Setup for frozen shoulder

January 23, 2021, 2:31 PM · I'm in the midst of a "mild" bout of (not-violin-related) frozen shoulder on the left side -- gradually escalating pain for five months during which I was still able to play, followed by what has now been more than three months of having insufficient rotation in my shoulder to be able to place the violin in normal playing position on my shoulder.

At this point, cortisone, anti-inflammatories, and PT have just gotten me back to the point where I can hold a violin for short periods of time, albeit not in my normal playing position. It would be preferable to practice for a few minutes daily, to maintain some semblance of technical shape, and what strength and flexibility I can.

A full-size violin is a bit big to entirely comfortably handle at the arm extension required for first position. I can manage a 7/8ths (though a 3/4 would probably be better) more easily.

I need to hold the violin more centrally in order to accommodate the limited rotation of the joint. A center-mount chinrest like a Flesch is too high but I am guessing a side-mount Wittner with a broader cup that suits a more centered positioning might work.

I can't use a Kun-style shoulder-rest, not even my lightweight Korfker, because of the way the legs bite into the shoulder-joint. I've tried playing without a shoulder-rest but I need a touch more height and support, and I want to avoid supporting the violin with my left hand, as that's presently hard. So I need something that provides low, soft and comfortable support in a more centralized position.

Any suggestions for a chinrest/shoulder-rest combination? This is just for a limited amount of home practice, so I really don't care if it dampens the sound.

Replies (29)

January 23, 2021, 2:47 PM · sorry to hear Lydia, get well soon, good PT is key, as well as asking your therapist for exercises to do every day yourself. no experience with shoulder rests so I can't help you with your actual question.
Edited: January 23, 2021, 2:49 PM · Oh my, good luck with dealing with this and may it pass sooner than later. Having had a frozen shoulder and other, larger, shoulder issues, I feel your pain.

Everyone is different, but I've observed that my shoulder greatly prefers as low a SR as I can get, the level of crankiness is a direct correlation with the height of the SR. Your shoulder may, or may not, prefer the same. It may be worth keeping this in mind as you consider your options.. Lydia, best of wishes on this.

January 23, 2021, 3:15 PM · Sorry to hear about your problems. Hope you're able to rest and recover.

The Wittner Augsburg is center-positioned and mounted, and has for me at least, a well-shaped cup. It's height-adjustable. The Zuerich is very similar, but positioned and shaped more like a "Guarnari" chinrest. I've flipped between the two, but prefer the Zuerich currently, and I think I hold the violin more centrally than many players (my teacher tells me to move it outwards). I do so restless, which facilitates easy lateral movement, so I don't have any specific advice about shoulder rests.

There are stands for guitars meant to support them while playing. E.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWDA-04M9xc

I haven't seen anything like that for violins, probably because they're much lighter, which leads me to the thought that as the arm weighs much more than a violin, you might think of it more as a problem of supporting the arm rather than the violin. Perhaps using a table or arm rest for support instead? Though it would be with obvious movement restriction and other limitations.

Edited: January 23, 2021, 3:26 PM · The Wittner chin rest is a good one but it's higher than some others like the Kaufmann, so you need even less SR then. And with SRs there is a limit to how low you can go. One advantage of a wood chin rest is that you can shape it somewhat with hand tools.

When I watch a lot of pros, I see they are using Guarneri chin rests a lot. But they hardly use the "cup" of the CR at all. Their violins are farther back on their shoulder, and their jaw comes over the "hook" portion of the CR, which must be uncomfortable as hell, but my guess is that if you are practicing 3-5 hours a day from age 10 to age 25, you can get used to anything. So I'm not suggesting you go that route, but what I *am* wondering is whether there is a CR that will sidle right up to the tailpiece and come a little higher so that your jaw can go over the tailpiece without really pressing down on it. The Wittner does that to an extent, but it's really intended to keep your jaw well away from your tailpiece so there's no contact. The Kaufmann might be okay for this purpose. I presently use a Kaufmann that I've modified, but I might try buying another one to see if I can re-carve it to redirect my violin farther back on my shoulder.

From my own experience I can tell you that you really need to be careful about how you sit at your computer. I find I have to take breaks every 15 minutes and do some kind of exercises or my shoulders will turn into stone. Both of them, not just the mouse-hand shoulder.

January 23, 2021, 4:16 PM · Having suffered through frozen shoulder on both sides (at different times, thank goodness), I sympathize. Have you looked at the Wave chinrests? They have a bit of a projection, which I find is useful when trying to hold the violin more centrally without craning my neck forward. I use one of the higher ones, but they claim their Da Capo is only 3/8" above the front plate. As for the shoulder rest, would a Playon air or even a kitchen sponge with rubber bands do the trick? Best of luck with this. It must be very frustrating.
January 23, 2021, 4:35 PM · I have just recovered from a frozen shoulder. I managed to keep playing throughout with the exception of a few weeks. I didn't really need to change my setup in the sense I kept the same SR (korfker rest) and CR (Wittner Zuerich) though I did change position so that my shoulder was less rotated by moving the violin so it was less to the left and more to the front.

This position got me through and enabled me to play but as the shoulder became freer through the exercises the PT recommended (four sets every day for a couple of months followed by two sets of more painful ones for thee months) I found that I gradually moved the violin back to my normal position.

The Zuerich chin rest is height adjustable (and very comfortable as it was designed in conjunction with the Department of Music Physiology at Zurich university) and I conform to the notion that the shoulder rest acts as a pivot. The instrument naturally attempts to tip downwards at this pivot and that the downward tipping is checked by no more than the weight of my head on the chin rest. By adjusting the height of the chin rest, you set the height of the violin.

I went to some lengths BEFORE the shoulder became frozen to find a position that was stable so the instrument doesn't move when I shift, but doesn't require any tension - no raised shoulder for example - whilst keeping the shoulder completely free to move in any plane (basically this means the shoulder rest is on my collar bone - a tip I picked up from a book on Alexander Technique for musicians). The korfker rest with its almost infinite adjustment possibilities is ideal for this.

I think this lack of tension contributed massively to the fact that even though I lost a considerable amount of mobility in the shoulder joint, I could still play without compromise.

One other thing I did kind of by accident but which may have contributed to being able to play with the frozen shoulder was that I did a set of the PT exercises immediately before practice so the joint was as free as it could be and fully warmed up before I picked the instrument up.

This worked for me but I think that setup is such a personal thing the only way to find a solution is constant experimentation.

January 23, 2021, 8:56 PM · Hi

January 23, 2021, 9:00 PM · HiLydia?
very sorry to hear about your pain. I’m afraid it’s off topic but Recently I found a very helpful site for violinists called Feldenkreis with Alfons. His one page has dozens of different lessons but the five lesson beginner introduction course explores the use of neck spine and shoulders in an incredibly gentle way while lying on your back or front. Injured or not injured, I recommend it to any violinist or indeed, human being. YOu might find something in there that gives you new possibilities and freedom.
Take care,
Buri
January 23, 2021, 9:00 PM · I had all kinds of neck and back troubles - also migraines. I used one of those Happinex slings and, instead of using it the way they suggested, hooked it around my chinrest. I also extended a Bon Musica shoulder rest so that the hook part was longer. It changed my life! Very soon I will do a video of this and post it here.
January 23, 2021, 10:31 PM · I like the Kreddle chinrest, as it has a broad, flat profile, and is adjustable in tilt, location and height. I have two models, and as a matter of personal preference, I prefer the original model chinrest, but the more recent one would probably work fine.

I also don't know if you have access to Alexander Technique (which you probably don't due to COVID), but if you do, it'd be worth a shot.

January 23, 2021, 11:17 PM · I worked with a PT/violinist/AT instructor previously when I injured my rotator cuff a few years ago. My setup was already good at the time, thankfully, though I did pick up some AT things (as well as a set of PT exercises that I've kept doing -- this latest issue is with a different part of the shoulder.)
January 24, 2021, 7:59 AM · Lydia, I am very sorry to hear that you are experiencing pain. Could I suggest that you try this product? This product has worked for me, my students and my friends.
https://www.thechinrestlip.com/

Here is a video that explains the device:
https://youtu.be/YsybvVXOWQA
Most importantly, The Chinrest Lip successfully allows the performer to feel the violin as an integral part of the body. This proximity to the instrument heightens the sensitivity to such a degree that one can feel the actual vibrations of the instrument while playing. As a result of this synergy, the performer attains the ultimate goal of every serious musician---to become one with the music. The Chinrest Lip, used over time, will help alleviate back, neck, and shoulder pains caused by improperly holding the instrument. Good luck!

January 24, 2021, 8:44 AM · Lydia, real sorry you have this problem. I hope you soon conquer it. I have no idea if my ideas will help at all but here goes. I've been fighting the effects of left-arm problems due to cervical vertebral nerve pinching that started over 30 years ago (~10 years before we met).

1. I am now using the low, flat-top Joachim chinrest from Concordmusic.com :
https://www.concordmusic.com/products/joachim-violin-chinrest
I modify it with "The Impressionist" moldable product to shape the top to my jaw/chin in the position I use.

When I use a shoulder rest I now use the "PERFORMA" from Shar. The wooden PERORMA weighs about one ounce less than the plastic one, but neither has any effect on tone that I can detect.

I have also found the extra weight of Impressionist material has no affect on tone. For my purpose I only need half of the Impressionist material on each chinrest. Earlier I had improved the tonal effects of all my chinrests by substituting a rubber liner for the standard cork in contact with the violins. I first made this substitution based on my hypothesis that the rubber might better isolate the violin from the damping weight of the chinrest. It seemed to work so I made the change on all my fiddles (except the ones that still had "Original Stuber made in Germany" chinrests that I had obtained ~50 years earlier). I shaped my Impressionist material by using one of my original chinrests to make a mold from one Impressionist for shaping the others that I would attach to the Joachim chinrst. However the use instructions for the Impressionist describe using your own jaw/chin for shaping.

Edited: January 24, 2021, 8:51 AM · For a low and soft shoulder rest, what about a Playonair or a cosmetic sponge?
January 24, 2021, 10:14 AM · Hi Lydia, very sorry to hear about your pain.

I think it's totally okay to hold a violin more centrally, I'm tiny and hold my viola almost straight in front of me because it's so big, although for violin it's a bit more to the side. Sounds to me like the Wittner would be a good option, since they are fairly low and fit over the tailpiece, even the side mounted one which is more centered than most. As far as shoulder rests, you've got a lot of good suggestions, it sounds like a medium size sponge, Playonair or similar may be a good bet. I remember I think you tried the Viva la Musica, would that work? I heard it can go very low. Is a Kun or Everest with feet screwed all the way in still too high?

Edited: January 24, 2021, 9:38 PM · Lydia,

Sorry to hear about your shoulder.

I've been using sponges and rubber bands: https://www.amazon.com/Fantasea-Extra-Thick-Cosmetic-Sponge/dp/B000NJ00DK/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=violin+sponge&qid=1611545775&sr=8-3

These might work for you for now.

January 24, 2021, 11:35 PM · I've tried a sponge, which isn't enough support. I've got a Zaret-type foam rest but it's for a fractional rather than a full-size, and can't be positioned where it needs to be, though I've ordered a saddle-shape foam to try. If that doesn't work my next plan is a Playonair. (If the pandemic made it more reasonable to go to a shop, my life would be much simplified.)
January 24, 2021, 11:42 PM · yeah totally, trying things at the shop helps. would stacking sponges or using a larger one or one with more shape be a good idea?
January 25, 2021, 1:03 AM · Lydia, having wrestled with shoulder injuries since 2015, I know what it is like. I sympathize with you and I wish you a speedy recovery.
The Berber/Ohrenform chinrest helps me. I could not find a setting for the Kréddle that fitted.
January 25, 2021, 8:39 PM · I looked at that Chin Rest Lip video and the man demonstrating it looks like he's going to have a stroke. But it gives me an idea ... I wonder if I could apply a much more subtle "lip" to my violin by stacking up a few layers of molefoam.
February 2, 2021, 10:34 PM · I had previously purchased a Performa (I wrote about that in a previous post) but after experimenting with it for a while, I'd gone back to my Korfker.

The bar-style shoulder-rest -- whether a Korfker or my old VLM Diamond -- bites into my shoulder at a particularly tender spot. But the Performa, with its broad, flat support surface, is easier to cope with. The hard surface is still uncomfortable but at least it's not creating pressure at any particular point. (I'm still waiting for a foam-style shoulder-rest to be delivered.)

I've become aware that I very slightly raise my shoulder when I hold the violin normally. Indeed, I tend to raise my shoulder with many movements in general, and I need to carefully avoid doing that at present. But I need to fool with both my chinrest set-up and my shoulder-rest.

February 3, 2021, 1:16 AM · Hi Lydia. I'm truly sorry to hear about your shoulder. It must be incredibly frustrating not to be able to play at all. I hope it heals quickly.

I'm not sure whether this very low-tech solution might help at all, but I saw an elderly Scottish fiddler using it and ordered one for a student who had no collarbone - it made all the difference for her.

https://at-aust.org/items/11167

It could be worth getting your physio to see whether or not it takes the pressure off your left shoulder.

The shop that sold them was down the road from me but seems to have closed since covid. If you think it might be useful, let me know, and I'll see if I can source one for you.

I assume the balanced shoulder rest isn't useful because it's still all about the left shoulder? If not maybe someone could mock up with an acoustic version for you?

February 7, 2021, 8:25 AM · Hi Lydia,
Have you tried the unusual step of dispensing with the chin-rest altogether ?
This is what I do - gets rid of that protuberence that overlies the chin-end of the violin , takes considerable weight off, and balances the instrument less top-heavily towards the chin-end. I do use some velcro (not on the wood side) patches held on with rubber bands going diagonally across from the peg at the chin end across the concave parts of the body.
Then I use a shoulder rest - wolf I think it is called , or maybe not, can't remember - fairly small , and on its lowest setting , and angled across the violin not straight across the bottom but reaching higher on the left than the right.
I have a broken collar bone set wrong, which has led me to look for ways to compensate for the last 5 years- and this is my solution . It is kind of half way between playing with and without shoulder rest, because I must indeed support the violin with my left hand quite a lot of the time- and consequently I have had to ditch arm vibrato a lot of the time in favour of more wrist vibrato etc. If you find that ditching the chin rest altogether helps with your problem - and then putting some low padding where the chin rest was with rubber bands, I can attest that this can indeed work-
February 8, 2021, 11:06 AM · Sorry to know that Lydia, I had it in my both shoulders some years ago... I had about 80 physical therapy to cure each one...
February 21, 2021, 9:14 PM · At this point I have concluded that what I need is a firm foam shoulder-rest in the exact shape and height of a Performa.

I tried the Shar "Perfect Shoulder Rest" in the saddle-shape, and it's the right firmness for support, but not quite the right height and the material is in the wrong place.

February 21, 2021, 9:55 PM · For years now I've been using a Happinex sling. Actually now I just use a loop of lycra under my right arm and over the chin rest. I do this in combination with a specially adapted shoulder rest. I don't have to use my head anymore. I'm going to be doing a video on this soon for all you poor violinists with injuries, neck problems etc.
Edited: February 22, 2021, 12:31 AM · I have been using a 'type' of the Happinex sling. I have a special clip that clamps on the chin rest area with a clamp mechanism like the chin rest has. I have removed the chin rest and I don't need a shoulder rest either. The strap goes over my left shoulder, through the clip and through my trouser belt on my right side, because it is very uncomfortable under my right arm. The violin can be detached from the strap very quickly.
February 22, 2021, 10:51 AM · I just hook mine around the chin rest. I can put my head on the chinrest occasionally if I want to. That way may be better for 'regular' violinists who just want to switch occasionally to rest their neck.
February 22, 2021, 2:50 PM · Lydia, good luck on your search, please let us know what you settle upon. I'm taking notes.

As for me, my Wolf Forte Secundo arrives today - I'm trying it as it will rest closer to my neck than my VLM Diamond. My shoulder feels better simply by (significantly) lowering the shoulder side of my VLM, I will see what happens with the Wolf. I decided the Accurest just doesn't have the right dimensions for me.

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