resting violin on collar bone?

December 26, 2012 at 12:22 AM · I'm a tall, lanky 66-year-old beginner in about my third year of playing violin. I've tried numerous shoulder rests, and Santa decided to let me try a Wolf Forte Secondo. I've looked at quite a few posts here (and elsewhere)to get the Wolf set up properly. What surprises me is the notion in ViolinistinBalance that the violin NEEDS to rest on the collar bone.As soon as I put on ANY sort of shoulder rest, the violin lifts UP from the collar bone, and the shoulder rest itself (whether Kun, Bonmusica, or Wolf)holds up the instrument away from my body. Am I missing something? Is there some mystical position where the violin stays on the collar bone and the shoulder rest simply adds additional support for the instrument?

By the way, I've experimented with centre-mount and taller chin rests, and they help, but I still haven't found the magic solution or position that allows me to keep the violin from slipping down when I start concentrating much on the "E" string (and hence, give up any support-assistance from the left hand). I'd rather be playing than fussing (again) with this, but while I get progressively more confident that I can support my violin without my left hand when necessary, I'm not where I want to be yet. And now this "violin-on-collar-bone thingy!"

Replies (20)

December 26, 2012 at 01:17 AM · In short, yes, it rests on the collar bone. The shoulder rest fills in space between shoulder and violin, not between collar bone and violin. The space ABOVE the violin at the collar-bone/pin end is filled by the chin rest. I'm sure the lower part of the violin at the button end isn't floating in's sitting on SOME portion of your anatomy...right?

Of course, you'll probably get posts from purists who abhor the shoulder rest, and a few who also denigrate the chin rest, but used properly they can help.

December 26, 2012 at 01:34 AM · I struggled with this alot. Eventually I figured out that you should hold the violin without an SF first - so that it is between your chin rest and collarbone (loosely DO NOT GRIP!!). Then use the other hand to feel the size of the gap between the violin and your shoulder and set your SR to that distance. Then (important) attach the SR so that it is sufficiently far from your chin that it does not interfere with teh chin-violin-collarbone link. Thats approximately straight accross the fattest part of the violin body (proximal of course, to the bridge).

After you have that make small changes in the angle to adust the final angle of the violin from your neck (best for most I think is pointing out about 30-40degrees from your shoulder line.

good luck

December 26, 2012 at 01:59 AM · Yes to what Elise and Marjory recommended. But I think it is important to understand the reason for having the violin on (or near) the collar bone. If the violin is raised higher, it requires the right arm (bow arm) to be higher. That makes it harder to maintain a full tone, and also puts additional stress on the right shoulder and arm which could result in injuries down the road.

In order to get it right, it is critically important to have a proper chin rest -- not only one that is the correct height, but one that fits your individual anatomy. Just like people have different sized feet, jaw bones come in all shapes and sizes.

December 26, 2012 at 03:15 PM · As a followup to Smiley's point--even calling it a 'chin' rest is want your jaw, not your chin, precisely, on the rest.

Elise's method for figuring a workable distance is good. Starting out from center is very practical.

December 26, 2012 at 04:22 PM · I agree with the responses so far. You should also take into consideration that depending on your anatomy, a particular shoulder rest may or may not work for you. Some peolpe on this site have reported trying several different kinds before finding one that works for them. There are also plenty of violinists who don't use a shoulder rest at all.

My shoulders are fairly narrow, with minimal slope, and if I try to use a commercial shoulder rest, in order for the violin to touch my collarbone, the violin would be at such an angle that the scroll would be pointing way too high. However, I need something to keep the violin from slipping, so I made myself a homemade pad that works for me.

December 26, 2012 at 04:32 PM · M.L.,

You are one of the fortunate few with an anatomy that is well suited for violin. Most of us are handicapped.

December 26, 2012 at 05:58 PM · Smiley - I hope I didn't come across as one of those anti-resters - I am not! But from the way the OP described the problem, it sounded like the rest he has may not work for him.

I actually have my own difficulties holding up the violin, as my collarbone does not protrude enough to make much of a shelf. Even though commercial shoulder rests I have tried didn't work for me, I still have to use some kind of padding to help keep the violin balanced.

I think there are very few people who find the violin a natural fit. Most people probably have to try a variety of commercial and/or homemade rests or pads in order to find something tolerable.

December 26, 2012 at 07:21 PM · MLS...I agree--that most of us need to make adaptations. For instance, I use a standard Kun, BUT reversed, so the higher side is on my shoulder. This increases the angle of the violin (toward my bow arm), which in turn, assists both balance and ease of fingering on the lower strings. Interestingly, my physical therapist, assessing my set up, said that seemed the more ergonomically sensible way to use the rest in playing. Go figure.

December 26, 2012 at 07:40 PM · Thanks (as ever) for these helpful thoughts. I've put the new Secondo away temporarily, and am now looking more carefully at the set-up I've been using with a BonMusica for the past 8-10 months. At least I get to play violin, which in the moment is vastly preferable to trying to finesse an adjustment issue. But the way I've been using the BonMusica, my violin does NOT rest on my collar bone, so I'm trying to get it down where it "belongs", while also figuring out out to work in the shoulder rest. So two questions for now: 1) so are there three points of contact at the tailpiece end of the violin? ie, two at the legs of the shoulder rest and one where the violin itself sits on the collarbone? 2) what part of the violin rests on the collarbone? just the edge? or should the violin be pushed farther back/up on the collarbone so some "deeper" part of the violin other than the edge rests on the collarbone? I'm probably over-thinking this (my life long habit....) but if I had to name one "problem" I've had with learning violin, it has been the issue of holding it securely, esp as I do more work on the A and E strings. I seem, then, to push the fingerboard in a way that encourages the violin to twist inward and to slip down.

December 27, 2012 at 05:07 AM · MLS,

No, you did not come across as an anti-rester. But you are lucky to have square shoulders so you can easily play without SR.

Regarding collar bone, I've never seen someone with a really large collar bone that naturally supports the violin. With a proper fitting chin rest, it is much easier to keep the violin from slipping off your collar bone. If the chin matches the chin rest, it is much easier to keep the violin in place while playing. Heavy vibrato and downshifting might require slightly more pressure on the chin rest, but not much more than just the weight of your head.

December 27, 2012 at 02:13 PM ·

December 27, 2012 at 02:16 PM · Not sure what happened to my post... I was trying to link to this article:

because it has a good pic of how to hold a violin.

Anyway, my own experience with bon musica was that it held me/my instrument in too rigidly limited a position. Look for developing a set up that gives you flexibility.

Holding a violin is always more about balance than pressure anyway.

December 28, 2012 at 03:36 AM · Unless I missed it has anyone suggested a simple sponge secured either under the shirt (like Isaac Stern) or to the violin with a rubber band? Try a few sponges of varying heights? I've known people to use clean wash clothes starting with one then adding another until comfort and balance is achieved.

December 28, 2012 at 06:50 AM · I agree with Royce,

it sounds like the OP may have an anatomy which is not suited to conventional shoulder rests and he may need just a sponge at the end....

regarding his question as to which part of the violin sits on the collarbone and how much...

the violin usually touches your neck when you put it up in playing position, some people will have the end button pointing to their 'adams apple' some will have it pointing slightly more to the right or left, this is all down to your anatomy and mostly down to how long your arms are too, the violinists in balance website shows you how to position your violin according to the length of your arms, have a look at it, it is very useful

December 28, 2012 at 02:32 PM · This is a link to Violinist in Balance mentioned by the previous poster. It's very useful.

December 30, 2012 at 04:46 PM · Thanks for all the input. It was Violinist in Balance that first alerted me to the notion that the violin should actually sit on my collarbone. I've struggled with the detailed info on that site, as well as How to Hold a Violin. It seems clear: the violin should sit on the collarbone. But I have tried MANY different arrangements (4 kinds of shoulder rests at numerous configurations, lots of pads/cloths, etc, 3 different chin rests at different configurations, including an SAS extra-height chin rest fitted by a violinist in a violin shop a year ago or so), and I CANNOT find a way to attach a shoulder rest that doesn't lift the violin off my collarbone! Nor can I find a way to HOLD the violin with reasonable security on my (apparently bony) collarbone without a shoulder rest! So for now I've gone back to my original configuration with the violin OFF my collarbone. None of my teachers has ever remarked that my set-up for holding the violin was "wrong", so it looks like I'm stuck with the arrangement I have until the right person wanders into my life and sets up my violin hold! Maybe I'll find a higher chin rest some day, but I get frustrated buying more "stuff" instead of playing. I might as well just go to the mall....If I end up in violin Hell, it won't be solely for this particular transgression! I do appreciate all your input, though. Just wish I'd found something that worked "according to plan."

December 30, 2012 at 05:38 PM · Hi Richard,

Take a look at this video I made a while back. You might have luck with the Cadd Pad (starts at around 5:00 in the video).

Proper setup for playing without a shoulder rest

December 30, 2012 at 06:27 PM · Thanks Smiley -- A very clear and helpful video! I'll look into some of the points you make.

December 31, 2012 at 04:28 AM · I share your frustration about the collarbone. I have a vague memory of reading on here a post by a teacher who said that some of her slim, small-boned students did not have much of a collarbone to rest the violin on. So apparently you and I are not the only ones. I find the violin just wiggles way too much if I don't have some kind of pad for the violin to rest on beyond my collarbone. However, since my shoulders don't slope much, a commercial rest like the Kun or Wolf puts the violin too high and at the wrong angle.

My most recent homemade pad is made out of shelf liner like this

(sorry I haven't figured out how to post a clickable link, but you should be able to copy & paste). I got it at a drugstore.

I folded up a piece to a good size and thickness for me. It is firmer than a sponge, but not rigid like a Kun-type shoulder rest. It's not perfect, but it's the best thing I've tried so far.

I'm still experimenting with chinrests. I've tried several that are close but not perfect.

I hope someday we all find something that works for us!

December 31, 2012 at 04:24 PM · I'm a 37 year old beginner and here's what I've been through: I started with an Everest and a standard guarneri style chin rest with a platform that curves up, rather than lying flatter to the top. After playing for a few months with this, I was having issues with tension; clamping and clenching my neck muscles to hold the violin in place. I know I didn't have the violin on my collar bone during this time. Disclaimer: I'm not an anti-SR-ist! But I did, in desperation, lose the SR for a while and that's how I figured out where the violin goes on *my* (everyone is different) collar bone. I'm lanky with a long neck and my collar bone is pronounced. What I do is place that continuous dish or channel in the back of the violin on my collar bone; just to the the left of the end button, with the end button pointing toward my adams apple. I think that answers the OP's question, but what is important to note is that this is by no means stable. I started with the bare wood on bare skin to give some stiction. Even so, the violin will slide off my collar bone and slide down my chest. But to stop that, I rotate my head to the left just enough for my jaw to contact the chin rest to stop the violin from rotating too much and continuing its slide downward. I'm not clamping the violin into place with my collar bone and jaw, I'm only closing up the space so it doesn't slide through. I also lift the scroll up a bit more than when using an SR, so the strings are more parallel to floor. This has the effect of bringing the chin rest closer to my jaw so I don't have to tilt my head down as much. With this arrangement, I don't tilt my head down and I don't clamp or clench. The violin is very wiggly and my left hand and arm have to do a lot more work. I found that learning vibrato was much more difficult, as was shifting. Even while bowing, the bow is pushing the violin around, as it does every time you finger a note. But I played some pieces that I knew well and after a few weeks I was confident that the violin wasn't going to fall. Then, I added the shoulder rest back in with new clarity as per Elise's post. Now, I know how to contact my collar bone, how to play without clenching my head and neck muscles, so am now using the SR as an aid or a stabilizer. I also realized that when used the shoulder rest now, that the weight that it added made it feel like the violin was going to slide down my chest! But now I know how to counteract this effect with out clamping! I am using my left arm more to hold up the fiddle rather than using the "hands-free" method of clamping with my jaw, SR and chin rest. Of course, that operation is handy for tuning and turning pages, etc, but is now not how I play as a rule. I have almost zero neck tension issues now and using the SR gives me training-wheels to learn vibrato and shifting.

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