Busty Troubles

November 22, 2009 at 08:07 PM ·

Hey Everyone,

I have a serious problem.  Every male teacher or flat-chested female teacher I have tells me to stop moving my right arm when I play.  My elbow moves back on a down-bow inside of pushing in.  I have worked on it; I've improved greatly, but my arm still moves out.

With self-observation, I have come to realize that my problem stems from comfort issues.  If I push my elbow in, I am hitting my right 40D sized chest.  So, I am not sure my problem is fixable without a breast reduction!

But before I jump to that conclusion, I'd like to ask if other big-chested women have a problem similar to mine when it comes to the right arm movement. What can I do to develop an awesome bow arm?

Let me know.




Replies (21)

November 22, 2009 at 09:55 PM ·

Actually, I find on certain bow strokes that if I'm against the right side of my chest, I'm doing it right!  I don't find it uncomfortable, though.

November 22, 2009 at 10:16 PM ·

It's not that it's uncomfortable initially.  It's when my teachers tell me to move my arm in more.  Or when I'm on the E-string doing an up-bow, my forearm comes up and hits something vital.  So in order not to hit my right chest, I must move my whole arm back instead of the standard motion of just using the forearm for down and up-bows! 

Maybe I'll just do a "Queen Latifah" and get my breast size reduced.  How much does that cost?  Anybody....?

November 22, 2009 at 10:34 PM ·

I always though that having something on the chest may it be big breast for females or "fattish" males was good to offer support to the violin resting on the collar bone area. I'm just bones and find it's tough without chest padding (may it be from annything as I mentionned in my upper post). But for the bowing... I've heard stories about bowing around bellies (men with big bellies) but breast???   Maybe it's similar?

Good luck!


November 22, 2009 at 10:49 PM ·

Maybe raising your upper right arm and elbow a bit would help? I'm not quite as endowed as some, but I do find that having my right arm too low leads to some of the problems Jasmine described. When I was pregnant, raising my arm was one of the first adjustments I had to make, even before my stomach got larger.

Also, it is possible to move your upper right arm backwards a bit when you get near the tip of the bow and still maintain the sounding point. The bow angle may change relative to the string, but if you're paying attention, you can still get a decent sound and keep the bow steady as you go back up towards the middle. I had one male teacher with a large gut who did that, and I had to do it myself at the end of my pregnancy.

Would it also help to bring the violin a bit more around to the front? Of course, if you go too far, you'll run into the same problem with the left arm!

November 23, 2009 at 02:49 AM ·

Jasmine, I'm only offering you information in regards to a breast reduction.  I don't have the same situation as you so I can't offer suggestions.  However, should you in the future decide to have a reduction, consult with your doctor.  In most cases, the surgery is recommended for health reasons so your insurance provider will cover the costs, minus any deductibles on your policy.

An ample bosom often leads to chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, headaches, etc.  These are all issues that medical insurance will cover because removing the extra weight invariably cures the health problems.

November 24, 2009 at 01:03 PM ·

I sympathize.  Although I've never seen it as a problem, slight modifications are necessary.  So be it.  I also have an excrutiatingly short pinky and I wish there was a surgery available for that.

On another note, do you ever feel uncomfortable in terms of appearance on stage?  Fast passages and tremolos are particularly terrifying and movement is innevitable.  Good supportive undergarments are necessary and include minimizers and sportswear.

November 24, 2009 at 01:33 PM ·

If you don't play on a shoulder rest, try to rotate the violin to the back so the E string angle raised. You'll have to move your head backwards, though. Commonly violinist will move the head forward or bow a little to reach the G string without raising right elbow too high, so you just think of moving the opposite side.

If you play on shoulder rest, consider changing it for a pad foam, or those shoulder rest that offer more flexible pad rather than those shaped to fit the shoulder.

November 24, 2009 at 02:33 PM ·

I'm with Amy and Casey to a certain extent. I'm a male, but I've had a few busty female students who didn't have a problem using my approach, which calls for the violin fairly in front, and relatively flat, with the right arm a bit on the high side. For more details see the writings section on my site: http://rkviolin.com


November 24, 2009 at 03:43 PM ·

Jasmine, I totally understand where you're coming from!!  Something that male teachers often don't address is that, compounding the problem of the chest getting in the way,  womens' shoulders don't' have the same projection as mens' do so our upper arms don't have the same type of rotation (imposslble to describe, I'd have to draw it :p) Anyway, my new teacher this year had me do this figure-eight bow exercise and after three weeks of my chest  getting in the way, I decided to give in and let my arm move-and got results.  As long as you don't move by raising your shoulder, and make sure that the angle of your bow is OK with relation to the bridge, I think a slight motion in the upper arm might HELP the sound.  In a case like this, I think that the sound should be the ultimate goal and the technique should be secondary to that! (And a high right elbow definitely, definitely helps). 

  Something that I've found helps a LOT is straightening the back and holding the violin a la Heifetz. It seems like it would be completely counterproductive (not gonna explain this one, but I'm sure you get the idea!) but what it does is forces the upper arms to fall further towards the back of the torso rather than being hung up around the front.  That doesn't work for every body type though, and to make it work, a shoulder rest is pretty much a given. Another point there-have you tried a shoulder rest? My teacher made me start using one after ten years without this year,  and after two weeks of adjustment hell,  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it really helped my right arm a lot! 

Finally, you might want to adjust the angle at which you hold the violin on the collarbone.  Isaak Vigdorchik's "Violin Playing:A Phyisological Approach" has a wonderful chapter on this.  Pointing the scroll a little bit more to the front as opposed to the left should allow your right arm a lot more clearance.  Good luck-hope this helps!

November 25, 2009 at 12:29 AM ·

Try holding your violin and your left arm up high and away from your body.  This is good advice for all violinists, regardless of size and shape.

November 25, 2009 at 02:17 AM ·

A couple of thoughts:

If a normal "reduction" is too expensive, perhaps you could save some money by having only the problematic side reduced. :-)

Maybe a "directional" bra could be designed. We'll call it the "stage left"?


November 26, 2009 at 09:13 PM ·

David, that is funny!

But back to the question...try a fully boned rennaissance style corset. Depending on how you adjust it, It can flatten your profile, or give you  breathtaking clevage and instant effortless perfect posture (though you won't be able to bend at the waist) and double as a great costume accessory. They are quite comfortable, once you have them on, but you have to remember your abdominal breathing...

Keep fiddling y'all!

November 26, 2009 at 09:37 PM ·


I totally sympathize with your situtation as I once struggled with the same thing.  Here is a suggestion that's out in left field...but it works for me. 

Along with playing the violin I also ride horses and there is nothing like riding a sitting trot to bring attention to certain body parts.  So when I play I use a bra that is specifically designed for female equestrians who need extra support around the bust.  Trust me...you will not move when you're wearing this bra and it's also very comfortable and flattering.  I included the link if you're interested in taking a look.  Good luck!


November 26, 2009 at 11:31 PM ·

Maybe make a bra with a built in shoulder rest?

Call it the "Bra-vado" ?

November 27, 2009 at 07:49 PM ·

 I can't say I have much advice, but this did remind me of a conversation at a symphony rehearsal a few years ago... The cellist was complaining because she can't wear a "good" bra while she plays, because it makes her cello stick out too far. So when she plays she wears something to flatten her out :)

November 27, 2009 at 08:41 PM ·



Royce suggested "Bra-vado," but the context suggests something else...

I'd go with "Bra-va."

All the best,


November 27, 2009 at 08:48 PM ·

How about the Bra-Vo? Or that be for guys with Moobs?  Now how would SHAR present it in their catalog?

November 28, 2009 at 02:11 AM ·

Kudos for bringing up an overlooked subject.  There has been more than one occasion when I have sat in a class biting my tongue, thinking, "She can't do that, there's something in the way...that you don't have!" 

I never found it to be a problem with playing but with undergrad conducting (where the teachers, of course, are even more predominantly male!) I had to make a small adjustment.

November 28, 2009 at 02:24 AM ·

Usually, girls all want to have bigger ones... perhaps the bra logo "small is beautiful" has been invented by a violinist ; )


Seriously, hope you find a solution.

November 30, 2009 at 07:46 PM ·

Thanks everyone for the responses!  I am working on it, but it's harder than expected.  I think my right breast and the way my arm moves is also having an effect on my bow speed, pressure and sounding point--which is not good.  So, I do need to figure out a way to bypass the nipple.  Maybe if I just keep hitting it, a callous will grow and then I won't notice it anymore.  Wow, breast callous--that sounds disgusting.

November 30, 2009 at 08:38 PM ·

My wife was a professional athlete. Her problem was the golf swing so she would understand your problem perfectly.

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