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Mendy Smith

Shoulder Rests

February 2, 2007 at 4:41 AM

One of the biggest problems in my technique that has been plaguing me for weeks now that I'm doing more shifting excercises is with the down shift on the lower strings. It's jumpy, jerky and sometimes just plain hurts. My intonation also took a turn for the worse in the last year.
All this time I thought it was just getting used to going from a 15" viola to a 16", and that it would just take some time and getting used to a larger instrument. I don't remember having these problems on my 15"

Tonight, I decided that I wasn't going to waste any more time just waiting to "get used to it" and put on my engineering hat to determine to "root cause" of these technical failures. So, I pulled out the old man (15" viola) and did the same technical excercises. No problems on the down shift. I run upstairs with both violas in hand and hold up the old man to study my position, then switch to my new 16" viola and study that.

Slowly, the AHA moment came! With the old man (with it's own personal shoulder rest), the body laid more along the contours of my chest, sloping downwards towards the floor with the length parallel to the floor. The 16" was perched up on my shoulder almost like a table top. I pull off both shoulder rests and compared the adjustments, then re-adjusted the shoulder rest for the 16".

Back downstairs I go with the newly adjusted shoulder rest and repeat the technical shifting exercises. The jerky, death grip, painful down shifts almost completely disappeared. And now I could hear the sympathetic vibrations on the strings (the RING!).

Sometimes it is the TOOL, not the user :)

From William Yap
Posted on February 2, 2007 at 9:15 AM
I've been having the same problem with shifting. Not that the shifts are jerky or bumpy, but after a few shifts with fast running notes, the violin tends to move away from my neck. Its very frustrating having to continue playing until there's a rest where I can readjust the violin. Perhaps I am not holdiing the violin correctly??? When I figure out I'll put a blog. If you have experienced the same thing and fixed it, would you mind sharing the solution?


From Mendy Smith
Posted on February 3, 2007 at 3:08 AM
William - is it on the down shifts or up shifts. I learned a trick from one of my previous teachers: when doing an up-shift to actually lift the instrument a bit. I find that I can also do a small re-adjustment at this time. For instance in Bach's 6th suite prelude (G version) there is a series of increasing shifts droning with the open A. Each time I shift up a note, I give the viola a little lift up, a quick re-positioning, play the passage, then do it again a few measures later at the same shift. It's the down shifts where I'm like you and the viola moves away from me a bit. I'm trying my teacher's suggestion to hold it using my chin - so far it seems to help.
From Eileen Geriak
Posted on February 4, 2007 at 1:13 PM
OH Gosh....I'm so glad it's not just me ! I have had shoulder rest/chin rest "issues" since starting out. There is no store nearby that carries a nice assortment of the things that I can go to and try a bunch out. It would be wonderful if I could do that and get myself setup properly....but I can't so I put up with the frustrating feeling that it's just not right.
I think my playing would improve quite a bit...and maybe I'd be able to finally "get" a decent vibrato...if Only I could hold this thang right ! (grrrr!!)

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