Viola & small hands #2

November 4, 2018, 9:47 AM · You've been so kind to help me with my problem (here's the original thread:, and it already helped a lot to know I'm not the only one struggling with these things.

As Luis wrote, "Playing comfort is not only related to the size of the instrument and string length." As usual when it comes about violas, he is absolutely right. I'll try to keep you updated with the changes I made and if (and how) they make my life easier.

First and most important, I helped to tilt the instrument more than I would do with a violin. Playing on the lower strings is a lot easier now, not only in the higher positions, but also in first and half position. Therefore I had to put on a shoulder rest, because working only with foam pads didn't give enough stability. I found the ideal SR for me, the Augustin VLM diamond. It isn't only the best looking I've ever seen, but also the best customizable. By changing the feet (the longer one on the shoulder, the shorter one on the sternum side of the SR) it gets super low, and by tilting the feet away from myself the SR gets very near to the collarbone but still sits stable on the viola body.

Second, I changed the CR from a Guarneri to a teka model. I'm not sure yet if it's the optimum for me, but being able to place the chin more centrally over the tailpiece helps me to find a relaxed position. I'd really love to try a SAS model, but I'm not sure about which height I should order, and no Luthier in my region carries them in stock. So maybe I'll give it a try with a Berber instead.

Third is practice, practice, practice... Meanwhiles I can do up to 90 minutes without taking a break. Nice!

Replies (6)

November 4, 2018, 10:04 AM · "Meanwhiles I can do up to 90 minutes without taking a break. Nice! "

But not good. You need breaks even if you can play longer.

November 4, 2018, 10:37 AM · Nice to hear. I absolutely agree with Roger, not just for physical reasons but for mental reasons as well. I think it would help to bring the viola more in front of you than the violin. Have you thought about trying a center-mounted chinrest (not the Guarneri)? Unless you're willing to ditch the shoulder rest for a shaped sponge/pad thing, you should probably get the lowest height for the SAS chinrest. Tilting the instrument can help, but over-tilting it could lead to difficulties bowing properly on the highest string. I'm just curious: is it a problem for you?
November 4, 2018, 11:31 AM · Ella, thanks for mentioning, but no - I'm relatively happy with my bow arm, and I'm aware that there can be "too much" of anything, also of tilting. The viola rests at a 45° angle on my collarbone, the SR adds a little bit of extra support. The viola points more to the front than the violin does, which wasn't possible with the Guarneri CR but is easier now when the center of the instrument moves further to the left. The pure center mounted CRs I tried (like the Flesch) never felt very comfortable, I felt that it would force me too much into one certain posture. That's why I thought the Berber or SAS might be the way to go since they still allow some movement to the left side.

Roger, sure you're right, and in an ideal world I would do it like that. Unfortunately, when I usually get home from work around 6 p.m. or later and should not disturb the neighbors after 8 p.m., it's tricky to divide my practice time into slots and I have to work with what I have. But I'm trying to find the right mix of technical training which allows me to relax part of my body occasionally during a practice session. Especially do I avoid playing on the C string in first position for too long, and several other things. - As well in my friday eve rehearsals noone asks if we should take a break. We're a group of full time non-musical professionals plowing through the last four centuries, and are just happy if we manage to get through our programme...

November 4, 2018, 1:12 PM · You can buy the tallest SAS and cut it down to the height you want. That's what I did.
Edited: November 5, 2018, 2:04 PM · Nuuska, your solutions are identical to my own, and I'm still playing with ease as I galop towards 70 y.o..

I use a Teka, but much "improved": I removed a wedge-shaped sliver from the base, turned it over and stuck it back to facilitate the "tilt" you mention.
Then I carved a dip in the leftmost half of the lip to allow my so-delicate jawbone to "escape" (my jawbone has a "corner " below the ear).

I set up my Kun Bravo in the way you describe.

November 5, 2018, 5:15 PM · Adrian, great to hear. Could you eventually provide some photos? Maybe that might be also my missing link...

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