June 2, 2013 at 2:01 AMI'm a month into the ditching my You-Know-What, and I'm the most comfortable I've ever been playing viola. I was never certain I could actually do it, but I was driven to give it a go to see if it would alleviate the tension I've experienced for decades.
It took a few weeks for my bowing to straighten itself out and get my left thumb strong and flexible enough to do its job in helping support the instrument. I had to learn how to shift all over again, and spent many hours getting my intonation back to where it was before ditching the You-Know-What.
After a month of work, my playing is back to where it was before I ditched the rest but without the tension. I have a new freedom in my left hand which is finally getting my vibrato on the path it should be. I also broke through a shifting 'barrier' and can now shift very comfortably all the way to the end of the fingerboard and back down again without getting my left hand stuck on the upper bouts even on the Cing!
This is an exciting time for me musically. I'm hoping that other walls I've run into (musically speaking) will start to break down now that many of the technical & mechanical barriers have gone away. Only time will tell.
(Full disclosure: I haven't gone completely "commando". I am using a small red sponge on the left for slip resistance and an Artino pad with an added red sponge on top for a little cushion, a bit of support, and slip-resistance, but no rigid rest.)
ARTHUR: Fine, um, I don't want to waste anymore of your time, but, uh
I don't suppose you could, uh, tell us where we might find a, um,
find a, uh, a, um, a uh--
TIM: A what...?
ARTHUR: A g--, a g--
TIM: A GRAIL?!
ARTHUR: Yes, I think so.
KNIGHTS: Yes, that's it. Yes.
KNIGHTS: Oh, thank you, splendid, fine.
[boom pweeng boom boom]
ARTHUR: Look, you're a busy man, uh--
TIM: Yes, I can help you find the Holy Grail.
I have an old injury on my left thumb--surgery, and it's even slightly shorter than my right thumb--and I don't really want to depend on it for anything, so your blog is actually making me feel better about my sticking with the shoulder rest.
A lot of people here on this site write about playing with "tension," and about this being bad. I used to have some obvious tension in my neck and shoulder when I was clamping down too hard with my chin, but I've learned to relax that (and the shoulder rest actually *helps* me to do that relaxation process, and makes it easier to do), so now I'm no longer sure I understand what people mean when they say "play with tension." Or how getting rid of a shoulder rest would help that.
If I were to ditch my shoulder rest, all that neck and shoulder tension that I got rid of years ago would come immediately back, in spades. Where was the tension that ditching the shoulder rest is helping you get rid of?
The tension seemed to migrate from one area to another depending on the day: chin, neck, shoulders, fingers, etc. The first day I took the SR off, I noticed that the instrument sat noticeably lower and that my arms didn't have to reach as high to reach the strings. Additionally, I had a greater ease of movement without the SR digging into my chest, esp. when I was shifting.
For me it is more about the size of my instrument, and the size of me. A SR on its absolute lowest setting was still too high. A couple of sponges gave me the support I needed.
Having said that, when I pulled the violin out the other day, I used a SR with it, but it is tiny compared to my viola.
The little sponges I use make me a very happy viola (not violin) camper, no matter what I happen to be wearing (or not).
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