Shoulder rest / Chin rest, a long journey

July 10, 2015 at 09:48 PM · Hi everyone,

as I posted a few days ago, I'm in the process of learning finger patterns in first position still. But overall I try to improve my posture, that is, of my body ( lower as well as upper part ), including relaxed shoulders, straight wrist. Main goal is to improve and develop "ease" and comfort.

I am not certain how this feels really as I am not certain I have ever experienced it yet. I have 2 chin rests which both felt good at the time I bought them, and 3 shoulder rests : bon musica, Kun, and PLAYONAIR cushion ( which I got last ). My two main problems are that the violin is always too tilted ( the violin is not horizontal enough and makes E string somewhat awkward for both hands ). And secondly, except with the bon musica, the violin tends to slip towards the front of my body.

I am looking for experiences of people who achieved a better posture through trial and error, how did you proceed, what helped, and how does it feel to find a good fit ? Sometimes I have such pain after playing and trying things that even if it feels a bit better than the previous setup I'm still not convinced. Also, many times already I thought I had something, it worked well for a few days and afterwards it started to feel uncomfortable.

Finally, a last thought, yesterday night while trying the playonair cushion I played with the chin rest I currently use and moved it over the tailpiece. In between I played a few minutes without any chin rest, which somehow felt good. So, maybe my chin rests are too high ? The sound felt kind of muted to my ear, it was a totally different feeling and I could feel the instrument vibrate through my jaw/chin. Is it common, or should I say, still common, not to use a chin rest ? I of course tried many times without a shoulder rest, but this never was comfortable.

Replies

July 10, 2015 at 11:27 PM · I'm no professional, but have you looked into mulko chinrest?

http://www.sharmusic.com/Accessories/Chinrests/Mulko-Plastic-Violin-Chinrest---Large-Plate.axd

I've been using that thing for few months then I switched to a different one because I tend to press down on the tailpiece with my chin when I get to higher positions.

Mulko chinrest was on one of the displayed violins at a local store and I bought it because it was very low and very comfortable. It makes you very close to the body of the violin, and it's not very pricey either.

I moved on to this one last week:

http://www.amazon.com/Ohrenform-All-Size-Viola-Chinrest-Standard/dp/B000F9CW1Q

quite a bit higher than Mulko, and although majority of the rest is over the tail piece, you'll be surprised how much room you have off to the side. I'm just a little upset that it needs to be refitted and that will cost me another $20

Additionally, I did have the violin slipping problem too, I've had few surgeries done on my upper body namely two on my left shoulder. I physically cannot achieve the right posture as some people say, I used Bonmusica shoulder rest and it helped a lot. I am now learning to move onto using less restraining models because again, as I am getting to higher positions, I need to adjust the violin.

July 11, 2015 at 09:24 AM · I also suffered for years about CR and SR choices........not to mention money!

I once went to a local shop only to find all the violins were fitted with Glaesel ribbed CR ............ Talk about retro !

But I did try them. Even I know these CR are outdated and the joy of chiropracters

But wait. That felt pretty good! Bottom line. I always now play this Glaesel. No SR. All of my fancy hardware is up in the attic.

There is similar CR by Mulko.

There is too much to say but if I could suggest one thing ....... Play left!

July 11, 2015 at 11:46 AM · Try with no CR or SR, go to a mirror and see what is missing! (In my case, a lot.)

Don't try SR's until the CR is comfortable.

(I have had to re-sculpt mine.)

July 11, 2015 at 05:24 PM · I was having a similar problem keeping my violin horizontal several months ago and found that replacing the shoulder rest with some small cosmetic sponges (I use 3, as have a longish neck) helped a lot.

July 11, 2015 at 07:58 PM · Arnaud, I have the very same problem. Although I play for some years, I never felt comfortable with my violin. Still trying to find the solution, tho.

July 11, 2015 at 08:00 PM · Getting comfortable is truly a pain.

My own experience has been similar to yours - 9 years of just not being pain free.

It got close with a very low and adjustable SR the viva diamond (very expensive), but still I had significant neck pain and shoulder tightness.

Scans have shown a lot of disc degeneration on the left side of my cervical spine, I am sure this is related to violin. I realised then I had to do something more to correct my posture. For me by far, that started with the Kreddle CR. I followed the instructional videos to get best position (nothing on the violin, in front of the mirror to ensure symmetry) then got the Kreddle with appropriate height post and fiddled with the rotation and incline until it was just right.

Despite that I couldn't get the SR to be just right so either coped or practised going without. The Kreddle is fairly flat with no lip.

I had gone okay with this combo of Kreddle and no SR, still unstable and a bit hurtie, when my teacher lent me her violin.

This has been a revelation. Although marginally larger than my 7/8 instrument, this violin is very arched. So arched that I can't have a SR on it. it is so arched that it needed a specially carved CR to clear the tailpiece, so I can't change that to what I thought was my vital Kreddle. But that arching means it stays in the right spot on my collar bone, & is the right depth for my jaw despite the very shaped CR. for the 1st time in a decade I can play without neck or shoulder pain! This was achieved in 1 day, and was immediately simple as opposed to the weeks to months of adjusting and modifying things when trying to go without SR in the past.

So what I am getting to, is that the instrument in my case has made an enormous difference. It's not something I have seen directly referenced in any of the discussions here about setting up for no SR, but it is vital. I wonder now if those who report playing tension / pain free have in fact had the good fortune to have an instrument whose proportions suited their physique.

Any hoo, I wish you luck in your search.

July 13, 2015 at 02:53 AM · Just my €00.02.

I start with a Teka-style chinrest, which is shaped like a large spoon, overhangs the tailpiece, and is fairly high.

I want the gentle lip to go under my jawbone, to avoid clenching, with the tip of my chin roughly over the tailpiece, and the violin button pointing to the hollow at the base of my neck.

I file down the leftmost third of the ridge so my jaw can cross the edge compfortably.

On the viola, where I want more tilt, to play more easliy on the C-string with my stubby fingers, I also remove a wedge-shaped slice from under the rest, and even stick it back the other way round to increas the tilt.

Everyone who tries my violin or viola just love my CR's! Too late for a patent..

July 13, 2015 at 05:44 AM · Remember that the violin is partially supported by the left hand (four points of contact). Do not rely solely on your chinrest and shoulder rest to do all the work.

http://www.violinist.com/violin/how-to-hold-a-violin/

But of course you do have to find what equipment works best for you. I also recommend the Tekka chinrest ; this is a good starting point and many people are happy with this style of chinrest.

July 13, 2015 at 08:07 AM · I thank you all for the invaluable informations.

Brian :

This link is very good, I did a first read and will go through it again tonight before I start my practice session. I think I might have had my shoulder rest a bit too high after reading it.

My neck is about 12cm high, which should be considered average I suppose. Therefore I should possibly find a setup that doesn't require a very high chin rest right ? I ordered a teka chin rest as well as a forte secondo shoulder rest and see what I can do with it. I find the bon musica the most comfortable at the moment, but as other people mentioned it feels a little too restrictive and doesn't offer much movement, it somehow locks the violin in place too much. I thought the forte secondo might offer enough customization to play around. I'll first make sure to fit the chin rest as well as possible before experimenting with it though and I hope the teka will be a good bet in that regard.

Also, I found a quite good link giving hints about how to proceed in order to perfect the posture : http://www.violinistinbalance.nl/strategies.htm. It seems to go in the exact same direction as in the link of Brian, as well as with some descriptions from books of Simon Fischer in the chapters about posture.

What is important to understand is that the length of arms is a big factor in the optimal violin's position. Longer arms should have the violin more to the left, shorter arms more to the right. This is important in order to bow straight with "ease", meaning with the natural function of the joints of the shoulder - elbow - wrist, without have to compensate with either wrist or fingers. I think for me it's a little more to the right, after experimenting this weekend, than I ever had it before. I am rather small ( 1.7m / 5ft6" ) and my arms aren't that long either. What helps to figure this one out is the squared position formed when the bow is placed at its middle on the strings ( I used the A string as it's also supposed to be the more or less default position of the left wrist ), and trying the move the violin until the strings are parallel to the forearm.

Then from that position I raised the violin until the strings were parallel to the floor. I still need to play with this and refine the position a little, but it is definitely getting a bit better and I feel that I start to understand what I am looking for slowly.

I'll keep on reporting any progress I make and thanks again to everyone for your contribution !

July 13, 2015 at 11:25 AM · very good links

cheers

July 13, 2015 at 12:46 PM · Here's a quick summary of my experience. I'm going to focus on the problem of the violin sliding down because fixing that will fix many of your other problems.

I use a piece of upholstery foam as a shoulder rest. Its held in place with a rubber band. I have tried 2 other shoulder rests. I came back to foam because it is soft and has a slight friction in contact with clothing. You can get foam in any thickness to suit the angle you want for the violin tilt toward the bow arm.

My teacher encouraged me to not put my chin on the chin rest - most of the time. It took me over a year to get comfortable with this but I pursued it because the arms, neck, shoulders and back can all relax when the chin is off the chin rest. This helps performance technique in many, many ways - too many to list. Initially, I struggled with the violin sliding off the shoulder. Several subtle things eventually came together to solve this, including: violin placement on the shoulder, improved shifting technique (down shifts are the major problem to solve), a slight, quick lift of the left arm to 'suspend' the violin during down shifts, a short drop of the chin onto the chin rest to hold the violin for a fraction of a second during shifts or difficult passages, and maybe a few other things. I don't do all of these actions all the time. Some unconscious process deals with all of this while I'm thinking about the music. Its just the result of lots of practice and not giving up on the objective.

Good luck on your efforts.

July 13, 2015 at 10:15 PM · After reading all these great posts and links, I'm starting to wish to experiment with different cork sizes on my chin rest, I'd LOVE a tilt on the chinrest because my range of motion is limited and I simply cannot hold the violin like everyone else.

September 25, 2015 at 02:05 PM · I am looking to purchase a number of different shoulder and chinrests so students can try an array of different possibilities without having to spend a fortune themselves experimenting. As far as high chinrests I have come up with this list: Kaufman, Vermeer, SAS, Mulko, and Tekka. For high SR I've come up with Wolfe, and Mach one. What about "normal, or shorter CR and SR? Thanks

September 25, 2015 at 02:20 PM · Finding the right chinrest or shoulder rest can take some time and a lot of trial and error. I use a custom-made chinrest.

Have you checked out these guys? They've put a lot of work and thought into these matters:

http://www.chinrests.com/

http://www.violinistinbalance.nl/

September 25, 2015 at 05:56 PM · dear Bruce,

there is a high chin rest available from Shar called the Berber.

Cheers,

buri

September 25, 2015 at 06:51 PM · As stated on the violinist-in-balance web page the correct height of the chin rest is very important. I also tried the kreddle rest and while i like the adjustability I found that it was too flat. I modified the mount to allow it to be angled more as a compensation for the lack of ridge but in the end found that a raised teka style rest was the way to go for me. I first just lifted a standard height rest, but recently found an extra high teka style rest from the ebay seller "mucho fino violins". I combine that rest with a viva la musica diamond shoulder rest on the lowest possible setting.

September 25, 2015 at 09:03 PM · Dear Bruce, a normal height shoulder rest that I liked, is the Everest. Cheap enough that s student could purchase it too.

September 26, 2015 at 02:11 PM · At this point there is no cure for your pain. You may be able to get close, but there is always going to be some discomfort somewhere, more so if you do a lot of shifting in higher positions on low strings.

What you can do in the meantime is use a center chin rest, height isn't a major issue for a beginner. Place the shoulder rest as far as possible from the chinrest, usually at the widest part of the violin. When setting up, use a mirror and adjust shoulder rest to follow the basic rules of posture (ear, shoulder and hip needs to be in alignment). Don't set up the violin so the strings are horizontal, but the violin body can be horizontal or slightly lower. Give the violin's body a good tilt: f holes not facing the ceiling, but angled forward.

Good luck

September 26, 2015 at 04:56 PM · Thanks for the suggestions. I plan on getting the Berber chinrest which Buri is enamored with. Also, the Everest looks like the old Resonans which I used as a youth, but looks better made. I'm wondering about the Playonair shoulder pad. There are several varieties. Please keep the suggestions coming. Bruce

September 26, 2015 at 04:59 PM · re: Bruce's post - I am not a teacher or professional, this is based on my personal experience - I have used the Mulko in the past and am currently using the Kaufmann. I think of these as average height chinrests, based on what I have seen in catalogs and in use in my local orchestra.

Another I used for a while was a "flat Baron" - it was similar height to the Kaufmann, or maybe a little lower, but slightly more shaped.

The Teka and Berber are higher. I have a fairly short neck and the Berber felt like a torture device to me. The Teka was usable if I aimed the violin more to the front than I like.

The Brandt is a low chinrest; I tried one for a while and decided it was too low even for me.

September 30, 2015 at 11:04 AM · Aaron Rosand teaches one to bring the violin more down the center line in front anyway, so it sounds to me like you're doing something in alignment with one of the great pedagogues of the instrument. Plenty of us get along without the accessories.

October 2, 2015 at 08:15 AM · Hi everybody!

This is my first message so I will try to be positive.

The point is that maybe you need no shoulder-rest.

You think that without a shoulder-rest your instrument will surely fall, or at least it will change its position so you won't be able to play at ease.

False. You only need a little practice with your naked violin, just to relax. Then you understand that it will sit on your shoulder without any prothesis, balancing between your clavicle and your thumb.

I have another point about the thumb.

The violin teacher (Francesco Sfilio) who claimed to have been taught by Camillo Sivori, the only Paganini's pupil, maintained that Paganini used to keep a sort of intermediate position, the thumb pointing approximately at the second finger, so that reaching the first and at least up to the third position requires no shift. That's exactly the way someone thinks that baroque violinists had no problem in shifting using thumb as a pin -- and positions higher than third are not frequent before 1800.

That's to say that probably even your chin-rest could be avoided.

So, you learn that overly protecting your instrument from gravity might not be your main task so you can focus on playing it.

Ciao!

Fernando

October 2, 2015 at 10:33 AM · Bruce: I find that the best chinrest collection for models and quality is at Alexander Accessories. Some of the standard models (like Tekka, etc.) are available lower or higher in addition to standard, so it can be pretty good is some likes a model but wants a different height.

To the OP: although finding a setup can take a while, it is a question of figuring out body geometry and working within that. You should find first what the violin may look like without an SR or pad, and then use the SR or pad if needed to make things work for your body geometry. It is always good to bear in mind that everything is inter-related, so hand placements & general positioning will co-exist with how your body responds to certain equipment tools.

Cheers!

October 2, 2015 at 11:59 AM · Christian,

AA chin rests are of the top quality and come in many shapes and sizes. What I find challenging is that no local shop has more than 2-3 samples at best. They are quite expensive and no store wants to have them in stock collecting dust. This fact unfortunately gives advantage to cheap (and often counterfeit) copies from China, India and elsewhere.

Back to the main subject;

the following is not my own insight, but collected over time, from this forum and elsewhere.

Violin is only about 400 grams, but expecting it to be 100% supported by jaw and shoulder is unrealistic, unless one has exceptionally broad shoulders and can place shoulder rest or pad quite far from violins' rim.

Why? Well, imagine a bridge with only one pillar placed on only on one side of the cliff... or just any lever when the pivotal point is too close to one side - that is how most of us will try to support the violin! The resulting forces will be surprisingly high for such relatively light object.

To raise awareness of this, anyone can try a simple experiment while tuning - stand above your bed or wide and soft cushion, in case you happen to drop your violin. Tune in a regular way, while supporting your violin only by jaw. Close your eyes and feel the heaviness of the instrument. Then let your violin's scroll point toward the bed (it is ok to bend your neck), close your eyes and feel how much lighter violin suddenly feels.

In other words, whatever one uses, violin needs to be "nested" on the collar bone and shoulder and somewhat supported with left hand.

>>> To find this nest is any violist's quest. <<

The main danger of using the shoulder rest, or just any pad, is not in device itself, but in its misuse - typically setting it too high and placing it improperly.

Hope this helps.

October 2, 2015 at 12:02 PM · " Then you understand that it will sit on your shoulder without any prothesis, balancing between your clavicle and your thumb."

I'm glad that works for you, Fernando, but I would have started "Then you may well find that it will sit.."

"Well, imagine a bridge with only one pillar placed on only on one side of the cliff..."

Well, Rocky, Tower Bridge in London has two such things! With a fair degree of mobility.

October 2, 2015 at 12:24 PM · Rocky,

I second you on the Alexander accessories absolute quality.

They are indeed expensive being handmade, using the best quality woods and true quality always comes at a price.

I got my first AA one at Bears in London a long time ago and now I deal with AA directly as there are options on the models and also the legs. Their web page is very informative and shows all the models. They will even modify a model according to your instructions were necessary.

Experimenting with chin rests can be expensive, so what I used to do is to order different cheap Chinese models from e-bay to evaluate fit and comfort. when I found a model that really did the trick, I ordered the same model from AA.

For me the small Strad works the best.

AA will also undertake to refurbish your chin rest as long as it is one of their production.

As far as shoulder rests go I use the Korfker exclusively to my utter satisfaction.

October 3, 2015 at 06:17 AM · Chinrests:

Personally, I like to have the dip in the chinrest's lip much further to the left: the tip of my chin is more or less over (not on) the tailpiece, and I could call it a "jaw rest" rather than a chin-rest.

So I use a side mounted rest where I can easily change its lateral position, according to what clothes I am wearing. I have filed away the "lip" of the Teka near its left-most extremity.

But then I mostly play viola, where a comfortable but resilient access to the lower strings is essential.

Shoulder rests:

As the Korfker costs more than my monthly pension, I have found that the good old Forte rests can be twisted at will. Except that they I find them ugly, and very damaging to the varnish if they slip.

October 3, 2015 at 01:45 PM · I don't rotate the viola, but it is set up to tilt at 45° permanently. 30° for the violin.

October 3, 2015 at 02:16 PM · David: that's where the NE-SR* comes into its own!

*NonExistant-SR (patent applied for).

October 3, 2015 at 04:27 PM · I am an avid user of the NE-SR - and would be happy to provide one anyone that wants to purchase it. It comes in its own NE-silk-lined case and is warranted for life against any failure in materials. Of course, we can not guarantee against damage to any items or individuals using the NE-SR, such as dropping the violin.

The NE-SR comes in the imaginary colour of your choice and we will include a patented NE-CC* to maintain your prized purchase. Get yours while supplies last - we have even sold one to the fiddling-Emperor to go with his New Clothes...

*CC Cleaning Cloth.

October 4, 2015 at 09:20 AM · Tilt?

I mean having the lowest string higher than the highest string to allow access, and vibrato, to my short pinky.

NE-SR? Better than a bad SR, but I find it not better than a finely adjusted CR-SR combination.

October 5, 2015 at 07:03 PM · @Fernando--as early as Paganini eh? What you have described is what I have known as the "Auer Thumb."

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