Violin up, shoulder down!

March 6, 2007 at 05:23 AM · How does one use a sponge or no shoulder rest and still hold the violin "up" enough? I've watched many recordings of people not using a shoulder rest, yet they seem to be holding the violin up pretty high with no squeezing/tension of the chin and the shoulder. Is the left hand somehow involved? I recently experimented with converting full time to a sponge but it's not really working out.

Replies (49)

March 6, 2007 at 05:31 AM · Greetings,

yes, the violin is being suported by the left hand, but it has a lot to do with how we think about the body as a whole. This might sound a bit strange, but it often shows in the language we use how we think about ourselves and this has a very profound effetc on how we do things, use our bodies.

In this case, if one says the left hand is holding up the instrument that is , in my opinion, misleaidng and can cause problems/tension. The left hand is balanced on the arm which actually includes the collar bone and ends roughly above the right kidney. iyt also includes hte shoulder blade. All this is supported by a perfectly balanced head at any given moment which supports the legs as energy flows up through the ground etc. etc.

When all this is organized and working well then the violin just floats. If the body is not well orgamized then the prolems can be masked by a good shoulder rest. It makes playing with nothing extremely difficult.



March 6, 2007 at 11:14 AM · Look at youtube and the different violinists bowholds not one is the same and all are constantly changing.

Milstein clearly HAS to be holding up the violin with his left hand and the chaconne video because the violin is on his chest and nowhere NEAR his shoulder/collarbone.

The important thing is complete relaxation and this CAN include holding the violin up but think of it as more holding your arm up and the violin is on top of your hand rather than the violin wants to go down and it needs pushing up

Hope this is helpful!

March 7, 2007 at 12:54 AM · Buri, do you use a shoulder rest?

March 7, 2007 at 01:50 AM · Well I think it is more of a balancing act between hand and collarbone. If you actually hold the fiddle up completely with the hand, you will have less facility and shifting problems. The shoulder should not be lifted at all - a problem more often than not the shoulder rest unfortunately masks.

March 7, 2007 at 03:02 AM · Balance is crucial. Our left shoulder, and everything else, tenses up as long as you are not secure with how your violin is balanced.

I teach first to find the two balancing points on the violin by having the student hold his violin with both index fingers only, one on the neck next to the scroll, and one at the end button area. Once you have found the balancing point, which is usually just to the left of the end button, you place that point on your collar bone, just left of the center of your body. You can practice balancing your violin without your chin, resting the neck of the violin on your index finger. If your shoulder blades are drawn together and down, and if the strings are parallel to the floor, this will work.

The chin and shoulder don't really need to clamp down. The violin is held secure between the corner of the jaw and the collarbone, much like a rock slides into a bottleneck. The neck doesn't squeeze; it simply stops the violin from sliding down.

So there you have it. The violin can rest on you without any gripping or squeezing. It balances on your collarbone and left thumb, and the jaw prevents it from sliding.

A personal demonstration would make much more sense. This is why I usually refrain from commenting on such topics.

March 7, 2007 at 03:55 AM · greetings,

Bobbi, no i dont use a rest. Using or not , players can and do often have problems. A sponge is fine if you don@t hesitate to cut it down and play around until you find what suits you. But for me, one hard truth is that if you choos eot go restless then some rethinking of tehcnique, especially shifting is necessary. The basic problem is describe beuatifully in Menuhins book on the violin he wrote with a section on viola from primrose.

Basically every action in playing has an equivalent opposite action. Thus in order to shift up(the forearm moves towards you) the upper arm moves away from you and vice versa. The problem is that in order to make this movement a preparatory movement to `make space` is rrequired. So, on an upward shift the shoudler actually moves backward and posisbly even drops a little to provide space for moving forward. These are veyr small movements indeed and sometimes i think they are as much psychologicla asanything else. But, in the lesosns in the back of the above mentioned book Menuhin states that -every time- he hears a poorly executedshift it is thi slack of space preparation that is the problem. On the whole, I have found this ot be true.

I also think one has to work quite hard at scale sup one/two strings in all manner of ways as well more regualr practice of very long shifts if one goe scompletley restless.

There are indeed many ways in which using a rest is easier. They just kill me;)



March 7, 2007 at 05:48 AM · "Violin and Viola" by Yehudi Menuhin and William Primrose (MacDonald and Jane's, 1976)

Did Menuhin do AT? He sounds exactly like my AT teacher (Chapter 3, for instance). I know he did yoga. I just watched the DVD produced by EMI (Yehudi Menuhin - The Violin of the Ceentury). His discussion on vibrato and play violin natually are very instructional I find.

But first, you've got to have a free neck, right Buri?

March 7, 2007 at 06:23 AM · Greetings,

I don@t recall him mentioning Alexander tehcnique. Mostly it was yoga and his own ideas. Some of it was adapted from Tai Chi Chuan. The standing on one leg was probably copied from the dog down my street.

Ease in the neck so the hea d goes forward and up and the back lengthens- then guzzle those prunes,


March 7, 2007 at 06:59 AM · Poor dog you have there:o) Still try to figure out the meaing of prune. Archive search and consuming a cup a day lead to no where -- life of a latecomer.

March 7, 2007 at 08:24 AM · How possible is it to simply balance the violin and not clamp down with shoulder and/or neck with a more-than-normally long neck? I don't use a rest. I use a pretty big sponge, but am not very comfortable with my position.

March 7, 2007 at 03:18 PM · The longest of necks is still not too long to hold the violin between the TOP of the shoulder and the jawbone, when the head is turned so that the chin roughly aligns with the shoulder tip. It's trying to hold the violin, as in the most common error, half on the shoulder and half on the chest that creates a large gap between the instrument and the player that people then try to fill with assorted odds and ends, and with clamping.

But I do advocate a shoulder rest for the simple reason that I advocate NOT holding the violin at all with the left hand. And that a very low shoulder rest dampens less of the back plate than a sponge, and accomplishes the same end: avoiding lateral slippage of the instrument.

One simple little trick to improve posture, by the way, straightens the back, balances the fiddle so that its "shoulders" are horizontal instead of diagonal or vertical, and allows the player to watch the music and/or his left hand and/or the bow tracking across the strings. Namely, point the scroll of the violin to the RIGHT of whatever page you're on and read the page you're on over the far corner of the left C-bout. In other words, when playing material on the left-hand page, point the scroll at the right hand page. When playing on the right-hand page, point the scroll to the right edge of the music stand. This points your chin at the left hand, aligns your line of sight as described above and inadvertently and almost inevitably, straightens your back. It also shifts some small amount of center of gravity to your left foot.

And Bob's your uncle.

March 7, 2007 at 10:57 PM · Greetings,

Emil, what you say about positioning the violin is perfectly true but that still leaves the problem of turning the neck so far being vey stressful and unnatural. Can't see how long neck players are going to get away from using a rest.



March 8, 2007 at 12:27 AM · Buri, the shoulder is not at a 180 degree angle to the chest when playing the violin, so the head need not rotate that far. When you hold your arm out in front of you, even when only looking at your own palm and not rotating the palm as one would to "face" the violin's neck, your shoulder is at >90 degrees but <180 degrees to the chest. As such, the head need only rotate a quarter turn (or slightly more) to be aligned exactly - or as close as makes no difference - with the shoulder.

And mind you, I'm not advocating playing without a rest. Just the opposite: I strongly advocate shoulder rests. I just find that the people striving to "cure" themselves of shoulder rest use are almost invariably using the shoulder rest incorrectly. They use it as a chest rest, and then wonder why the violin is clamped and immobilized at a diagonal or vertical (which, in turn, makes the bow fail to use gravity in tracking the string and thereby weakens the sound). And they wonder why the left shoulder is too high, the neck too stretched (downwards) etc. etc. etc. Again, for the record, it is possible to play with a rest without sacrificing volume, or bow stability, or increasing tension, or immobilizing the pitch or yaw of the fiddle.

But hey, I've given up repeating the old mantras...oh, wait. I guess I'm doing it now, aren't I.

March 8, 2007 at 04:18 AM · Greetings,

Thanks Emil. With you now.

>people striving to "cure" themselves of shoulder rest use are almost invariably using the shoulder rest incorrectly. They use it as a chest rest, and then wonder why the violin is clamped and immobilized at a diagonal or vertical

Agreed. They are also often digging one end direclty into the strenum which is very harmful to young children. Saw an example of this on Master a few years back.



PS What happened to the China CD?

March 8, 2007 at 03:26 PM · Emil wrote, “And that a very low shoulder rest dampens less of the back plate than a sponge, and accomplishes the same end: avoiding lateral slippage of the instrument.”

That is factually incorrect. You will find Emil, even your own teacher Maestro Harth disagreeing with you on this issue. The shoulder rest if anything takes away sound from an instrument; part of the reason Auer, Heifetz, Rosand, Zukerman, and other great artists have discouraged their students from using these things. Leopold Auer wrote in his book that as much as 50% of the natural volume of an instrument is taken away by using a shoulder rest. 50%! A study was recently done in Europe where 8 students played an etude at the same tempo, each time with and without shoulder rest. Pressure changes were recorded and processed with a spreadsheet to make them visible. This study showed that the players with the more ring and overtones were the ones not using shoulder rests.

On to positioning, the left elbow is thrown out of position completely when the shoulder rest is used. This greatly changes the vibrato when the elbow is under the neck rather than the body of the instrument.

March 8, 2007 at 04:45 PM · with 6 computer monitors flashing in front of me, mandating attention and decision, i always gravitate to and these days, nate's posting.

nate, forgive me for jumping in and i am certainly not trying to defend for emil who is probably one of the most articulate writers on

i would like to respond to several things in your post for my education, and possibly yours.

1. say someone wrote a book and stated that doing so and so caused a 50% this and that. is there a need to verify that number and how do we go about it?

2. you mentioned a study done in europe. number of subjects tested: 8. could you provide the reference or the link? fyi, in my prior occupation (btw, i personally consider it as quite imposing by dragging in our private life, if outside music, to impress upon others the validity of our statements, but hey, what do i know and what am i doing:) may be this time has some justification), i have published extensively in my field, being lead authors in a few long term prospective double blinded studies. i have served as a journal reviewer for 2. my job was not only looking at the topic of study but more importantly, the study design, thus the validity of the conclusion. i do not know enough about music. may be people are used to reading studies of 6 people, so this is considered progress. but, if someone quotes a study and tries to influence people's thinking and behavior based on the study's conclusion, we need to look at the study more carefully, to see if it is justified that 8 persons shall influence 80,000 readers. personally, i do not know of any journals that i will read seriously that will publish any data generated from a 8 person study. i am not sure in college if there was a class where you looked at studies and learned to critique if the studies are properly set up, to see, in this case with the 8 persons, that a meaningful p value can be derived. p value, to refresh your memory, in english, means whether the result is by intervention or by chance (or dumb luck if you will).

3. have you heard emil play with reference to his vibrato? do you agree that he has what it takes to play in a bigger hall?


March 8, 2007 at 08:53 PM · "say someone wrote a book and stated that doing so and so caused a 50% this and that. is there a need to verify that number and how do we go about it?"

That "someone" was Leopold Auer one of the most respected violin teachers in history. A little respect please.

Secondly the study was conducted by a German viola professor - Helmut Lindemann. You can e-mail him.

No I have not had the honor of hearing Emil's performances in person. He is obviously very recognized and I commend him for his hard work. I made a reference to one of Emil's teachers Maestro Harth (former concertmaster of NY Phil, LA Phil, Chicago Symphony etc.) because at a masterclass I remember Harth questioned some girl to why she used a rest after it kept falling off.

When I went to hear Zukerman play the Berg in 2004 at Lincoln Center, then last year, heard a performance of a Prokofiev VC by another violinist (who uses a rest), there was an enormous disparity in volume between the two. Zukerman's tonal projection to my ear had to be at least double the other violinist's.

This is a matter of opinion, I have to say I believe shoulder rests, have homogenized violin tones. In years past, it was much easier to identify from one another Szigeti, Kreisler, Menuhin, Heifetz, Milstein etc. Is this a coincidence? I think not. Incidentally they all did not use shoulder rests. I firmly believe that great works of del Gesu or Stradivarius were not designed to have a 'Kun' placed on the back much like the Mona Lisa is not meant to have lipstick drawn all over it.

March 8, 2007 at 05:14 PM · sr or not is not my interest. it is the logic behind the rationalization.

authors of books do not impress me. not a respect thing. true gold can test fire.

" have compared what I have heard in person at concert halls and come to my conclusion. When I went to hear Zukerman play the Berg in 2004 at Lincoln Center, then last year, heard a performance of a Prokofiev VC by another violinist (who uses a rest), there was an enormous disparity in volume between the two. Zukerman's tonal projection to my ear had to be at least double the other violinist's. "

can we acknowledge at least 2 glaring things among possible one million that one being 2 different players and two being 2 different violins?

nate, do you have any violinists that you consider are great that use sr? if so, do you think their tone will improve if they do without?

March 8, 2007 at 05:14 PM · Excerpt from Classical Net interview with Aaron Rosand:

Rosand: "In teaching, the most important thing I have observed is good position. Good position and as I was telling you earlier, I abhor the shoulder rest. I think it has ruined more young violinists; they don't develop their own sound. The violin was never meant to sit on the shoulder. The violin sits on the collarbone. The violin has to be in front of your nose, not at an angle with you looking in the other direction. So I'm very strong about that and when position is attained, then it's developing a sound and beauty of tone. It is still the number one requisite of violin playing. You can have the best technique in the world and if you don't have a really good sound, or a personal sound, it is not going to get you anywhere."

March 8, 2007 at 05:16 PM · nate, do you believe the following statement:

sr is the reason for bad posture.

March 8, 2007 at 05:16 PM · "can we acknowledge at least 2 glaring things among possible one million that one being 2 different players and two being 2 different violins?"

Not really, the two artists I cited, use violins of the same maker from the same period. When there is such a huge difference in tonal volume at the exact same concert hall (I sat in practically the same place for both performances), there are alterior reasons I believe in this case (the shoulder rest) that caused such a disparity between the two in projection.

March 8, 2007 at 05:22 PM · "nate, do you believe the following statement:

sr is the reason for bad posture"

Definitely. If you don't believe me, take it from Aaron Rosand, Zukerman, or Heifetz.

March 8, 2007 at 05:22 PM · "Not really, the two artists I cited, use violins of the same maker from the same period. When there is such a huge difference in tonal volume at the exact same concert hall (I sat in practically the same place for both performances), there are alterior reasons I believe in this case (the shoulder rest) that caused such a disparity between the two in projection."

i am heading for a meeting, nate, you read the quote and think things over:)

one thing i like about you is passion. i feel your passion and your conviction. i hope that is all it takes:)

March 8, 2007 at 06:13 PM · Nate, the shoulder rest isn't what causes bad posture. I know this because my posture isn't a problem, and never has been. Except, actually, for a two month period when, at Isaac Stern's urging, I did away with a shoulder rest. I promptly lost all vibrato, all facility, all shifting capability and developed agonizing pains in my left arm, shoulder and shoulder blade. The next time I came in to play for Stern, I confessed that the under-jacket or under-shirt sponge did little to alleviate any of this. And after investing two months of my life in trying to change what needed no changing, Stern simply said "Well, if you can't play without it, play with it."

Maestro Harth also discouraged shoulder rests. But, strangely enough, he never complained about either my rest, or my posture, or the quantity of tone I produce. The quality was another matter...

Nate, for thousands of years, due to their respect for Aristotle, sage after sage refused to question the givens handed down from Ancient Greece. Sage after sage refused to test hypotheses, apply experimental procedure (then not quite developed, admittedly) or use empirical evidence in drawing conclusions. And for century after century, as a result, the earth was the center of the universe, spontaneous generation was a matter of common sense and so forth. In case the parallel isn't quite clear, we risk doing the same here. I will never argue that the fifteenth century should have been laughing at Aristotle. I'm just saying we'd be a lot further along if it didn't take what he wrote as gospel, as the word of God on Sinai. (For that matter, we might have been a lot further along, also, if the Middle Ages hadn't taken the gospel as absolute scientific fact instead of moral instruction and allegory. But I digress.)

Now, you try to do two things. You write of scientific studies, though you can't quite recall where they were done and what you can recall isn't convincing (Al Ku's quite right about a sample size of 8 being unacceptably small). There are other aspects unaddressed in your post. Were all 8 players habitual SR users? Non? Mixed? Who selected the machines making the judgments? On what basis? Were the pieces the same? Were all other factors controlled for? Were all tests performed on the same day? Who commissioned the study? Did the commissioning person or body have an agenda? To prove this objectivity, what provisions were made before the test to publish the results? I'm sorry, but the allegedly scientific nature of what you describe is a little too close to pseudo-science for my taste.

And, of course, your reflexive genuflection before icons of the violinistic world is also flawed. Yes, respect those who achieved great things. But never think they've plumbed all there was to plumb, else why play at all in the wake of Heifetz et al? Nor think for an instant that there was ever a correlation between being a sublime artist and being a patient and infallible logician, with both an interest in and time for the studies of SR pros and cons.

I'm not laying claim to being either, I hasten to add. I'm just saying that when you say that SRs cause this or that, I offer myself as proof that they don't. My sound is equally loud with an SR and without, though without my shifting is severely impaired and, if my shoulder touches the back plate it dampens the plate's vibrations noticeably and immediately. My vibrato has what variety I would wish for without tension. My only tensions, in fact, came from playing for long stretches of time while seated, in chamber music. And that was due to weight distribution, as was easily shown by the tension disappearing as soon as I either stood or shifted my weight to the left. My elbow is most emphatically not under the neck; such a thing is physiologically impossible. Nor is my elbow either noticeably far forward or back. My shoulder rest doesn't sit on my shoulder ball-and-socket, but on my collarbone, balancing there and allowing the violin to tilt with minute motions of my head.

You see, all these disproofs of your theses, as I'm sure you'll agree, are much easier and much more incontrovertible than proof of any assertion's validity. If I say there's no such thing as a purple cow and then you produce one, I can argue against the possibility of such a regal bovine's existence until I'm purple myself. But there it stands and moos.


March 8, 2007 at 08:50 PM · Well with all due respect to your posting Emil, I find this dialectic process on here in arguments posed against mine not getting anywhere. We obviously have our strong opinions regarding this issue on opposite ends. You say your sound is as full with and without the shoulder rest, where is the evidence? Did you measure yourself with a machine and a graph as Professor Lindemann did with his study? You call the example I cited of Professor Lindemann ‘pseudoscience’ - a study of 8 players (which is plenty IMO) to measure tonal differences when using a shoulder rest to not using one playing the same work at the exact same tempo.

Maybe there is perhaps a reason Auer, Heifetz, Rosand, and Zukerman among others discourage(d) shoulder rest use! If you read that quotation I posted of Mr. Rosand earlier on here, I think he verified what I was saying about how the violin’s tonal palette and distinctive qualities are lessened by the shoulder rest. Auer’s estimation of 50% of the instrument’s natural volume lost while using a shoulder rest I think is right on, especially in the case of Zuckerman (who uses no rest) to the other violinist I heard at the same venue (that uses a rest) with a drastically smaller sound.

When you have that many people of that level saying the same thing, I think in that case, one ought to consider that it might be something quite valid. I realize that there are people who have been playing all their lives with the shoulder rest, and for some, it is very hard (as in your case) to switch. For those people, probably using the shoulder rest would be a better solution. After a certain point screwing around with a set up can ruin someone more than help them.

March 8, 2007 at 08:39 PM · Nate and Emil: Shoulder rest or not? As long as the shoulder rest DOES NOT GET IN TOUCH with the back of the violin and that the violin rests on the collar bone and not the left does not make any difference, really...James Ehnes uses a Kun and produces the most beautiful and carrying tone in the hall...Stern had a trick: big sponge under his jacket...Usually, persons with short neck feel more at ease without the shoulder pad, I say generally...Auer statement is not the sense that the shoulder pad that existed when he wrote the book did INDEED touch the back of the instrument...

Personnaly, I never needed any shoulder pad or even scarves...but this must be thought at a very young age... the thumb (left) is more active without the use of a shoulder pad...


March 8, 2007 at 09:45 PM · Nate,

You keep saying that Zukerman does not use a shoulder rest. Watch this video of him teaching,

It is Marta Krechkowsky-session one on the website. About half way thru the girls performance he stands up and lays his violin in the case then pull a sponge or pad out of his shirt and lays that in his violin case.

As far as I am concerned whether it is a sponge, pad, dish towel or Kun rest if it is used while you play it is a shoulder rest. They all used then of some kind either sponges or pads or sewing things inside their jackets. Bottom line is if you are comfortable with a rest use it if not dont. Very simple.

March 8, 2007 at 10:11 PM · this chap probably does not need a sr

this other dude can probably use one, or two.

in between, it probably depends on many factors, such as how your teacher influences you (think nate), how you react (think emil and stern), and how AT dictates every facet of your life (think buri).

i agree with marc's view, although that does not make marc look good:)

even though we should not cower away from emil's moo, it may still be facetious to challenge emil, at his current level of playing, if he knows what he is doing on sound production. emil clearly stated that without sr he could not really play,,,so what is the point?

i understand violin playing is an art form. what great teachers have to say often cannot be verified by science, at least not yet.

therefore, i accept the reality that a great teacher says, do this way, not negotiable. may be the wisdom will sink in later, like that wax on and wax off in that karate movie.

however, when you mix a great teacher's intuition with a study of 8 and consider 8 is more than enough to make art out of science, or to make science out of art, it is a slippery slope.

maestro rosand in the youtube video said that every great violinist smokes cigar. now we are talking!

March 8, 2007 at 10:43 PM · Greetings,

that`s nice al, but I still think Flesch got it right when he said it boils down to the length of your neck.



March 9, 2007 at 03:43 AM · Rachel, a sponge or pad and a shoulder rest (kun) are very different. A shoulder rest does a lot more to "fix" the position and a pad or sponge just elevates the violin a bit, but it is still a much more natural position. Therefore, Zukerman does not use a shoulder rest. Every master class video and live I've seen of his he enthusiastically speaks against shoulder rests but actually recommends a sponge or pad.

March 9, 2007 at 04:18 AM · I hate to admit that, after weeks of trying, I’m now back to sr again. I used sponge, pads, cloth with or without sponges. I even specially made a nicely shaped sponge covered with sheep skin with elastics attached. My left shoulder started to bother me a couple of weeks ago and I played terribly. My teacher (who uses cosmetic sponges only) noticed that no sr wasn’t working for me. Now I’m back to sr, using it the way very similar to what Emil described -- the rest sits on the collar bone, the violin is brought to front so the shoulder stays low, and most of all, I have a free neck, said my AT teacher! My head moves freely when I play and left shoulder pain is gone. I felt being a bit of failure for not being able to join the no sr group, but I feel better now that I can blame it on my longish neck :^)

March 9, 2007 at 04:53 AM · Well, I am still stuck with a rest. What I do now is I have my shoulder rest really low, and I like to support my violin with the left arm. I have a lot of horizontal and vertical mobility. To be honest, I think my sound is pretty big, and every time I've tried to play without a rest, it hasn't really enhanced anything. What it does allow is a flatter violin, which has benefits for the bowarm, since many people play with the violin almost vertical because of the ludicrous height and pitch of their rest. The character in my sound comes chiefly from the bow and my vibrato, so I am not yet totally convinced that getting rid of a rest will do much for me. I still want to try it, and to have the option of playing that way.

An interesting story about shoulder rests:

Last year I went to a dazzling, earth shattering performance of Brahms concerto by Leonidas Kavakos. He gets to the 1st movement cadenza, and takes his shoulder rest off, and puts it on the conductor's podium. I thought he was insane... well, when it's done, he puts it back on. I wonder why he did this, and I wonder if anyone has seen someone use both in a performance?

March 9, 2007 at 05:01 AM · pieter, if you do not mind, share stories of great violin players using sr in private emails, please.

March 9, 2007 at 06:41 AM · uhh... no

March 9, 2007 at 07:30 PM · The one advantage of playing without a shoulder rest is that you cant get the wild jerking vibrato that some vioinists have. It is easier to develop a fingertip vibrato for subtelty without one. I find it uncomfortable without out though!

March 9, 2007 at 07:36 PM · you mean like Szigeti, Szerying, Francescatti and Mutter??? I am just joking...

March 9, 2007 at 08:22 PM ·

March 10, 2007 at 12:42 PM · Re the original question: if you look at the Heifetz film on YouTube where he plays the Tchaik, you'll see how he is trying to lift the scroll higher when playing on the G string, I think the point is that a mis-aligned left shoulder also throws the bowing out, esp on the G string, and raising the scroll can allow the left shoulder to relax and sit properly. But as Buri points out it's the whole back that is involved too right down to the hips.

March 10, 2007 at 12:53 PM · Too up, too down, too left, too right, ahhhhh look out you're going to break something!

March 10, 2007 at 04:02 PM · My whole objection to the shoulder rest is mainly due to how I think sound is altered with a shoulder rest. Researchers who have studied Stradivari's instruments have noted that the concentration of sound comes from the center of the instrument, vibrates up, but also, the instruments vibrate quite a bit outward from the center towards the ribs where most shoulder rests are attached.

Emil brought up an important point earlier, and that is how the shoulder can dampen the back plate of the fiddle. If you read Leopold Auer's book, he talks about how this hampers tone and that as little of the shoulder as possible should come into contact with the instrument without a rest.

March 10, 2007 at 06:24 PM · nate, i think you have touched on at least 2 main issues and even though they are related to some degree, they should be looked at separately for the reasons below and i will discuss some of it only in theory because i find the so called research lacking:

i agree with your view that the shoulder rest feet clamping on the side of the back plate may play a role. how big a role? i am not sure, but we can safely say it is different from when there is nothing on the side of the plate. right there is one topic for research; i would love to read something if something has already been done on that. just the simple question: do the feet make any measurable difference, not by human judgement, but by recording on machines where a more reliable percentage of change can be assessed and reevaluated. lets not even link that to the sound output production yet, which is a quantum jump consisting of many other factors.

the second issue is about playing violin without sr. on that, there are couple things to entertain.

1. do all people not using sr contact the violin on the same (alright, i will be nice, the similar) spot of the back plate? i do not know for sure, but my "theory" is that: no. again, not a difficult test to check. may be in this case 8 subjects will be a good start.

2. without using sr (thus, no worry about the side of the back plate being clamped), i presume the players ALL contact the violin on the back plate directly, regardless of location, since something has to stop of force of gravity? that contact may interfere with the concept of sound radiation that you have mentioned, correct? (thus, i am not sure why you use that line of thinking in support of no sr) since the degree of interference may be dependent on many things, namely, how tight the players hold the violin, the body part in contact the violin (bony vs softy), the area of contact, etc, it remains to be a black box still, right? which means it is likely that one player without sr can exert a totally different influence on the violin than another player without sr? which also means that the 2 players in the same camp of no sr cannot really compare notes? and, a no sr teacher with a different physique may not be able to recreate a similar set up and thus effect on a student based on the multiple factors mentioned above?

so, if we now look at the 2 main issues (one being side of back plate squeezed and the other being the backplate in contact with body), can we settle on the middle ground that in either case, the sound may be affected and that currently we simply do not know for sure if the clamp or the direct contact is less or more interfering?

March 12, 2007 at 10:13 PM · This is all so interesting to me, as sadly, none of my teachers (save for one or two) EVER discussed technique with me in what i feel like they should have...I grew up with many deficiencies that I have been fixing.

Anyways, those who are adamantly against using a sr...what do you say to someone who just can't hold it right to vibrato and to shift properly?

I use a sr, at first a sponge, then a Kun (which after some years became incredibly uncomfortable) and now a Wolf (which I love!) I've experimented many times trying to see if I can play without, but i just can't without raising my shoulder, which nobody should have to do.

A woman I studied with in Spain (Luda Mesropian), who was taught in Armenia and Georgia in the Russian tradition, has me holding the violin with my head weight (the shoulder rest straddles the collar bone, it is not on the shoulder, by the way)...I am able to talk and move while still holding the violin securely and tension free. The only problem I'm having with this technique is that when I use my left arm weight like she taught me, my violin is not pointing as high up as other people's...BUT I haven't encountered any problems with shifting, so I feel like the angle it's at is okay.

Since I have been playing, people have always complimented me on my sound and tone (granted, I'm not the fastest, or the best, or the most technical sounding), but I believe I do have my own sound...even to the point where people will recognize my sound and stop by my practice room to say hello.

So although I see some of your points, I'm not quite sure how easily it can be generalized for people.

Also, I have a student now who has been playing for a long time without a shoulder rest...and still cannot hold the violin properly or securely. If I ask him to take away his left hand and hold the violin, he always has to stop before it falls. I tried explaining to him to use his collarbone, and how he has to find a way to hold it without tension or raising the shoulder or clenching the neck and chin, with some but minimal support from the left hand. Still no luck. I gave him a small sponge for now and I've been thinking about every day how to help him!

For both those who use shoulder rests and those who do not, what would you do? What would you try next before trying the opposite of what you use? We're in college and he can't really afford to buy a bunch of models to try and neither can I. I've had him try my Wolf and he seemed okay with it, although, of course one will feel uncomfortable with trying something for the first time.

This is my first time teaching privately since I have been enlightened about technique with Luda, but she's half a world away right now! Any help, names of books or methods to look into, or suggestions would be much appreciated!

March 12, 2007 at 10:37 PM · Greetings,

>Also, I have a student now who has been playing for a long time without a shoulder rest...and still cannot hold the violin properly or securely. If I ask him to take away his left hand and hold the violin, he always has to stop before it falls.

There is no rule that syas you have to be able to do this. In his book Menuhin argued against this. As far as he wa socncerned if you don@t use arest and take away the support the violin will end up pointing to the floor. Why is this a problem?

As far a snot being bale to hold the violin up properly is concerned I would be inclined to look at the whole body first and then make sure this isn`t being radically valtered. A useful book is Kemnpers `How muscles learn.` You cna get is eaisly from Shar or



March 13, 2007 at 03:11 AM · It's Susan Kempter.

Sorry, Buri, have to correct your spelling. I've got the book -- a great one. I just got back from my AT teacher and recommended to her as well.

Here is the link if anyone wants to know more about the book:

March 13, 2007 at 03:27 AM · Greetings,

philosophically speaking, nobody has ot do anyhting. However, if you wish to become my spell checker you will eanr a plac ein whereever philosphers like to go to when they cross the styx.



March 13, 2007 at 03:36 AM · Responding to the question of sound-

In my own limited experiments, using only three violins and about 4 types of SR, I found via careful recording that the sound was almost the same in every case. There were differences between brands and versus the sponge, but they were incredibly subtle. I would say that overall I preferred the sound of the sponge. It was a bit more resonant.

the best sound, without question, and the only one significantly different, was when using nothing at all, not even a sponge. The sound this way, on all three violins, was a tiny bit richer somehow.

From reading subsequent threads, I now believe this is because with no rest and no sponge, more of the player's chest & head is sympathetically vibrated by the violin, adding volume and complexity to the sound.

I find using no rest / no sponge to be quite comdortable, but as some have said it required a re-thinking of vibrato technique. It also requires careful attention to the angle of the violin, as it is easier for it to shift around. I think I just need to find the right chinrest, and this problem will be reduced.

March 13, 2007 at 04:37 AM · Buri,

I thought I might be good enough to be your research assistant -- apparently still not quite qualified. Sniff:(

March 13, 2007 at 05:15 AM · Buri,

I was wondering if you could clarify with this. There's no rule that says he should be able to hold it without using his left hand? or something else?

"There is no rule that syas you have to be able to do this. In his book Menuhin argued against this. As far as he wa socncerned if you don@t use arest and take away the support the violin will end up pointing to the floor. Why is this a problem?"

March 13, 2007 at 05:49 AM · Greetings,

Yixi, you are probably over qualified.

Jessie, in his book `Violin and Viola` Menuhin talks about how some players belief the violin can be held up parallel to the floor by using the weight of the heigh on the chinrest alone. There is also a photo of this in Applebaum`s book the art and science of violin playing. Applebaum goes as far as offeringan exericse to strengthen the neck muscles of a student in order to develop this skill.(not one of his more brilliant ideas in my opinion)

Menuhin goes on to sya that he cannot see the point and if the palyer is relaxed the unsupported violin will simply hang down with the scroll pointing at the floor. He doesn`t consider this to be any kind of defect or problem and even includes a photograph of himself doing this.



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