Violin digging into the collarbone

Edited: November 26, 2018, 7:12 PM · I have been learning violin for around three years now. From the past few months, my violin has started digging into my collarbone and leaves a visible bruise after playing. I even have a slight depression in my left collarbone at the place where it rests. I think it began after I started practicing vibrato, since now I need a firmer grip with my head and shoulder to free up the left hand. I know that the violin is supposed to rest on the collarbone, but how much pressure is considered normal?
I use a shoulder rest and a chin rest. I tried shifting the position of the violin and also the shoulder rest to find a hold that reduces pressure on the collarbone. But all other positions either made my neck hurt or tensed up my right arm/shoulder. I am now really confused where my violin and shoulder rest should be to make it comfortable.
Should the violin be pressing against the collarbone and is a bruise normal?
What parts of my body should be supporting the instrument? Should it be between my chin and collarbone, with a little support from the shoulder via shoulder rest? Or should it be only shoulder and chin? Should the shoulder rest go upto my ribcage so that my upper chest is also providing a little support? How should my neck be and how much tension in the neck is acceptable?
How do I find the most comfortable hold?

Replies (21)

Edited: November 26, 2018, 7:17 PM · Try using leather or dropping the shoulder rest.
I think you should do the latter anyways, but it demands a taller chinrest.
November 26, 2018, 7:40 PM · First of all, no matter what your setup is, the left hand must support the violin a bit. You should not press too hard with the chin. You only need enough pressure to keep the violin stable. Also, try putting a piece of cloth or some other protective material on your collarbone. There are a whole bunch of variables that determine the best violin hold for each individual, so it is very hard to give any solid advice online.
Edited: November 26, 2018, 8:04 PM · Has your body changed in any way in the past few months?
Do you have a long neck? (there are some tall chin rests that might help, if this is the case)

The violin should 'rest' on your shoulder. Nothing is really "holding it up", there should be no gripping feeling. If anything, left hand should hold it up, but that's it.

November 27, 2018, 2:47 AM · If the violin is bruising your collarbone perhaps the violin should be higher up on your neck? Just a thought. Also like Ella said, try a cloth or a piece of chamois leather between you and the chinrest metal clamps.
November 27, 2018, 6:11 AM · Thanks for all the replies. My neck is long, and I think maybe a higher chin rest will help.
@Cotton - What do you mean by dropping the shoulder rest?
To increase the height of the violin, I tried making the shoulder rest higher since I couldn't adjust my chin rest. But that too felt uncomfortable.
I don't have leather, I will try putting a cloth.
November 27, 2018, 6:14 AM · Could you please provide some more clarification on the left hand's role in holding the violin? Should it provide a support even when I am doing vibrato? Exactly where from? From the pad of the pad of the thumb?
Edited: November 27, 2018, 7:05 AM · I meant just playing without a shoulder rest altogether. Most pecople can get used to it and like it better after a while.
November 27, 2018, 6:39 AM · Don't start!!!
November 27, 2018, 6:40 AM · A Strad pad does wonders! I had the same thing because my setup was weird. I got a new shoulder rest so I don't need it anymore, but they're pretty comfy. You can get them on Amazon for about $15.
November 27, 2018, 8:17 AM · All the advice in the world is of little value without more information. How are you holding the instrument, etc. since no two people are the same, and advice on shoulder rest (or lack of), chinrest, hold, etc. have no value. Do you have a teacher? Ask her/him.
November 27, 2018, 9:11 AM · I sympathise! Here are my 2 centimes d'Euro..

My solution (which I do not impose on my students..) is to have the violin resting, via a shoulder rest, in front of the collarbone on the treble side, and on the curly extremity of the collarbone, on the bass side.

- If my head is lifted, the neck of the violin rests on the thumb but against the base of the index. No excruciating contact with the collarbone, (which was never designed to suffer!)

- For more left-hand freedom (shifting, vibrato etc.), the weight of my head on the chinrest is sufficient to balance the instrument see-saw fashion. No pain, no tension, no hicky, even as I galop towards 70 y.o.

The see-saw image brings virulent protests on Take no notice!

Edited: November 27, 2018, 9:41 AM · I have found this type of chinrest cover sufficient to protect one's neck and also shield your collarbone from the violin wood and chinrest hardware:

I also bought a similar design from (a little thinner) but they don't seem to be selling it now. The model I have is the "Large."

November 27, 2018, 7:05 PM · I agree with Kristen--I love my Strad Pad! So comfy. And don't let anyone convince you that you don't need a shoulder rest. Violins are simply not thick enough to be held comfortably without one. The fact that people did it for centuries is immaterial. We all also used to live in caves, wear skins, and freeze all winter. Progress has allowed us to move beyond that! But you may need a different one. We are all different and the same thing doesn't work for everyone. I really like the Bon Musica.
November 27, 2018, 7:14 PM · I smell tension.
Edited: November 27, 2018, 9:27 PM · Quite possible that the clamps of your chin rest (especially if it is center mounted) are causing the bruising. If true, you might also be allergic to that type of metal.
You can cover them with chamois leather or red cosmetic pads sold by Shar.
Violin should not be pressing your collar bone, but it is ok for it to rest / make contact with it.
November 27, 2018, 9:42 PM · The bruise is not normal and the firm grip is no good. Tension will kill your playing. You need to practice everything with a feeling of ease in mind.

Take a look at a video of Heifetz playing on youtube. He's extremely intense without being tense at all. To me Heifetz is the epitome of perfect ease in playing. He played without a shoulder rest, which means nothing to you. One can play well with or without one, generally speaking, and one approach might end up working better for you, but you need to experiment with a feeling of ease.

I have experimented with some different shoulder rests and am currently using one called the Perfect Should Rest, which is very soft and comfortable and also very cheap. I also use a Strad Pad, but neither of these will really solve your problem.

One approach an old teacher used was to secure a soft sponge to the end of the violin scroll with a rubber band, then use this sponge cushion to rest the scroll against the wall. This way you minimize the force you need to secure the violin, and you can practice your vibrato or whatever else with more freedom. Of course you eventually need to move away from the wall, but you can use this trick to help learn to use less force.

Also google the video "Rest No More" by violin professor Jonathan Schwartz. He talks about going restless, but that's not the only point. He discusses his journey experimenting with violin position, and some positioning tips whether or not you use a shoulder rest.

You will gt different answers and there are different schools on not just using a shoulder rest but where the support comes from. With a stiff shoulder rest, it can be just the shoulder and head, but with absolutely minimal pressure, no clamping. Without a shoulder rest, the violin rests on the collar bone and then must be supported by the left hand. Or you can do some combination. There's no right or wrong between the different approaches, but in any of them you must avoid unnecessary tension. It will hinder your progress and likely lead to injury.

I hope that helps give you some food for thought.

November 27, 2018, 10:29 PM · Do take time and find what works for you. There are a lot of good ideas in this thread, but they may not be what’s best for you.
November 28, 2018, 7:01 AM · When I was a boy my teacher did not allow me to use a shoulder rest. He was one of those "Heifetz didn't use one" teachers. I now have a bone spur on my collarbone from where my CR hardware was rubbing against my collarbone all the time. So I would not be able to play "restless" (without a shoulder rest) now even if I wanted to, unless I used at least a half inch of sturdy padding to cover that bone spur.

Ideally your teacher helps you with this. Yes, I know -- lessons are expensive. If you can't afford regular lessons, my suggestion is to visit a violin shop where someone can help you choose the right combination of CR and SR for your physique. Also I suggest you invest in a full-length mirror for your practice room so that you can spot signs of tension in your setup and in how you are holding your violin and drawing your bow.

If you are feeling especially brave, put a video of yourself on here. You can just play a scale or "Twinkle" or something -- the point would be for folks to see your hand positions, posture, and such and offer advice.

November 28, 2018, 7:43 AM · When I played as a kid (age 11-18), I used no shoulder rest. Now I do. I honestly can't believe I ever played without one now LOL. The difference is huge. Back then, a lot of people didn't use them--now they seem much more accepted (except for here LOL). :-)
Edited: November 28, 2018, 9:07 AM · I have the opposite experience from Elizabeth. To the other extreme, actually.
Playing restless takes a different technique. If you force yourself to use either method and do it uncomfortably, you'll have problems.

I think playing with a rest causes squeezing (the opposite of what it should), but that's just me. Some people squeeze without a shoulder rest. Personally, I hated adjusting the darn thing every ten minutes.

Edited: November 29, 2018, 4:47 PM · The right chinrest is vital too.
Mine is a much-modified Teka, and I forget it's there. Equal contact over its surface, just enough "lip" to hooks lightly under my jaw and chin with just the weight of my head. I know this because I once dozed off (while the conductor was trying to get the choir to stay in tune..) and the scroll actually rose. Three cheers for the see-saw mode! (And a slight clearance betwween violin and collarbone.........)

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