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Restless: The oldest debate in town?

September 21, 2006 at 12:26 AM

The subject of going restless or not has been hacked to death so violently across the Internet and in this venerable forum it hardly seems worth dragging up again.
I think throughout all the verbal abuse, internicine warfare and apocalyptic doggy doo-doo that has been slung in this area I have, in all modesty, consistently presented the pros and cons of both sides very fairly. In fact, I seem to recall a very good easy on the subject by myself in the archives But here I am again, , Buri the bad penny. It’s my blog so bleeeeugh!
I was never taught to play the violin comfortably, or efficiently. Thus when I entered music college things just got harder and harder, more and more painful, especially in those long hours of orchestra. But, the very idea of playing restless was deemed lunatic by just about everyone and was certainly never offered as a possibility in most lessons. The only teacher around that time I am aware who really insisted his pupils drop it was/is Trevor Williams. (One of the unsung greats). The odd thing was though, that when this weeks model fell off during another Mahler or whatever, everything seemed to fall into place and I actually felt comfortable for once. Unfortunately it never occurred to me this might be some kind of message. Interestingly, I recall a review by Tully Potter of a top young quartet a while back in which the first violin lost the rest. Potter acidly commented that maybe it was time to learn to do without since the leader sounded so much better rafter that.
There does seem to be a kind of tacit agreement emerging between the burnt out sides of this issue. In particular it is suggested that if you have a long neck you need a rest. If you have a short neck you don’t. I go along with this to a large extent. However, the problem is that if you are like me, then you have an -average- neck and it is actually not so easy to decide which way to go. Or rather it is quite easy because the road of least resistance is to hunt around until you find a rest that you think is comfortable. Sadly, I have been observing over many years that this comfort is often a an illusion and the -greater freedom of technique` one hears about from rest users is also largely an illusion. This does not apply to the best players because they have the talent to find out how to play freely and expressively with a rest and use it to their advantage, although I personally feel the overall picture is one of more wear and tear on the body due to the raised position of the shoulders.
But for most players I observe using rests there is no real freedom across the whole organism. Rather there occurs a great deal of immobility of a minute but pernicious kind which generally includes a raised and slightly locked left shoulder. The instrument must adjust to the player. Never the other way around.
What of the difficulty of playing restless? From the beginning, with a teacher who knows what they are doing it is actually very easy. For someone who has had technical issues all their life it is rather more complex and requires a great deal of patience. You see, in my opinion, it is possible to play very inefficiently with a rest and come across okay. You cannot do that restless. I have finally got down from smaller rand smaller pads, through foam to no support whatsoever and a lot of the time it is a real joy. But then things stop working or a phrase sound horrible, and it takes a real effort to sit down and work out why. Almost invariably it is misuse of the whole body, especially manifested din something funky in the left shoulder and it needs to be corrected before things sound okay again. Its never less than interesting but sometimes I look at the pile of rests in the corner of my music room and think `I wish….`

From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 12:37 AM
Buri, how could you open these barely-healed wounds! ;)
From Addi L.
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 1:17 AM
Does the foam that Heifetz, Stern, Gingold, etc, inserted inside their jackets considered a 'rest'?
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 1:26 AM
1) with ease
2) no
From bill Pratt
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 2:10 AM
Honey is a delicious food best appreciated taken fresh from the hive.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 2:26 AM
I think i know that lady...
From howard vandersluis
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 3:18 AM
We know you are just trying to create a mutant race of hunchbacked violinists. We are not fooled.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 3:29 AM
that is going to play havoc with Lauries new tee-shirts,
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 9:35 AM
I have a long neck and not much fat over my facial bones. I wince at the very thought of playing without a rest. I've experimented with lots of kinds of chinrests and associated pads to get a setup which doesn't lock my body into ungodly pain. I rest my case.
From bill Pratt
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 4:20 PM
i play without a rest. I do not rest the violin on my shoulder. Rather, it is on my collarbone near my chin. I can lift my chin off the chinrest and continue to play. The other end of the violin is help up by my hand. All very free and easy. I don't think neck length required a sholder rest unless that person is intent on using the vise death grip rather than allowing the violin to balance on the collarbone and the hand.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 21, 2006 at 10:46 PM
that`s true Bill. But people with reall long necks are going to have serious problems on the downward shift. Basically one needs somethign to pull agains however slight the tension is, and traditionally that has been a slight drop of the headweigh onto the chinrest. But if someones neck is so long you can stand a parrot on the shoulder and it has to stretch to bite yer ear, then that drop of the head is an awful long way....
From Jennifer Leong
Posted on September 22, 2006 at 1:51 AM
Yay! Finally some objective criteria for determining who has a long neck.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 22, 2006 at 5:43 AM
I`m afraid it won`t be objective until the height of parrots is standardized.
Vive la Taylorism,
From Anthony Barletta
Posted on September 22, 2006 at 5:45 AM
Last time I checked parrots came in different sizes. How large a parrot are we talking about?
From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 22, 2006 at 1:32 PM
Taylorism? As in Charles Taylor, former dictator of Liberia?
From D Wright
Posted on September 22, 2006 at 6:24 PM
i marvel at the players of old who had complete freedom without the aid of a rest.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 22, 2006 at 8:38 PM
Taylorism as the man who pioneered the assembly line concept and thus had a great deal to do with the end of humanity.
From Charlie Caldwell
Posted on September 22, 2006 at 10:10 PM
My neck is very long. For me, playing without a shoulder rest is near impossible, and only would form bad habits of me raising my left shoulder to fill the space between the side of my jaw and my shoulder.

This is a widely debated topic on most violin/viola forums. I am surprised you brought it up, Mr. Buri, since it always seems like someone asks about it in the forums.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 22, 2006 at 10:41 PM
Charlie, I brought it up because this is a blog so I don`t have any obligation to write anything except what I feel like talking about at a given moment. By the same token I am not responsible for any errors or garbage I say and have no obligation to respond to any comments. Its a blog not a deliberate attempt to open dialog on a specific topic.
The reason I think it is continually worth airing, although I will withdraw fromt the discussion at any moment coz its a blog...., is that when people do discuss it, especially on other forums one of the defining features of that discussion , is not only the abusive crap people trhow at each other (Hey, I do that a lot) but the persistant avoidence of any useful and fundamentla information about how one might go about getting rid of the shoulder rest and actually being able to play or conversely how to ude a shoulder rest well. In the latter case the trend seems more and more to be uncomfortable with all these new, bigger and better super rest so crank them up some more boys and girls, thta seems to do the trick. Except it doesn`t work for long, so its cranked up some more add infinitum. Lots of people poeple with long necks and shoulder rets problems pay me obscene sums of money to tell them to try doing the opposite which works like magic. The discussion of shoulder rests , if rational and probing (that will be the day) is also inspearable from the whole issue of how one uses the body as a complete organism which the majority of players seem to know squat about. It is very rare that problems can actually be fully resolved at a local level and that resolution will almost inevitably produce a need for change elsewhere, a fact that Galamian emphasized very strongly in his writing.
So, yep, my blog will meander around the most inane and pointless topics until I drop dead. Who needs quality when quantity is so abundant?
From Michael Schallock
Posted on September 23, 2006 at 12:25 AM
Hey!..good discussion.
I currently am only using a sponge pad because it is very relaxing and because my sound is much nicer...freer vibrato.
I found several things helpful:
a teacher who said that I could easily play without a rest...
who also said that the left hand must be more responsible in helping support the violin.
It is absolutely crucial, I think, to all good playing that the violin be supported on the collarbone. Neck height determines chin rest height, ie, the distance from collarbone to chin.
The slope of the shoulder determines how much pad and where it should be placed..usually pretty minimal padding and just a little ways from collarbone towards the shoulder.
From Victor Rupert
Posted on September 24, 2006 at 2:11 AM
What a topic... I have used shoulder rests in the past and have for the last 15 or so years used nothing more that a Jar Gripper (for a nonskid surface) that is about a 1/16th of an inch thick, and about 3.5 inches across and held on with a simple rubber band. I did some testing to get one that did not react with the varnish!

I have found that using a shoulder rest effects the tone of the instrument in the following way.

It is always supported at the same spot by the rest and therefore the vibrations of the plates are always the same.

By NOT using a rest I have found that I can vary the warmth and tone of the instrument to a much greater degree. I.E. if I have more contact with the back of the instrument I can make a softer warmer more intimate tone. And without having so much contact a bigger more strident tone. I have enjoyed adding this increased depth and character to my playing.


From Michael Schallock
Posted on September 24, 2006 at 10:24 PM
A friend of mine uses a jar gripper, too. She simply loosened the chin rest clamp, inserted the gripper, and tightened the clamp again. It always stays on even in the case. rubber band
From david drimer
Posted on September 24, 2006 at 10:17 PM
a few years ago Alfredo Campoli took a masterclass in Huddersfield. A young student who came before him with a very high chin rest was told to remove the chin rest and just use a handkerchief. The poor girl was utterly bewildered by the request. Nevertheless she complied with Maestro Campoli's request. After the class -I spoke withe girls parents who said the improvement in her tone was remarkable. Mr Campoli did not use a chin rest however - like me he had no neck.

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