Violin hickey permanence

May 4, 2023, 3:38 PM · Are violin hickeys permanent? For me, the skin is darker, rougher, and thicker.

Replies (21)

Edited: May 4, 2023, 10:35 PM · They can last a long time, especially if they are continually irritated.

Do all you can to assure you have a chinrest that BEST fits the shape of your chin/jaw.

If you play a lot you are probably going to have thicker skin there just as you will on your finger tips/pads. (As I sit here writing this I can feel the hickey under the left side of my jaw. I sort of remember how it felt when it first started to develop - during WW-II.

Keep the hickey clean, prevent/fight infection with alcohol or Zephiran Chloride antiseptic.

Use a soft cotton or chamois-leather pad on your chinrest and in contact with your collarbone. Keep it clean. - keep it "YOURS!"

I learned much of this at a coached chamber-music workshop week 46 years ago where we played 8 hours a day and then 4 hours a night "freelancing." Of course, by then my hickey was already approaching middle age, but that week really reactivated it.

If in doubt see a dermatologist for assessment.

May 5, 2023, 9:01 AM · If you are worried about your violin hickey on an interview, then you can use Covermark. Or, you can exploit your hickey as a test of the interviewer's general erudition.
May 6, 2023, 7:15 AM · Most 'violin hickey's are actually skin reactions to the zinc in the chinrest. The simplest thing is to use a cloth to cover the chinrest and drape over the shoulder (I use a chamois and attach it to the chinrest with an elastic band). This also protects your violin from skin fluids.

Alternatively, you can get zinc-free hardware replacements.

Edited: May 6, 2023, 8:59 AM · I have a mark on my neck from playing the violin, and my CR hardware has been all hypoallergenic for years. I think there's a difference between getting a mark on your neck from the effect of continual pressure and abrasion on the tissue in your skin and the surface circulatory structures, compared to allergic reactions from the metals in the hardware (betting on nickel or chromium) that can lead to redness, painful lesions, and secondary bacterial infections.
Edited: May 6, 2023, 8:22 AM · My hickey was very noticeable for maybe 20 years but then disappeared, approximately coinciding with my discovery of red wine. I continue taking the latter as a prophylactic.
May 6, 2023, 9:38 AM · You won’t have one if you play without a shoulder rest.
May 6, 2023, 11:26 AM · My hickey appeared years before I started to use a shoulder rest and it was not caused by metal parts of the chinrests.
People can also be sensitive or allergic to certain species of wood and/or certain finishes on surfaces.
Edited: May 6, 2023, 3:58 PM · I don’t have a violin mark/hickey. Almost everyone I know that plays without the scaffolding who doesn’t clench has no trace of one.
May 6, 2023, 4:19 PM · "Clench" yeah - that's the word. I remember being 5 and 6 years old and emulating players who walked around with their violins sticking out and not holding on with their hands. Maybe that's what started it!
May 6, 2023, 5:08 PM · Nate - I don't use one either - but if my skin contacts the metal bracket its instant reaction. I had one (hickey) all through childhood but nobody knew about zinc sensitivity at the time.
May 6, 2023, 10:27 PM · I have played with, then without and now for the last 20 years againwith a shoulder rest. I had a hickey when I was young and used a shoulder rest. I had one when I played later without. But now when I've returned to a shoulder rest, but also a different violin and chin rest, I have not the slightest sign of even a callous or any thickening of the skin. Probably just lucky I guess, but I don't subscribe to the idea that playing without a rest will alleviate this issue.
Edited: May 7, 2023, 1:38 AM · I was initially taught that the left arm should be left as free as possible so as not to impair shifting of position and shouldn't be responsible for supporting the instrument. I was one of those Andrew remembers whose "clench" was strong enough to carry the violin unaided, and probably caused the hickey.

Later on I suspect it was many hours playing in orchestras with a more relaxed posture that caused me to lose it. All this time I used a shoulder rest (which of course doesn't touch the neck) and a chin rest. But on the debit side, I can't help recalling the comment of one of the Delme Quartet during a coaching session, "you know you shift position all wrong?". Hey, ho.

Edited: May 7, 2023, 9:02 AM · During my 29 year hiatus when I stopped playing, mine completely healed and disappeared. Since I restarted a few years ago, it has never reappeared, because my skills were still there but just extremely rusty from the time away. I believe it is an irritation that develops as a result of incorrect technique as we are developing and gradually improving, and from excessive tension, while gripping the violin with our chin and shoulder. I remember that beginning of mine with the Suzuki program where I was taught to walk around, hands free, gripping the violin with my chin and shoulder. I believe this started a bad habit of a raised shoulder and this contributes to the irritation.
May 7, 2023, 9:19 PM · I played without SR throughout my childhood and I always had the hickey and I don't have sensitivities to metals or, to my knowledge, different kinds of wood. I can't say I didn't clench, though. Like Andrew, I wanted to emulate my teacher, who was able to hold up his violin without his hands. I do have a bone spur where my CR hardware dug into my collar bone for all those years. There's no way I could put my violin right down on my collarbone now.
Edited: May 9, 2023, 7:30 AM · Some years earlier in the current century I purchased 6 cotton chinrest covers for all my chin instruments. They envelop the chinrests and also shield my neck from the chin hardware and cushion my collarbone. They have a single loop, invisible when in use, that stabilizes them by looping around the violin and viola end buttons.

At the time I purchased them they were being sold by a number of on-line dealers. There are two different brands of the same design. One of them was "M. E. Strings" that still seems to be available:

They are removable and washable washable, but I keep them on the instruments all the time and have never yet washed one.

I think they are made to fit a center-mount Guarneri chinrest, but I've been using them on left-mounted Stuber chinrests with no trouble. Previously I made my own covers with chamois that covvered the hardware and cushioned my collarbone and velcroed it to my chinrests.

May 7, 2023, 11:20 PM · I don’t use a shoulder rest, don’t clinch even when down shifting and still have a bit of a hickey. But that’s nothing compared to what I would have even after a very short time if I didn’t use a chinrest cover. My idea seems to be very similar to what Andrew has used. It is made of suede, which has a slip resistant quality and a minimal padding for the collar bone.
May 8, 2023, 2:01 PM · You won't have one if you play without a chinrest.
May 8, 2023, 2:14 PM · or if you just play cello instead, unless you're doing too much necking, and if you are playing such a sensual instrument, then undoubtedly you are.
May 8, 2023, 2:47 PM · I think my hickey has always been more prominent during my non-shoulder-rest stints. It's usually invisible but I can easily feel the difference in the skin texture.

My current chinrest -- which is very, very old -- seems to annoy my skin much more. I think it accumulates dirt and oils more than anything else I've ever used, and if I don't clean it regularly, it leads to bacterial infection.

I don't like the feeling of a chinrest cover, but a shirt collar will generally be adequate protection. My violin is pretty loosely held, but I also have a fat face, so there's that.

May 9, 2023, 5:59 AM · In the overview page with discussion threads, I keep reading this thread title as "Violin hickey performance" :-)

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