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Corwin Slack

Holding the violin as relaxation

May 26, 2008 at 4:24 PM

Our recent round of threads on shoulder rest yes or no ended at a hundred posts with this interesting link posted by member Willemijn Zwikstra. It is a very well produced series with students in the Utrecht Conservatory showing before and after effects of their efforts to reduce playing pain by changing their set up and employing Alexander technique. I think that it is very worthwhile and the six part series should be considered a "must watch".

While this documented study of setup and posture is very interesting, I feel that the students involved and perhaps their guides did not go far enough in exploring the possibilities of left hand support. The emphasis was all on support at the shoulder. This shoulder rest, that chin rest etc. etc. I do consider "no clenching at the shoulder" to be a very high value. I am skeptical of NSR advocates who lift or clench in ANY way. I am also skeptical that a change in SR/CR strategy is a sufficient answer.

I won't reject some support at the shoulder altogether but I do believe that much much more attention needs to be spent on understanding how to support the violin with the left hand. Laurie's interviews with Ruggiero Ricci and her blog post withTricia Ahern are worth a reread but we need much more on the use of the left hand to support the violin.

My neck is stiff from sitting here at the computer. I am going to go practice so that I can relax my neck and shoulders. I know I'll feel better. Alexander Technique for computer users anyone?

From Willemijn Zwikstra
Posted on May 26, 2008 at 9:06 PM
Thank you for your interesting commentary! As a result of participating in the Research Project 'Violinist in Balance' I am now really convinced that it is only the left hand and not the shoulder which is supporting the violin while playing. My chin rest, especially made for me, is so adjusted that I don't need to give support with my chin. I like this way of playing very much, but I admit that this is not the opinion of al the members of the project. Purpose of the project was that everybody should develop his own ideas about equipment en playing technique. So whe had always something to discuss...
About the computer, we really payed attention in my Alexander Technique to working the computer... It helps to free your neck, but you can also think of adjusting the height of your chair, screen and so on... Good luck!
From Willemijn Zwikstra
Posted on May 26, 2008 at 9:15 PM
I forgot to say that I use a Loft Sponge instead of a shoulder rest only because it tilts my violin a bit. I don't need the support...
From Corwin Slack
Posted on May 26, 2008 at 10:37 PM
Willemijn were you featured on the video? If so tell us who you were.

I am very much an advocate of using the left hand to support the violin. It took me a long time to learn how but I am an amateur and I didn't lose work or school time making the transition but it has truly liberated me and allowed me to ake progress.

I don't recall having pain with the shoulder rest (except at concerts where I wore a tux with suspenders [braces for some of you]), but the technical boost (for me) was phenomenal.

From Willemijn Zwikstra
Posted on May 27, 2008 at 8:48 AM
I am not in the video, but you can read my story in the musician stories. Read also the other musician stories; Fiona, Huug, Iren and Monica said some interesting things.
I am now writing my Master Thesis (in Dutch...) about misconceptions in teaching violin technique from point of view of the Alexander Technique and my own experience in the research project, also about left hand topic.

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