My jaw hurts after playing violin!!!!!!

September 17, 2016 at 12:27 AM · I have a Berber chinrest, and so I put the front of my chin on the chinrest. After I play for a while, I seem to put pressure on my jaw by pressing down on the rest in order to maintain my violin stable. After a while, my jaw is all tense and it hurts. Other chinrests don't seem to work and raising the shoulder rest also doesn't work. Does anyone know how to release the tension in my jaw?

Replies (39)

September 17, 2016 at 12:36 AM · David, That sounds painful...

Do you directly look down the fingerboard as you play? Where is your nose pointing when you play?

September 17, 2016 at 12:59 AM · at the fingerboard, most of the time, but sometimes at a tilt towards the front of my body

September 17, 2016 at 01:20 AM · You should NOT tense your jaw and should not be clamping down on the violin with it. Also don't raise the shoulder rest, that's not the solution.

Bring the issue to the attention of your teacher, they might be able to address it if it's a posture and/or tension problem.

If that fails, you might need a different chinrest. You can try a bunch of different ones or you can get a hold of the folks at, they are pretty good at helping out with that.

September 17, 2016 at 01:31 AM · Your teacher should take a look at this.

But I note that you mention that you don't do it until you play for a while. That suggests that you use your body differently when you're fatigued. I'd recommend taking a break before you reach that point of fatigue.

September 17, 2016 at 01:38 AM · Ok thanks, Ill ask my teacher about it

September 17, 2016 at 04:07 AM · Your posture may be a little bit tense. I've had some issues, which went away after going through 8 different chinrests.

September 17, 2016 at 08:15 AM · Try getting rid of the SR and supporting violin with your left thumb. You will have no pressure on the CR and no lifted shoulder.

Cheers Carlo

September 17, 2016 at 11:47 AM · I should fly a million miles for a lesson with Carlo on ditching my shoulder rest.

September 17, 2016 at 12:28 PM · David, it might help to browse YouTube for Baroque ensembles in action to see how they manage - SRs and CRs are almost never used, the viola being an occasional exception for reasons that violists will understand.

But as others have observed, it looks like your problem at the moment is a postural one that your teacher should be able to sort out.

September 17, 2016 at 12:32 PM · Hi David,

Have you ever tried holding your violin more sideways, as in nearer your left ear? I would say that it would be less tense if you were able to get used to playing with the pointy part of your jaw, which is near your ear, on the chin rest. It may feel a bit strange at first, but once your neck muscles become stronger, you will get used to it.

Hope this helps!

Henriette de Vrijer, Pro-Am Strings

September 17, 2016 at 12:44 PM · · "I should fly a million miles for a lesson with Carlo on ditching my shoulder rest."

Or a thousand miles to ME! ;-)

Anyway, pain can come from misuse, overuse, tension. Often tension has a build-up and can be unconscious. As I recall, Berber CR's are pretty high, plus you use a SR. One of my basic principles is that often less is more: use the least amount of build-up from CR and SR that will work, not the most. With the right technique, very slight padding as opposed to a big, rigid SR, a lower CR and some sort of slip-resistant material, will work very well for many people and will require almost zero pressing from chin, jaw or shoulder - even in down-shifting. And you'll feel a more organic connection to the violin which will feel more a part of you.

OMG - did I just mention a SR???

BUT OP and anyone else asking about such types of things or what to play next, etc. - your teacher is your first resource. We're all strangers who want to be helpful but can't see or hear you.

September 17, 2016 at 02:00 PM · I do not understand the negative comments about using a shoulder rest. Some of us have very long necks, and would be looking down at the floor if we had to do without a SR and/or CR. It looks like males, who generally have shorter necks, are the ones who are most disparaging; guys, what would you suggest for an ostrich? :)

September 17, 2016 at 02:28 PM · Agree with previous advice to ask your teacher, who can actually hear and see what you’re doing.

I tried the Berber once but didn’t like it -- too tall for me and too concave. For my individual build, Teka medium, which is flatter though not literally flat, is a good fit. Anything taller than this model is impractical for me. The lower-set Dresden has also served me well.

Regarding slip-resistant material: I use Strad Pads on all my CRs and wouldn’t even consider playing without them now. The added friction really enhances my feeling of lightness and freedom and security. And I can play up to 3 hours a day -- schedule won’t allow for more -- without any skin irritation. The pad fits onto the CR with a Velcro strip and is easily detachable and washable.

Indeed, “less is more.” Whether playing with or without the SR is better for you personally, I don’t know -- I’ll leave that to you and your teacher. But if having one suits you better, then, as previously recommended, use the least amount of build-up necessary. I set my SR at lowest point on shoulder side, only about ¼-inch higher on chest side.

September 17, 2016 at 03:01 PM · SHAR sells a very comfortable chin rest pad ( ).

Before I started using this chinrest cover a year ago (which I use without a SR) I used a piece of soft leather on every chin rest (that also covered the metal parts) for 15 years, fastened to chin rest with velcro so that it was removable. Before that I was introduced to the use of chamois between my skin and the chin rest by a quartet mate at the San Diego Chamber Music Workshop back in 1977. Ten hours a day of constant playing was wearing off the skin on my jaw and making it break out in bumps. So I went out to a local auto parts store and brought a chamois cloth during lunch break and used that for the rest of the workshop and for years afterward. (Regarding the shoulder rest issue I did use a shoulder rest (mostly Wolf Secondo Standard) from about 1965 to about 2005. I have nothing against using one - if it helps a person play better, they should use it!))

But back to the BERBER chin rest the OP uses. It looks to me that using that under the point of one's chin is a secondary invention of Dr. Guillotine. Holding a violin that way has got to be self-limiting. How do you keep the violin on your collarbone? How will you be able to sightread as you progress? Why does anyone have to (or even want to) be able to see down the fingerboard (on a cello - perhaps there are times in the upper octaves, but on a violin or viola, don't we do that by "feel"?)? I've played for a long, long time and I've played with a lot of people and I can't remember people who play that way.

September 17, 2016 at 03:11 PM · @Erin: Not sure about ostriches, but I share your annoyance with the negative comments about using a shoulder rest.

I’m one of the guys and have a fairly short neck -- and I use shoulder rests. I was a kid beginner and played restless till I tried some SR models at 18-19 y/o for comparison. I can play with or without the SR, but I prefer to play with one -- I don’t like the feel of a bareback fiddle. As I said earlier in this thread, I set my SR at lowest point on shoulder side, only about ¼-inch higher on chest side. FWIW, I orient mine SW-NE as you view the back of the instrument. This works well with my build.

What really grinds my gears in the SR wars is the snobbish attitude of some restless players -- not all of them -- as if it is they who are the genuine players, the elite ones; while the rest of us, who happen to be the majority, are still using “training wheels.”

Yesterday afternoon, this thought hit me: If all of us successfully ditched our shoulder rests, some in the restless camp could well develop another kind of restlessness -- wondering what other issue they might glom onto for purposes of nit-picking.

To paraphrase something I came across on the Net recently -- sorry that I don’t have the URL:

MYTH: This matter will be settled -- eventually.

FACT: Stubborn humans.

September 17, 2016 at 04:00 PM · Years ago I had TMJ. Not fun. It went away on its own, and I'm not sure if it was violin-related. But yes, it is very easy to let carry tension in the jaw. I see it all the time in my students, and often they don't even recognize it till I point it out.

September 17, 2016 at 04:04 PM · Practice with your mouth slightly open. You will immediately become aware of your jaw tightening and be able to fix the problem. Often the problem occurs because the musical impulses are going to the mouth (singing) instead of the fingers.

September 17, 2016 at 04:49 PM · Carlo, on my Viola, it is just at the perfectly awkward height, such that I don't feel comfortable using SR, but it is also just perfectly low enough to make me lift my shoulder to make secure contact for the shifts. Any suggestions for that?

I think Bruce nailed it. I think that's how I decided if a chinrest was for me or not.

September 17, 2016 at 05:44 PM · Try viola. After that, the pain experienced on violin will feel like a relief!

No, seriously, this is not the first post of your painful violin experiences. How is you wrist and forearm?

No online forum can help you prevent developing chronic conditions as a consequence of unintentional self-abuse / poor training.

Perhaps time to consider another teacher or another more ergonomic instrument?

September 17, 2016 at 07:44 PM · Rocky, that's exactly how I feel about left hand techniques, and finger spread, and shift from viola to violin.

September 17, 2016 at 10:58 PM · The Berber is not only rather high but it enforces a rather particular angle. The Wittner chin rest is a nice step down from the Berber.

September 18, 2016 at 08:56 AM · @Jim. Your rant says more about you, than it does about any rest-less player. I was offering a suggestion to David, that he could try to see if it would help him. Nearly all my colleagues and most of my students use a SR. No mention of either being a "genuine" player or of trainer wheels from me.

@Steven. If you want to fill that small gap try a closed cell foam pad or a similar and an elastic band.

@Jeff. If you make it to NZ, no charge for the lesson on playing rest-less.

Cheers Carlo

September 18, 2016 at 11:16 AM · What Carlo said!

September 18, 2016 at 11:32 AM · Carlo, New Zealand is a million miles from me. Thank you for the free lesson to play restless like Itzak and Jascha.

September 18, 2016 at 11:44 AM · WELL, try not talking while you are playing. (OR eating ...) (wink)

SERIOUSLY though, DO NOT put your chin on the chin-rest unless you are doing a downward shift!!!!!

September 18, 2016 at 07:22 PM · @Carlo: There was, indeed, no mention of “genuine players” or “training wheels” from you. On that point, you and I agree. Others have used these terms before -- I won’t mention their names here.

What I wrote -- what you call a “rant,” though it doesn’t fit the dictionary definition of the word -- was actually in response to Erin Sabrini’s post in this thread. No connection with you or your suggestion to David. In fact, your name didn’t even cross my mind as I wrote.

So it says something about you that you would think my post had any connection, however indirect, with you and your input. Be assured -- if I have a point of difference with you, I will address you directly in the second person.

I had seen your suggestion to David earlier and had no quarrel with it. If David tries your suggestion and finds that it helps him solve his problem, great.

September 19, 2016 at 02:06 AM · rant


1. speak or shout at length in an angry, impassioned way.

"she was still ranting on about the unfairness of it all"

synonyms: hold forth, go on and on, deliver a tirade, rant and rave, fulminate, sound off, spout, pontificate, trumpet, bluster, declaim; More


1. a spell of ranting; a tirade.

"his rants against organized religion"

synonyms: tirade, harangue, diatribe, broadside, verbal onslaught; rarephilippic

"he went into a rant about the people who were annoying him"

September 19, 2016 at 02:15 AM · Ladies, you're both hideous and we all suck at trying to drag horsehair across metal wire. Let's not start arguing among ourselves. I mean look at it this way, life is still great; none of us suffer from playing the viola.

September 19, 2016 at 03:11 AM · "Thank you for the free lesson to play restless like Itzak and Jascha."

The restless part was free. The Itzhak and Jascha part you have to pay for. With your immortal soul.

I thought we had enough with the SR wars. Now we're arguing over what a "rant" is. Come on guys. It's not like we're talking about something really serious like gear pegs or something ....

September 19, 2016 at 12:07 PM · Or rosin!

"none of us suffer from playing the viola."

Just from listening to it! Sorry, couldn't resist! ;-D

September 19, 2016 at 01:05 PM · @CB: Yes, I read through those same definitions before posting my response to you. Evidently, in your view, my earlier post rises to the level of these definitions -- or some of them. In my view, it doesn’t.

I’ve read your bio, so I know a little of what and you are and what you’ve achieved professionally. If I may freely adapt a remark Arturo Toscanini made regarding Richard Strauss: To Carlo the musician and teacher, I lift my hat. To Carlo the poster, I put it back on.

September 19, 2016 at 02:32 PM ·

September 19, 2016 at 02:33 PM · In the OED another definition for a "rant" is "a lively dance tune". I've come across a few tunes called rants in my folk music playing.

September 19, 2016 at 05:00 PM · Thanks, Trevor. Didn't know that one, but not surprising, since I can't dance and don't do folk music.

EDIT: I've read that the finale of Beethoven 7 draws on thematic material from the Irish round dance "Save Me from the Grave and Wise." Can't help wondering now if this tune would fit the definition of rant you found in OED.

September 19, 2016 at 05:45 PM · @Jim. I like your paraphrasing of the the Toscanini quote! By posting a definition of "rant" I could fairly be accused of one myself, or at least throwing all my toys out of the crib :-)

What I took offence to was what I percived as rest-less-ism. Mixing my metaphors, I felt you were stereotyping rest-less players with one brush. It is interesting your observations are very different to mine as I experience the opposite prejudice. I usually get the, "have you forgotten your shoulder-rest?" quickly followed by an incredulous, "how on earth can you play like that?", and "nobody plays like that anymore". We rest- less players may soon be extinct.

@David. How are you getting on with your jaw tension?

Cheers Carlo

September 19, 2016 at 10:56 PM · Carlo, thanks for your added input. Actually, your earlier post wasn't a rant. Dissent, perhaps, giving a different point of view, but not a rant.

To clear up any mis-impression of stereotyping restless players with one brush: My earlier remarks were targeted at "some rest-less players -- not all of them." Most rest-less players, it seems, can live and let live; but a few here and there come across to me as believing they know what's best, not just for them, but for the rest of us. You may be sure I didn't have you mind in referring to them.

And then some SR advocates go to the other extreme. I'm not a teacher; but if I were, I wouldn't have a new player on the SR right away -- especially a kid -- as some instructors I've heard about are now doing. I played without SR from elementary school till 18-19 y/o, then tried some SRs for comparison.

Along that line, I feel confident that rest-less players won't become extinct. The players themselves will eventually pass away. But, in view of my experience of playing first without and then with SR and getting a comparison, I'm sure that rest-less playing, which is indeed a better option for some players, will still be around.

Your mention of David's name at the end of your latest post reminded me of this thread that Dylana Jenson started in 2012 on the subject of remedying pain issues by removing the SR:

Playing Pain Free

September 20, 2016 at 02:20 PM · Jim, a little off topic, but since a "rant" is also a musical form, it is worth providing some further information:

The rant is a lively dance tune, technically a 4/4 reel, from the 18th century originating in Northumbria in the north of England, and has since migrated well beyond the confines of the UK. A well-known example is the Morpeth Rant, Morpeth being a town in Northumbria. A discussion of this tune and the background of the rant form, together with the sheet music of different versions, can be found at

Incidentally, the Morpeth Rant is that folk tune rarity where we actually know who the composer was - in this case the 18th century musician William Shield.

I'll do some digging to find out more about the Irish tune that Beethoven apparently used in his 7th. It doesn't surprise me at all - most of the great composers on occasion went to the vast corpus of folk music for source material or inspiration.

September 20, 2016 at 09:53 PM · Trevor, thanks for the info on Morpeth Rant. I followed the link you gave and read through one of the sheet music samples. At first, it looked like some of the material in one of my first-year books -- I still have all of them. I'd have to double-check -- not sure the tune is actually in there.

September 20, 2016 at 10:20 PM · Back to the original topic - a long time ago I used to have a problem with clenching my teeth/jaw when playing the violin, especially if I played for a long period of time. I learned to do what Bruce suggested above - play with your mouth slightly open. You can actually keep your lips closed so you don't look like a drooling idiot :) - just keep a little open space between your teeth so they aren't clamped together. It didn't take long for me to get used to, and it really helped.

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