another shoulder rest post...

January 20, 2019, 2:09 PM · I am currently doing a lot of resting because I overplayed with tension (and have an old injury that flares up from time to time). Trying to use this (frustrating) situation to notice where I have tension/pain and figure out how to fix it!

I am addressing my tension issues partly by changing my setup. I just purchased a chin rest, and I can already see that this is helping, especially with neck tension.

As I have been practicing holding the violin without tension, I notice that my shoulder rest rests not only on my clavicle, but also on my acromion or acromioclavicular joint, I believe.

Should this be the case? It feels a bit like this prevents some movement in the left arm (though it is hard for me to tell at the moment, because I have so much inflammation going on in my back, neck, arm, and fingers (I am really barely playing until this is resolved, don't worry!)) Or should the shoulder rest rest entirely on the clavicle area?

I appreciate the help with this! Googling "acromion or acromioclavicular joint + violin" wasn't very informative, and I wasn't sure where else to look. Thanks. :)

Replies (69)

Edited: January 20, 2019, 2:47 PM · I am no expert but I can't think of a player with the rest that far out and I would guess it is at best rare. (But perhaps I just don't know the special problems of for example very small-framed people?) I found quite a number of hits with keywords violin & acromion. One of the possibly more useful ones that used to be around was not responding today, but you can still see it at https://web.archive.org/web/20160401190351/http://www.violinistinbalance.nl:80/conclusions.htm There may be more complete versions of the site elsewhere at the archive.
January 20, 2019, 2:52 PM · hmm...maybe it's my location (in Europe), but I can't seem to access that site.
January 20, 2019, 3:08 PM · This problem can be solved by carefully adjusting the shoulder rest so it sits in the trash can.
January 20, 2019, 3:19 PM · Cotton, I have read enough other threads re. shoulders to have waited with baited breath for your suggestion. :)

I am quite tall (178cm), and I have always thought of my shoulders as fairly broad. They are the opposite of sloping - they stick quite far out, I believe. Perhaps it is the angle with which I use the SR...but when I adjust it so that it is more straight across the fiddle, my violin feels like it will fall off my shoulder...

January 20, 2019, 3:51 PM · Anita my link was shortened. Hopefully this works. Go here:

https://web.archive.org

...and search for www.violinistinbalance.nl

January 20, 2019, 4:12 PM · It still did not work...but I found the site at http://violinistinbalance.org! Thanks for the tip - very helpful stuff
January 20, 2019, 5:11 PM · My two centimes d'Euro:
I have the left, wider end of my Kun Bravo on the end of the collarbone, but not overhanging onto the mobile beginning of the arm. The right, narrow end comes round in front of the collarbone to rest on the chest to stop the violin swinging round to the right. The rest is not necessarily straight across the violin, depending on what I am wearing.
January 20, 2019, 5:25 PM · I have never, ever mounted a shoulder rest straight across the violin. I have never used a shoulder rest on my collar bone. I use a chinrest that mounts the violin comfortably on my collarbone (it did take a "while" to find the right design) and I use a shoulder rest to avoid a tendency to raise my left shoulder when playing and to give the instrument the "longitudinal" tilt that works best for me.
Edited: January 20, 2019, 5:48 PM · Anita, in your search for a new and more comfortable setup I'd recommend giving foam rubber a try. Isaac Stern in this video gave a simple tutorial on how he held the instrument and how he used foam rubber. I sometimes use a bit of it for highwire pieces. It is much softer and flexible than some of these very rigid shoulder rests. It does a good job in my opinion filling the gap between collarbone and jaw.

January 20, 2019, 5:45 PM · I shorten my rest so the chin-rest is nearly under th rest & the bow-arm side is also fairly near the bottom of the bout (tho nowhere nearly as close).
Need to say I also have reversed the direction so the high side is left. This is to accommodate a chronic problem (macerated labrum) in left shoulder. A wise former studio musician suggested this 'fix' when I was about to give up altogether. I am not pain free, but it has given me 10-yrs-and-counting more play time than I believed I would have.
Edited: January 20, 2019, 5:49 PM · double-posted
Edited: January 20, 2019, 6:09 PM · Some good advice above. The violinist in balance site is definitely worth a read. Here's my 2 cents:
1. Is your teacher aware of your tension issues? You seem to say yes, but please correct me if I'm wrong.
2. At 178cm tall, I assume your arms are rather long (not relative to your height), and I recall you have some tension issues in your bow arm. It sounds like your arm is rather cramped at the frog. This can be fixed by holding the violin far out to the left. A side-mounted chinrest, especially one that doesn't go over the tailpiece at all, will make this possible.
3. I never mount a shoulder rest straight across the violin. This tends to put the shoulder rest right at the edge of the shoulder (aka the acromion), which leads to instability and limited left arm movement. The shoulder rest should sit on the middle or the end of the collarbone. You can change the placement of the shoulder rest to make this work, or even narrow it by one notch, which puts it closer to the neck. Place the shoulder side foot next to the chinrest clamp, and place the chest side foot as close to the middle bout as is reasonable.
4. The foam rubber is worth trying, but this thread seems to be more about the placement of the shoulder rest,
so I don't think it's worth worrying about just yet.
Edited: January 20, 2019, 6:56 PM · It would be interesting if you can post a picture of the back of your violin bearing the shoulder rest so that we can see how it's mounted there. My experience is very much like Andy Victor's. I can feel the violin on my collarbone but it's not pressed there. The shoulder rest mainly keeps my violin from flopping around and helps me keep the scroll up. Nate makes a good point because even the lowest of the low shoulder rests still adds quite a bit of shim width. If you like the security of the SR but the "give" of the foam, there are shaped pieces of foam that you can buy, which you can secure in place with a couple of rubber bands, such as the "PolyPad." I tried one of those for a while at the suggestion of a camp teacher but in the end it just didn't give me the security I wanted so now I use an "Everest" SR.
January 20, 2019, 11:37 PM · I think Mr. Deck has a valid point. Being a rank beginner I had no idea which rest would work best, but the violin shop employee who took care of me did have me try one too big, one too small, and one just right. Maybe the best you can do is take your instrument to a well stocked shop and try them all, especially if you have a non-typical build such as my extra wide shoulders. We are all different and need to do what is best for ourselves and others as individuals.
January 21, 2019, 5:17 AM · hmmm...how does one add pictures? (for the technologically deficient...) :)
January 21, 2019, 9:44 AM · I don't know how else to do this, so I will share a link to a google file drive here:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1eL5f6v_vP5id91LSyc9iD_bsG1YWd_wr

This is my current setup. Does it not seem that the shoulder rest is pushing on the acromion?

January 21, 2019, 10:07 AM · Yep! I knew it! That's why I asked for the pictures.

Let's look at the lower bout of your violin, when viewed from the back, as a clock. In your first picture, your SR is positioned at the 8:00 and 2:00 positions. That's what's putting your SR so far out on your shoulder.

Can you adjust so that the 2:00 side is at the 4:00 position instead? Almost down to your CR hardware? Then you may want the other side to move to 9:00 position.

SR clamps don't have to be "opposite" one another on the "clock" for your SR to stay put. And if you have issues with it staying put, that is why people use rubber bands, around the corners of the lower bout.

January 21, 2019, 10:13 AM · AH....ok, I can try this.

This might mean adjusting the feet to be narrower, correct?

Edited: January 21, 2019, 10:33 AM · Shorter/shallower yes, probably, for the bass side leg, but maybe longer for the treble side leg.

I'm not sure you're quite to the acromion though, so you might want to watch what your shoulder is doing when you move your arm. You may be feeling potential restriction because your shoulder is moving (i.e. including your collarbone). AND where you had the bass side of the rest position is not unusual. In fact I just noticed that Janine Jansen (whose technique admittedly is a little unconventional but who cares) has had hers even further out.

Take me with a grain of salt--I haven't played around with these types of rests in years.

January 21, 2019, 12:44 PM · One of my qualms about Kun rests that I may not have shared before is that the left side leg was hard to position farther to the right, so even at the rightmost position, I would feel the violin was too much over the shoulder (granted, tbis position is standard for thousands, but for me, it's too far to the left, just as with the OP).

With that said, Ms. Kaul, as long as you can adjust your rest well, all is good. It does look too far left in the pictures, which may be difficult for both arms to manage with comfort. Some players do hold it far left, but it's obvious it's not comfortable that way for you in particular.

I do use my VLM Diamond rather centered after much experimentation, but that's a very comfortable, non-obtrusive (to me) shoulder rest. When I used a Kun Bravo, I did not use it centered either.

Edited: January 21, 2019, 8:37 PM · Probably closer together since you're spanning a shorter overall distance from end to end. You should still realize pretty good attachment grip. Now, if you try to put the feet in the 5:00 and 7:00 positions, well, that's not going to work. Kun SR is adjustable, but of course not infinitely so.

As far as shorter or shallower, well, maybe. Normally I would say yes but your SR is so far out on your shoulder where it might become higher again. This is very hard to judge ... without being you.

January 22, 2019, 1:41 AM · Currently, I play without a shoulder rest. It wasn’t easy to get here, but it’s very comfortable now.Based on you photos and description, I see similarities. My last SR was a Menuhin SR.

Does it feel like your neck is hyperextended? Or your violin will slip down or tip forward? Is your shoulder narrow and steep to the collarbone?

0. Try this without an SR first, then try to fit your SR. A SR should fit your posture,, not the other way around.
1. Pivot your violin slightly towards the center so your scroll is not so far to the left.
2. Rotate your left
shoulder counterclockwise to give your collarbone a bit of a lift. The violin should level some, less tipped forward. It may feel like your elbow is drawn closer to your body.
3. The violin should rest where your collarbone curves forward by the neck, and the plane behind it to the shoulder muscle. If you lay a flat hand by your neck from this curve to shoulder muscle you will feel the placement.
4. If you can’t rotate due to inflammation, pad the gap between the collarbone and the violin.
5. Practice to develop muscles

To create the sensation of the shoulder rotation((, stand with both arms straight out to each side. Make a thumbs up with both hands. Now rotate your arm and shoulder so the thumbs point to the back.

SR adjustments:
Try lowering the SR by the chinrest as much as possible until neck feels like , switch SRs or use foam or sponge that matches the shape you need or ycou learn to play without any. Alternately you can try a towel or cloth diaper, but you will likely need some bulk added with the collarbone is.

A violin can be held naturally but the muscle must develop and the body may need to stretch to have enough flexibility.

Please let us know how it goes.

January 22, 2019, 6:24 AM · Playing with or without a shoulder rest is a very fundamental thing. Of course you can do it either way. Violinists the world over play with SRs, pads, cloths, sponges, foam, or nothing. But whichever way you decide to go, you need a teacher who is experienced in that approach (especially if you are going to use nothing or nearly so) because there are intrinsic issues that you will not be able to solve on your own. Especially vital to have a really solid, comfortable, teacher-endorsed setup if you are aiming for conservatory auditions.
January 22, 2019, 7:18 AM · Well, I went to the oesteopath, which is hard to define here in Germany, but basically in my experience it means someone who is highly educated re. the body, skeletal and muscular systems, is able to see what is out of order, and then does a combination of massage and adjusting to help relieve tension.

In good news, it helped a lot! Not entirely free of pain or tension, but it’s a lot better. I have a lot more freedom of movement.

Also, he noted that my shoulder was blocked in such a way that, when he lifted my left arm, I received less of a pulse to my left wrist (the right was normal). After his work, my arm felt a lot more “alive”. I wonder if this feeling led me to think the shoulder rest was sitting on the acromion...I noticed now that, even when typing, my fingers can move faster.

The unfortunate news is that he suggested I wait 2-3 before I play again, so I will have to put playing around with SR adjustment on hold.

I am earnestly seeking after an Alexander Technique teacher and other ways to address my tension habits!

January 26, 2019, 12:02 PM · After some digging, I realized that the site of the violinist in balance research is not too far from where I am, and it looks like they might have a center where people can go for consultations. They do an analysis and print personalized chin rests and collarbone rests.

Unfortunately it costs quite a bit! I am still contemplating it because I’m in so much pain at the moment (and my left hand is numb and tingly), and the source is a knot in my neck that’s also giving me blinding headaches. (I know, it sounds serious, and I’m taking it seriously. And no, I’m not playing at the moment...) In other words, if this could help me a great deal, it might be worth the high cost...

But I thought I’d post the website here, in case anyone else could benefit from this!

http://www.artistinbalance.org/consultations/

January 26, 2019, 12:26 PM · Another option if you've got it: look into Alexander Technique. Ideally, a violin teacher with Alexander training. Mine helped me get a good setup and I play pain free now.
January 26, 2019, 1:33 PM · I found a pianist who said she had worked with a lot of violinists and at least used to teach at Alexander Technoque at a music conservatory here. I have an appointment with her on the 1st.

I hope it helps. Perhaps it’s the pain in part, but it’s very discouraging. :(

January 26, 2019, 2:14 PM · Hang in there Anita. I recently found a fantastic teacher who also studied physical therapy and she has transformed my left hand and we are in the process of rebuilding my bowing. It's a long process but I see progress and I keep myself inspired by listening to music I hope someday to be able to play.
January 26, 2019, 5:18 PM · Like Julie, I had a violin teacher with AT training which she put to good effect during lessons, although she rarely referred to it by name. I've never had any pain or discomfort when playing the violin.

While we're on the subject, If anyone quotes that tired old mantra "No gain without pain", in whatever context, then remember it just isn't true. Not only that, but it's a darn good recipe for injury in the short or long term.

January 26, 2019, 6:12 PM · Thanks Andres, I too am listening and dreaming a great deal. :) Mostly I stay hopeful - sometimes I feel discouraged. You don’t happen to be in Germany, do you?

My violin teacher let me know that he feels a bit blind about dealing with tension issues, because he’s never had them. So I’m looking for other resources to help me - hence the pianist Alexander technique teacher.

For those who have done Alexander technique, about how many times per month do you typically have lessons?

January 26, 2019, 6:25 PM · I did lessons weekly for almost a year, then the occasional lesson/workshop since. I was recovering from a non musical related injury and wasn't having luck with traditional physical therapy.
January 26, 2019, 11:30 PM · Anita - much as I sometimes wish I was on that continent, I am in the US. :-)
Edited: January 28, 2019, 6:02 PM · Commercial shoulder rests never have worked for me, either.
January 27, 2019, 11:39 AM · Andres, I wondered because your name sounds richtig Deutsch to me! Or maybe Scandinavian. :)

Bruno, I’m curious as to how you came up with such a solution! Though I’m a proud suspender-owning female, I do need to find a solution with which I could perform. But I think it’s going to require some of your adventurous spirit.

January 27, 2019, 12:08 PM · Sorry to hear about your ongoing pain, Anita.

It turns out pain is a weird and complex thing. I believe the more you know about how your brain/body moves and functions the better you'll be at responding to any kind of therapy/instruction. Just knowing that you can do something about it may start to relieve some of your pain. Beware the nocebo effect!

Here are some resources:
https://thefeldenkraiscenter.com/neck-pain/
(see other treatments under Pain Relief Treatments)

https://twincitiesfeldenkrais.com/classes-lessons/audio-lessons/

http://openatm.org/

If you search v.com with my name + "pain", "massage" or "self-massage" you'll come across some past discussions.

I don't know how much you want to read up on the subject, but here's some interesting info on the latest ideas in pain science:

https://www.painscience.com/index-pain-theory.php
https://www.bettermovement.org/pain/

More later...

January 27, 2019, 3:09 PM · Anita - Spain on my father's side. :-) The accent in Andrés got dropped somewhere along the way.

The two videos from Animato Strings in Australia may be worth looking at. I prefer the "place violin on collarbone and fill in the gaps" school but the thought process may be worth following:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=magic+posture+violin

Edited: January 28, 2019, 10:12 AM · Jeewon - thanks. I read a few articles on pain last night, and was struck that pain is heightened when the brain perceives that there is a threat. I wonder if my fear that I won't be able to figure out how to play without tension or the blindness I feel about how to get the proper set-up is keeping the pain active for longer than it needs to be there!

I did wake up feeling a lot better. I am remaining tentative about that...but I do feel more human today.

Andrés, thanks for the links to the videos - I was not aware that such a shoulder rest exists that can be bent by the user!

I venture to say that I imagine there is too much space between my chest and the shoulder rest, which causes the violin to tip downwards and causes my head to follow...I think? Should I try to add some foam or other material under that corner of my shoulder rest?

Thanks all...

January 28, 2019, 2:41 PM · First, fill the space between your chin and collarbone with a chinrest of appropriate height. Long-necked players should seek a high chinrest. To fill the space between the shoulder rest and your chest, either raise the chest side of your shoulder rest by adjusting the chest leg or attach some foam for additional height.
Edited: January 28, 2019, 8:00 PM · Anita, have you tried repositioning your SR as others have suggested? It just strikes me that on the photo at the link you posted, you positioned your SR completely opposite as I do, and perhaps many others. Your setup seems to put the SR sitting right on your ball joint, no wonder it hurts. If you did, can you post more images?
January 29, 2019, 9:12 AM · Yes - though I had to wait quite a few days, as it seemed damaging to even lift my arm. I am playing with the suggestions made.

Here are new pictures of what I have fashioned so far. I am still not sure if I should adjust the SR position across the violin differently (is the angle and placement of the violin on my shoulder ok?) - I would love expert eyes to check it out.


Adding the foam to the bottom seems to have been really helpful! (Thanks Bruno et. all for the suggestion of "filling up the space") I feels a lot more comfortable, and doesn't feel like my neck has to come forward to hold the violin any more.

Photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1M-rVip6tTs3X-CCLVhXydvrWBk0wdMXF

January 29, 2019, 10:43 AM · To my beginner eyes, that looks good. Perhaps I'd have the violin a tiny bit lower (so couple turns of the bottom/right shoulder rest leg) The solution used here is something I discovered for myself couple of weeks ago and thought about writing here but honestly I forgot!

Hilary Hahn uses same kind of setup:

Re: playing without a shoulder rest
- I spent time learning to play without when I noticed that my left hand has too much tension because I'm used to heavy tension strings on the electric guitar. It's been very helpful whenever I decide to play with a shoulder rest, which to be frank I might slightly prefer.

One neat trick if you ever forget your shoulder rest: the carrying bag/pouch of a Kun shoulder rest for example doubles as a makeshift pillow for the violin when filled up with a cloth/socks/foam, whatever you have handy. Hook the pouch to the chinrest with a small rubber band and it's really stable.
It's really comfortable actually and I think my violin sounds better that way :D I could post a picture if there's interest.

January 29, 2019, 3:29 PM · J I, thanks for that! This video gives a really clear view of her setup, something I really struggled to see on other videos.

I played for 10 minute blocks today, and everything still feels good! I don't know if this is my "final" setup, but it feels comfortable so far. I take my violin with me to my first Alexander technique appointment on Friday...hoping to get the teacher's perspective, as well.

Edited: January 29, 2019, 9:38 PM · Sometimes it takes a lot of tweaking over time to settle on what's best for you. I see that you somewhat changed the angle of your SR, and you could go much further IMO, all the way to 11 o'clock -> 4 o'clock vs what you had which is 8 o'clock -> 1 o'clock. I also noticed that your SR feet height are more or less equal, whereas the high side (which is sitting on your shoulder) should perhaps be at the lowest possible position to level the instrument even further.
January 30, 2019, 11:04 AM · I’ll try putting the top-of-shoulder side down all the way and see how it feels.

I did shorten the distance between the feet to bring the rest a little closer to the chinrest. Having the feet at a steeper angle like 11/4, however, feels very uncomfortable! I’ll try to see if I can describe why as soon as I get home to my fiddle, I don’t know how to put it into words at the moment. But yes. I did move it around, but vacillating back towards this sort of angle....

January 30, 2019, 12:00 PM · @Cotton,

What sort of trash can do you recommend for shoulder rests?

A smaller, more form fitting trash bin to minimize wobble and clanging about?

Or a larger receptacle, capable of receiving multiple shoulder rests in case of the need for mass disposal?

February 1, 2019, 3:31 AM · Cool vlog from Nicola Beneditti.
February 1, 2019, 4:26 AM ·
The chinrest and proper posture are more important than the shoulder rest.
I know this because I custom made my own chinrest from a mould of my chin and then used a wood duplicator to copy it. Things feel almost perfect.

I often find that one's with the wrong chinrest and poor posture struggle with comfort and alignment. No matter what, they can't get the instrument positioned correctly to feel right.

February 1, 2019, 9:20 AM ·
It's informative to experiment with setup and refer to other people's solutions, especially those with similar proportions and shape. A while back i completely changed my setup having seen James Ehnes Homage (even though he's slightly hunched on the left side as many people seem to be) and studying people like Zukerman. But in the end we have to listen to our own bodies and go with what's most comfortable, though comfort is an evolving thing (a change here might make something less comfortable there!) Movement training is useful precisely because it teaches us to feel the quality of our movement, and become more aware of our 'stuckness' so we can reverse it (see Reversibility: https://sunyatamovementstudio.com/antidote-proper-posture-epidemic-reversible-acture/ and Edited: February 1, 2019, 9:45 AM · [oops]https://www.bettermovement.org/blog/2011/reversibility-part-two .)

Often we come to realize all we have to do is simply cease doing that which causes a 'tension' or lack of mobility. I know, easier said than done. But what we refer to as tension, which should more properly be called excess, or unnecessary tension (since, technically, all movement requires tension in the 'mover' muscle, the agonist muscle,) is always either too much muscle contraction for the context, or simultaneous contraction of the agonist and antagonist muscles (what we need is a smooth alternation of agonist and antagonist, e.g. for vibrato, or detache.) In other words, as long as all our motions are reversible, we'll never be stuck, and more easily avoid excess tension and pain (e.g. in thumb and hand, shoulders, neck, spine, knees, hips, etc.) Seems so simple;)

One thing to avoid in our setup is too much fit. Of course, too much gap will cause too much instability. But filling every cranny, while it may feel pretty good at first, will turn out to be too restricting because we need freedom to turn and lean our head. We need some slack for movement of left shoulder, and the ability to tilt and swing the fiddle itself: we need mobility in all our joints. So it takes a lot of trial and error to find that balance.

I'm not sure I would use Hilary Hahn's setup as a model. Keep in mind she's had the same high setup for a very long time, and so has thoroughly adapted to it. Obviously it works for her, but if you have shoulder pain, I don't think it will help to hold the arm so high. I know it's a rule of thumb to keep the string parallel to the ground, but very few violinists actually play that way. If you look carefully, most violinists hold their hand so that the palm is no higher than the shoulder socket, and usually lower, as a default position, and, depending on the relative height of the clavicle above the shoulder socket, their fiddles may droop accordingly. In other words, keep the armpit angle as small as possible, without squeezing into the ribs of course, and open the elbow more, allowing the hand to lean away, so that it's in line with the forearm. To lower the overall height of your fiddle, you may want to lower the left shoulder rest leg above your shoulder (you may want to experiment with wedges, kind of like the collar rest developed by violinistinbalance; the VLM Augustin-Diamond goes pretty low and seems to work well for people with square shoulders. Looks like they now have a 'flex' model.)

In your pictures, you have great shoulder alignment with arms at your sides, but when you go into playing position your left shoulder still thrusts forward a bit: you reach forward with the elbow. Instead, keep your shoulder blade neutral (which may feel pulled back if you're not used to neutral while in playing position,) so that you maintain alignment (try keeping your shoulder blades on top of a low chair-back, or keep both shoulder blades against a wall) and open your elbow more. That's not to say the shoulder should never move: forward, back, up, down, but you need to establish a neutral position to which you can always return.

Hope you have a great AT session today!

February 1, 2019, 2:40 PM · Jeewon, so kind of you to remember! :)

I am sold on AT. Already by the end of the lesson, I felt a difference in my ability to notice when I was tensing the muscles near my shoulder blade in order to hold up the fiddle instead of using my balanced body. I am looking forward to what else I will learn to notice.

Incidentally, at one point, it was so relaxing that I nearly fell asleep! :)

This might seem really silly, but I have a ton of trouble recognizing what other people have a similar body type as I do. I would like to be able to recognize that and take a look at their setup, but...do I have broad shoulders? Normal? Long neck? Short? I know my fingers are pretty long because everybody and all their uncles mention it...but everything else...it seems to be a kind of disconnect in my self-perception.

When I lower the rest on the shoulder side, it feels like i have to dip my head uncomfortably to reach the chin rest. I *think*. Perhaps I need a taller chinrest? So the violin will sit lower but still reach my neck...?

I will try to notice my shoulder blades as I play! I think it will already be more possible to feel it, but I’ll also try it against a wall or chair.

Perhaps I should work on my carpentry skills...making one’s own chin rest - whole new level.

February 1, 2019, 3:09 PM · Hi Anita,
I'm glad your AT session went well and that it will benefit you. To get an idea of how long your neck is, you can measure the distance from your jawbone down to your collarbone. If your neck is 9 cm or longer, I'd say your neck is relatively long and that you should consider a higher chinrest. Sadly, higher chinrests are a bit of a hard find, but they do exist. Another option to customize the shape of a chinrest is to find a model that is close to what you like and carve off some material
February 1, 2019, 5:24 PM · Ah, that's helpful, thanks! hmm, yes, it seems to be about 12cm. Well, somewhere between 11 and 13, depending upon where I start from on the shoulder...
February 1, 2019, 6:18 PM · Wittner Augsburg
Edited: February 1, 2019, 6:31 PM · Sounds like you do have a relatively long neck. I remember you also had a question about determining the shape of your shoulders and the size of your hands and such. this is harder to determine, as there's lots of relativity in there, but what I can say is that sloping shoulders are the kind that slope a lot from the bottom of the neck to the top of the shoulder. Flatter shoulders almost have a 90° angle between the base of the neck and the top of the shoulder. Shoulder width is harder to measure, but as a general rule for fitting shoulder rests, they should not sit too close to the edge of the shoulder as mentioned above. The other important factor to consider when choosing a chinrest is the shape of your chin/jaw. I think there is some corralation between chin rest shapes and chin/jaw shapes, but players ultimately have to experiment to find the right fit. Once you have an rough idea of what shape you will like e.g do you need a relatively flat chinrest, or one with more of a scoop, or do you need a center mounted chinrest or a side mounted, you can narrow down your choices a little.

I second Craig's recommendation for a Wittner Augsburg, since it is height adjustable. Some other options for higher chinrests and adjustable ones include:
SAS: these chinrests acome in several heights but are not really adjustable
WAVE: these chinrests are available in several models; two shapes and three heights plus an ultra-low chinrest. These chinrests are only available on wavechinrests.com and you have to mail-order them. They have a buy one try four policy, and if you return anything, they'll refund you.
Kreddle: this is rather expensive, but it is highly adjustable in many ways, including height.
I just wish chinrest manufacturers made the commonly available chinrest models in different heights...

February 2, 2019, 7:51 AM · Ella and Craig, thanks for the suggestions! I will do some research in the next few days and try one or a few of them.

Jeewon, the vlog from Benedetti was helpful! I am still working my way through the movement readings, but they have me very curious.

I found this re. AT and playing - haven't watched it all the way yet, but thought I would share:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2wJ4om66GY

February 2, 2019, 3:53 PM · Has anyone ever tried out the Belvelin shouldrest (hard foam)? It was recommended on the WAVE chinrest site, and has my interest piqued.
Edited: February 3, 2019, 11:56 AM · I have never tried the Belvelin shoulder pad or any other contoured shoulder pad for that matter, but I think contoured shoulder pads (which are pieces of sponge or foam with a sort of curve to fit the shoulder) are worth a try because they can provide a little more freedom of movement and (if you're willing to put in the effort) customizable for individual needs by shaping and cutting (although this isn't the most advisable for store-bought shoulder pads) and can provide support exactly where you want it. Keep in mind that they tend to be lower than most regular shoulder rests. If you're willing to put in the effort, you could design one yourself using some sort of hard spongy material or a relatively hard foam. Besides the Belvelin, there are some other products worth trying, such as the PolyPad, the perfect shoulder rest product from Shar Music (keep in mind that this is NOT a regular shoulder rest but a sponge that is kind of shaped like a shoulder rest), Artino shoulder pads, and the Acoustifoam pads. Some other options include the Playonair (which is a blow-up shoulder cushion) and the Acoustagrip stick-on shoulder rests. Kreddle recently came out with a collarbone rest called the kreddle cushion. It is not too expensive but it is only available on their website. It does not quite function like a typical shoulder rest, as it hooks over the collarbone instead of the shoulder, but it is an interesting tool for supporting the violin/viola.

Another thing to keep in mind is that sponges/shoulder pads/cloth things don't quite function like shoulder rests and they sit closer to the neck than traditional shoulder rests (although they can be repositioned to sit more like shoulder rests) and are good choices for those who find traditional shoulder rests too high, need a particular shape that is not offered in traditional shoulder rests, want some more freedom, or otherwise find traditional shoulder rests uncomfortable. I'm not so sure that this assessment is accurate, but this is what I seem to have noticed.

You might also want to check out the Kreddle setup videos on YouTube, which discuss some important principles of posture and finding a suitable fit of chinrest and shoulder rest.

February 5, 2019, 3:53 PM · It has really helped to pull my shoulder blade back (or neutral, probably) and keep the armpit angle small. As a result, my arm is further under the violin, and the left hand feels more balanced, as well. Thanks again, Jeewon, for the advice. I tried to remain very aware of this while doing slow scale practice, and I think it stuck for the rest of my practice time...I didn't experience the same kind of pain in my back that I have been experiencing.

I think I will order a chin rest and play around with it and THEN try to figure out a better shoulder rest option. I have concluded that I need to get the height of the chin rest right before anything else will make sense.

I might go for a Kreddle, as soon as I get my next paycheck...it's actually similarly priced with the Waves, once I take shipping costs into account!

The Kreddle setup videos are a good tip, thank you Ella!

I will post an update when there's more to report. :)

Edited: February 6, 2019, 1:38 AM · Hey glad to hear about your AT experience and the progress you're making!

Here are some exercises which might help. Don't be turned off by the marketing. It's a channel geared towards strength and weight training for 'guys', but Jeff Cavaliere is very knowledgeable and discusses issues on a much higher level than I've read in the typical musicians' health book.

I've found the first 2 videos to be extremely helpful when I have a heavy workload and need maintenance, though I should just do them everyday as suggested. The other videos are educational and therapeutic.

Do This EVERY SINGLE Day!: shoulder rotation and retraction

Quick Shoulder Mobility Drill

Do This EVERY Morning!. N.B. dehydration can cause muscle pain.

Top 3 Rotator Cuff Exercise Mistakes (FIX YOUR SHOULDER PAIN!)

Rotator Cuff Exercises (TOP 5 MYTHS!)

How to Stretch Your Chest (AND HOW NOT TO!)

Shoulder Mobility Drill FIX CRACKING SHOULDERS!

Shoulder Mobility Balancing Act (CAREFUL!!)

4 Stretches You Should Be Doing EVERY Morning!

How to Fix Your Posture in 4 Moves! (PERMANENTLY)

I don't think rigid shoulder rests will impinge on the acromion, though if it's already inflamed any contact may exacerbate the pain. Unless you have a shoulder rest which hooks over the shoulder, which it would have to do to press against the acromion, most shoulder rests will rest on the front of the clavicle and won't reach the acromion at all.

The reason most people suggest keeping the shoulder rest closer to the sternum is that if you happen to raise or push the shoulder forward there will be much less work for the shoulder to do, since the contact point is closer to the hinge (fulcrum.) But if you leave the shoulder neutral it doesn't really make a difference where the contact point is, whether closer to the centre near the sternum, or further out near the acromion, because the shoulder is not doing unnecessary work. A soft shoulder rest, like a sponge, will also be less work for the shoulder for a similar reason if you press your shoulder into the rest, since pressing into something rigid will put your shoulder into an isometric contraction. I know people who use contoured sponges and they have no less fatigue or pain than those who use rigid rests when they're overworked, when they push beyond fatigue. So the thing to address first is how you use your shoulder, whether you're causing fatigue by using it in a certain way. If you find you can't support the fiddle, over the full range of motions you need for the music you're playing, without causing fatigue, then you need some kind of support to relieve that unnecessary work. Sponges are great because they're cheap and also because they're more forgiving than rigid rests, but they can also hide any existing inefficiencies, which may become problematic when you start pouring on the workload, or when you hit a certain age.

The more likely reason for what you perceive to be pain in the acromion is referred pain from trigger points. The left arm, in the traditional posture, is externally rotated (one reason I switched to a more neutrally rotated (on the G-string) and internally rotated (on the E-string) upper arm.) The main muscle responsible for external rotation is the infraspinatus which can develop trigger points that refer pain to the tip of the shoulder. Rounding the shoulder/pushing forward stretches the infraspinatus and holding the upper arm in external rotation overworks it: double whammy!!

See https://www.muscle-joint-pain.com/trigger-points/trigger-point-self-treatment/infraspinatus/

There are a couple of trigger points which when massaged make the shoulder socket feel like it's separating! Check out other trigger points under the 'pain' drop down menu.

February 7, 2019, 5:30 PM · Hey, I haven't had time to look through all of these (busy couple of days for me), but I did the first one and WOW. It felt SO GOOD. That seems to be exactly the "opposite" motion that I need. (Meaning my shoulder blade is definitely coming forward and up?)

Looking forward to the rest. I am glad there was a warning about the marketing ;) I found it a bit intense, but impressed by his knowledge.

Edited: February 8, 2019, 10:45 AM · Hi Anita, Ella and Jeewon - this thread is great.

I recently went to Claire Stefani here in NY to be fitted for a new (custom) chin and shoulder rest - what a revelation! Totally worth the time and expense - and I'm not even with my new set up yet.

I've been complaining about a sense of lack of freedom with the violin (especially shifting up), and tensing/crouching into the violin at the chinrest. The reason I'm jumping into this thread is that I needed an entirely different (height, shape) chinrest than I currently have, and she recommended the Belvelin pad (a small for me and my smaller violin). I currently use a Kun that I've been modifying re: placement, height, leg/pad adjustments, etc. and she said that I could definitely keep playing with that as it was aligned on my body properly. If I had not gone to her, I doubt I would have been able to find a chinrest on my own. Now I have to play the waiting game to receive the pad and the custom chinrest. I can get back to you about the Belvelin Anita, if you are interested in hearing feedback from a non-pro.

I have a lot of stiffness/tension in my left shoulder - and very much appreciate Jeewon's links here, and what you (Jeewon) have to say about playing and fatigue/inefficiencies. It is interesting how we develop habits in response to various life-events (accidents, injuries, stress, etc.) and have to retrain ourselves to relax to neutral.

February 8, 2019, 10:32 AM · Pamela, yes! I’d love to hear how it works for you! It’s exciting to hear from others who are successfully finding a better setup...gives me a bit of hope and patience. :)
February 8, 2019, 8:57 PM · Pamela, yes I think our bodies, or rather, our brains hold onto protective patterns which can become chronic, painful and an impediment after those patterns outlive their usefulness.

I remember reading (can't remember the source) that any injury to the leg causes the brain to shut down the glutes on the injured side to prevent further injury, since our butts are such powerful muscles. I sprained my left ankle in my twenties, and almost 20 years later, when I was learning strength training, I discovered I had a huge imbalance in my hips in both range of motion and strength. Also, when I started running again I had a recurring injury in my left foot for years, until my hips were rebalanced.

But the good news is that in most cases, barring severe injury, perceived stiffness, weakness, tightness, and even chronic pain, is a signal from the brain, not necessarily in the body or relevant tissue, and so we can retrain and regain mobility. So stretching, foam rolling, massage, movement training, meditation, all these activities can help to change the brain and in turn reinstate good movement.

Mobilizing is a gentle way to coax movement. Eric Cobb, of Z-Health, has a lot of free videos on mobilizing: e.g. https://www.google.com/search?sitesearch=zhealtheducation.com&q=shoulder+stiffness

February 9, 2019, 6:30 AM · Claire Stefani Is great. I went to a seminar she gave last summer. Lots of great explanations and tips.
February 11, 2019, 9:03 AM · I have had a similar problem re: injuring then reinjuring the same site until the pattern was broken. It does indeed take time.

Anita - will keep you posted!

Craig - yes! I may go back to her for a bodywork based session after I get more adjusted to my new setup, just to keep things on track. We'll see.

February 15, 2019, 2:23 PM · Well, something kind of crazy happened during my AT technique lesson today!

She was describing how to support the upper body from the ground through the skeletal system...and she helped me shift my upper body to be in balance with the lower, and it just clicked! It felt like a sensation that had always been out of tune suddenly resonated in my entire upper body. She noticed it too, right away, and said she was really surprised - it was like an off/on switch. I spent the rest of the lesson kind of in awe of this feeling.

I’m excited to play around with this balance! I wonder if it can translate into my playing right away or not. I just stood with the violin and played some open strings. Again, it felt so different (and so much better!!), and she said the tone was better (though I didn’t hear a difference, I think, under my ear...) I don’t know about when I start using my fingers...but it is exciting!!

February 15, 2019, 3:36 PM · Great to hear. Why don’t you record yourself to get a better picture?
February 16, 2019, 2:13 PM · It took me years to get away from neck issues, but at this point MY recommendation based on my ergonomics and experience is: 1. fit the chin rest height so that the violin/viola rests securely on your collarbone. 2. A center-mount chinrest should prevent most rolling and slipping. (Anne Sophie Mutter is a good example of this) 3. Now, if needed, fit a shoulder rest that matches this position and stabilizes the instrument.
My preference for my shape and least dampening of resonance is Peter Mach’s lower plastic violin and original maple w/o the hook for viola. I now only use them when I am compromised- sickness, fatigue, or injury - - - or early onset old age.
February 17, 2019, 12:11 AM · I started playing with a shoulder rest, then switched to another, and another, etc., and despite having a teacher who knew how to play very well, got a shoulder injury which progressed to the point that I had to stop playing altogether for some time.

Later I heard that I should ditch the shoulder rest, to find more natural positions, so I did, and also changed to new teachers, ending with one who also played without a shoulder rest.

But somehow that didn't entirely solve my problems, so I continued to have discomfort - pain which would interfere with practicing and progressing. Of course I tried a bunch of different chin rests and adjusting the positioning. I even went back and retried some of the collection of shoulder rests from time to time. I now found that a shoulder rest didn't help or solve the problem.

My teacher has identified some flaws in my positioning which he continues to remind me about and have helped somewhat, but I'm finding that the missing link is not his knowledge and advice, but the fact that he can't feel what my body does. In other words, I can play better, using very subtle changes which I can't yet reliably conceptualize let alone explain, but feel, using the pain and discomfort itself as the guide. For this to work, I have to ignore some of the rough guidance and instructions and even some of my own mental or visual directions - "move the hand farther towards the left", "hold the violin up (or down)", etc., also ignoring what the mirror view might have suggested. Instead I need to rely on how it feels, ensuring that there is not much apparent force employed by the left hand, fingers, or the neck. It means primarily relying on the hand to support the violin, and ensuring that it has the positioning, especially thumb and finger positioning, to do so without discomfort. Relying on the gear to hold the violin also means that the body must tense and pull to support the violin, whereas if the hand holds it, the rest can relax to a greater degree. I still need the help of the chin rest, to hold the violin for down-shifts unless it happens to be sufficiently raised, and for that to work, I have to position the violin where the chin rest needs it to be. With a more perfect chin rest I suppose that positioning might be more perfect, but any positioning which the devices require of me is a compromise with where my body is most comfortable, so is best made with reluctance.

I'm not out of the woods yet, but it seems to be working.

Pain and injury are signals to stop which we have to heed - before long they become so forceful that there is absolutely no choice, and that choice might be taken away permanently. I'd suggest that the OP stop playing altogether until the injuries have recovered through therapy, and to have medical checks done to examine the damage, and to restart playing if and only when it is safe to do so.

I don't think my own situation is as bad as the OP's, yet.

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