Droopy Violins

February 5, 2012 at 10:30 PM · I don't know if anyone else has noticed a trend, even among professional orchestra musicians, of playing with the scroll pointed downward?

My first thought was that it would make downshifting a precarious undertaking. Perhaps a pad or shoulder rest that adds enough traction would prevent slippage?

In the orchestra we saw last night (mix of seasoned players and amateurs) most violinists would start with the violin level, but they would soon appear to tire a bit and would end up with the scroll shooting toward the floor. A few just started that way and stayed droopy during the entire concert. But I don't recall ever seeing such droopiness in an entire violin section before.

So for you orchestra violinists, do you catch yourself drooping during the course of a performance? Or are you able to stave off fatigue and maintain a level head?

Replies (22)

February 5, 2012 at 11:52 PM · Mine droops. I'm usually so sore during a performance, esp. following a dress rehearsal, I can barely find a comfortable position to play in. A drooping violin is the least of it.

And no...I don't droop on purpose...

February 6, 2012 at 12:59 AM · I've noticed that I start to droop too. The sad thing is that I don't notice it on stage, I notice it in pictures. After examining my pictures, I've come to a conclusion that if the stand is to low; my violin droops. So, lately I've been keeping my stand high so I get used to staying level with the violin and when I dont't droop I'm more alert.

February 6, 2012 at 12:59 AM · I've noticed that I start to droop too. The sad thing is that I don't notice it on stage, I notice it in pictures. After examining my pictures, I've come to a conclusion that if the stand is to low; my violin droops. So, lately I've been keeping my stand high so I get used to staying level with the violin and when I dont't droop I'm more alert.

February 6, 2012 at 02:00 AM · OK, disclaimer: I am just an adult amateur player. That said, the way my violin is set up, chin rest, shoulder rest, etc., it's hard to droop. My violin sits up pretty horizontally even if I drop my hand. I see a lot of players who put their shoulder rests on their chests almost, and then, of course they droop. I also see a ton of players who use Guarneri type rests, and yet they have their chins over the tailpiece. They seem like they would be so much more comfortable with a Flesch-type center rest. So, I wonder how much set up matters here.

February 6, 2012 at 03:58 AM · Erica gets it, your less likely to droop if you have a good set up. If you start with your chin high, yet theres no support, you will end up with drooping. If the chin is supported properly, you will start high and most likely stay there. It's about the chin , once the chin starts falling forward everything else follows.

February 6, 2012 at 04:34 AM · is that always true though? i've read that it is the left arm/hand/inner side of index finger + inner side of the thumb that does the actual propping up with the chin/collar bone acting as the free-ish hinge at the other end. its then somewhat tricky to get the elbow to feel relaxed

February 6, 2012 at 04:48 AM · Your ears need to be aligned with your shoulder and hip. For every inch your head comes forward and away from this, the action adds 10 pounds or more of weight for your chin, back, shoulders and arm to support. The violin doesn't require any weight(or very little)from the head to support it. A violin weighs less than a pound, your head weighs 12 pounds.

February 6, 2012 at 01:32 PM · I am one that messed and messed with set up...and finally got the right mix. It's not that I am the best player, but my posture is great! I do not need much effort to hold my violin up. I do notice that I hold my violin much flatter and more out the the side than some players, who point it forward. It might be the chin rest (Berber) in which you turn your jaw/head sideways a bit, instead of using your chin.

February 6, 2012 at 07:57 PM · I tend to hold mine similar to how you describe, Erica, although I do not use a shoulder rest and the neck is supported gently by my left hand. It took a while to get used to keeping it up in playing position for long, because my arm would tire. As such I find that if I droop, I cannot shift, and vibrato is more difficult. Sometimes I am still guilty of the droop, though I use my rank amateur status as an excuse. :)

On a side note, I know a wonderful older lady whose instrument is plastered to her shoulder, and she tends to move all about while playing. If you were to place a paintbrush on the end of the scroll, she could paint you a Picasso. Absolutely no hint of droop there, lol, but rather distracting. :)

February 6, 2012 at 08:49 PM · I believe the droop is a direct consequence of having shoulder rests that are too high.

We want the level of the strings, at the point where we bow, not to be too far above the shoulder line, otherwise we have to raise the right arm uncomfortably high to get at the strings. So we either hold the fiddle lower (a la Milstein), or we point the scroll to the floor, to lower the strings.

In order to keep the violin level using a shoulder rest as a fulcrum, the principle of moments means that we have to apply considerably more weight at the chinrest than the violin weighs, unless we are supporting it on the left hand.

I did an experiment with my violin. With a Kun Bravo shoulder rest, it weighs 568g.

I put the rest, still attached, on the scales, scroll on the floor. Now the weight registered was 408g, so the floor was taking 160g of the violin's weight.

I then pushed down onto the chinrest with my hand until the violin was raised up, and the scroll was floating above the floor. So, now, the weight acting on the scales was violin + rest, plus my pushing to raise the violin. Its only support was the rest on the scales. Now the weight registered was around 1600g - it was fluctuating, from 1580 - 1620 ish as I couldn't keep it perfectly steady.

That means that to keep the violin level with no help from the left hand, I have to add more than a kilogram to the chinrest. That's well over two pounds.

So, I took off the rest, and put the violin on the scale, on its back: it weighed 482g

I replaced it with the scroll on the floor, and lower part of the back on the scales. Now the weight was 326 g

So when I place the violin between my collar bone and my left hand, the collarbone takes 326 g of the violin's weight, and the left hand just 156g.

As for the weight of the head, most of that weight is held directly over the neck, and isn't applied to the violin at all. You would have to cut off your head and place it on the fiddle for that!

February 7, 2012 at 12:54 AM · I used no shoulder rest for some time, and liked it a lot. Still did not have droop...but felt like I wanted more stability for shifting and vibrato. And here is a totally different topic...my violin sounds better with a shoulder rest. If it sounded better without one, I would probably go back to not using one... I think it all depends on the violin...

The higher chinrest does help for sure...and getting the violin to rest on your collarbone.

Now, considering the way I played in class today, I should get off v.com and go PRACTICE! :)

February 7, 2012 at 05:51 PM · Something important that has not been mentioned here is the effect the droop has on the sound. A good proportion of the violin's sound radiates from the back plate. If the violin droops then some of that sound from the back plate is going to be directed into the player's torso. Not only that, but in an orchestral scenario some of the sound from the front of the drooping violin will also be directed into the music on the stand or into the back of the player in front.

This isn't all. The strings of a drooping violin will not be horizontal and so the bow will try to slide towards the fingerboard, thereby generating unwanted bow noise and detracting from the amount and quality of tone being produced. The player will try to compensate for this by bringing into play otherwise unnecessary muscular actions which will also detract from proper control of the bow.

I haven't finished ... a drooping violin will destroy the posture, throwing the upper part of the body forward, making the chest concave and inhibiting the breathing. The player's head will also move forward and down in an attempt to stabilize the violin and this won't do any good in the long term to the neck and shoulder muscles, and by extension will make relaxation of the left and right arms and hands that more difficult.

February 7, 2012 at 06:05 PM · Very good summary of violin droop, Trevor. All points very important.

February 7, 2012 at 07:20 PM · My teacher is constantly after me to not droop. Holding the violin up gives my left elbow more room to get out where it should be. (My elbow loves to sneak back to my side, making it hard for my fingers to get over the fingerboard.)

It's all a chain reaction - as I learn the different components of posture I notice how they all come together to create the ideal playing position. It still takes lots of concentration, but I can feel the progress.

February 7, 2012 at 08:41 PM · Look at amateur vs professional orchestras. The amateur string players almost all droop, the professionals do not. That alone should tell us something.

February 9, 2012 at 11:23 AM · Erica makes a good point here as I find my fiddle sounds better with a shoulder rest.

But of course, regarding droop, you can have the chin OFF the chin rest AND use a shoulder rest and hold the instrument up high with the left arm.

So go for it with, or without a shoulder rest, but don't grip with the chin/jaw and hold the instrument at least parallel with the ground and preferably a bit higher than that. (I have a re-inforced fiddle that's made of steel so if I drop it only the floor gets damaged ... [only joking ...])

February 10, 2012 at 08:56 AM · Trevor

"The strings of a drooping violin will not be horizontal and so the bow will try to slide towards the fingerboard"

This doesn't happen, this is a myth. The bow will not side , cello and bass player bows do not slide down. If the bow is sliding ,than it's because something else is wrong. There is no need to hold the strings to a horizontal position, this position tires the arm and causes some strain to the shoulder area. I can play long bow strokes with the violin almost pointing straight down, while only holding the bow with my thumb and index finger. The bow stays straight and I do not require any extra pressure to hold the bow in position.

February 10, 2012 at 10:57 AM · "This doesn't happen, this is a myth. The bow will not side , cello and bass player bows do not slide down. If the bow is sliding ,than it's because something else is wrong. There is no need to hold the strings to a horizontal position, this position tires the arm and causes some strain to the shoulder area. I can play long bow strokes with the violin almost pointing straight down, while only holding the bow with my thumb and index finger. The bow stays straight and I do not require any extra pressure to hold the bow in position."

Charles - you can't really compare cellos and basses with the violin because the cello is at an angle and the bow would be sliding towards the bridge if it were to happen at all, and not towards the fingerboard. On the whole cellists tend to play slightly nearer the bridge than a lot of fiddlers simply because of this - although many cellists do not play near enough to the bridge for my taste.

There are all sorts of things involved and really good tone production comes from many things. we can all play with our scrolls pointing towards the ceiling at a riduculous angle as well as pointing at the floor, but the best way to point the scroll is straight ahead or slightly up.

The big problem with successful fiddle playing is the head. If we could remove it then that would be the best answer.

However, you do have a sort of advocate in Mr Ricci, who quotes the drawings of Paganini where he is shown to be pointing the scroll down, but he operated in pre-chin rest days (and pre-shoulder rests) - so we can't be sure how this worked, and how good he was.

February 10, 2012 at 12:53 PM ·

February 10, 2012 at 01:04 PM · Would you all say that Milstein droops his violin to the floor? or is his violin high enough? I mean how much does it have to droop to be a 'drooper'? :)

Here is Milstein (just for a 'reminder')

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l75X-SDKq1Y&feature=related

I am asking as it's now one year since I started playing without a rest and I have now 'settled' since a little while ago into what I think is the way I am most comfortable in holding the violin, also the way it is best helping my technique. I am now finally making good progress, my left hand has become so much more 'reliable' and it's finally getting faster too! (speed has always been a problem for me! and now am beginning to see a break-through), my bow arm is finally improving a lot as well!

I was 'surprised' when watching this video of Milstein that coincidence I have exactly the same way of holding the violin and the bow as he had, pity I won't ever be anywhere as good as he was!

February 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM · "I was 'surprised' when watching this video of Milstein that coincidence I have exactly the same way of holding the violin and the bow as he had, pity I won't ever be anywhere as good as he was!"

Sure you will, when you're 95... lol!

Mr. Milstein raises and lowers the scroll while playing but I wouldn't say he was 'droopy' at all.

February 10, 2012 at 02:44 PM · Mr. Milstein raises and lowers the scroll while playing but I wouldn't say he was 'droopy' at all

Thanks David :)

ok, so I am 'not a drooper'! ;) and yes, I do raise and lower my violin too when I play, I think it's only an 'inevitable' part of playing (is it not?), am not quite sure 'when' I raise it....I have not 'scrutinised' my playing that much yet...I 'think' I tend to raise it usually when I am higher on the G perhaps? (will pay attention during my practice this afternoon!)

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