Collar Bone and violin

August 27, 2019, 8:36 PM · When I hold my violin without a shoulder rest, I would want to have a cushion in between so I will be able to grip it without hurting. Any products recommended?
Thanks!

Replies (35)

August 27, 2019, 10:01 PM · To protect your collarbone, I would look for a soft sponge. You can find one very cheaply at a local shopping mall.
August 27, 2019, 10:15 PM · I now use a pad something like this one now at Amazon:

Stravilio Handmade padded violin shoulder and Chin rest Cover (3/4-4/4)

I find it very effective.

Edited: August 27, 2019, 10:50 PM · Chamois, doubled over as needed. Go to Auto Zone. They've got chamois. Soft and SUPER durable. And it's as cheap as sand.

I've got a lovely bone spur on my collar bone from playing "restless" as a child. Never again, sorry. Too painful now.

Edited: August 28, 2019, 5:36 AM · You quickly got three different options, so now the rest of us can vote on these :-) I definitely vote for the chamois (I use one myself). Just drape it over the chinrest area, then bring your violin to your collarbone and it will stay put as it will be fixed by your chin and your neck/collarbone.
August 28, 2019, 7:05 AM · I also agree with the chamois solution, which I started using in 1973. I "graduated" to affixing the chamois patches to the top of my chinrests with velcro over 20 years ago and transitioned to the solution I proposed above sometime in the past 5 or 6 years.

My solution is not better, just something I tried and decided to stick with.

August 28, 2019, 7:16 AM · Er, "so I will be able to grip it without hurting". Sorry but you are going the wrong way and need to seek proper instruction. The whole point of playing without an SR is that there is NO gripping. The violin floats on your collarbone and L hand. Occasionally there is contact with your shoulder but that is only as a transient table and not ever as a grip.

August 28, 2019, 7:38 AM · indeed Jimmy, without shoulder rest, the left hand keeps the violin up, good catch Elise! Jimmy: without shoulder rest you are not expected to be able to keep the violin up without your hands. it's a big difference with shoulder rest users who you often see tuning, turning a page, etc, doing stuff while keeping up the violin without their hands. without a shoulder rest, just forget about that.

here's a down-to-earth video on the topic (there are many of them on the internet) by one of the rockstars of classical violin, Marc Bouchkov (I am a fan!). he has other videos too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CKphKacS5Y

August 28, 2019, 9:07 AM · You are probably right about not keeping the violin up without SR or hands, but my badge of valor back when my age was in mid single digits was being able to walk around wo SR (I didn't know they existed) or hands with the violin under my chin. Of course I did not grip it that way when playing. But when downshifting or using an arm vibrato you sort of need to.
August 29, 2019, 5:34 AM · Andrew - there is a video on UT of Yehudi showing how to hold the violin without an SR - and he hangs it from his chin without any force. Its not difficult - but of course you could not play like that :)

Because people are so used to the SR method they don't realize that going SR-less means retraining your left arm to do a lot more. At first its really hard but eventually it becomes automatic - and the freedom is incredible. Not for everyone but for me it was worth the effort.

August 29, 2019, 8:24 AM · I'm old enough to remember the advent of the shoulder rest. I was a young teenage cellist in my school orchestra when two of the first violinists turned up at rehearsal with shoulder rests. The conductor's immediate reaction was, "what are those contraptions?", and then, "a shoulder rest you say? You don't need to rest your violins on your shoulders", and so on in much the same vein. We cellists just sat and wondered what was going on. A few weeks later all the violins in the orchestra had shoulder rests - apparently there were a few influential teachers around.

A few years later my cello teacher told me that when the Academy of St Martin in the Fields was set up by Neville Marriner one of his first instructions to the orchestra was that he did not want shoulder rests to be used.

FTAOD, as a violinist I don't use a shoulder rest.

August 29, 2019, 9:14 AM · Why eschew the shoulder rest if you're uncomfortable without it? Passionate discussions on v.com notwithstanding, the vast majority of violinists use them in the two professional orchestras I play in, as do the vast majority of soloists who play with us.
August 29, 2019, 9:24 AM · Mary - I'm sorry, but why turn this into a 'use it or not use it' debate? I just assumed the OP had made their own decision to at least try. Can't we leave it at that?
August 29, 2019, 9:25 AM · I'm with Mary Ellen!

I switched to the Belvelin pad for several months earlier this year, and am now using a Bon Musica after learning that I just could not elicit the kind of vibrato that I want. Tried for several months, and gave up. (I switched to the Belvelin around February, and switched to the Bon Musica at the end of July - that's 5 months of giving it a solid go.)

I do have to say though, going without the shoulder rest taught me a lot about shifting and how I move with the violin. It was a very good experience, vibrato (and other) frustrations notwithstanding.

August 29, 2019, 9:52 AM · I was going to say what Elise said: when you play SRless, you are not supposed to grip and hold the violin only with your neck. You hold it with the help of your left arm, by the neck of the violin. You should be able to shift and move completely free all along the fingerboard, but still support part of the weight with your arm.
August 29, 2019, 10:17 AM · I play without a SR simply because I am an amateur, I can do what I want, I can make it work (on my modest level), and it *is* a different game than playing with one, so one more experience for me.

On the other hand I appreciate, understand, and respect 100% that people who play the violin for a living use a SR. It's a whole different situation.

August 29, 2019, 12:59 PM · Jean - Anne-Sophie Mutter, Aaron Rosand and Itzhark Perlman 'play the violin for a living' - and don't use an SR. But again, that is off the point to the OP's question. Its possible that he wants to play HIP baroque - which would answer Mary Ellen's question above - we just don't know.

We've been over the choice so many times its really pointless to do so again - it achieves nothing. We all agree that if you want to use one, do so, if you don't, don't. BOth ways work. IMO using one is easier to get started. Not using one will ultimately take you in a different direction. That's about it.

The question of the topic was about how to hold the violin when not using an SR. Isn't that enough?

Edited: August 29, 2019, 3:45 PM · OP, simply ask yourself: do I make better music with a SR or without one? And from that, your decision should stem. Don't let peer pressure affect your decision.

I've had students do both things, and when one way is superior over the other for a particular player, it's always obvious ("Oh wow, THIS feels right!). If you find yourself struggling for weeks just trying to get it to feel remotely correct, then it's probably not for you.

But of course, teaching yourself how to do it correctly is pretty difficult. It's hard for me to to know, for example, without seeing how your collarbone is shaped, how bony/meaty your frame is, how long your neck is, etc.... if it's right for you.


Anyways, to answer the original question: most players with your issue use a cloth that they lay over the top/button/bottom of the violin. Watch Itzhak Perlman and you'll see what he does.

You can increase the thickness of the cloth to your preference, but do keep in mind that the more cushion that is direction touching the body of the violin, the more muted your tone will become, and then you have to start wondering if not using a SR is actually improving your tone or worsening it. Just something to think about.

If find yourself letting your shoulder touch the back of the violin often, then you should probably just use a SR. Restless playing is supposed to be primarily on the collarbone (so shoulder movements don't effect violin stability, and so the tone doesn't get muted).


Also, look up a "strad pad." Get the extra large version so it can reach the bottom of the violin. That may help. I found it very useful when experimenting with restless playing (I have a beard, so I couldn't rely on the stickiness of my face to hold the chinrest).


Lastly, there was a thing I tried to invent a while back, but basically it just involved tying an elastic band to one barrel of the chinrest, wrapping the band around the back of my neck, and then tying the other end to the other barrel of the chinrest. Think of making a "violin necklace" that is always pulling the violin back into your neck. It makes it much more secure to play restless, and also helps prevent the violin from falling off of the collarbone. I have a fairly shallow collarbone, which means that the violin tends to fall forward onto the meat of my shoulder when I'm attempting to play restless (basically, the skin on the collarbone "rolls" the violin forward onto my shoulder).

Using the elastic band was the closest I ever got to successful learning to play restless. It's a nice learning tool for anyone looking to play restless. The most important job it does is to take away the worry that you violin will drop. Thus, you will relax your neck and stop trying to deathgrip the thing with your chin, and learn to play in a balanced way.

EDITED to add: I think the single most important factor in being able to play restless is flexibility in the left shoulder. Specifically, the flexibility that allows your elbow to rotate inwards (as if you were trying to get to your G string). This can be developed somewhat, but seems to be primarily genetically limited.

August 29, 2019, 4:34 PM · I wonder if Jimmy is still reading this....
August 29, 2019, 5:16 PM · The OP said that he was uncomfortable without a shoulder rest. I think the possibility of using one is a valid point in the discussion.
Edited: August 29, 2019, 9:18 PM · You are allowed to support the violin with your shoulder when you play restless. Having it just balance on your collarbone and thumb 100% of the time is brutal and painful.

Obviously, you shouldn't be scrunching up or forcing your shoulder into the violin. But during a shift or when you need very large vibrato, you can rest the back plate of the instrument on your shoulder.

I think it is possible for anyone to learn to play without a shoulder rest, regardless of anatomy. I wasn't comfortable without a shoulder rest at first, either. Actually, it was quite difficult to hold up the violin, but the constant annoyance of struggling with an SR gave me the motivation to keep trying new techniques until I found what worked.

August 29, 2019, 9:29 PM · You asked about pads. I use something much like this pad. I bought it at my local violin shop.
https://fiddlershop.com/products/foam-shoulder-rest-pad-for-violin
August 30, 2019, 4:21 PM · Cotton, you will be happy to know that my SR design also allows for "restless playing", but you will still be able to rest the violin on your shoulder when necessary (or all the time) without dampening the tone. You will also be able to add sticky friction-y material without it directly touching the body of the violin.

Don't ask how. Just accept it.

Edited: August 30, 2019, 7:51 PM · First of all, I think it's important to differentiate between those who use standard shoulder rests like the Kun or Bon Musica, those who use a sponge or a piece of foam, such as a cosmetic sponge or Artino pad, and those who use nothing or just a small cloth or shammy to prevent slippage and protect the collarbone. By the sounds of it, the OP is looking for something to protect the collarbone from the hard surface of the violin and chinrest clamp metal, which is totally legitimate, especially if you don't use a shoulder rest. In the OPs case, a small cushion over the collarbone is likely enough.

As for whether to use or not to use a shoulder rest, I am quite neutral on this topic, as I am neither for or against shoulder rest use. I have
read a TON of discussions on shoulder rest vs no shoulder rest online, and I have concluded that it really depends on what suits your unique physiology and playing style; some people are in huge trouble without shoulder rests while others find them totally unnecessary or even annoying. I do, however, think that at least 80% of violinists and violists do benefit from something to stop the instrument from slipping; even a small cloth or sponge counts. I also think that going restless generally requires a certain body structure, plus a healthy way of balancing the instrument between chin, collarbone/shoulder, left arm and left hand. The bottom line is, use whatever is most comfortable and allows you to play with the most physical ease and comfort, whether it is using a shoulder rest, a piece of foam, or nothing. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this shoulder rest vs no shoulder rest debate is just plain silly and pointless. I think this debate stems from dogmatism, aka the idea that everything MUST be done in one, very particular way. If we can be more open to the unique needs and wishes of each individual (which many of us, thankfully, already consider), this debate would not be nearly as heated.

Personally, I started with a sponge and eventually got a Kun and have been very happy ever since. And yes, I also love my Wittner chinrest. I’ve tried going restless for fun, and often when I’m trying violins, I’ll go restless because it’s more convenient. I can manage for short periods of time. Long term, unless I’m wearing clothing with lots of padding in the shoulder area, I find it very hard to balance the instrument without a shoulder rest because my physical structure means that the instrument only seems to touch a very small part of my collarbone, which doesn’t provide nearly enough stability even if the chinrest is the right height and shape. I could pull my shoulder forward to make my collarbone more exposed, but that doesn’t seem healthy either. I just really need something to stop the violin from slipping in the long haul; even a sponge will do, if the shape fits me, of course.

As far as supporting the violin on the shoulder vs the collarbone vs the left hand is concerned, there are lots of ways of going about it, and a lot of it is based on the individual's physiology. For some people, when they naturally rest the violin on the collarbone, it will be quite close to the shoulder, but for others it will be very far away from the shoulder; it all depends on physiology. For some of us, the violin will naturally sit nicely on the collarbone so it will be quite stable, but for others including myself, the violin only rests on a very small part of the collarbone, which is extremely unstable. Bottom line: if the violin only touches a very small part of the body when you naturally rest it on the collarbone, you will most likely need something to stabilize the violin from underneath; even a sponge will do, at least temporarily. As for left hand support, this really depends on a lot of things: what you're using for chin and shoulder rests, playing style, preference, body type, etc. When you do use a standard shoulder rest or a supportive sponge, left hand support can be relatively minimal, although you can use more if you want (some shoulder rest users will still use some left hand support, though generally not as much as those who go restless). Playing shoulder-restless or just using a small cloth or sponge for slippage prevention will generally require quite a bit of left hand support. Going restless, or using a small sponge/cloth, can be a good intervention for learning to use left hand support if a player becomes overly dependent on their shoulder rest or otherwise has some unhealthy posture habits that are linked to the shoulder rest, but it needs to be done properly, which isn't easy. Another rule I have about shoulder rests is that they should not sit near the edge of the shoulder and press on the shoulder joint because it can immobilize the left arm (essential for good left hand technique), destabilize the violin, and lead to excess tension in the shoulder muscles. Rather, the shoulder rest should sit more in the middle of the shoulder towards the collarbone, where backpack straps generally rest. This ensures full range of movement in the left arm while also stabilizing the violin. Sometimes you may need to put your shoulder rest on a diagonal angle rather than straight across the back to achieve this.

August 30, 2019, 8:02 PM · For Pamela, I have a quick curiosity question that ’s a little off topic. Do you utilize the hook on your Bon Musica, or do you straighten it?
September 3, 2019, 9:22 PM · "When I hold my violin without a shoulder rest, I would want to have a cushion in between so I will be able to grip it without hurting."

Why does it hurt? I find that when I use a chin rest with a metal mount with the mount in the area of contact that it's very uncomfortable, but without such a chin rest mount, an ordinary shirt is usually good enough.

I think that it should be a trivial problem to solve with cloth; certainly not something which warrants major changes such as using a shoulder rest with its positioning and technique, however I have no real idea what's going on with your violin setup, physiology, and technique, so your needs might be different.

September 3, 2019, 10:25 PM · Perhaps some of us have more sensitive skin and prefer not to have a hard object sit on the collarbone. Wearing necklaces could make this pain worse. Wearing clothing that covers the collarbone will solve this, but not all clothing covers the collarbone, and we all wear clothing that doesn't cover the collarbone often.
Edited: September 5, 2019, 3:33 AM · Yes, the collar bone is the problem with playing restless. People have different models of collarbone so to say. And if one is very thin there is no fat ovet the collarbone or next to it. So it may be painfull to play just the violin on the bone, it sure is for me, well, actually it is not the violin that is the problem but the chinrest metals that dig into the area.

So, my girl plays without the shoulder rest as I quite quickly saw that the general solution of a Kun would not work for her as she has narrow shoulders and a short neck, what I did is I designed and made her a collar which has some soft padding imidiately under the collarbone. In this way her shoulder is completely free to move, the violin certainly doesnt touch it and the violin rests on the collarbone and she supports the violin totally with her hand. Just like Menuhin.when she was 2-3 she started with the sponge only as her teacher also saw her structure. But here 99 procent start using the Kun-devil almost immediately and it is not a good solution in my opinion.

Cannot count the times Ive seen children with standard Kun on the wrong place just on the shoulder joint and I really really cannot understand why they are allowed to play like that, the motion of the shoulder joint should be free to facilitate the free motion af the arm especially with vibrato. (Just as Menuhin teaches). I actually think that that devil of a Shouldrest (Kun) really makes children harder to learn proper vibrato as the shoulder is not free.

Kun is all right when one has broader shoulders (as Kun then does not rest close to the shoulde joint) and therefore is likely to be older than 12 or so. But even so I really hope my daughter wont start using it. Because with the free elbow the shifting and vibrato is so much easier.

I came to think of making my own collar design after seeing some guy on youtube had dmade his own. It isnt difficult at all, though I dont know if is has ”street-credibility” enough later on when she grows up, but anyway she gets to learn the important things now with the shoulder free so she is likely to not feel good with a badly positioned shoulder rest later on :)

September 5, 2019, 4:39 AM · I play restless.

For me, the only issue was the metal clamp of the chin rest digging into my collar bone.

I solved this by covering the clamp with a small pad of felt stuck on with the white version of blu-tack. My luthier assured me that this wouldn't damage the varnish. It has stayed in place for years and solves the problem.

But I'm a little concerned that you're using the word "grip". I would prefer the word "balance". I try to use the lightest possible pressure on the chin rest to keep things in place, and for down-shifting I simply hook my jaw on the lip of the chin rest without any need to press hard.

There really is no need for gripping if you learn to support the instrument properly in your left hand. Milstein would demonstrate this by playing concerto extracts while balancing the fiddle on his chest...

September 5, 2019, 12:19 PM · I absolutely agree with Maria that the shoulder joint should be completely free. An immobilized shoulder joint means an immobilized arm and tense shoulder muscles, which is not healthy at all. I think the problem here is how we actually use shoulder rests, not the presence or lack of one. Of course sponges and foam are better for the really young kids, but once kids are school aged, many of them can use shoulder rests in a healthy way. This doesn't mean everyone should use one though, as it depends on the individual's body type. One really good solution to the shoulder rest pressing on the joint problem is to put the shoulder rest on at a diagonal angle, rather than straight across the back of the violin as many are taught to do. To elaborate, I mean placing the shoulder side foot near the chinrest clamp so that the shoulder side is closer to the neck and off the shoulder joint, and the chest side foot will be closer to the middle bout for a snug fit. Also, I recommend setting the shoulder side foot to a relatively low height, just high enough for the shoulder rest to intersect the collarbone. The chest side, on the other hand, should be set to fill the space between violin and chest to prevent slippage and provide support. These solutions will not work in all situations, especially if you have extremely narrow shoulders, but it is always worth trying.
September 6, 2019, 3:38 AM · Ella, yes and it is also a problem that many times people dont really understand where their shoulder joint area begins, especially kids. I would argue though that at least half of the kids under 12 should not play with Kun because their shoulder just is not wide enough and the Kun usually sits very much on where the shoulder area begins. When it should be just on the collar bone are and not on joints. At least that is how it looks in my daughters orchestra. Therefore Kun is a devil as it needs very much thinking to get it to the right position which obviously kids that age generally cannot do.
September 6, 2019, 5:46 AM · Maria, Ella - I think you are onto a very important issue. I learned originally without an SR (perhaps no child needs one since there is no shifting). I only started to use one at age ~10 because we had a new teacher (a cellist) who insisted that all violinist must do so. However, it was different from the Kuhn, it contacted the shoulder much closer to the neck - explaining, perhaps, why I could never find an SR that worked on returning to the instrument many years later.
Edited: September 6, 2019, 10:51 AM · The late David Angel - 2nd violinist in the Maggini Quartet - used to play with a "violin necklace" as mentioned above. He had an elastic band around the neck that he slipped around the chinrest when playing.
September 7, 2019, 11:12 AM · Have you seen the Kréddle Cushion? You can read about it here.
September 8, 2019, 9:26 PM · I tried the Kréddle Cushion, but it's just a bit more substantial than I need while playing restless, and not being able to remove it since it's installed through the chinrest makes it so that it doesn't fit in the case at all. I wish it had some way to be put on and off...
September 10, 2019, 8:29 AM · Jimmy: I hope this is your lucky day (like it was my lucky day when I discovered an amazing product called the Chinrest Lip). This product seemed to be the quickest, easiest and most effective way to fill the space between the collarbone and your chin.

I posted a similar response in another discussion thread started by Mark Wang. But here’s my response to your post: I always never liked using a shoulder rest, but when I tried going without a shoulder rest, holding the violin felt awkward and different. So I kept the shoulder rest for many years and had to deal with physical and massage therapists very frequently to manage the neck/shoulder/back pain (this was costing me at least $200 per week). This all changed when I discovered an amazing product called The Chinrest Lip. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first. But a good number of violinists recommended this to me. Therefore, I gave it a try and spent $14.99 plus shipping. OMG — This was the BEST EVER $15.00 that I have spent in my life!!! Within few hours of use, my pain started to go away. I was literally in tears of joy! It’s been about a month since I have started to use this and there is no turning back! In fact, I have acquired 12 more Chinrest Lips to give as gifts to my friends and students to try. In addition to the elimination of pain, It has helped me tremendously in all aspects of violin playing — shifting, vibrato, tone production and bow technique. One of my closest friends recently said, “You sound better than ever! Are you using a new violin? Did you change your violin teacher AGAIN????” This is an example of a product with huge financial and technical returns — I SPENT $15 and now I’m SAVING $800 per month (from physical therapy and massage therapy sessions) AND my technique has further improved. If you have any questions from a user’s perspective, contact me directly. (DISCLAIMER: I am not a sales representative or the creator of this product). If you are interested, check out the product’s website — https://www.thechinrestlip.com/

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