A friendly -no-SR question

February 27, 2019, 8:15 AM · Wish I knew how to set up a poll here - I think we used to..

So, without looking it up: the question is simple and its just for those who are dedicated SR-addicts. Oops, that wasn't so friendly was it? LOL!

If you play without an SR what is the main method of holding the violin up?

a) by resting it on your shoulder?
b) with the left hand?
c) by clamping the chin against the collarbone?
d) you don't you let it droop
e) with strings, elastic and pulleys?

[question triggered by a pro who told me I was wrong]

This is NOT an SR-fight, there is no judgement as to which is better (although we all know which is).

Replies (43)

February 27, 2019, 8:41 AM · f: All of the above.
February 27, 2019, 9:03 AM · a) by resting it on your shoulder.
No. My shoulder has good clearance below the back of the instrument when playing

b) with the left hand
This, with assistance from my patented thumb rest

c) by clamping the chin against the collarbone
No need to clamp, gravity holds the instrument on the
collarbone, weight evenly distributed between there and the
left hand
d) you don't you let it droop
Holding the scroll up high helps shift the weight vector more
onto the collar bone, and lightens the load out at the
scroll end. A high scroll also allows the pinky to come down
at the fingerboard as opposed to trying to reach up and over.

February 27, 2019, 9:05 AM · Elise - I am learning to play with a Belvelin shoulder pad, which isn't entirely SR free, but it is far less support than my Kun! Here's what I was told:
- You only drop your jaw into the chinrest when you shift (like a nod), otherwise it should be light contact (no tension).
- You use your left hand to hold the violin up so it does not droop.
- The violin meets (for me) with the tailpiece button at my neck, and the bottom of the violin rests on my collarbone. (The shoulderpad fills the gap that's created between the collarbone and my shoulder.)

I was reminded that the violin is very light, so not much counter lever support/weight is truly required to keep it "up".

Looking forward to seeing what Nate has to say about this - I know he's responded extensively to these types of questions before.

My issue with learning how to use the shoulder pad is that my left hand feels less free in exchange for my elbow/shoulder/neck/etc feeling more free. I wonder if this feeling goes away in time, as a kind of adaptation phase?

February 27, 2019, 12:57 PM · I have actually repeatedly tested the acoustics of my violin with and without a shoulder rest and have surprisingly found that the sound is better with the shoulder rest. However, this only started when using the korfker rest. And yes, I was testing only balancing on the collarbone, which is the least acoustically disruptive).
February 27, 2019, 12:59 PM · I use a balance of the LH and the collarbone/jawbone with a well-fitted chinrest (Tempel, Germany) to hold my instrument up. No clamping necessary, although I do have to "throw" the instrument around with the left hand a bit to stay mobile.
February 27, 2019, 1:00 PM · To answer the question, though, the answer is *all of the above* when I have played without one (still uncomfortable because of poor shoulder flexibility).

However, it's also *all of the above* using my shoulder rest, because I have it on a very low setting. In fact I almost can't hold it with only my neck if I try.

February 27, 2019, 5:38 PM · Flesch center mount with the same height from back table to top of CR for both viola and violin. Center of the instrument solidly on my collarbone. Rest of weight in hand. I have free rotation when playing low second or viola parts to better play lower strings. I rarely play with a SR anymore and like the resonance, lightness, freedom of motion and lack of dropping and carrying the darned thing.
Ironically there is a picture of Mutter above my edit window. I would say my position is a poor imitation of hers, but without the bare shoulder dresses (alas, they make me wear a tuxedo or suit.)
February 27, 2019, 7:14 PM · Some of a-d. When in first position, as little pressure as I can get away with between left hand thumb and finger base, using that to push the instrument gently back against collarbone and neck. This works better with a very light instrument, or one balanced more towards the chinrest end. Some pressure between jaw on chinrest and collarbone, but just the bare minimum and mostly when downshifting. Also sometimes adjusting the horizontal angle (raise scroll a bit before downshifting). When in higher positions, left thumb against bast of instrument neck, and use that to push the violin slightly back against the neck. (Note that I am double-jointed, so my thumb can assume some positions that may not be possible for everyone.)

Videos of Milstein are nice to watch to see the degree of freedom he has with instrument position and chinrest dynamic while playing.

Edited: February 27, 2019, 8:54 PM · B & C; although it's less clamping and more using it as a counter weight... I occasionally drop my shoulder rest during playing and it is not always possible to stop and pick it up.

I think we should all be *able* to play without a shoulder rest, barring physiological reasons. It is a useful skill.

February 27, 2019, 10:43 PM · I m curious about what you were told was wrong. The topic of dogmatism in classical music is something that really fascinates me!
Edited: February 28, 2019, 8:00 AM · I think this topic confirms that the fine art of SR-less playing is disappearing. The answer to my question should be (IMO):

The left hand and collar bone.

The whole idea is to keep the shoulder free so that it can participate in the movement of the hand, vibrato, rotation of the violin etc etc. If you don't believe me look at the '6 lessons' of Yehudi Menuhin, #3, the left hand (which is also the hold) at ~7 minutes.


This really is an art - an intermediary stage to achieving it is to bring the left shoulder foreward (ABSOLUTELY NOT UP!) and rest the back of the violin on that - which is exactly how Mutter plays. With perserverence the left hand (in particular the thumb) simply learns how to do both jobs. Is it worth it? That's for you to figure out; I never could get comfortable with an SR, pad, gadget, I tried so many and though SR-less was hard at first nothing else allowed the violin freedom and relaxation.

To me (and only maybe) the difference is that when I use an SR I feel as if I am playing a violin; however, without one I feel as if the violin is part of me.

YMMV (I wonder how many people here remember that from the usenet glory days...)

February 28, 2019, 8:06 AM · I don't use a SR and completely depend on the left hand to keep the violin up. It would fall on the ground without my left hand. On the other side of the violin it rests on the collarbone and also a little bit on the left shoulder top muscle (Jeewon what is the name of that muscle? ;-)
February 28, 2019, 9:00 AM · Here’s something I wrote after a number of people suggested that the left hand should NEVER support the violin:

Hello friends! One of the recent posts and its comments about playing without shoulder rest prompted me to write this little (OK, long) post. I want to be clear that this is in NO way about whether playing with or without SR is superior or anything like that; it’s simply about facts. I’m a hobby violinist but a professional musician and I’ve been researching a lot about performance practice from the past and interviewing a number of violinists from all walks of life for a while now. I’ve done lots of really deep research on this topic, and have probably watched every youtube video in English and French about it. Read just about every discussion about it on the internet in both English and French.

There’s quite a bit of misinformation being spread around as fact and I hope that this post can at least clear certain things. Since I’m a hobby violinist, maybe some of you wouldn’t trust my words, if that’s the case, I invite you to watch videos of actual experts and read articles of actual pedagogues who really know what they’re talking about on this subject.

A lot of teachers who give misinformation on playing without SR are often teachers who play with SR. They’re talking about things they have never really experienced (at least in depth as others have) and what they say is based on assumption. On the other hand, some people who play without SR also say things that aren’t always quite accurate either. The reason for this is because the art of playing without SR is a unique experience for everyone. What a lot of people say may apply to their own unique situation but may not apply to others who have a different body type and playing style. Based on my research, Aaron Rosand is one of the teachers who explains this very well. I have also researched early violin practice (Stanley Richie’s book about this is quite interesting). So what I am writing is based on the number of interviews that I’ve conducted with people who are experts at what they do (in other words, high level violinists who play without SR).

So the number one misinformation that is spread is the following: “Never support the violin with the left hand, it should be 100% free”. After having interviewed a number of players who play without SR, I know this to be quite false. When playing without SR, it is quite important to learn HOW to support with the left hand in the most efficient way. That is the main challenge (among others). Essentially, playing with SR potentially skips this entire process. I say “potentially”, because I do know some SR players who have learned to support with the left hand as well. The vast majority of players today play with a SR, since about 70 years or so, and history is quickly forgotten which is why many players (even professionals) today don’t know about how the instrument was played before the rise in popularity of the SR.

The second biggest misinformation is the idea that one should use a SR if one’s chin is too tall or something to that effect. There’s a video of Kurt Sassmanshaus espousing this idea. There are chinrests for all sorts of neck sizes. Some people specialize in making custom made chinrests for people with unique needs. Stanley Richie also has some things to say about people with long necks. He’s one of ther pioneers of early violin practice in North America, and he claims to have taught long necked people to play without CR.

The next thing to understand is that the SR and the CR have completely different purposes. The most obvious function of the CR is to fill the gap between the collarbone and the chin. Unfortunately, the CR market is quite small and CRs are not as customizable as a SR that can be tweaked to find the optimal setting; a CR generally just comes as it is, and the only customization is where you want to place it. For some players, a custom made CR is necessary: the height is not the only important thing, the shape is also important as each individual has a uniquely shaped chin. Some players are quite lucky in that they re very flexible with their needs and can play with just about any set up without much difficulty. Others need something quite specific, and therefore, this adds to what I said earlier about each case of playing without SR being unique.

So, once you find the CR that you like, you’ll notice that depending on where you like to place the violin, the instrument might drop downwards if you don’t support with the left hand. This is where the obvious role of the SR comes in. The shoulder rest is placed on the shoulder area so that it keeps the violin in place without support from the left hand, thus either completely eliminating or greatly reducing the need for left hand support. This is how some players today are able to progress so much faster (in terms of playing complicated pieces) than players from the past. They get to skip an entire process that takes a long time to learn. Some of the violinists I’ve interviewed told me that it took them a few years to learn to develop the technique to play without SR.

Refering to my previous paragraph, you’ll notice that the chin rest can be placed in a number of diffferent locations, and the violin itself can be positioned in a number of different ways. This makes it harder to give specific instructions on how to play without SR, because everyone will have to experiment to find what works for them.

Some people who play without SR have told me that they raise their shoulders to play without SR. It seems like quite a tense way to play, but some of these people have never had injuries. I guess they’re lucky. That’s another thing: some people are just lucky in that they can have the worst posture but play fantastically and never have any issues. Others can have what looks like perfect posture and end up with problems. Just like in life, some people eat junk food, smoke, etc... and go on to live long healthy lives, others exercise, eat healthy and end up with cancer at an early age ??. Luck is certainly a factor, but when possible, definitely try to have the best posture possible.

Others say (and I agree) that it’s dangerous to raise your shoulders too much. It’s better to focus on training the left hand to support the instrument.

That said, the idea of playing without SR, is that your body is free to be in constant motion. Playing without SR is about finding the balance between tension and relaxation. Think about it, most of us are able to walk long distances for a long time without getting tired. But sometimes if we stand still or sit down for maybe 20-30 minutes, we start to feel pain or discomfort. That is because when we walk, we’re giving different body parts a chance to relax and recuperate and it’s in a constant state of motion. When we stand still or sit in one position for a long time, we’re adding constant tension to one zone.

This is the same with playing without SR: we can momentarily do things that cause tension (ie raising the shoulder for certain shifts or certain vibrato), but once the desired effect is produced, we quickly relax the muscles to allow them to recuperate. Some players who play with SR who have experienced pain say it’s because the violin is always in the exact same position similar to our situation of constantly standing still.

How do you support the violin with the left hand? This is a big topic and there is no one size fit all solution for this. Watch videos of Anne-Sophie Mutter, Itzhak Perlman, and Ida Haendel, and you will see three different approaches. It depends on where you place the chinrest, where you place the violin, at which angle the violin is at, the tilt of the instrument, and even how you bow. So many factors that make each experience a unique one. There are only basic guidelines but no strict rules. It requires constant experimentation.

So there we go. I hope a post like this can make things a bit clearer. Once more , I want to be clear, I don’t care whether you play with or withour SR. It’s really a personal choice. If you find yourself playing with no discomfort whatsoever, then wonderful, no need to change anything. If on the other hand, you feel some discomfort whether u play with or without SR, then you should investigate the source of the problem. Often, having a CR that fits you perfectly might make a tremendous difference but there may be, of course, many other factors. But that’s another big topic in itself.

I want to leave you with this video of Anne Sophie Mutter where you clearly see her supporting with the left hand thumb. She places her thumb significantly lower than say Perlman whose thumb is just sticking out. Furthermore, Mutter uses a center mounted chinrest and her violin is placed in such a way that it seems like it’s maybe even supported in part by her shoulder. We would have to ask her to know if that’s truly the case. Watch videos of Nathan Milsten and you see that the instrument mainly rests on the collarbone.

Last but not least, this may seem like a long post, but it’s only just scratching the surface of the topic. There is still so much more that could be said about it, but I was hoping to just make certain things clear ??

Edited: February 28, 2019, 9:34 AM · Denis - Thank you. At last someone has spelled it all out without prejudice. I think nothing more needs to be added

- but I'll have a say anyway - Clayton Haslop, who published various DIY violin courses and videos and was a student of Milstein, talked of playing without a SR and supporting the violin with the left hand (as he said Milstein did) - and was a Hollywood studio musician and the CM of the orchestra for the Academy Awards a few years back (the only time I saw him).

Personally I support the violin with my collar bone, played the first 30 years without a SR and after finding my perfect CR, decided to try a SR and played the next 20 years with my perfect SR (Wolf Standard Secondo) the next 10 with various other SRs as my body changed and the next 10 on-and-off with and without SRs.

What I use now when I use a "SR" are "AcoustaGrip" for violin and a "Xeros Shoulder Cushion" for viola. Neither device has any effect on sound (that I can hear either under the ear or in cello position) and both devices allow a freedom of motion that I find is restricted by most clamp-on shoulder rests.

February 28, 2019, 9:42 AM · Since the violin has clear contact with my collarbone despite using a shoulder rest, I disagree with the idea that one can only feel as if the violin is part of you without a shoulder rest. If you can play perfectly & comfortably *all* the repertoire without shoulder rest, then you should indeed do that. But those who choose to use a SR are not necessarily avoiding "intimacy" with the instrument. I find that it is all well-intentioned but more very subjective and romantic (nothing wrong with the latter) advice. I know from personal experience that violin became much "easier" for me once I found my own, proper balance between collarbone, chinrest, and shoulder rest. I agree that bodily contact with the instrument is wonderful, but that it's also not made impossible with some shoulder rest setups (such as in my case, some of you, and other people I've known.)

I actually would recommend "restless" playing for violinists that can do well playing that way-just in case I am labeled "anti-rest-less". I also incredibly admire Milstein, Heifetz, and all the others. Me using a shoulder rest doesn't do anything to lessen my love for their playing and artistry.

In the end, I am glad for all of you who are able to play our beautiful instrument without a shoulder rest, and have no reason to "prove you wrong", etc. As long as you are happy, comfortable, and are free to express your music without impediment, all is well.

February 28, 2019, 12:37 PM · Timothy - all very interesting but PLEASE don't make this into a SR vs No-SR war - that's exactly what I was trying to avoid and there are already probably dozens of the same topic on V.Com.

The point of the topic is the main way of supporting the violin IF you play without an SR. And, now my last point, that I think the art of playing without an SR is being lost. Your statement: " I think it's mainly adults in training circles that don't require a SR and who might be changing physically over time to ask these kinds of questions" is vaguely insulting and dismisses 'adults' such as Heifetz, Kreisler, Kogan, Szigeti, Paganinin, Mozart, Tartini, - indeed every one of the greats that really craeated this art.

Frankly, I think you are speaking from a position of lack of knowledge and you are dismissing playing without an SR simply because you can not and you do not understand it.

February 28, 2019, 1:14 PM · Thanks for the clarification.

As regards the intended audience its actually the SR-users. Surely every experienced violinist has heard of not using an SR and most must have tried it. In which case they must also have some idea of how it is achieved. What I was trying to determine was what that concept is - it was triggered by being corrected as to how to play SR-less by a very accomplished violinist (conservatory trained; European apprentice, orchestra soloist) who, I believe, had no idea.

As far as youngsters and SRs are concerned, it deserves its own topic. My own experience is that I initially learned without one (most probably why I have gravitated back to that) but was forced to use one by a school music teacher (a cellist!) and hence, played with one for most of my childhood.

But please lets stick to my question - and my own particular answer as penned a few posts back: that the answer is the collarbone and the left hand.

February 28, 2019, 3:54 PM · Elise reminds me of those young kids that throw sand in people's eyes and then when they retaliate she screams "don't bully me!".

She talks about how she simply wants the question answered and doesn't want it to become a battle of SR vs no SR, and yet keeps throwing in little passive remarks about SR users, and indicating her opinion on the superior path.

In addition, she also indicates that there was a "correct" answer to her question, as if this was a test for all of us plebians and we all failed it. So rather than this being a thread where she's trying to seek out more information, it was like a pop quiz with some arbitrary answer. And the teacher giving the test is actually just a student.

Kinda lame.

Edited: February 28, 2019, 4:36 PM · I have known Elise on this forum for some time, and she loves to tease...

- All the Restless I know or have seen use their shoulders some, or even all, of the time (with or without padded clothing).
- Many Resters, including myself, sometimes use collarbone and left hand without the shoulder.


February 28, 2019, 5:47 PM · I will refer you to the video that made me want to play without a SR. He does a good job of explaining it. Personally, I don't use a shoulder rest anymore because I basically have no neck and can't physically get my shoulder rest short enough to be in the right spot, and it feels more natural and comfortable to play without it. However, I also dont rest it on my collarbone, but the bottom purfling notches in just under my collarbone which works fine for me. But like I said, I have a fat no neck.

Here's the video: https://youtu.be/vxkfBNC32wk

February 28, 2019, 7:11 PM · I went sink-or-swim after my shoulder rest seriously ****** me off while I was recording a CD in a church. That was a few years back. I learned to play comfortably without an SR (more comfortably than with) in a fairly short time---no more than a year. My posture is always changing, though.
My left shoulder comes forward into the violin. If I press too hard, I get marks at the edge of the shoulder, the collarbone and my jaw. It's impossible to not use the shoulder. If you don't, the violin hangs off the front of your body (with the end button in front of your neck) and wants to fall forwards.
I hold the violin with the button in the middle or towards the back of my neck so my face is mostly centered or over the treble side. I think most SR-less players hold it the same general way.
Edited: February 28, 2019, 10:16 PM · Hi Erik Williams, actually I thought her poll was really quite interesting but it was not clear (to me anyway) that she was looking for input from actual SR players. It could’ve been worded better IMO.

I do research on similar topics about general violin technique that does include SR and no SR playing but goes beyond.

I interview a number of violinists to get their feedback and thoughts on various topics. OFten the players who play with SR have no idea how to play without SR, or they think they do but say wrong things. It’s a fascinating view into the state of violin pedagogy. As I wrote above, even players who DO play without SR don’t always know what they’re talking about.

It’s a unique experience for everyone with a few basic universal fundamental concepts but it’s also made more complex because a lot of these skills were acquired at a very early age, and it’s hard to exactly remember what you learned when you were a kid. Kinda like if a toddler were able to reason like an adult, and they’re asking us adults : “how do you walk? I just can’t manage to walk” . I actualy wouldn’t even know how to answer this as an adult.. .I just ... walk

March 1, 2019, 4:06 AM · Elise so your question was directed specifically at SR users, and asks how they support the instrument without a SR? As in, when they just try it for fun or for the gimmick of it? Totally confused now!
March 1, 2019, 4:24 AM · Hi Jean, this thread interests me as it’s quite related to my research topic. As I said previously, the question could’ve been worded differently.

Since, she already had the answer (the correct one too), I would have worded it like this, for instance:

“Hello, I am doing research on violin technique pedagogy and am looking for input from people who play with shoulder rests. I would like to know, according to you, if you were a teacher, if you had a student who wanted to play without shoulder rest, how would you instruct them? Do you think they should rest the violin on the collarbone or shoulder (or both?), should the left hand help in supporting the violin? Should the violin stay in place if you let go of the left hand?”

I’ve already written a long text above that goes into detail but the reason why such a topic is interesting is because as OP already noted, a lot of teachers that play with SR (and as I mentioned, also teachers that play without SR), are absolutely clueless about the art of playing without SR.

I’ve now interviewed quite a number of teachers that insist that the left hand should NEVER support the instrument. You can even find people saying this on this forum, and on various violin discussion sites. Even Kurt Sassmanshaus talks about it on Youtube, and his video has over 50,000 views. It’s one of the most popular ones on the subject.

So essentially, there’s a lot of misinformation out there that confuses a lot of students (myself included when I was starting my research).

March 1, 2019, 6:07 AM · Hi,

I thought I would take a stab at answering the questions... The answer is that it depends on people, as different people do it differently.

a) by resting it on your shoulder?

Heifetz used to do it that way as did Szeryng. They both actually to some extent even raised the shoulder (I have seen videos of them doing it).

b) with the left hand?

Milstein was like that, as was Kreisler. In the modern era Martin Beaver is like that. The thing is that it rests on the collarbone kind of like a ledge and occasional head pressure is used on down-shifts.

c) by clamping the chin against the collarbone?

I think that people do this during shifts, but I don't know any SR-less player that does it all the time.

d) you don't you let it droop

Depends on the person, but the exaggerated height of violin holds is more a modern thing. The older generation except a few didn't seem to exaggerate it that much.

e) with strings, elastic and pulleys?

I know only one person who uses a sort of contraption like that, but he is a tall amateur with a giraffe neck and also uses an SR.

Hope this helps...


Edited: March 1, 2019, 8:49 AM · As an adult student, the biggest revelation for myself was prioritising bow arm mechanics - the fiddle needs to the in such a position that it is effortless to bow all the strings and the natural weight of the arm is enough to produce good, consistent tone.

For me this was achieved by a tall chinrest: when the right hand can work freely and has good range of motion in the shoulder region as well, the left side of the body can work more freely too and that affects the left hand positively for me.

My setup is using a 3/4 inch thick pad that rests on the collarbone, I primarily support the violin with left hand while maintaining mobility in both shoulder joints. As was stated before, static positions held for a long period of time cause pain, which I have noticed when setting up a shoulder rest too securely - playing with a low shoulder rest regaining that mobility is really comfortable, but my current fiddle sounds better without it!

Edited: March 2, 2019, 2:52 PM · Elise,

It does not matter whether you play with or without a shoulder rest or a shoulder pad as long as:

* The equipment is fitted to you, and
* The equipment works for you, not the other way around.

What is important is that you understand how and when to use the two primary methods of supporting the instrument, as described by Paul Rolland, one of the founders of the American String Teachers Assn.

These two methods, which he called "The Bridge" support (balancing the instrument using the collarbone, left hand, weight of the instrument into the neck, the light weight of the head, and the weight of the bow); and "Diving Board" support (balancing the instrument between the collarbone and the jaw) are described in detail in the book "The Teaching of Action in String Playing," co-authored by Marla Mutschler. You can also purchase the accompanying film, which illustrates how to teach a balanced support.

Another great source for learning how to efficiently support the instrument is Jennifer Johnson's "Everything the Violinist Needs to Know about the Body." The book is beautifully written, and you'll get an easy to follow understanding of connecting how the body works with supporting the instrument so you can move freely while playing.

For those of you fortunate enough to be attending the American String Teachers Assn. National Conference in Albuquerque (March 6-9), take time to meet Lynne Denig (student and teaching assistant of Paul Rolland) and Claire Stefani (student of Jennifer Johnson). They would be happy to answer your questions about supporting the violin.

Claire has worked with members of the Met. Opera Orchestra, NY Phil., Philadelphia Orch,, plus students at Juilliard, Curtis, Manhattan School of Music, etc. Claire will be manning the Connolly booth in the exhibit hall. Lynne will be putting on a presentation with violinist and Alexander Technique instructor Abby Albaugh. The presentation is called "Playing From Head to Toe: Using Alexander Technique and Rolland Actions to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance."

March 2, 2019, 9:21 PM · "She talks about how she simply wants the question answered and doesn't want it to become a battle of SR vs no SR, and yet keeps throwing in little passive remarks about SR users, and indicating her opinion on the superior path."
Please give me examples of my 'little passive remarks' - but please ensure that they were not just responding to a provocation by someone else.

"In addition, she also indicates that there was a "correct" answer to her question, as if this was a test for all of us plebians and we all failed it."

I suggest you should read the opening question again and then chastise yourself. If you can't figure that our please let me know and I will read if for you.
[This applies to all the others who criticized me on this score - and, I hasten to add, who obviously do not know me. ]

Edited: March 3, 2019, 6:08 AM · Denis:

"“Hello, I am doing research on violin technique pedagogy and am looking for input from people who play with shoulder rests. I would like to know, according to you, if you were a teacher, if you had a student who wanted to play without shoulder rest, how would you instruct them? Do you think they should rest the violin on the collarbone or shoulder (or both?), should the left hand help in supporting the violin? Should the violin stay in place if you let go of the left hand?”"

That is very sweet - but also patronising. Why not start your own topic on that? It is not my question and would not
satisfy my curiosity.

Indeed, I have already explained the rationale for the question and the reason why I posted it the way I did. Would you like me to run through it again for you?

March 2, 2019, 9:29 PM · OTOH Denis - I see we agree entirely on the use of the left hand when playing without SRs. Indirectly, I see also seem to agree that the art of playing without an SR is being lost. A few years ago I think very few people would not know that supporting the violin with the L hand is essential for SR-free playing.

Its a shame that you missed my earlier post answering this question and the link to the Menuhin youtube that details the role of the left hand. Perhaps you could look for it?

March 2, 2019, 9:36 PM · Sigh. I'm not sure anyone read my OP!!

Ignoring all the answers for a different SR question (is it better, should one use a pad, its old fashioned yada yada yada), I am at a loss why among those who tried to answer the question I'm not sure if anyone got the critical question. I wrote (you can check this yourselves):

"If you play without an SR what is the main method of holding the violin up?"

Note: 'WHAT IS THE MAIN METHOD'. It did not say 'what is the only' method, just the MAIN.

And yes, I will be dogmatic: The main method is with the collarbone and the left hand. Yes, we use shoulders, arms, dangles, clamps when necessary but they are not the MAIN method.

Now please be kind. If I am wrong, by all means tell me so, but please give me a good argument.


March 3, 2019, 1:38 AM · For my money, you're not wrong.... if you don't use a shoulder rest, support the violin with the left hand and collarbone. I tell my students not to regard the violin as a dance floor on which the fingers dance, but as their dance partner.
Edited: March 3, 2019, 2:17 AM · I stand by my original assessment. You have a generally defensive-elitist tone and should really phrase things differently if you want better responses. You failed to make your question and the purpose behind it clear enough. The best part is that now you're acting as though everyone else is stupid for not understanding the specifics of your inquiry, when it was your lack of communication skills that made it this way.

By the way, you should really define what you mean by "main" method. Do you mean the most common one? Do you mean the most common in the entire world? Or you do mean in a particular country? In student players or professional players? Vague questions get vague answers.

I will give you a bit of help though, in case you're having trouble understanding why everyone was confused: you said: "the question is simple and its just for those who are dedicated SR-addicts".

Do you not see how having that sentence right before asking how people play *without* shoulder rests could be confusing?

Edited: March 3, 2019, 4:34 AM · I found the questions clear, and my own post too, I think.
I.e. the shoulder is used often by the Restless, and not necessarily always by the Resters.
And it can be useful for Resters to learn how the Restless actually "manage"!

Supplementary to the collar-bone/left-hand question is an old thread where Elise suggests a "collar-bone rest" just to tilt the violin for easier access to the low strings.
I have used one of those orange-slice-shaped pads for this, which also overlapped the shoulder by about one inch.

March 3, 2019, 5:52 AM · "I will give you a bit of help though, in case you're having trouble understanding why everyone was confused: you said: "the question is simple and its just for those who are dedicated SR-addicts".

You are right, that was a bit misleading. I'm actually not sure why I wrote that. It really does forgive you for ignoring all the rest.

Thank you for the insight.

March 3, 2019, 5:57 AM · Adrian - since this topic is obviously going to wander where it will, sometimes its best to go with the flow.

"Supplementary to the collar-bone/left-hand question is an old thread where Elise suggests a "collar-bone rest" just to tilt the violin for easier access to the low strings.
I have used one of those orange-slice-shaped pads for this, which also overlapped the shoulder by about one inch."

I did suggest that - but after a few more years of playing restless I found that that was just another training-wheel (I had a LOT!). Now I just pick the instrument up and play - no gadgets. Actually, I do use one, a chamois cloth but that is to protect the violin from me and me from the violin (I am allergic to the zinc in the chinrest clamps).

I also had a specially constructed chinrest to help me grip without clamping. But that broke and I put on one of the ones from my drawer - to find that I really don't care what the chinrest is either! I feel like I am approaching SR-less 4th Dan … :D

March 3, 2019, 6:01 AM · "For my money, you're not wrong.... if you don't use a shoulder rest, support the violin with the left hand and collarbone. I tell my students not to regard the violin as a dance floor on which the fingers dance, but as their dance partner."

Thanks Katherine :) Love the dance partner analogy - are you a dancer too? You must be because non-dancers may not get that analogy (I did championship ballroom ;) ).

Also love the Menuhin idea that the violin floats on your collarbone.

March 3, 2019, 11:49 AM · When you've attained a 4th Dan (actually, 3rd or even 2nd Dan will do fine) in the SR-less technique then perhaps it is the time to think about the freedom of playing CR-less. I must make it quite clear that I'm not advocating CR-less for all music, particularly that from the mid-19th century onward, but there are advantages I find in using the technique for the preceding Classical and Baroque eras. The advantages include being able to adjust one's playing position to suit the requirements of the moment, and an improvement in tone production, in connection with which I've long been convinced that a chin rest has some sort of adverse effect on the tone.

If you are used to the violin floating on the collar-bone and between the index finger and thumb of the left hand, and are generally fluent in shifting and vibrato - the two tend to go together - then I reckon you're 90% of the way to playing CR-less. The big worry, of course, is coming safely and smoothly down from a high position without panicky fumbling.

The straightforward engineering approach I take is to use just enough pressure with the chin or jaw on the violin to overcome the sliding friction of the left hand on the neck as it moves back towards the scroll. And where do you apply this very light pressure? It varies with the individual of course, but for me it is a light quick touch on the tailpiece at its nearest point. Others might like to apply it either side of the tailpiece.

March 3, 2019, 12:46 PM · Dan plays without a SR?

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