Violin Hickey

May 14, 2007 at 10:20 PM · I know that there are lots of different posts about violin hickeys. I have one but it doesn't hurt at all its just there and I was wondering if that would be from holding my violin wrong? Also does anyone know how to make it go away?

Replies (37)

May 14, 2007 at 11:25 PM · Hey Angela.

I have a horrible diagnosis for you. Want your violin hickey to go away? Give up the violin. Everyone has 'em...everyone. That telltale mark helps identify you as "in the club". :) At least, if it's on the left side of your neck, and not in multiple places :)

May 15, 2007 at 11:20 AM · No, everyone doesn't have one. I'm a very busy professional, playing for several decades without one. My advice: simply cover the chinrest with a clean, comfortable cloth. That should prevent re-occurrence, or worsening. Some people have more or less of a predisposition to develop an irritation. It's often the metal parts that are most irritating. There are one or two non-wood chinrests on the market that don't use (or maybe cover) them and advertise as hypo-allergenic. I can't remember the names, but Shar might carry them. You might want to try that if for some reason, you don't want to use the simple, inexpensive cover option.

As to what you have already, I'm not a doctor, and this is just advice from one layman to another. I would treat it like any other skin irritation, and with the chinrest cover, it should eventually go away.

May 15, 2007 at 12:08 AM · I had a nasty, infected one in college, but I was very tense and nervous and my equipment didn't fit me. Keeping both your skin and your chinrest clean helps. Check the fit of any rests you use. Sue

May 15, 2007 at 12:25 AM · there are a few possibilities...

a) your set-up could be wrong for you (when mine was, I had really bad irritation and actually a HUGE blister which was sometimes incredibly painful...all which changed once I changed to a different shoulder rest and learned better how to hold the violin).

b) an allergic reaction to the wood...which can be solved by changing a chin rest, or using a cover.

c) just a little red mark/callous...kind of like your finger tips are calloused. that's what I have now. it probably won't go away. i'm sure you could try some oils, like tea tree oils or something...or aloe in a lotion or something like that if it really concerns you. otherwise, I'd suggest just laughing about it. my grandma even asked me if it was a hickey...and then you just explain "no it's from playing the violin" and let them think what they want :) hah, it was kind of funny how I had to explain that to my current boyfriend, but he's also a music major and understands.

as long as it's not causing you pain or discomfort, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

May 15, 2007 at 11:23 AM · angela, essentially the violin hickey shares the similar pathophysiology as bed sores. if you really want to get under the skin, read up on this quite compreshensive if not authoritative write-up:

May 15, 2007 at 11:19 AM · Hi,

My own experience as a teacher and player?!...

I don't really get much of a mark and I have the violin in hand all day long on many days, practicing, teaching and demonstrating in lessons, rehearsing, performing, etc..

I used to get one and a nasty one too! One of the main causes I have found is a setup problems, caused first by an ill-fitting chinrest model. So, I concur with whomever said setup up problems that need to be addressed.

That said, it may occur for other reasons. With some people, not cleaning the chinrest enough leads to an accumulation of dirt, bacteria and oils can irritate the skin. I would recommend cleaning it with 70% ethyl alcohol (it is what doctors use).

For treating the skin, using witch hazel a few times a day can help dry out the infection if done for about 10 days.

Also, some skins types are more prone to it, and oddly enough, diet can affect it as it can lead to the skin getting more easily inflamed.

And by the way, the chinrest Mr. Klayman refers to is the Wittner. Not a bad design and some who have used it for skin problems have commented on it being quite beneficial.

Hope this helps...


May 15, 2007 at 02:20 PM · I have a rough patch, not a hickey. I use pre-soaked alcohol pads to clean the chinrest. I also use an all-natural olive oil soap, which is quite nice.

May 15, 2007 at 02:43 PM · If it doesn't hurt, doesn't itch, and isn't oozing anything, just ignore it.

I used to be violin-hickey-free (everyone at Encore thought I was a cellist) but after changing to a different chinrest I have a little one now. I agree with Andrew, it's somewhat of a badge of honor indicating membership in the secret society of violinists.

May 15, 2007 at 02:39 PM · Many people experience an allergic reaction from the nickel-silver barrels on the chin rest hardware. I haven't heard recently, but my understanding was that the EU had banned nickel-silver from anything that has contact with skin. That is one reason for the appearance of titanium clamps/barrels (and the disappearance of nickel-silver keywork on woodwinds made in the EU).

May 15, 2007 at 09:02 PM · Well I must agree with everybody. There's not much one can do about the hickey and it's mostly a consequence of the lack of resistance of one's skin. I almost never practice, and even if I actually play like 20 mn once in a while I get a huge hideous one...

May 15, 2007 at 09:05 PM · I do not have one after 25yrs of playing. I believe my lack of a hickey is due to how I hold the violin - more on my collar bone than my shoulder.

It could be a benefit, I read an article where Christie's was allowing people to play a Stradivari that was to be auctioned. When asked what criteria was use to allow someone to handle and play the violin, they said they look for the tell-tale violin hickey as a visible sign of experience!

May 15, 2007 at 09:34 PM · thanks everyone for ur responses. Now that im thinking more about might be my chinrest because its a little higher than on my old violin. Not really sure...but what should I use to clean my chinrest? Just rubbing alcohol or does it have to be something special?? Thanks!

May 15, 2007 at 09:40 PM · I can only cite my own personal experience with (and without) the hickey. I used to have a fairly large red patch on my neck in high school and early college. I tried several different styles and materials -- ebony, boxwood, rosewood, mountain mahogany, and others. When I changed both the style(from Guarneri to Teka) and the material (from wood to plastic) of the chinrest, the hickey went away completely, down to a small callus, in a matter of a few months. I didn't change my playing habits at all, practicing and playing constantly as a typical conservatory student. It's stayed that way ever since.

For cleaning, I use rubbing alcohol pads (the ones that come in the little foil packets like Wet-Naps), but you have to be careful! The best way to clean the chinrest is by taking it off the instrument first.

May 16, 2007 at 01:59 AM · I don't know that it should be considered a badge of honor - or shame. But speaking of 'secret societies' I have an amusing story. Many years ago I was called to do an MTV commercial with Tony Bennet. We were all required to be outfitted a certain way, and we each had to take a turn with the makeup artist (the way a newscaster would be). We were all violinists and one harpist. She couldn't understand why so many of us had this hicky, and did think for a while that it was some sort of cult thing! Someone eventually expalined it to her, and also allyed her concern about covering it up for the camera, since it would not show while we were playing.

May 16, 2007 at 04:24 AM · use a cloth to cover your chinrest. this has worked effectively for myself. and if you watch hilary hahn (she also covers her chinrest with a cloth) she has a very unnoticeable v-hickey

May 16, 2007 at 08:33 AM · You could always cover your hickey with a real one.

May 16, 2007 at 11:26 AM · Emily! That's the best solution yet! LOL!


May 16, 2007 at 01:03 PM · I'm proud of my hickey... :D

May 16, 2007 at 01:18 PM · ...and I want a hickey but cannot get one.

May 16, 2007 at 04:35 PM · You could always have a custom made v-hickey tattoo.

May 16, 2007 at 05:28 PM · Christopher, I suppose I could do that. My grandma got her eyebrows tattooed in; I suppose a violin hickey is no biggie. :)

JUST KIDDING, by the way. And I hope all of your hickeys become painless and un-hindering.

May 16, 2007 at 08:05 PM · I would have thought it mentioned by now (perhaps I missed it) but the "Stradpad" in either regular or jumbo sizes covers the chinrest and the nickel/silver metal parts which are often the cause of the problem. As an added bonus using the Strad pad makes it that much easier not to use a shoulder rest as it keeps the violin from slipping much. It is washable and comfortable and attached either with a built in band or a velcro patch( I use the velcro) No amount of playing seems to produce a hickey whereas when I was young I got one all the time. There is just no reason for suffering from one. Of course a cloth of some kind will work as well - just something else to have to deal with when preparing to play.

May 16, 2007 at 09:31 PM · I was given the following advice at a chamber music workshop 30 years ago. It worked then - and it will still work.

For an irritated (or possibly mildly infected) violin hickey, nothing works better than Zepheran Chloride. This used to be available at any drug store, either in a bottle or on saturated, foil-enveloped pads. Now it is much more rare, and you may have to find it at an internet drug store, as I did the last time I bought some (25 years after the first (and previous) time.

There is no better cloth to prevent irritation by a chinrest than Chamois - the animal-skin based cloths sold a auto parts stores. My good chinrests are so perfect for me that i don't need any cloth, but with the other chinrests I always use the chamois - usually velcroed to the chinrest so I'm sure one is always with those violins.

May 17, 2007 at 10:00 AM · imo, you need at least 3 factors in the formation of a hickey.

1. moisture (from perspiration).

2. contact pressure point.

3. shearing force (as violin pivots under the chin during play).

anything that minimizes the above 3 may help.

even though keeping the chin rest clean makes sense, infection, if any, comes AFTER the hickey is formed or forming due to the presence of fissures that allow pathogens to invade. you can clean the chin rest to your heart's content as long as you understand that our skin is normally colonized by bacteria flora anyway.

skin integrity good, no problem. skin integrity compromised, trouble. what compromises the skin integrity in the first place is the formation of the hickey due to the above mentioned combination of moisture, pressure and shearing force. unfortunately, as andrew stated, it is very difficult to avoid those factors if you play seriously. but, as others have shared, it can be done if you find a workable routine.

if you are allergic to the metal on the chinrest, the presentation may be quite different. run of the mill hickey often starts with redness, without much itch. if anything, may be some soreness/pain. on the other hand, you scratch contact dermatitis from allergic reactions from day one.

with repeated offenses, ie, injury, healing, injury, healing, you may end up with significant scarring/kelloid formation. if this is considered to be the admission ticket to the secret violin society, so be it:)

it is a bird, no, a is super hickey.

May 17, 2007 at 04:26 PM · My hicky is more of a dark spot or a bruise, I'm proud of it though it's my bag of honor, although I certainly wouldn't made a real hicky. :)

May 17, 2007 at 05:18 PM · "Bag of honor"? Oh, my. The possibilities are ENDLESS!

March 17, 2008 at 03:56 AM · I had a huge and painful one for a while, and it didn't go away when I added a cover. I think it was due to a combination of a metal allergy and sweat further irritating my flesh that made it so bad. I have a scar now. My advice is to clean your instrument, cloth, and skin after you play so that bacteria doesn't collect anywhere and worsen the situation!

March 17, 2008 at 11:42 AM · When I was in junior high and high school I had a horrible violin hickey. I used one of those Wolf Secundo shoulder rests never covered my chinrest. Once I got to college, I started using only a children's shoulder pad, and it started going away. Now, I use a StradPad and no shoulder rest, and I have no violin hickey at all. Check out the high of the shoulder rest you use, because the friction of violin if it is pressed really hard into your neck can cause you to get a callus. I also highly recommend a StradPad! I tried it because I hated sweating on the instrument in the summertime, and now I'm addicted to them! Also remember just good skincare in the area in general; wash, exfoliate and moisturize everyday. A lot of people remember to do these things to their face, but forget their necks as well. Hope this helps!

March 18, 2008 at 03:24 AM · Never had one, don't use a shoulder rest, don't put anything between me and my violin. I guess I'm not part of the club, and I'm not going to Christie's any time soon.

March 18, 2008 at 06:33 PM · It's not something everyone has, but I have one and I'm proud of it! Even when I got fired (temporarily) for having an uncovered hickey at work. My boss actually called my conductor at the time to verify what it was. HA! my boss was so embarrassed...but I digress...

March 18, 2008 at 07:48 PM · my violin hickey has decreased significantly since using a Strad Pad (first got it less than 6 months ago).

March 18, 2008 at 09:16 PM · I've used a Strad Pad for 3-4 years now, and it definitely helps reduce both the discomfort and appearance of my hickey. All I have now is a slightly rougher darker spot on my neck. It gets slightly redder just after practicing, but otherwise, it's hardly noticeable. I definitely recommend trying a Strad Pad or something similar.

May 3, 2008 at 11:28 PM · All the violinists that I know that have been playing for a while have it. Don't worry about it, it's a, as my mom says, badge of honor.

May 4, 2008 at 11:14 AM · My mom says the same thing ;)

May 5, 2008 at 02:48 AM · You choose to have the hickey. Many pros I know have none.

To rid, look to changing your posture, grip, placement, shoulder rest, chin rest. Meanwhile, some Noxema cream nightly may help you.

For me, a centre-mounted chinrest and no shoulder rest (with foam pad under my shirt), got rid of the hickey (and gives improved playing). I believe Isaac Stern recommended this approach.

good luck.

May 5, 2008 at 03:01 AM · ron, ridding the rest may be too much to ask right now, but noxema sounds worthy of a try, so thanks. against conventional wisdom:), i definitely do not like to see inflammed callus on my kid's neck.

July 19, 2009 at 09:34 PM ·

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