Is it over the top to ask your teacher to do this

October 10, 2014 at 04:21 PM · This question is for the teachers out there. Given the staggering variety of shoulder rests, chinrests, etc., etc., etc. And given that I've sought advice from several reputable shops around Chicago and suburbs. Further given that I am still hugely uncomfortable with any shoulder rest I've tried with my chinrest (and receiving no suggestions to change that at all). I currently don't use a shoulder rest, and I'm not convinced its the best way to go. I've read the 4,287 threads on this subject already. My teacher seems fine either way, but each has its own issues. And I still can't figure it out myself.

So the question is, would it be odd to request a lesson actually at a violin shop to gain my teachers assistance in finally getting my setup comfortable and correct?

Replies (22)

October 10, 2014 at 04:27 PM · I don't think it's too much to ask the question, but it simply might not be logistically possible for your teacher to do it. (Great, though, if your teacher says yes.) That said, you might try Julie Lyonn Lieberman, she specializes in ergonomics and set-up, among many other things. I'd start by looking her website and resources; she has written books on the subject. It's also possible to e-mail her from the page.

October 10, 2014 at 04:52 PM · I agree with Laurie. It makes perfect sense to get your teacher's expertise & help to figure things out and this would be a good way to do it so long as it's logistically possible for your teacher. If it's not logistically possible, I was able to take chinrests on trial from a local shop. Perhaps if you explained the situation to them, a local shop would allow you to take a selection of chin & shoulder rests for a lesson.You could even offer to leave a deposit.

October 10, 2014 at 05:44 PM · Violin lesson time is expensive.

Violin shops usually have violinists working at them.

Violin shops are trying to sell you stuff.

Make the folks at the violin store spend their time trying to get the right fit for you, not you spending your money for the time of your instructor to noodle around with shoulder rests.

That's my opinion anyhow.

October 10, 2014 at 07:32 PM · Seraphim, that was my thinking as well. But, despite the time I have spent with the violinists at the shops, I remain uncomfortably set up. My thought with bringing my teacher along to one of these sessions is a bit of a last ditch effort, as nothing else I have tried on my own has born the proverbial fruit. But, as a point of student etiquette, I wanted to be sure that my teacher wasn't going to look at me as if I grew a third head (I've had the second head look many times). She may not be willing or logistically able, but I wanted to be sure it wasn't inappropriate to ask the question.

Thank you Laurie for pointing me in another direction, and Christina as well for your responses.

October 10, 2014 at 08:35 PM · You say you haven't recieved any suggestions to consider changing your chinrest.

Well, here....I'm suggesting it!

If your chinrest is too low for you, to make a shoulder rest "work" will require you to either hunch up your shoulder, or pinch down your neck to get the required counterforce to balance the instrument on your shoulder.

Not comfortable either way!

Same deal, even if you don't use a shoulder rest (I don't currently). Having the proper height (and shaped) chinrest is the foundation for a comfortable violin hold, SR or not.

Try and play around a bit with using your current chin rest on there. Try holding your chin more centered over the tailpiece--is that better or worse? Try holding it more off to the extreme left of the tailpiece--is that better?

Simon Fischer suggests that players with longer arms probably prefer to be more left of the tailpiece to allow for parallel to the bridge bowing, and players with shorter arms may prefer a more centered chin rest.

Now play around with putting some kind of "spacer" on top of your chin rest to see if jacking up the height may help. 1/4" thicknesses of firm foam rubber could be rubber banded on top to see if a taller rest may alleviate some discomfort (my chin rest is jacked up ~3/8" and is slightly left of center, I forget the name of the style chinrest).

The violin is supposed to rest on your collar bone.

Your chin is supposed to hold it there lightly. It can not do that if the chin rest is either too low or too high.

Fix this aspect of your violin hold first before searching for a shoulder rest, or you will be spinning your wheels in a futile search.

Violin on collar bone, held lightly by that point if you desire to fill the remaining space above your shoulder with a SR, go right ahead. You will also find that a properly fitted chin rest will allow greater comfort when going sans SR as well.

An article here on Vcom that may be of some use:

October 10, 2014 at 08:44 PM · "So the question is, would it be odd to request a lesson actually at a violin shop to gain my teachers assistance in finally getting my setup comfortable and correct?"


I don't see anything wrong with that, as long as the teacher is being compensated for his/her time.

Preferably, compensation would come from the student, rather than from the shop. Potential conflict of interest issues, and junk like that.

October 10, 2014 at 11:18 PM · I have a box of different shoulder and chin rest to fix problems like this and I then spend the first lesson on proper set up. My students than know what chin and shoulder rest to buy and the Luthier's don't have to deal with a endless amount of questions that they may not know anything about, and they also don't need to deal with returns. A proper violin setup is the most important job for a teacher, not a luthier, and it is something a beginner can't do on their own.

The teacher should only charge for one lesson, and no extra money for travelling time and over time, because I feel that serious teachers should have some shoulder rest and chin rest on hand.

October 11, 2014 at 12:13 AM · Its my experience that there is no silver SR or CR bullet. Holding the Violin is an evolving process as you adjust to make your violin stable, your left hand mobile and not gripping (not to mention finger freedom, vibrato etc) and then your right arm so that the bow moves comfortably and without stress.

I've ended up with drawers full of SRs, CRs, CBWs, pads etc etc together with umpteen covering cloth types and a complete set of elastic bands (essential for testing new holds). I've also taken CRs and hacked pieces off them to get comfort. I think I'm actually getting somewhere - its no SR and a minimal CR. The violin rests on its lower edge on my collarbone and pivots from there. Thus, chin contact with the CR (which has a bulge on its leading edge) is rather minimal only really playing a key role during shifting.

The point is that while some people seem to 'fit' naturally onto a violin, others of us (and you sound the same) have to go through a long trial-and-error evolution process to find 'that' hold. Of course it may also mean that we have a particular standard that others are not seeking, I don't know.

October 11, 2014 at 02:15 AM · Have you been to Sapp Violins in the west suburbs? They kind of specialize in fitting, it seems; they could probably help you. I think it's a great thing to ask your teacher but be prepared to compensate extra for time and travel.

October 11, 2014 at 02:31 AM · It's a great idea IF your teacher the expertise in anatomy/physiology to be a good judge of appropriate setup. Would your teacher know to watch you from the back to see what happens to your spine and shoulders? from the side to see if you poke your chin forward or rotate your shoulder blade out? If so, awesome. If not, you'll be no better off.

Laurie's suggestion is good. Another great resource is Artist/Violinist in Balance./a>

which offers the whole process for both assisted- and self-determination of needs.

I can NEVER get these links to work properly, largely because the instructions don't show up on the edit screen--but the link DOES work.

October 11, 2014 at 03:00 AM · A long time ago a colleague said:

"just pick something and get used to it."

Unfortunately, you seem to be so focused on instant comfort that you'll reject anything. You're probably obsessing every minute you practice. If you actually get any meaningful practice done, that is. Which I doubt.

So my advice is:

Pick something and get used to it.*

*Except for Kun, which is cr@p, and which constantly falls off violins in the middle of rehearsals and concerts.

October 11, 2014 at 04:03 AM · When I was a high schooler, a teacher did this for me, assisting me with finding a completely different chinrest and shoulder-rest set-up than what I had been using. Not only did he help me find the right combination, but he taught me how to figure out if the set-up is right -- at least given his perspective of the right approach.

As an adult, shops have helped me work things out, including one that helped custom-fit a pair of legs for my shoulder-rest.

October 11, 2014 at 04:54 AM · No, it's not unreasonable to ask your teacher to do this - however, please do pay your teacher their full lesson amount and consider adding an amount for travel depending on the location of the shop.

It's a good idea to get your teacher's input as they will have valuable insights to your playing that the people at the shop might not be able to tell just from meeting you and looking at you.

October 11, 2014 at 11:31 AM · "Unfortunately, you seem to be so focused on instant comfort that you'll reject anything. You're probably obsessing every minute you practice. If you actually get any meaningful practice done, that is. Which I doubt."

"Pick sdomething and get used to it"

What is this?

"Getting used" to something involves constantly switching off important feedback from our nerve endings. "Instant comfort" may well allow us to concentrate on finer sensations and more effective practice!

PS my Kuns don't fall off now that I have a loop of shoelace from the right hand screw to the corresponding corner of the lower bout, but I don't want to wast precious practice time trying out all the alternatives...

October 11, 2014 at 12:15 PM · When I was shopping for a shoulder rest I first bought a Kuhn and played on it for several years. Then I discovered the Willy Wolf models. I decided upon the Willy Wolf Secundo since it had so many parts which I could adjust. The main body of the shoulder rest can also be slowly bent to fit your shoulder.

I use the Willy Wolf Secundo because when wearing a tuxedo or a heavy suit I can lower the height using the screw mechanism. It also lets you control the tilt with a tiny adjustment screw below the body of the shoulder pad. This pad has many areas of adjustment which has been well thought out by the manufacturer.

October 11, 2014 at 12:25 PM · I quite agree about the W.W. Secondo.

But I find them very unsightly, and if they do slip, the many metal parts will seriously damage the varnish..

My advice to Stephen is to remove both chin and shoulder rests, go to a mirror and see (and feel!) what's missing e.g. Is the slant of the violin appropriate? Is the highest gap above or below the fiddle? Then start with the chinrest.

October 11, 2014 at 03:04 PM · Thank you all for your comments.

There was never any doubt I would pay her for her time. It might be pertinent to note that while the violin shop may be motivated to sell, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will be the correct things. They are luthiers not teachers. It occurred to me that since my teacher is responsible for teaching me the correct position that she would have a vested interest in seeing that I was correctly setup, both to further my playing ability, and her teaching.

Having said all that, I am actually quite comfortable without the S/R. I'm not sure I want the violin itself higher, which a S/R would do. But perhaps a different chinrest. I need to attack that angle. Do I have a long neck? How do I measure? Are my arms long? 36" according to shirt size. Is that long? I do find I play with my chin more over the tailpiece, but maybe I shouldn't. And, I seem to be the rare bird that drops my shoulder rather than clench. Most shoulder rests seem to depart my body at this point and sort of just hang there off my violin serving no good purpose. So, is it too low? Is there one high enough? Is it simply my technique is way off? . But, in the great S/R debate ever raging, I can clearly see that certain things like down shifting and vibrato are far more difficult without than with, albeit clearly not insurmountable. The violin is a difficult enough instrument as it is, do I need to make it more difficult than need be? But, perhaps it does need be. It seems to be that it is to my advantage to remove any potential obstacles to my future progress. If 1 in 1000 are better off without, I could actually be that 1. That's amongst the things I need to figure out, so far unsuccessfully.

I have looked at myself in the mirror at every angle, and in fact practice in front of one daily. However, I do not have the knowledge or the experience to tell if it looks correct or not. That's why I feel the need of an expert to make those evaluations.

I have tried several different Kuns, a couple of others, who's names escape me, and lately the Wolf Secundo. The Wolf comes the closest. However, in every case, I can feel the tension in my neck I can't alleviate. In my latest attempt I have ordered the much vaunted VLM Diamond. If this one, which is adjustable in just about every way one could want, doesn't work, I may give up. We'll see what my teacher ultimately thinks. I am paying her for her expert advice after all. It would be ridiculous for me not to follow it.

I was not aware that Sapp were experts in this sort of thing. It may be worth the drive out there and consult them. Thank you for that suggestion.

October 11, 2014 at 04:02 PM · "PS my Kuns don't fall off now that I have a loop of shoelace from the right hand screw to the corresponding corner of the lower bout, but I don't want to wast precious practice time trying out all the alternatives.."

I'd avoid shoulder rests that need to be secured with shoelace...

October 14, 2014 at 01:46 PM · Interesting development on the teacher front. She said I looked perfectly comfortable and secure without the S/R, and if I can do without, it wouldn't be a bad idea. She said that she wished her swan neck would allow her to play without one. Not the response I was expecting.

October 14, 2014 at 02:17 PM · If used correctly the SR is NOT supposed to take up extra space due to a long neck. The chinrest is supposed to do that.

October 14, 2014 at 08:01 PM · Begs the question, how many people actually use it correctly???

October 14, 2014 at 08:42 PM · Hmmm, perhaps we should have a discussion about shoulder rests around here sometime....


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