Short neck-need help

May 24, 2009 at 05:33 PM ·

If you're a player with a short neck, I'd love to hear from you.  My son and his teacher recently realized (ok, after 8 years of playing-duh!) that my son's short neck has made it more challenging to play violin for a variety of reasons.  He won't go without a shoulder rest (says it hurts).  Any experience and advice would be appreciated. 

Replies (57)

May 24, 2009 at 10:52 PM ·

Hi,  a few days ago I offered to exchange my fingers (By mail !!!) to somone who was complaining about his too big fingers.  Is this my chance to have the neck I waited for since so long!!! Mine is a "Girafe" type...  I pay the post!!!

Seriously, could you try a type of pad?   This is often use by short neck violinists.  Many players have them hold with elastic.  Just don't put something to big to mute the violin. Also chamois and anti-slippering stuff can be useful.  This situation is always an experiment but very rewarding because it forces you to work on the posture and this is never a bad thing at any stage!

Good luck!

Anne-Marie

May 24, 2009 at 11:19 PM ·

Could you clarify how a short neck makes violin more challenging to play?  I am a giraffe, but I know plenty of short-necked people that play beautifully.  I have often wished for a shorter neck, but there doesn't seem to be any way of changing neck length (insert smiley face here).

There are plenty of low shoulder pads, including the round pink sponges, regular kitchen rectangle sponges,  a low air Playonair, Sostenuto, etc.  Some of my short necked students like the Fiddle Friends, but they might be a little childish for your son's age.

May 24, 2009 at 11:35 PM ·

Greetings,

I would respectfully suggets that there is nothing challenging about having a short neck. It is a real advantage.  Great players like Perlman,  Hugh Bean Elman and th elike have been able to effortlesly chuck the fiddle up and hold it with ease minus a rest. The actual probnlem I think you are identifying is the use of the rest which is a problem with short necks.   This puts you in a bit of a dilemna because it really is helpful to have ateahce rwho doesn`t have a rets to teahc how to paly this way although it is not essential.  If it is painful without a rest then ther eis somethign worng with the way ot is being done.  Or,  it may be that the new balances require dwithout have not been got used to.  Or it is posisble that when you atke a way the rest the tension create dby using a unnecessray high rest translates into pain.  Taking away a rest often reveals things we are doing qwrong that is masked by the rest although it isn`t a cure for everyone.  Nt getting into that debate;) Whatever,  if you keep soe kind of support it really doe shave to be the abslute minimum.  If you feel like spending money then the `Diamond`  shoulder rest is one of the bets around.  Its simlar looking to the Kun but actually remarkably differnet,  excpetionally light and cna be set -extrmely - low.  Roland Herara reviewd rest on this site a while back (on his site actually- )  and state dhtis rest was the most efficacious he had found although he is not really a fixed rest user.      it is pricey. 

bets of luck,

Buri

May 24, 2009 at 11:42 PM ·

Anne-Marie and Buri,

Thank-you for the suggestions.  I am encouraging my son to at least try some different options-pads, chamoise, etc.. but he's a teen who can, er, sometimes think he knows it all.  I think the short, fat neck limits his flexibility and causes his violin to slip down on his chest more than if he had a larger "landing pad" as it were, for his violin to sit in.  It could also be his shape in general, as he is quite bulked and curved (not from lifting weights but genetically) at his shoulders.  So, the combo seems to lead him to play more like a fiddler than a classical violinist and he complains about discomfort. (Course he could just be a whiner.  However, I do take his complaints seriously since before, when he complained about his shoulder hurting, I ignored him until the doctor said he had a problem with over loose ligaments)  I'm not sure if that's what makes sense but that's what we're seeing. 

May 25, 2009 at 12:05 AM ·

You may want to try to change the chin rest, get those flat ones, like Schmidt type. I have also short neck, and I couldn't play without shoulder rest, so I experimented on chin rest, and so far it worked!

Goodluck!
 

 

May 25, 2009 at 01:37 AM ·

Quinnviolins.com has many chinrest options. Perhaps a chinrest that is very short would help.

May 25, 2009 at 05:33 AM ·

Re. chin rest:  My son says his chin rest is low but I really don't know if that's true.  I think this chin rest doesn't look very comfortable.  I encouarage him to talk with his teacher (and he did just change to an inexpensive shoulder rest that his teacher had and that seems to help a little) but I'm not around so I'm not sure if they've addressed this recently.  Here's video of a recent recital (ignoring all the intonation problems, of course, as there were quite a few in this piece!).  It seems to accentuate his short neck and he continues to adjust the violin back up to his shoulder.  Maybe it's not his neck but his technique but I think his teacher and he discussed his neck at a recent lesson.  http://www.solosoli.com/Recital_2_-_3-29-09.html  (His name is Jesse O.)

May 25, 2009 at 08:53 AM ·

Greetings,

your son is very talented.  Good to hear.  Thank you.Can tell you straight out the problem is not a short neck.Its not that short anyway.  -Its a basic shoulder rets problem-. Its too high and too much,  causing a great deal of tension so he is fighting with everything..   The chinrest is more or less what I would reocmmend for him.  Its a good one.

Cheer,s

Buri 

May 25, 2009 at 01:31 PM ·

Hi Rebecca,

Please contact my privately so that we can arrange to exchange my neck for Jesse's talent.

All the best,

Lothar

May 25, 2009 at 02:04 PM ·

Congratulations! You have a talented son. I agree with Buri, now that you provided the video, its a shoulder rest problem, its a little high, you can tell, the way he hold the violin between his jaw and shoulder., and he doesn't have that short neck, seems to be a regular one  to me, try experimenting with SR, maybe keep adjusting the feet as low as it can get, and see what happens.

Try to fix it, injury is the last thing you want to your son to get.

 

May 25, 2009 at 02:59 PM ·

With that over-the-tailpiece chinrest your son has no flexibility at all in how he positions the instrument. My experience with such chinrests has been a total failure and I use the moveable chinrests that are on the left side of the violin.

There are many, many different styles of such chinrests and it is possible to take the violin to a dealer and try every chinrest in stock until you find just the right one.

The two things that work against your son's comfort are the difficulty of finding a comfortable place for the violin at the throat and the total lack of flexibility to move the instrument on the shoulder because of the (possibly unnecessary) shoulder rest.

Either a small pad fastened to the instrument with rubber bands or an "Acoustifoam" rest, which is essentially the same thing, would likely do a violinist of his "structure" more good than the construction that is now under it.

It is rediculous to use a particular chinrest or shoulder rest because one's teacher (or violinist friends) use it. I have a number of violins, and have found that the small variation in the shapes of the instruments have sometimes required somewhat different chinrests (even for me) and (when I used them) completely different shoulder rests and shoulder rest adjustments.

It is time to experiment and no place better than in a really good violin shop.

Andy

May 25, 2009 at 05:24 PM ·

Someone who has always played with a shoulder rest would do himself a great disservice  if, in trying to play without it, he is unaware of the learning process that is required before assessing the situation.  Were he my student, I would very much encourage him to try playing without a shoulder rest, but I would warn him that it will likely feel awful at first!  When something in the violin playing feels strange it may be either because it is a wrong idea *or* because it is very unfamiliar.  I feel quite certain that this fellow would have the predicted "feels awful" reaction at first, but ultimately benefit from and enjoy playing without a shoulder rest.  The main point is that trying shoulder rest free playing is not like trying a new TV set, where you immediately see whether the picture is better than your previous TV!  One needs to learn *how* to play without a shoulder rest.  I believe that in most cases, and certainly in the case of this particular student, it is well worth the time and effort.

 

May 25, 2009 at 08:10 PM ·

 I have both a short neck and very short arms (I'm 4' 11"). I'm just an amateur, so take what I say with a grain of salt.   I think of short arms and short neck as two different issues.  After a lot of reading  and experimentation, I've found a few things that can help.  A center mounted, over the tailpiece rest can be helpful with bowing for those of us with short arms.  If the problem is only a short neck,  then I suggest a sponge.  If you're quite used to a shoulder rest, and need a sponge with some support (as I do), consider the Perfect Shoulder Rest.  I find it to allow good freedom of movement, but the contoured sponge provides some stability, too.  Being a sponge, it's short.  There are several models to choose from on their web site.  I think one of them is a little thick, so compare the pictures.  Good luck.

May 25, 2009 at 09:58 PM ·

Congratulations to him! He plays very well and his neck looks perfectly suited for the violin.  I know people who would run miles for a neck this length.... But pain is never a good thing and struggling with a too high rest when your neck is short must be as horrible as these middle age torture machines...  For the violin slipping, maybe it is the rest and in my case (but I am not your son's level and physionomy even though I have the slipping problem because of narrow shoulders)  what resolved it was anti slippering + adopting a "scroll up" posture.  No it isn't to play to the soloist as it may look :) playing with the scroll slightly up (without lifting the shoulder) does that the gravity pushes the instrument against the collar bone.  But I didn't do this when I played with a rest, I used to play very scrool down with the shoulder up... I had to learn this when I switch to a non rest method.  But take this "scroll up" (I mean slightly up, of course) thing with a grain of salt but you could maybe ask the teacher about if it would help.

Still congratulations , he is very talented! No, I really don't find his posture is similar to a fiddler.  But I know nothing about fidling technique (I mean visually nothing looks "unclassical" lol) 

Anne-Marie

May 26, 2009 at 01:08 AM ·

Who could have imagined that one day a "too short neck" could be considered to be a handicap?  

You rule shoulder rest!!!

May 26, 2009 at 01:22 AM ·

Dear all,

Well, one thing is certain:  My son has a lot to discuss with his teacher. :-)  Thank-you, thank-you everyone!   My son read each comment and is amenable to the idea of going without a shoulder rest or at least experimenting with what's out there. (Better coming from you all than from mom who knows very little about such things)  The lesson time can go so quickly, though, so I suppose he needs to spend the most time at the local violin shop one day for an hour or so, trying various rests (or pads) and chin rests.

Oliver, you bring up a very good point-my son will need an adjustment period with any changes he makes.  I wonder if shops let you "test drive" various rests, pads, etc.   I will make my calls this week and find out.

Anne Marie, I think my son will be able to get his scroll up more when we find the right (or no) shoulder and chin rest.  I have noticed an improvement using this rest vs. his other (very expensive-ugh!) Kun, but it's still not right. (Obviously, or I wouldn't have asked my question!)

Lothar, good to know there's a black market for necks in case nothing works out for my son. We'll be in touch. :-)

May 26, 2009 at 06:21 PM ·

I have been following this with interest, being somewhat short necked myself and having adjusted my Kun as low as it will go.  I emailed Quinn Violins and got the following response from Chris:

"The lowest shoulder rests are the simple foam pads, or Playonair rests.

"Other brands such as the Kun will adjust very low, but there is a limit to
how low they can go. There needs to be some clearance between the shoulder
rest and the back of the violin, which effectively limits the range. If you
have tried the Kun, and you can not get it low enough, the I suggest
something like the foam pad or Playonair. These touch the back of the
violin, so the hight can be much lower.

"You might also consider a lower chinrest as an alternative to a low shoulder
rest."

May 28, 2009 at 11:30 PM ·

"You might also consider a lower chinrest as an alternative to a low shoulder
rest."

I think a slightly HIGHER chinrest might be an effective alternative to a low shoulder rest.

Also, the Playonair shoulder rest never did feel secure to me (and the first one sprang a leak and thus became useless). I have only known one violinist who used one, but she no longer does.

If one is going to use a simple pad, it is a good idea to analyze the current use of a shoulder rest to measure how far it is from the back of the violin where it touches the shoulder - and exactly where it touches the shoulder. If you find a compfortable height and spot on the shoulder, that will define where a simple pad (or Acoustifoam) should touch the shoulder and how high it should be.

It is that simple. Replicate a good fit, not a bad one.

Andy

May 29, 2009 at 01:34 AM ·

Greetings,

>I think a slightly HIGHER chinrest might be an effective alternative to a low shoulder rest.

Yep.That may well be the case.

Cheers,

Buri

May 29, 2009 at 05:23 AM ·

Yes, a good fit with no pain is what we're going for here.  And I suppose this is something that needs to be rechecked every 6-12 months on a growing teen. 

July 18, 2009 at 03:08 AM ·

What wonderful music Jesse makes!  Very vibrant and full of life!  His playing shows great emotional maturity and a lively imagination, qualities that are hard to come by.

The technical things that bother him are easily remedied.  The violin is sliding down his front and his head is following it, that is, his head is forward, one of the biggest problems in string playing.  Higher placement on the collarbone and tucking his chin a little closer to his neck will help.  Because the violin is sliding down, his left side is overtaxed in reaching around to the front to his violin.  Also, his bow arm reaches very high over his violin particularly on the G string, and this is causing right side problems.  Again, a slightly higher placement/moving the violin a little left on the collarbone will help.  Vibrato will also be less of a struggle.

For a way to place the instrument according to the physical make up of the player, you might take a look at the web site, www.chinrests.com.  Yes, it is our aim to eventually sell chinrests, but most of the site is there to help people with posture and instrument positioning, as well.  Equipment is not the only answer to playing problems.

Wishing you and Jesse all the best, Lynne Denig

July 18, 2009 at 04:38 PM ·

Hi Lynne,

I appreciate your comments and feedback.  I confess my son hasn't done anything different as far as looking at chin rests and shoulder rests (too busy!) but he and his teacher did discuss the issue and one determination is that my son just gets lazy and let's his violin slip.  Here's his most recent solo and he definitely doesn't seem to have as muh problem keeping his violin in place.  

http://www.solosoli.com/6-7-09_Recital_2.html (scroll down to the last video-Jesse)

He did recently experiment with playing sans a shoulder rest.  What he discovered is the sound was totally different with and without a rest!  I concurred.  So, if he experiments with changing chin rests, he may discover some similar nuances.  Ack!  It all seems so terribly complicated to me!

July 18, 2009 at 04:54 PM ·

I have an appointment to meet with Lynne Denig in a couple of weeks.  I am toying with the idea of ditching the shoulder rest.  But I tried yesterday and it was virtually impossible to play with vibrato.  Obviously, a sign of my poor technique.  Hopefully, Lynne will be able to help me.

Regarding the chin rest, I removed my chin rest a couple of days ago and the sound of my violin opened up quite a bit.  I wouldn't want to play that way, but it was informative to hear how the chin rest affects the sound.  Now, I just need to find a chin rest that does not affect the sound (or has mininal effect).

 

July 19, 2009 at 04:21 AM ·

I have a similar situation, however I consider myself a 'No-Neck'.
Having spent a number of years as a finish carpenter and other sundry trade positions, I have a shoulder slope and too much thickness where a bit of delicacy would be a better fit.

I found that when I tried to adjust my shoulder rest, I was never happy with the fit. WHen I play without a shoulder rest, the violin almost always fits better. The only problems I have is when I have some stiffness, in which case a bit of extra support helps.... I still have not found the right answer, but a pad may be just the thing.

July 19, 2009 at 09:06 PM ·

Smiley,

I would love it if you shared with us after your visit with Lynne.  It's really helpful to read what others' experiences are.  My son's been out of town and hasn't read the recents posts but he'll be very interested in what Lynne said and what you learn. 

July 19, 2009 at 09:07 PM ·

Roland,

Do you use a pad, then? Homemade or bought?  Did you find the sound quality changed when you dropped the rest? 

July 20, 2009 at 03:45 AM ·

Hi Rebecca,

I just happened to read your comment about "dropping the rest" and was reminded of something that happened to me a couple of years ago.  I was practicing with a pianist with my old set up of a folded wash cloth fastened across the back of my violin with a rubber band when the rubber band popped and the wash cloth fell on the floor.  I continued playing (with a little difficulty), but when we stopped, the pianist turned to me and said, "Why did the sound get bigger all of the sudden?"  I was amazed at this, too, and realized that it wasn't just me, but it was an unbiased listener who observed the difference, too. 

From that point on, I went to just a small red sponge fastened across the bottom of the chinrest hardware with a rubber band.  With the chinrest I have that fits neck height and jaw shape (and spare rubber bands), I am no longer muting my violin with something across the back.  The same happens with anything strapped or fastened or shoved against the body of the instrument.  Less, for sound, is better.  I've even gone to a 1/2 sponge that my dog "helped" to shape!

All the best, Lynne at www.chinrests.com

July 20, 2009 at 05:47 AM ·

Rebecca,

Right now, I don't use a pad or anything; just curl my shoulder up a bit. It gets uncomfortable after a bit, but since I play for myself, I can take breaks when I want.
I am considering what the correct pad characteristics would be, but haven;t changed yet. I was just suprised how comfortable it was without a shoulder rest, relative to having a shoulder rest. I feel that I have less control, but the violin 'sits better', and is in a better position for my left hand.

July 22, 2009 at 07:25 PM ·

I'm an old lady with a short neck, so I use a folded chamois/no shoulder rest and the flattest chinrest I could find that still had a small lip, a Dresden. Secure and comfortable and I can move...

Wern't violins designed to be used without all these contrivances?

July 23, 2009 at 03:36 AM ·

It's true that people used to play violin without any of that, but they used to play pretty badly too, and I imagine with a lot of pain.

Shoulder rests should only be used by people with necks so long that they can't use anything else. I suggest a pad or a sponge. The more you experiment, the more likely you are to find a good fit. Depending on how old your son is, and how much he's still going to grow, you may not find a permanent solution anytime soon.

Good luck.

July 23, 2009 at 05:52 AM ·

I thought Paganini played without an SR or CR. It is very awkward when at first the SR is discarded.

But given time it can be achieved even by people with long necks...:))

I thought this video of Heifetz might help. Particulary interesting is that during his performance of the piece he makes many slight adjustments to the postion of the violin.

 

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tenI_FyFeZ0

July 23, 2009 at 08:39 AM ·

Greetings, 

>It's true that people used to play violin without any of that, but they used to play pretty badly too, and I imagine with a lot of pain.

The `any of that` in question presumably only refers to the shoulder rest.   I am not sure how far back one is going in saying `they played pretty badly.`   Ysaye,  Wieniawski, Kubelik, Kreisler,  Heifetz et al certainly did not play badly.  Just one example in my recent cross comparisons of recordings made by Kreisler and a fair selection of the most well known players today,  Kreisler has set a standard that remains unbeatable.  This is part subjective of course- in my opinion he is both stylitically and tonally superior in Thais,  Tchaik second movement,   Tchaik Cantilene, his own works etc. But also technically is intonation often seems far more centered in transparent works such as the Beethoven concerto.   The there is Heifetz....

I don`t think for a moment that these players suffered from pain to be honest. Pain is indicative of technical  deficiency and Tartini, Paginini  Ernst,  Vieuxtemps  et al  would have not been able to play as they did according to contemporary accounts in such a condition.  Anybody want to play the Devil@s Trill with a painful technique?;)

What also interests me is the phenominal percentage of injury from mild to serious found among today`s orchestral players.  This is so high we should be up in arms about it. Certainly players are overworked and have far more stressful commitments than in the past but one might also consider the added factor to all this caused by the use of shoulder rests:  violins held high at the booty,  frequent visible tension in the neck and concomitant need for a higher bow arm. 

Cheers,

Buri

July 23, 2009 at 08:47 AM ·

Not to show any disrespect for today's experts, but perhaps the words of Auer (teacher of Heifetz,etc) may help. I found the words of Auer very helpful for me.  I quote below from his book, Violin as I teach it....................


 

"In holding the violin the first thing to bear in

mind is that it should be held in such a position

that the eyes may be fixed on the head of the

instrument, and the left arm should be thrust

forward under the back of the violin so that

the fingers will fall perpendicularly on the

strings, the fingertips striking them with decided

firmness.


 

The second important point is this: avoid

resting the violin on the shoulder or, vice versa,

shoving the shoulder underneath the violin.

The placing of a cushion beneath the back of

the instrument, in order to lend a more secure

support to the chin grip, should also be avoided.

These are bad habits which one should from the

very start carefully avoid, since they not only

spoil the violinist's pose in general, but-and

this is extremely important-they make the

player lose at least a third of the whole body

of tone which his violin is capable of producing.


 

As for the chin-rest, the one used should be

adapted to the individual neck, so that by means

of it the player is able to hold the instrument

easily and without strain. Those violinists

who rest the instrument against the shoulder,

and place a cushion at its back-both of which

act as mutes-evidently have no notion of the

disastrous effect this arrangement has on their

tone.


 

Always try to raise your violin as high as

possible, in order to secure for your hand the

greatest freedom of movement from one position

to another. This may be accomplished by

slightly advancing the left arm toward the

chest.


 

Endeavor always to lessen the distance between

the arms, to bring them together by inclining

the body slightly to the left, yet without

resting the left arm against the front of

the body. At first you will not find it at all

easy to raise the violin without support, but

in the course of time one accustoms oneself to

it, with a resultant gain in facility in reaching

the higher positions, as well as in the playing

of rapid descending passages."

 

July 25, 2009 at 09:16 PM ·

I have a short neck as well.  In the last twelve years, I have found that playing without a shoulder rest makes it worse; he's right, it DOES hurt.  I suggest lowering his shoulder a bit while playing: it will be uncomfortable for a while, but eventually the muscles will learn how to adjust.  Also, the farther he can bring his left arm around while he's shifting, etc. he will feel less tension.  If you can't simplify his posture by simple adjustments, try taking his violin into a luthier and having it fitted with a thinner chin rest.  Even better, find a thinner shoulder rest to minimized the thickness of his instrument.

But, I would like to point out that the length of the neck isn't as important as the length of the fingers and arm.  I teach and I see students who have short necks turn out to be very nice players becuase the rest of their  posture (including a straight back) is correct.  If he is still struggling to stretch his neck after correcting every possible aspect of his posture, a different instrument may be prudent to invest in.

REVISION: I just watched his video.  He's gradually working toward great succes with his instrument.  I would suggest putting the instrument up a little higher on his shoulder.  He seems to have the instrument on the front of his shoulder instead of the top. This causes his chin to point forward.  My instructor always says "chin towards thumb"  It works quite well.  No matter how short his neck is or how wrong the shoulder rest may be, holding the violin with his left hand is not going to make his neck any more comfortable.  He absolutely must correct that bit of posture; it may have contributed to the shuolder problems he experienced earlier.

Best of luck!

July 26, 2009 at 11:00 AM ·

 Greetings,

>I have found that playing without a shoulder rest makes it worse; he's right, it DOES hurt. 

With all due respect the original claim was that it hurt for everybody. That was patently false. Again with all due respect, if it hurt in your case you were not exploring all the possibilities or dfferences,  perhaps with some guidance from someone who knows how to do it.   For example, I have an extremely high level amateur violinist friend who suddenly decided to play without a rest at a rehearsal I was witnessing.  He had no awarness of the basic principles and hunched his shoulder up to support the instrrument.  After three hours he complained of acute disconfort which he could have remedied simply by not raisng the shoulder. He just assumed this wa snecessary. The idea that playing without a shoulder rest is painful is not generalizable.

The violin does not rest on top of the shoulder.  I would not recommend him trying to make such a change.  It actually rests on the collar bone when playing restless. It isn`t going to help trying to ove the violin even higher up with that rest on.What is clear from the video is that the violin is held at too low an angle thus he is bowing consistently too near the fingerboard. His use of sound points as he plays higher notes is not so effective,  especially on the e string.  He is also bowing around te body to some extent instead of making a curving forward motion and the reverse.

The simple way to find the position of the violin inrelation to the body is to place it where the one can play at the point without the arm over extended or too bent.  Instead of manipulating teh scroll back and forth it is advisable to experiment with where the jaw rests on the chin rest.  The height of the violin is found siply by looking in a mirror. One raises the isntruemnt until the fingerfingerboard is no longer visible in the reflection

Cool playing by the way....

Cheers,

Buri

 

July 27, 2009 at 07:16 AM ·

Hi Buri,

Er, we're sort of embarrassed to ask this (because we probably should know this by now) but what is a "sound point"?  Also, I know my son came in to his new teacher (well, not so new now as he's been with him for 1 3/4 years now) with some reaallly bad habits and it's taken this long just to begin to alter some of these habits such as low bow arm (still working on that!).

 I imagine it will take another several years to begin to undo some of these other bad habits such as placement of violin, placement of bow, posture, etc.  I think fiddling and baseball work against him! (But he has such fun doing both)

 I remember, as a dancer, taking about a year (after dancing for probably 10-12 years) to make a slight wrist adjustment in my 1st position arms; this was nothing major, mind you, but my muscle memory had locked in something incorrectly and it took that long to make the change become second nature.

Ron, very interesting quote from Auer's book!  And the video of Heifetz seemed to confirm the quote.

Jacob, I am sure my son will continue to have to make adjustments since he is still growing so I'm not imagining perfect solutions to all the problems; definitely wants to be working in that direction, though!

Buri, my son said thanks for encouragement (he loves the word "cool", too). :-)

July 27, 2009 at 10:45 AM ·

 Greetings,

basic tone production is a factor of the relationship between 3 elements (always wanted to say that):   weight,  bow speed and sound point (SP)  .  It is helpful to imagine the bow traveling on five differnet roads (SPs) between the bridge and fingerboard.( SP 1 is the bridge. SP2 between bridge and middle.  SP3 is halway between bridge and fingerboard. SP4 is halway between middle and fingerboard. AP5 is near fingerboard.) This changes according to were the best posisle sound is for a given use of arm weight and bow speed. This is necessary because the width and length of the string is variable. Thus playing fast otes on the g string in te upper half one would be nearer the finger board.  Assuming speed and weight is constant, As one goes across the strings they becomes slimmer so one playes nearer to the bridge in order not to crush the sound. As one goes into the hiher podsitions the shortened e stirng will simply not take the weight unlss one playes very near the bridge.   

I use the exercises from Basics to teach the differences.  Here is an example your son could work on.

1) Whole bows on SP 5 (nearest the fingerboard) no vibrato.   Stay on the same note,  any string.  mm=80. Repeat many times. Find the optimum sound.(mp) quarter noes

2)WBs.  SP4.  MM75 (mf) quarter notes (slightly slower and heavier)

3)  WBs SP3. mm70. (f) quarter notes (slower and heavier)

4)  WBs sp2 (half notes) ff  mm: half note =56 (slower and heavier)

5) SP1 (bridge) f.  whole note mm=40 (very slow and heavy)

This is just one example. There are a large number in Basics.  Daily pracitce of these exercises will rapidly develo bowing technique.

Another way to get to grips with SPs is to take a short phrase from the current piece.  Play it on SP five until you have the most effective bow speed and weight IE the best posisble sound. It does not matter what the original dynamic and tempo is.   Repeat many times. Now repeat procedure staying strictly on SP4.  The bow will have to move a little slower and heavier, the tempo and dynamic will change a little. Repeat many times.  Repeat procedur eon SP3. When you do it on SP 1 (very diffcult) the tempo will be really slow and the weight being fed in substantial.

After doing this exercise simply play the phras ewithout thinking aout technique. Just listen and play it exactly as you hear itin your hea dand wish it in a perfromance.  The result will be extraordinary because of te increased sensitivity you have created to the differnet possibilties and feelings of plaing on various SPs.  Pracitce the next phras ein the same way and so on.  Working on a piec eof music in this wa shas -huge- tonal benifits as well as improving overall playing.

Cheers,

Buri

 

July 27, 2009 at 03:27 PM ·

 My profile picture (just click on my name) shows how I hold the violin without a shoulder rest. The shoulder isn't involved.

July 27, 2009 at 08:27 PM ·

 Greetings,

you might check out the following

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd09TccoJRk

It`s easy to see in the Bruch how she moves the bow neraer and further away from the bridge according to all the facotrs I mentioned above.  A very good demonstartion of the point is the ffirst four part chord.   In order for the lower strings to ring they need to be played nearer the fingerboard with a slower bow stroke.  The bow actually then moves close to the bridge for the upper notes.  I didn`t post the link but its easy to find.  See same player at age 13 playign Praeludium and Allgro. Notice how effortlessly she holds the violin high without a shoulder rest.  The position is perfec.  (Can`t stand the bow arm though;))

Cheers,

Buri

Moving th

July 27, 2009 at 09:43 PM ·

Whew!  So that's how it's supposed to look! :-)  She's amazing!  Thanks for sharing the link. (We also viewed her Preludium and Paganini at age 13)  Umm, gives a young player a pretty high target. LOL 

July 28, 2009 at 03:09 AM ·

 I wouldn't hold this out as an example of a good shoulder restless hold. Her head is locked in place and the violin is too high on the shoulder.  I predict early retirement.

July 28, 2009 at 05:22 AM ·

 Greetings,

sorry. I think you are mixing up my examples.  The Bruch shows clearly good use of SPs.  I agree with you about the violin being so high.  Her playing is tense to me.

The example of a good violin position is her 1991 recording of the Kreisler.  When the camera come in at an angle over the scroll it show excellent pplacement of the instrument on her collar bone and neck.  the shoulder is not raised at all.

Cheers,

Buri 

July 28, 2009 at 08:46 PM ·

 But even in the 1991 recording her head is locked tight. 

August 1, 2009 at 01:59 PM ·

FWIW,

I met with Lynne Denig this week and I am going restless to see if I can improve my sound.  She measured my neck length and determined that I need a chin rest that is raised by 15mm.  Apparently, I have a long neck, not the longest she has seen, but it is on the long side; hence the need for a higher chin rest.  In place of the shoulder rest, I am using a thin cosmetic sponge fastened to the underside of the instrument with a rubber band.

Here are a few observations after 3 days of playing restless.  First of all, I have to say, it is not an easy change to make.  After years of playing with a shoulder rest, it feels pretty awkward to play without one.  Shifting (especially shifting down) and vibrato are very difficult.  Actually, "different" is probably a more accurate term to use.  A shoulder rest tends to lock the violin in place, so one develops technique to take advantage of that fact.  When the rest is removed, shifting and vibrato require a different technique. 

Playing restless really exposes the bad habit of raising (e.g., scrunching up) the left shoulder.  I have devoted quite a bit of time the past few days just watching my left shoulder in the mirror and making sure I keep it low and relaxed.  It's amazingly hard to suppress the impulse of raising my left shoulder after years of playing that way. 

The first day after removing the rest was absolutely miserable.  I basically was unable to play. Now after 3 days, it is still pretty rough, but I am starting to get the knack of it.  I have spent quite a bit of time just working on shifting, and also I am re-learning vibrato from scratch, with quarter note vibrations at mm=80. 

One thing I have noticed, playing without a rest frees up the violin, so it allows for more movement and relaxation of the left side.  Left and right sides being symmetrical, this should translate to a more relaxed right side too.  It is my hope that over time, the more relaxed playing will result in a better sound -- perhaps even that elusive "professional" sound that I am seeking.  That has yet to happen, but hopefully, the pain I am going through will lead to a long term payoff.

 [Edit] One more thing.  My collar bone gets a bit achy.  It's not used to having a hard piece of wood sitting on it.

August 1, 2009 at 11:34 PM ·

Hello Smiley,

Try a folded chamios on your collarbone. Secure and comfortable.

All the best, Carol

August 4, 2009 at 12:18 AM ·

Hi Smiley,

Thanks a bunch for sharing the results of both your visit and the new experience of playing without a rest. My son read your "review" with interest.  I guess as with anything, hard work and time will pay off.  I'll encourage my son to continue to explore rest/no rest options.  

August 4, 2009 at 01:16 AM ·

In response to Buri's response to my comment-

Actually, by "any of that," I was referring to all of that, shoulder rest, pad, chinrest, everything. And although I certainly could have been clearer, I didn't mean the great virtuosos of the past (who, by the way, all played in formal attire. Including jackets. You know, the ones with shoulder pads), I meant the average musician. In addition, contemporary reports are rather enthusiastic, but contemporary standards were rather lower back then, too.

Wow. That had very little relevancy to the discussion.

 

Of relevancy to the discussion-

I met a violin teacher at camp who said that she doesn't let her students use shoulder rests unless their necks are so long that they simply can't use pads. I believe it has been stated above several times, but for shorter necks, I'd imagine pads are better.

As long as your son is reading some of these comments, I'd like to ask him: where and how EXACTLY does it hurt when you play without a shoulder rest? If it hurts your collar bone because the violin doesn't normally rest there, that is a good thing (not the pain part, keep reading for explanation)! The violin is supposed to be there, you can avoid irritation by placing a cloth between you and the violin or metal part of the chinrest or whichever part hurts you.

August 4, 2009 at 03:49 AM ·

 Greetings,

>It's true that people used to play violin without any of that, but they used to play pretty badly too, and I imagine with a lot of pain.

Jacob, I have to confess I am still confused a little about whom you are talking.  I respectfully suggest dismissing the idea that the average musician of any era played with a lot of pain.  That is imagination.   How rapidly the chin rest caught on after Spohr I don`t don`t know since I am not a violinist historian.   My apologies if I am misisng your point but you seem to be implying that aside form the greta virtuosi of the late 19 and early 20C , the average musician played with pain and wasn`t very good. That is pretty debatable.

I agree with you that some great players did make good use of labels or some slight padding with formal dress but that conveniently ignores not only those that didn`t but also the women. It also ignores the fact that they frequently played without since it wasn`t necessary.   I cannot see any meaning in the suggestion that the average player of the Heifetz era eithe rplayed badly or was in pain,  in particluar form not using a shoudler rets or chinrest.   

I wonder if you could specify who exactly you mean,  during what time span and whether you attribute either pain or lack of abilty to using or not using either/or a shoulder rest?

I cannot see why this is off topic.

Cheers,

Buri

August 4, 2009 at 07:10 PM ·

I hope we can at least agree that we  violinists seek  physical  or perhaps I should say physiological freedom in our playing. I venture to guess that cellists do not complain too often about neck pain as the result of their physical approach to the instrument, so the neck issues seem to occur with violinists and violists primarily.  It seems to me there is something about the way people approach supporting the violin that leads them on a path that either increases pain, tension, and physical difficulties in playing the instrument or keeps it to a minimum, age-related deterioration or weakening of the muscles and joints not-withstanding.

  It also seems to me that this support cannot be isolated simply in dealing with the neck  height alone. How one carries oneself in one's basic posture, seated or standing, and how one's awareness of one area of the body moving in relation to another are crucial elements. So is breathing and the relative density or lack thereof in the muscle tissue. Some people are more prone to injury or courting with pain because of their physiological make-up. Mental focus and the psychological dimension also plays a role. Frustration can lead to further tensing and these things feed on each other in a dangerous downward spiral of debilitation.

   Though there are many factors involved, I think it helps to take a close look at when and under what circumstances pain or physical tension occurs. This is different than the situation where one is using muscles one has not used because a different means of support is being called upon as Oliver Steiner describes in learning to work without a shoulder rest when one has always been used to using one.

     If I'm not mistaken, all the nerves in our body proceed from the base of the brain travelling down the neck to the spinal column and radiating out from there to the rest of the body. Though, as I said before, it is not the only factor in dealing with tension,  what you do to your neck in the process of playing the violin is a serious matter since nerve damage is something to be avoided.

     In the next post I will pose the question of how you go about monitoring the physical ease and lack of tension, first in the neck, and then elsewhere.

August 5, 2009 at 04:38 AM ·

In my own experimentation, and with my students, I began wondering if it was really necessary to turn the neck that much to look down the fingerboard and if the typical left of center cups to most chin rests really worked well for most chin and jaw types. Mimi Zweig mentioned that one should be able to use peripheral vision when needed for looking at the fingerboard and that the head and neck should be free to move but  that their basic position was a straight ahead look without turning or twisting. If the chin rest fit the jaw/chin appropriately and the violin rested on the collar bone there would be no need for compression and squeezing of any kind to "secure" a "hold". I relinquished use of a shoulder rest and ended up with a single acoustifoam pad and a  center cup Berber/Ohrenform type chin rest with a bit of cork added. With this set up, it was possible to hold the violin in the hand, rest on the collar bone, not feel any need to push the left shoulder over or in for support and reach comfortably to the end of the bow reasonably straight, that is, with the contact point remaining stable when no diminuendo was desired.

      A few questions to consider:

   For those who use no shoulder rest, do you rely only on one or more of the following to support the violin:  the back of the instrument resting on the collar bone, the resting of the natural weight from the head onto the chin rest, a raised chin rest to not require much dropping in the head for the chin/jaw to rest on the chin rest, any movement from the shoulder to create a broader base beyond the collar bone for holding the instrument,  an active use of the hand  throught the thumb and edge of the index finger on the other side to hold the violin up, or any other movements or parts of the body to assist in supporting the instrument with stability and freedom? Do you change the tilt of the violin and if so, how do you do so  when you feel an adjustment  in the tilt is needed?

 For those who use a shoulder pad, sponge or some kind of padding but not a shoulder rest that attaches at either end of the bout of the violin, do you rely on the pad to fill in the gap between the bottom of the violin and where your collarbone extends toward your shoulder as a significant area of support or do you still feel the primary support in the collar bone or elserwhere?   Do you change the tilt of the violin and if so, how do you do so when you feel an adjustment  in the tilt is needed?

  For those who use a shoulder rest, do you rely on it as a primary means of support or is it there primarily to fill in the gap and not a strong or primary means of supporting? Do you still use your hand to support the violin in any way? Do you still feel your violin  resting  on your collar bone ?  Do you change the tilt of  the  violin and if so how so, how do you do so  when you feel an adjustment in the tilt  is needed?


  I ask these questions in relation to the question about short necks and  the neck/shoulder area in general because depending on your choices or preferences, the consequences for comfort and avoidance of pain are significant. I hope the insights you share will be relevant to Rebecca and her son's search for comfort  and ease of playing and continued progress with the violin and to all of us for that matter.

 

  

 

 

August 17, 2009 at 10:09 AM ·

I managed to get my Kun a few more millimetres lower than it was designed to go.  It involved a little surgery which I documented.

The Shortest Kun of All

August 18, 2009 at 12:53 AM ·

Hello, this is my first post. In my profile i have explained that i am posting also on behalf of my father, Bill, a retired violinist now almost 102 years old (!),

This is the very first time we have heard of a short neck being considered a handicap to a fiddler! 

My father says that in his day there were no shoulder rests and it was considered a good thing to have a short neck (notice the photo in my profile of my father with Mischa Mischakoff, both with very short necks!).
When shoulder rests were first introduced they were taken up mostly by violinists with long necks, and older musicians like my father  felt that the rest affected the sound.
Nathan MilsteinItzak PerlmanIsaac Stern and Mischa Elman come to mind...

 

August 18, 2009 at 02:53 PM ·

Lisa, we call this natural selection and it is a well known fact that it exists in sportive disciplines.  Can we hide that the violin has a good sportive or physical aspect...  In Russia, in my teachers day, it was totally appropriate to select students not only for their good musical heads but also for their body aptitudes for violin.  They used to check everything like show dogs (neck, shoulders, hand width, size of fingers...) the minute they had a prospective student. The goal was to make prodigies not to play for fun like we do nowadays.  Of course a total lack of ethic in this practice and many soloists with long necks of our days that have to use a rest would have been eliminated (how sad).  

But your father is right. One thing to mentionned though is that it is false to tell that short necks need 0 support of any sort. In the elder days, people hided all sorts of pads, sponges, fold towels under their coats... (I noticed this on such players as Orchestra members and soloists themselves) Like what, humankind is imaginative and always tried to find a solution. 

Not to mentionned that when I see professionnal good level orchestras, I seek for long necks and saddly cannot say it is the majority. But there is always a few, hurrah!!!!! Bravo to them!

Hope Rebecca finds a solution for her son.

Anne-Marie

August 20, 2009 at 10:17 PM ·


 

 

Anne-Marie, thanks for your reply!

 

Natural Selection, yes of course!

There are certainly physiques that lend themselves to one or other instrument, exactly like in sports. This is why i read Rebecca's post to my dad- because i understood that she was stating that a short neck is a handicap and i always assumed it was an asset,..?

In Italy during the Golden Age of Singing, voice teachers actually examined prospective students physically,  much like race horses (or, as you say, show dogs). And, yes, the goal was to make fine singers, and there was strict criteria to be followed.

Yes, my father agrees with what you say, that it is a mistake to discourage support if one feels some need for it, although he says that he never knew anyone personally who who used to HIDE support. He did know some fiddlers who would use simply a handkerchief, usually for protecting the varnish from sweat! 

This brings to mind a different question:If a child begins on the violin but then grows into a very long-limbed adult, say, way over six feet, what advice would you have? Is there such a thing as being just "too large" to play the violin?

Lisa

 

August 20, 2009 at 10:26 PM ·

Hi Rebecca,

  Short necks usually necessitate very thin and very short shoulder rests. There are many kinds of models out there. I would suggest that you have your son go to a violin shop and try before you buy!

  Also, is he tense in the neck? Could he be pressing down on his chin/jaw? Many times, what seems like a shoulder-rest problem is really the result of posture problems, incorrect positioning of the violin, or bad technique.

  Good luck!

Daniel

August 21, 2009 at 01:19 AM ·

My neck is so short I can't even use a shoulder rest at all, let alone a slim one. Unless someone invents a micro-thin pad or something along those lines, I'll continue to do without.

August 21, 2009 at 01:28 AM ·

Hi Daniel,

Yes, my son and I have been planning to go to a violin shop and try out various rests, both shoulder and chin, but he's so busy!!!  Summer was no break at all and now he starts back to school next week.  Ugh!  We went to one local shop and he inquired about the Acoustifoam rest but they didn't carry it.  That was the extent of our looking!!  He did experiment with playing sans a shoulder rest (didn't like it) but for now, he's still doing what he did before pretty much.  He did say he feels he can't turn his neck very far to the side, either, and thinks maybe a center placed chin rest might be good.  When will he find the time to experiment?  Who knows!

Earlier in the thread, I posted a couple of his videos.  I'll post again after his next solo which will probably be in October. (Weinowski concerto)  We'll see if he's made any changes/improvements.  Right now, I've just left everything to he and his teacher (probably a good thing).

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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