably. That said, I have also experimented with playing restless a'la Ricci's recent article (bracing the hand on the base of the scroll and shifting with fingers mostly) and it has been quite illuminating, though I haven't attempted to really make the transition to that style yet. (But even playing with the rest, it has made me much more conscious of how I shift, and probably improved my accuracy.) I may eventually, as it seems to produce a nicer sound (not sure why...maybe my shoulder mutes the slightly excessive brightness my playing often has).
Great discussion! Thanks everybody for the good ideas. One of these days I should try one of the smaller rests, or a foam pad, as an intermediate step between my fairly big rest and none.
From Sue Donim
Posted on November 11, 2004 at 08:58 PM
Following on from Francis' observation, do any other Wolf Secondo users find they have to tilt the pad manually to 'chest angle' before adopting playing posture? I use a Kun and it tilts itself on my body, but all the Wolves(?) I've encountered need to be actively tilted. It drives my students nuts, and is the main reason I don't switch to a Wolf myself.
The problem with the shoulder rest/chinrest problem usually starts with the chinrest. Finding the right chinrest is by far the most important, and it can be a long and expensive process, but very much worth the effort. A good chinrest may cost quite a bit, but can certainly be worth it.
Some basic things to remember also... whether you use a shoulder rest or not, the instrument really is balanced between your neck, collar-bone, shoulder and hand. The tendency of many people who use shoulder rests is to disregard the importance of the left hand in holding the violin. Remember, the shoulder rest is there to assist you, not to hold up the violin for you.
The most common mistake that I notice with my own students is in how they position the shoulder rest on the violin. Most people who use shoulder rest tend to hold their violins too much in front of them and not far enough to the left, over there shoulder. As a result, the compensate by setting the shoulder rest too high, which increases the tension. Kun rests are fine (the Bravo model with wood and brass is the best by Kun). Another popular one these days with many people is the Mach I. I find that the Wolf rests aggravate problems.
I might suggest this also, something that has worked wonders in fixing tension problems with my own students. Set a Kun rest to the lowest level and then position it with the lower end as close to the C on the violin (chinrest side) as possible, and simply place the other end so that it simply holds in place on the other side. This way the violin is pushed towards the left, over the shoulder, which reduces the gap between the neck and collarbone/shoulder. With my own students it has done wonders with eliminating tension problems, back problems, and naturally has done wonders for the sound.
Who knows, this might work for you as well. If you do get a chance to try it out, could you be so kind as to let me know if it works? I would appreciate the feedback. Thanks and good luck!
From D Chin
Posted on November 12, 2004 at 03:10 PM
I have a question for everyone...and excuse me if it sounds stupid! Whether or not you use a pad, why is it important to use the left hand to hold up all the weight of the violin?
I agree that there needs to be some "friction" between your left hand and the violin. So holding the entire weight of the instrument with your chin/shoulder would not work (how else would you gauge distance for position changes and such?). But I think about guitarists, cellists and double bassists. I think they only place the amount of necessary instrument weight on their left hands to play with accurate intonation.
Personally, I've tried playing with and without the rest. I find that without the rest, there is too much weight on my left hand and the violin neck almost "sticks" to my hand, making position changes difficult. I've also had the same problem mentioned by some posters: that the violin fingerboard becomes too parallel to the floor, hence I need to rotate my left elbow to an uncomfortable position.
Okay, so I wrote yesterday and chickened out and erased my message. I've rethought and will add something to this discussion despite the fact that there are those of you writing on this message board with more experience and more knowlege.
However, I've learned something about posture recently that has really helped me. I'm surprised no one has mentioned it yet--although it's been alluded to. It will seem totally subversive to many of you as it did to me when I was first obliged to try it. Now I'm a believer. Instead of supporting the violin between the head/jaw/chin and shoulder with the head turned left, one places the violin on the left clavicle and supports it with the left hand. I know it seems counterintuitive, but I actually have better left hand facility. It took a little experimenting to understand how my thumb would have to relate, but my shifts are better and my double stops are so improved! I do place a chamois on my clavicle for a little cushion. The benefits:
1. As long as you keep your shoulder relaxed (fight the urge to bring the shoulder up), there is a gap between the violin and the shoulder so the sound is full, not muffled.
2. There is no unecessary strain on back, shoulder or neck muscles--a little uncomfortable for your clavicle at first, but the clavicle is a bone--bones can take it!
I know this is against the grain. I don't think it's the way most teachers approach posture, but I felt it was worthy of consideration. It's been great for me!
From Sue Donim
Posted on November 12, 2004 at 04:20 PM
D Chin: To my mind there is absolutely no reason for the left hand to support any of the weight of the violin, for precisely the reasons you illuminated. Intonation is gauged from the position of the left hand, not the weight it does or does not support.
This was a glitch. Read on.
I know it seems entirely odd. I resisted trying this posture for precisely the reason you cite. You would think that supporting the violin with your left arm and clavicle would diminish your ability to shift and get around the fingerboard. I found quite the opposite to be true, for me. I don't want to ruffle any feathers. I only want to submit it humbly for your consideration. I know it's counterintuitive and subversive. I tried it and I like it. So, try it and maybe you'll like it too.
From D Chin
Posted on November 12, 2004 at 06:49 PM
kimberlee dray, when I recently tried to play rest-less, I did pay good attention to my posture and noticed it made a huge difference. (I'm typically a slouchy person.) I was able to support most of the violin weight with my clavicle and chin, without the violin back touching any of my shoulder.
The problem was, that my clavicle became parallel to the floor and the violin quite flat. It led me to turn my left elbow further to the right in order to play in higher positions on the D and G strings.
I think in the end, the whole debate probably boils down to personal preference. I would prefer to play rest-less; I would prefer less equipment, and it just seems "purer" somehow. But if violinists like Vengerov, Chang, and Hahn can play with a pad, perhaps it would be OK for me too.
From Sue Donim
Posted on November 12, 2004 at 07:00 PM
I do try going restless occasionally, out of curiosity, but find it just doesn't work for me because the violin is uncomfortable on my collarbone. Buri's got theories about this way of playing (I forget if he's on this thread as there have been a few similar ones): his conclusion is a sufficiently high chin rest will do the job. Anyway, as I say it's uncomfortable for me, the violin is unstable and I'm obliged to support it with my left hand (there go the four octave scales). It's a matter of personal taste really, and I've never had any problems using a shoulder rest. However, one of my beginner students has just given up playing because he couldn't find a combination of chin/shoulder rests (including either or neither) that suited his physique.
D Chin, I'm sorry, somehow I didn't read your last message which came just before I wrote. I wasn't responding to your question even though it probably sounded like I was. Anyway, bravo for trying something new and daring. I grew up on a Kun rest and gave it up after twenty years of playing! So, learning to play restless was living dangerously. After reading both your messages, I can see that restlessness is keeping you a bit restless! I agree with you. If I could play like Hahn, I don't think I'd change a thing. I guess the point is to keep working with posture (rest or not)until something clicks. I'm wondering if you've got your violin pointed very far left? I also can't quite picture what you're speaking about when you talk about your left elbow turning right when you come up into the high positions on the D and G? Could you take me through it a little slower? Are you speaking about an arm steerage issue? A lot of violinists tuck that elbow up underneath pretty far when they go up on the G anyway. I'll have to go check to see what I do. I don't know off hand. Good luck. I'll be interested to hear what you come to.
Thanks for the response Sue. You sound very knowledgable and experienced. It sounds like you've given it a shot and found what you prefer. I'm very sorry to hear about your student. I hope it ends up being a hiatus and not a permanent exit. I don't think there's a magic answer for anything about the violin. Despite the seeming effortlessness of the most accomplished player, playing well requires a great deal of effort--even on elements which become natural in the end. Do you find that to be true? I guess that's another ball of wax. I'm sure Buri has an inspired answer, though.
D Chin, the reason for supporting the violin in the left hand is to solve the gravitational problem, if we may so call it. Keeping the violin up w/ the chin and the shoulder rest creates a seesaw over/near the collarbone, which brings instability. During performance, we tend to get nervous and involuntarily contract the neck. If we depend on chin support, this jerks the violin out of the left hand. Once the weight of the violin is in the left hand, the thumb and the index fingers are the ones who take over the task of shifting and so on, while the chin rests near the tailpiece mostly to avoid whobbling caused by bowing.
So the issue here can be reformulated. It is not so much an issue of which accessories to use (chin, shoulder rests, pad under the shirt, etc.), but how one wants to solve the gravitational/support problem to favor the left hand or the chin. In principle there would be a continuum that varies from 100% chin to 100% left hand support, w/ all the possibilities in between. Some people advocate 50-50.
If you prefer mostly hand support, there are several options, like removing the shoulder rest and playing w/ a pad under the shirt over the clavicle/collarbone. If the inclination is too flat for you as it is indeed for me, I find it more practical to remove the chin rest and get the rotation on the horizontal axis by means of a shoulder rest. I could try using a pad under the shirt, but it would have to be some kind of lump. I guess it would look weird, and the shoulder rest is adjustable. Maybe you can give this a try (i.e. remove the chin rest instead of the shoulder rest) and give us some feedback later on.
From D Chin
Posted on November 12, 2004 at 09:02 PM
kimberlee dray, when I said that my left elbow needs to more more to the right I shold've said that I needed to move it more to the right and UP. When you move from playing the E string to the G string, your elbow naturally rolls a bit from left to right to enable your fingers to fall correctly on the strings. I find it quite difficult to do on a "flat" violin in the higher positions. The shoulder rest helps me angle the violin a bit, and it becomes much easier.
tristan torriani, I agree that one must counteract gravity somehow! For me, going rest-less means shifting the weight balance to 40-60 left hand versus chin/collarbone (just my guess). Using the rest, the weight becomes something like 25-75. I still need to use the left hand to hold up the violin, but there is far less weight on it and it is left freer for shifting.
I've tried playing rest-less, and I've discovered that I just like playing with a pad better. I actually have a chin rest that is rather high, and I use a Kun collapsable rest set at the lowest height. I would be open to testing out a shorter chin rest at some point.
From Sue Donim
Posted on November 12, 2004 at 09:29 PM
I'm still wondering about those who support the violin mostly with the left hand. I've asked this question on other threads, but still no satisfactory answer ('no problem' doesn't do it for me): When playing at the highest point on the fingerboard, my thumb runs along the right edge of the fingerboard to facilitate my fingers' action. If you go restless, where is your thumb positioned when you're this high up the fingerboard?
Kimberlee, thanks for the sympathy! The student was in his late seventies, and I recognise that even in the good health he was in, there are certain physical limitations which descend in old age that might make the violin a difficult instrument to begin studying.
From D Chin
Posted on November 12, 2004 at 09:32 PM
Sue, my thumb stays in the rounded "notch" where the neck meets the violin body, and thus it can support the weight of the violin. Are you saying you remove your thumb from the violin neck, like cellists do?
From Sue Donim
Posted on November 12, 2004 at 09:55 PM
I find that, past maybe tenth position, I can't reach with my fingers while keeping my thumb in the corner as you describe. So I bring it up the fingerboard towards where my fingers are; there's absolute contact all the way, but not between my thumb and the neck as the neck ends where the body begins - my thumb travels up the side of the fingerboard towards the bridge. How do you reach the highest point of the fingerboard with your thumb at the heel? I can't!
Sue, this is a legitimate question. In high positions, it seems to me that it is a matter of allowing the violin to "drop" on the thumb and you just "drag" and "wiggle" it up and down the side of the fingerboard. The idea is to use gravity or the weight of the violin in your favor, to stabilize contact (since there aren't 2 mutually conflicting "leverage" points anymore - it's important to distinguish mere support or resting surface, from a point which can act as a lever to actually raise the instrument). The thumb does not have to remain at the heel. I was going to say something about the "palm", the lower thumb area, but am not sure about it.
D Chin, I also used the high chin rest - low shoulder rest combination. It is good and stable, but I have involuntary neck contraction problem so the chin rest doesn't help. Every setup has its merits and drawbacks. The increase of weight does not necessarily limit the ability of the thumb to function. Initially I did feel that it was more strenous, but it's because the movmnts were new.
I hope Buri will return here to help because I'm a somewhat limited (intermediate) player.
I have just tried playing w/o chin rest using a thin pad under the shirt over the collarbone area and I do get the horizontal axis rotation I need to have comfortable left finger placement. The pad does not have to be thick after all. I'm using a square pad that is made to hold hot trays right out of the oven.
The chin rest seems to be at the root of the problem because it adds a few cm height to the violin that limit horizontal rotation.
I am aware that Vernon Kirby, who is an advanced player and a v.com poster, does not use either shoulder or chin rests.
I doubt if I can help much in answering this question since I have big hands . For me, thestart point would be identifying all the players withsmall hands who don"t have shoudler rests and see what they do. Mutter is one thta springs to mind.
Traditionally one is suppose to let the thumb come out and slide up the side of the fingerboard, and yes, it seems awfully precarious to me. It's going to be a very delicate balance and if there is other stuff going on else where it may be virtually impossible. Very often in violin playing difficult techniques or areas become just that because we recognize their difficculty and program some response such as lack of breathing in our fear or nervousness.
I mightalso kepe in mind thta there really is no law that says you can't raise the shoulder to support the violin. Just make sure it goes back down again afterwards.
Bravo Tristan. Were you a physics major in college? I agree with you. Sue's question is a good one. I'm glad to have seen Buri's response. Hope others respond as well.
Should anyone have students or issues themselves with comfort while playing, especially head to chin rest, I would check out www.gelrest.com - it's this color matching gel pad that sticks discreetly onto the chin rest and makes it easier, especially for children, to feel more naturally and eventually play more naturally since they're comfortable. They run for about $40.
From Inge S
Has anyone tried this? My thought is that when we touch something soft, like a pillow, there is a reflex of relaxing. When it's bone against hard plastic or wood, the opposite reflex exists.
Posted on November 13, 2004 at 03:47 PM
I am still going on about that strange advice on a site that said "Spread your many chins" because as weird as it sounded, it really made a difference for me. The idea is to gather the loose folds of skin up in a sense and settling into the chin rest that way. That provides a cushiony feeling quite similar to the gel rest idea. The older you get, the more "cushion" you have at your disposal.
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