Vibrato/Health

December 5, 2011 at 06:50 AM · As I mentioned in the summary I am having issues with my teeth and chin after practicing vibrato for about 1 hour.

Basically every time my left index finger doesn't touch the neck I do feel all the weight of my hand/violin in my chin (so I guess it's here where I am failing? but I found it was a lot easier having the left hand relaxed this way).

This week my teacher said to work more on the vibrato, he said to play "scales" with vibrato but I don't feel ready and made my own exercise (of course respecting his goals which were to start slow and gradually increase):

Metronome 60bpm:

Beep................Beep

slow 1(normal position) 2(flat)

Beep................Beep

fast 1(normal pos) 2(flat) 3(norm pos) 4(flat)

I keep increasing till I feel stiffness in my left hand then back to slow or time to change finger!

Replies (28)

December 5, 2011 at 09:37 AM · I sounds like you might be clamping down too hard on your violin. The ratio of head weight to violin weight is usually about 10-1 so you need less than you might believe. When I was younger I used to reach for my violin with my head and a teacher of mine once told me to set up my violin position thusly:

1. First stand with your posture as good as you can make it. Look straight forward with your head held high.

2. Place the violin with the closest bottom edge resting on your collarbone (even if you use a shoulder rest this edge MUST rest on the collarbone. No exceptions).

3. Now look to the left with your head as if you are checking for traffic. Your jaw should come to rest in the cup of your chin rest without having to reach for it with your head. From here on the weight of your head should be enough without clamping down.

Good luck :)

December 5, 2011 at 10:01 AM · You don't need to practice vibrato for a hour straight, 15 min. two or three times a day is enough. You learn quicker when the time is divided.

December 5, 2011 at 10:37 AM · First, a tip from Simon Fischer that I find very helpful. When placing the head on the chin rest, he recommends using two distinct movements. 1) Turn the head to the left 2) Then drop the chin gently. It sounds like a small point, but compared to just dropping your chin in a single movement you achieve a much more relaxing and ergonomically correct position. Try if for yourself and you'll see.

Second, practicing a skill such as vibrato that uses unfamiliar muscles should be built up very gradually. An hour is far too long and you're just asking for injury. Personally, I would suggest that even 15 minutes is too long to start with. I do 5 minutes a couple of times a day, and I'm making quite quick progress. If you can get hold of a copy, the vibrato exercises in Simon Fischer's book Basics are excellent.

December 5, 2011 at 01:21 PM · Your chinrest/shoulder rest combo may not fit you body shape well. If you don't use a shoulder rest, you might be a candidate to consider one. (No firestorms, please, people.) Sue

December 5, 2011 at 10:16 PM · Today I divided my vibrato practice in 4 sessions of 15 minutes and voilĂ  no pain at all!

It was so simple to fix, well guess I learned the lesson however I might consider using new shoulder rest or maybe change my chin rest since I always play with my chin in the middle of the violin and not in the cup.

Thanks everyone!

December 6, 2011 at 12:13 AM · I still think that 60 minutes a day is overdoing it, and is likely to slow down your progress rather than speeding it up.

Prof Sassmannshaus recommends spending just 3-5 minutes a day on each technical exercise, covering 15 - 20 different exercises in an hour. His kids make remarkable progress, and achieve virtuoso level before they head off for college.

December 6, 2011 at 05:01 AM · Greetings,

Geoff the point you mention of course comes from Simon but he is very knowledgeable in Alexander Technique where it originated. It is considered vital rather thna a small point and virtualy all player sget it wrong which is one reason playing the violin is apparently so difficult and stressful. The physiological explanation concerns the role of the vertabrae at the top of the spine. The nodding function of the head and the lateral rotation exist independently. Combine the two and the combination action makes the vertabrae do thinsg they are not supposed to do resulting in tension in the uppe rspine, blockages and even serious damage. Every violnist should be taught this fundamentla precept from the firts lesosn or so.

Cheers,

Buri

December 6, 2011 at 09:27 AM · Buri - amen to that! With my background in yoga, I couldn't agree more...

Filipe - I would advise getting a properly fitting chin rest as a matter of urgency, if you value your health. You'll find the best information on how to fit one here. There is priceless information on this site if you want to play freely and without injury.

Personally I find no need for a shoulder rest now I have a decently fitting chin rest. So sort out the chin rest before you decide about using a shoulder rest.

December 6, 2011 at 03:32 PM · Any chance you suffer from Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)? If you do it may not have anything to do with the violin.

Do you grind your teeth or clinch your jaw while playing? Or do you grind or clench your jaw when sleeping? Has a dentist ever told you that you might be susceptible to TMJ because of the anatomy of your jaw or teeth?

December 6, 2011 at 03:36 PM · good call, tony. always a possibility.

what i am not clear about is that the op complains of pain on the RIGHT side. which side of the chin does the chin rest touch on?

December 6, 2011 at 03:45 PM · If it's TMJ it wouldn't matter which side of the face the violin is resting upon since each individual may clinch or grind on either left or right side.

I have to wear an acrylic night guard that my dentist made to keep me from destroying my teeth while sleeping at night. I sometimes wear it during the day too when I find myself grinding the teeth. I do it without thinking and the guard is the only answer at this time.

I was told by my dentist when I was about 14 that I needed braces and may suffer from TMJ later in life around age 40. He was right, but because I was seriously playing the trumpet at the time I passed on the braces. My dad should have intervened and made me get braces but that's a different matter.

The only correction at this point is to have my jaw broken and reset. Major surgery that I observed with one of my patients when I was in nursing school. He was around 21 years old and had a protruding jaw (Prognathism, also known as Habsburg Jaw. I don't have this problem though.) The surgeon reduced it during what was some of the most gruesome surgery I've ever witnessed. Ortho surgery is rough anyway.

But for me, at this point in life, I'm going to have to pass on the jaw surgery. Not going to take the risk.

December 6, 2011 at 05:12 PM · Don't try to diagnose yourself with TMJ. Leave that to a medical specialist. Sometimes stresses can manifest themselves on the "wrong" side of the body from where the action is because of transferred tensions.

I had some chin-clamping issues and I addressed them by buying a Kaufmann chin rest and then filing, sanding, or carving down the edges in places until I achieved a good fit. The other thing that I did was to move the side of my shoulder rest that is under my chinrest away from my neck by about 1/2 inch. That moved the fulcrum and gave me much more leverage to use the same head weight to hold up the violin more easily while also improving my overall posture. You have to be patient enough to make the small adjustments.

Sue said no firestorms for the shoulder rest, but somehow (don't ask me how) that made me think of Proverbs 24:33.

"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little use of the shoulder rest, and poverty will pounce on you like a vagabond, and scarcity like an armed man."

December 6, 2011 at 10:25 PM · Most of the time I try to play with my jaws not touching each other (E.G: like this :O) and sometimes I do it to fill the gap. I just discovered that because my teacher told me that I make funny faces while I am playing and I shouldn't.

@Geoff Caplan Thanks I will read it carefully but finding the correct chin-rest/shoulder-rest combo can be very frustrating...

@Tony Boone Well sometimes when I am really tense I might clinch my jaw while playing but it's rare.

While sleeping I don't know but I think it's a no...

My dentist never told me such thing but who knows!

@Paul Deck Yes, I think you are right better leave that to a medical specialist.

The main point is that I am no longer in pain so I was really overdoing it, but bah when I hear people that say "I used to pratice 5 to 14 hours a day" and I can't just bear more than 2 hours it gets me thinking hehe.

Ok fellows I will post few photos of my posture and hope it's al right.

photo1
photo2
photo3

December 6, 2011 at 11:16 PM · Filipe, what violin is that you're playing?

December 6, 2011 at 11:42 PM · Greetings,

for me, you are too far over to the right hand side of the tail piece. Your basic set up and posture needs changing. Try Alexander lesosns if you can get them.

Cheer,s

buri

December 6, 2011 at 11:47 PM · Filipe in photo 2 you can notice that your ears are in front of your shoulders. Your ears need to be aligned with your shoulders and hips. For every inch that your head goes forward you add 10 lbs weight. I would suggest a Wolfe Secondo shoulder rest with a Berber chinrest to start. Make adjustments to Shoulder rest in front of mirror with perfect posture in mind, this will give you years of comfort and ease of play. The KUN (or kun design) shoulder rest with the Guaneri chin rest is the most popular set up, but sadly it is by far the most dangerous to a violinist health , NEVER play a violin with this set up EVER.

Berber chin rest

http://www.sharmusic.com/Shop-Shar/Accessories/Parts/Chinrests/Berber-Ebony-Violin-Chinrest.axd

Posture and it's alignment, your number 4

http://bhls.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/how-to-improve-posture-posture-exercises-to-correct-bad-posture/

December 7, 2011 at 12:06 AM · @Paul Deck: I never suggested one perform self-diagnosis although I will do it myself as necessary. I know my body better than anyone else and have three decades of professional nursing behind me.

Most people with TMJ syndrome know they have it since it can be very painful, debilitating, and many times require medical intervention.

Charles said: "The KUN (or kun design) shoulder rest with the Guaneri chin rest is the most popular set up, but sadly it is by far the most dangerous to a violinist health , NEVER play a violin with this set up EVER."

I think that's the set up I have at the moment. Will have to take a picture and post it.

Never knew the violin was such a hazard to one's health and that there is a necessary athletic component to playing it.

December 7, 2011 at 01:47 AM · The Kun rest on it's own is Okay for violinist with short necks , the Gaurneri chin rest is designed to have your head rest into it like you would a pillow .

Buri , if you look at the experts who use Guarneri CR's ,they have the same chin placement as Filipe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vgCW1aD8X4&feature=channel_video_title

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbco9NuzxEw&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tDk5v4EDe4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_oDM7aDmoc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n0qXSO7Z-Q

I could list more

The good thing is that most ,if not all of these violinist have switched to center chin rest.

December 7, 2011 at 04:18 AM ·

my observation was based on other factors as well. It is correct.

December 7, 2011 at 04:24 AM · in fact, since I am just a tad peeved, I will note that the first `violinist` you show isn`t a competent classical performer. The second is ASM who we know uses a middle position rest so its not gremane. And sorry, I didn`t watch all of it but D Garret does not have his chin on the wrong side of the tail piece.

I can reassure my cat that I do know what I am talking about before it`s too late.

December 7, 2011 at 06:18 AM · Oh , I'am not saying it isn't correct, I am just saying it's one of the flaws when this chin rest is used and many players are unaware of the problem. We have to be careful with center chin rest also, the more the chin goes over the tailpiece the head may also come forward ,thus adding weight. I'm not a big fan of the Flesch CR for this reason.

December 7, 2011 at 01:46 PM · I agree about the Berber chin rest. For me it has proved much the best of the standard designs, primarily, I think, because it is higher and therefore allows a more natural and healthy neck position. And also because it is a little more central, which for me, at least, assists with playing restless.

On the downside, it has a deep cup which is only fully comfortable in one specific position. I believe a truly ergonomic design would allow for a wider range of comfortable head placements.

So yes - do try the Berber, as it's one of the best of a bad bunch.

But keep an eye open for the new Wolf Equilibrio system, which was designed in partnership with the University of Utrecht. This offers the hope that we will have, at last, a genuinely ergonomic option. Wolf tell me that they are hoping to overcome the production problems before too long.

December 7, 2011 at 03:05 PM · @Tony Boone My violin is a Chinese one, made by Liu Rong Guo.

@Buri Where I live there isn't much choice/info regarding violin teachers nor the methods that they teach so just by having one I am already happy!

@Charles Cook haha so true about #4!

I will give a try to Berber chin rest however I hope find it on sale in any website from EU otherwise It will take months to have it in my hand.

December 7, 2011 at 06:53 PM · Filipe

You'll find a thread about the Berber here.

Some manufacturers also call it the Ohrenform - exactly the same design, I believe.

I'm not a teacher, so wouldn't like to say from your photos whether the Berber might suit you. Hopefully someone more experienced can give you some advice. Buri - I know you have used the Berber - do you think it would be worth Filipe trying it out?

December 7, 2011 at 11:44 PM · @Geoff Thanks alot! I am so tempted after reading it!

I saw some folks complaining about the sound so I guess I will first try it on my old violin and see if it really fits my chin!

December is always bad for ordering stuff on-line so I will first take a peek on local stores in hope finding that type of model!

Do I need luthier to assemble the CR or is it an easy task such changing strings and that kind of stuff?

December 8, 2011 at 12:03 AM · Filipe

It is an easy task provided you are careful and use your common sense. But it is safest to order a chinrest key at the same time. This is used to tighten the clamps and won't cost much. You can improvise a tool for this but you'd have to be careful not to scratch your varnish and there is less danger if you use the right tool. Most online suppliers will stock them.

As for the sound - no problem for me. Just be careful that the chin rest does not touch the tailpiece - there isn't much clearance so you have to be quite precise.

December 8, 2011 at 06:36 PM · @Buri, it does seem odd to me when a player has a Guarneri type chin rest and then they don't make any use of the cup part of the chin rest, which seems to have the purpose of laying down your head so that a lot of the fleshy part of your jaw is in there. If your chin wants to be over the tail piece, why not get a chin rest that holds it there properly? I'm not really qualified to say whether it's improper though.

How about Ray Chen ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPUFb5fgwhc

December 8, 2011 at 10:00 PM · @Geof It seems will be funny, my old violin is like my test dummy haha I cut his bridge and nut just for fun.

I came across two websites that I use to buy and both they have Berber model, any will do it?

shop1

shop2

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