Please help, I am not able to practice because of this problem
I haven't been able to practice as often as I'd like because of a problem. I have decided to go shoulder rest free, but I cannot support the violin like I used to. The painful edge doesn't bother me anymore -- I got used to it -- but it's extremely difficult to hold up the violin without the supporting left arm. For instance, I can't hold it up by just my chin/head/collarbone. I am adamant about wanting to ditch the shoulder rest, but this is a real problem.
Whenever I shift, I need to tense up everything to "hold on" to the violin. My head is drooping, clamped over the violin to secure it.
My left shoulder/arm is hurting badly because of all the tension.
I've heard that certain chinrests allow for someone to play without a shoulder rest. They provide more support. Does any of you know of any models of chinrests?
I think the Kaufmann is a nice choice. I don't have a particularly long neck, so it might help. Any other ideas?
How about the Hamburg? Or Varga?
Thanks very much for all your help!
I’m no longer playing restless, but when I was I found that chinrests with a cup positioned over the tailpiece made all the difference. Examples are various Flesch models, and Wittner Augsburg, which I used restless and still use with a shoulder rest.
See if the Kréddle chinrest is what you need.
Practice without your chin on the violin. This way you learn to support the violin with your left hand. Let your left wrist flex in towards the violin, even allowing the palm of the hand contact the neck.
At some you point you have to ask yourself, if even Baroque violinists who play chin off can shift, then why isn't it working for you when you — and you even have a chin rest to help.
Whatever gave you the idea of trying to hold the violin up with just the chin and the collarbone? We need the support of either the left hand, as Dr. Berg says, or the shoulder, with or without a shoulder-rest.
Mind over Matter!!!
If you're going to go without a shoulder rest, don't try to hold the violin without your left hand. That idea only came about after the shoulder rest became commonplace, and for the vast majority of people it is only possible because of the shoulder rest.
A lot of people were walking around holding their violins under their "chins" in the 1940s - "Look Ma, no hands!"
I'm presently enrolled in Nathan Cole's "Violympics" summer course. Nathan plays restless, and much of his content features him in videos, so naturally there is a lot of discussion among the enrolled students (somewhere around 350, I estimate) about whether they, too, should try to play without shoulder rests. Lots of them are trying, and as you might expect, there are discussions about the various discomforts that are being experienced. (Of course, many of these people do not have teachers to guide them through this process.) Nathan makes it clear that it's really up to the individual, but he just as clearly tells you that if you ditch your shoulder rest, you will be holding up your violin with your left hand basically
If you switch to playing restless, you will need a chinrest that fills the gap between the violin and your chin without you needing to dip your head down, or worse still, clamp down with your chin. This is not just a matter of shape/placement; there's a height component.
Thanks everybody for your ideas and comments! I realise now that the ability to hold the violin without the left hand is mainly the result of the shoulder rest.
I stopped using my shoulder rest recently and the most important thing for me to remember was that you are building new muscles, especially in your left arm to hold the thing up. You will feel tired at first.
I have been a professional violinist for 33 years. For my entire career, I have used a shoulder rest, the great majority of my colleagues have used shoulder rests, and the majority of the soloists playing with my orchestra have used shoulder rests.
Jamie I am late to the party and people have already said it, but I cannot resist pointing again at the basic flaw in your reasoning: "I cannot support the violin like I used to. [...] it's extremely difficult to hold up the violin without the supporting left arm." You do NOT hold up the violin without the left arm when playing without a shoulder rest. This holds regardless of the chin rest, by the way. Indeed (as Bruce Berg already said) chin-off practice is very important to gain that feeling of holding up the violin with the left hand.
Josef Gingold did not use a shoulder rest. However, in my lessons with him, he always stuffed a big sponge underneath his coat jacket to help support the violin. When I decided not to use a rest, I similarly stuffed a rolled up sock under my shirt. It really helped a lot.
Lots of good advice above...most important, learn how to use your left arm/hand skillfully to hold the violin. I would compare restless playing to riding a horse bareback-- you need to develop a different set of muscle skills to a higher level than when riding with a saddle (shoulder rest). And, don't get too hung up on Menuhin; he is just one expert among many. The Goal is playing with ease (or with the Heifetz appearance of ease, which may be a little illusory), with or without a SR. Do what finally works for YOU!
From old photographs; A gentleman wears a waist-coat/vest and a jacket. If you add a small cushion, or rolled-up sock under the lapel, that is enough extra thickness for most players. I won't comment on the women's single layer, or their modern trend for bare skin at the shoulder. Practicing in a single tee-shirt will feel quite different from concert dress.
Thanks again, everybody. I'll try to build up my left arm strength. At first, I thought I was too tense, but I think (like you all said), it is because my arm is not used to utilising that set of muscles.
The OP wrote, "Before I stopped using the shoulder rest, I had a very natural grip and posture."
Jamie, I play without a shoulder rest, and alarm bells are going off in my thoughts from what you've written.
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