Are you happy with your set-up, when it comes to your shoulder rest (if you use one) and chin rest?
While some violinists and violists find a satisfactory set-up right away, it can take years for others to discover the right combination of chin rest and shoulder rest that helps hold the violin or viola properly while also avoiding pain and tension in the neck, shoulders and back. And some discover they don't want to use a shoulder rest at all!
I've been thinking about this because I've spent the last few days in Denver, visiting my former student and dear friend Ann Connell, and we have been studying her violin set-up. She had been experimenting with different heights and kinds of chin rests and shoulder rests, and she was still not satisfied.
Here are some of the things we analyzed, in case they might be of help to others who are still figuring out their set-up:
To see if the shoulder rest is putting the violin at an angle that might be causing strain, answer this: what angle do your arms naturally go if you hold up both hands at about a shoulder level, with palms facing you? Now look at your left hand. The scroll of the violin should point pretty close to that location, and the shoulder rest and chin rest should help that happen, not hinder it.
When you find something that feels like it will work, it's important to test it out for a few months, and then re-evaluate. Some of the strain or pain might be caused by your set-up, but some might be playing habits. When you rest your jawbone on the shoulder rest, do you use minimal pressure, or do you squeeze a little too hard? Can you find ways to remind yourself to let up on that pressure?
So all that said, are you happy with your set-up, or are you still experimenting? What is your set-up? What are the considerations and particular concerns you have needed to address? Or have you been pretty happy with your set-up, without tweaking it? Please participate in the vote and then tell us your experiences.
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