V.com weekend vote: Do you have a violin 'hickey'?

October 9, 2021, 10:34 PM · This may be a little indelicate to ask but, do you have a violin (or viola) 'hickey'?

Yes, it's that red mark on the neck, the telltale sign that someone has been playing the violin or viola for long hours. The famous and beloved violinist Nicola Benedetti has shared with the world the story of her own painful violin scar -- she posted the picture below on Twitter in 2018 - and later that year the Daily Mail even wrote a story about it!

Nicky Benedetti violin scar

The story is not new for us violinists - in fact there has been a recent discussion about it here on Violinist.com. But I still find it a mystery, why some violinists and violists really suffer from this, while others don't. I can remember that we considered it a badge of honor in high school, to have that mark on one's neck. Everyone in youth orchestra wanted one! But getting older, it stopped seeming so cool, especially when it could be painful.

I definitely have a nice big scar, which gets worse very quickly if I have a busy week of playing. But there are people who play longer hours than I do, and they don't have such a bad mark or scar!

As someone with sensitive skin that is prone to irritation, I've learned a few preventative measures in my decades of playing the fiddle. I'll share them here:

What is your situation, when it comes to the infamous violin "hickey"? Do you have one, or not? What have you done to prevent or treat the violin mark? Please participate in the vote and then share your wisdom!

* * *

We wanted you to read this article before we make our newsletter pitch, unlike so many other websites. If you appreciate that — and our efforts to promote excellence in string playing, teaching, performance and community — please click here to sign up for our free, bi-weekly email newsletter. And if you've already signed up, please invite your friends! Thank you.


October 10, 2021 at 11:11 AM · No -- I don't have a mark. Ever since my late teens, I've used a Strad Pad®; but even before this, I didn't have a mark, although I was already practicing and playing 1-3 hours a day. These pads are easily detachable and washable -- I have two different sizes, regular and large, to cover the different chin rests I have on my fiddles.

Another thing I like about the Strad Pad, besides prevention of skin irritation, is that it gives me extra grip and traction, so there's less need to press down with chin and jaw.

October 10, 2021 at 01:11 PM · I use a Wolf Maestro leather chin rest and also never had a skin irritation. It is so soft and eliminated any sliding as well.

October 10, 2021 at 02:25 PM · I seem to hold my violin with the left angle of my mandible on the chin rest. The angle is the sharp right angle bend below the ear. Over many years of playing a callous developed on the bone at mandíbular angle. One day my dentist noticed it and became alarmed and told me it could be a bone tumor. I explained about violin playing but she was convinced it was a malignant tumor and wanted to do an x-ray. That would be about 100 bucks out of my pocket. We reached an agreement, if the x-ray didn’t show any abnormality I would pay nothing. We both looked at the film together- nothing. A callous, even on bone is soft tissue and doesn’t show up on x-ray. No tumor, nothing. Now she will often ask me what else I do to abuse my body besides playing the violin.

October 10, 2021 at 03:46 PM · I have one and it is thankfully diminishing. My teacher recommended a taller chin rest and that seems to really help me to not clamp my chin onto the chinrest as tightly!

October 10, 2021 at 04:07 PM · It is funny, I was convinced that the violin hickey was rather a thing of the past. My first teacher had one, a pretty obvious one. And I remember one of the other person who had one too. It seems to me that back then it was just an unfortunate side effect of violin playing; nothing you could do about it.

More recently I don't remember ever seeing a violin hickey any more; it seemed to have disappeared. I put it down to progress in chin and shoulder rests.

Now I read that about half of the population here is or was once a vicitim. I must have been wrong. Maybe long time amateurs usually don't have them, the sort of people I would meet in my life.

October 10, 2021 at 05:00 PM · I remember playing a concert with my high school orchestra where I sat in the back of the 1st violin section. Looking up the row of violins, I noticed that everyone had a hickey and was very unhappy that I missed what I assumed was a great party the night before!

October 10, 2021 at 06:18 PM · No neck mark for me: I use clean and dry bandanas and handkerchiefs, at times changing them during longer practice sessions, and I consciously try to use good biomechanics whenever working with the violin (relaxed neck, shoulders, arms, having good playing posture, and a proper warm-up).

October 10, 2021 at 06:30 PM · Even better than a cotton handkerchief draped over the chinrest, is a piece of natural chamois leather. That also works wonders for playing without shoulder rest. I honestly suspect that playing with a shoulder rest increases the risk for a violin hickey, since you are more immobilized.

October 10, 2021 at 07:37 PM · When I used to play with a shoulder rest, my violin hickey under the jaw was active, i.e. frequently sore and irritated. It stopped being active when I took off the shoulder rest about a decade ago, and has since been replaced by a smaller, less irritated collarbone hickey.

October 10, 2021 at 09:34 PM · I only occasionally have a neck mark, mostly after playing in hot conditions. It seems to have more to do with sweat than anything else.

October 11, 2021 at 12:49 AM · when I grow a beard the hair is a different colour on the spot

October 12, 2021 at 11:04 PM · Did anyone else notice that on that photo of Nicola Benedetti she has not one, but two marks? One is just under her cheekbone, while the other is just above her clavicle. Hard core! (I've never had a hickey, but my viola teacher did.)

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine