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Viola/violin hickies


rainyann
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My violist son has occasionally has a small bruise type viola hickey but nothing much more than that. He is away at an orchestral studies camp and is playing 8 hours a day or more. Each time I have seen him he has a large and distinctive hickey now. It is not like a bruise at all and looks as if it will not go away. He has one week of camp left.

I know it is due to the amount of playing but is it also due to the amount of playing in severe humidity? He hasn't changed his chin rest or way of playing.

Can it get smaller? What should he do when he gets home? Maybe it will disappear since he doesn't practice a lot when he is home.

Thanks

Renee

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At least it's not a festering ulcer, as on some professional players! :-) He might try draping a handkerchief over the bottom end of the violin, which is what some players do, but I bet, if he didn't have this until now, that it will go away quickly enough when he gets back. At least you know he's practicing, not goofing off! :-)

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Thanks

They have symphony orchestra rehearsals all morning, sectional or string orchestra rehearsals in the afternoon and quartet rehearsals in the evening. They squeeze practice in between if they can. The playing is mandatory, there is no time to goof off. They are kept busy from 9 am until 10 pm, six days a week. The only free day is Sunday and only until 7 pm when they have quartet rehearsal.

This was the best money I have spent in a long, long time!

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When I was at Interlochen one summer I practiced until my fingers bled, literally (I had a particular challenge in mind that I figured I could win if I practiced enough). However, I did move up 12 chairs in the cello section that week, because of it. No pain, no gain. :-) Skin, fortunately, regenerates relatively quickly, especially when it's young. :-)

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The Strad pad is good, and I have found also that the Wittner hypoallergenic composite chinrests allow me to be virtually hickey-free even without a Strad pad (though I certainly don't play nearly as much as rainyann's son!)

A bad hickey, I believe, is also partly the result of a posture fault- a tendency to shove the instrument tightly against the neck to get a feeling of security. I have had to work to eliminate this tic, in conjunction with trying different chinrests and shoulder rests (I use Bonmusicas now, and I particularly like it for viola playing) to find a combination that gets the instrument in a balanced, well-supported position without any hunching and cramming.

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This has come up before on this board. I've had that problem and it seems to be caused/aggravated by heat/humidity and ebony or plastic chinrests. My boxwood rest doesn't ever give me a painful hickey (other than the normal one that is always there and is more like a callus). With my ebony rests, I don't know if it's the material or the shape. I'm suspecting the shape, because I vaguely remember a few years ago playing the summer season with an ebony TEKA and it didn't cause the problem (although a plastic TEKA did, so in that case it WAS the plastic). The rests that are problematic have a rather abrupt edge -- not rounded -- where they contact the neck.

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I think it would be good to have an informed teacher (one who knows about unnecessary tension, kinesiology) evaluate the violin placement and posture. The hickey problem, symptomatic of undue stress, could be a precursor to TMJ an esp. serious problem for developing youngsters who continue uncorrected... Another thing to watch out for is carpal.

Though wordy, I think "How Muscles Learn: teaching the violin with the body in mind," S. Kempter, has merit in these regards.

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You might find that it might also be an allergic reaction to the nickel silver bracket for the chin rest. I believe the EU has banned the use of nickel fittings that come in contact with skin because of allergic reactions. Don't know what the effective date is though. Some woodwind manufacturers have already phased out their use of nickel silver (or "german silver") in their keywork because of this--standard keywork is now silver. There are titanium screws/barrels available that are hypoallergenic, and they are pricy. I don't have my DICK catalog with me, but it seems like the entire bracket was around 60-70 euros.

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The typical "violin hickey" occurs at the corner of the jaw, where the pressure is greatest against the chin rest. It is caused by some combination of poor fit and/or poor technique. Few, if any, chin rests are shaped to spread the point of contact over a sufficiently wide area to prevent damage to tissue, with the possible exception of the GelRest (which I have not tried and do not necessarily endorse). Naturally, the damage can be aggravated by excessive or continual force against the chin rest. In this respect it would be a technique problem. Some users report that allergic reaction to the chin rest material can be a factor in some cases. Some users report allergy to the nickel fittings, but this should leave a very different mark.

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Well, when I was over on the east coast, my hickey wasn't horrible, but it certainly wasn't pretty either. I had a lovely bunch of zits on it, probably because of the oils from my chin rest, but now I use a cloth over it. It keeps the hickie down, and is quite comfortable.

Anyway, I wouldn't worry about it. Poor technique? As if! When I talked with Zuckerman it was impossible not to notice his hickey, and Zuckerman has such horrendous technique you know.

Eight hours a day is pretty ridiculous, I hope that he doesn't get tendonitus, and that he's playing accurately.

--Mazas

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While I do not myself grow those things, I think I do know the best cure for them. Invest in a length of chamois cloth from your local auto supply store. Cut it to any lengths/shapes that will drape comfortably over the chinrest and down in front of the mounting hardware.

Chamois is very protective, comfy and sweat-absorbing. And it also helps to keep the instrument in place under the chin.

When it gets too grungy, use it to dry water drops off your car when you wash it. Once wet, the chamois is stiff after drying, and not suitable for the use outlined above.

If your son is fussy, you can attach the chamois to the chinrest with a rubber band, and move it around from time to time as it gets dirty. Or he can do what I do, and simply drape it over the rest and the mounting legs.

And yes, it is usually pronounced "Sha-mee."

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Some people manage to play for several hours per day and avoid or minimize any problem. Although a small mark may be inevitable, I am confident it can be minimized or eliminated with better equipment and technique. Although it is possible to adapt better to some chin rests than others, I am not aware of any commercial chin rest that is anatomically correct.

I would ascribe Zukerman's problem to poor fit, rather than poor technique. However, poor technique is frequently a factor. The simple fact is that the problem is caused by excessive pressure over extended times, and it is highly adviseable to minimize the force and duration of contact. Above all, it is essential to minimize the dreaded death grip, which can cause abnormal bone growth as well as temporomandibular joint problems.

Sweat, bacteria, and allergic contact dermatitis, are possible aggravating factors. A cloth, or maybe a chamois, can help with cleanliness and mitigate the problem. They are easy to use, but they may nott eliminate the problem because they don't significantly redistribute the pressure.

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On second thought, Zukerman's hickey may be aggravated by technique. I read somewhere on this board that he wished he had developed a wrist vibrato. In my experience, an arm vibrato usually requires a tighter hold on the violin than wrist vibrato.

Anyway, let me summarize. To minimize the problem: (1) reduce or redistribute the pressure through better choice of chin rest or use of soft padding; (2) adapt technique to require the least possible pressure on the chin rest; if possible, use it mainly for shifting; (3) a cloth may help; (4) keep the skin clean. Soap and water helps prevent infections. Vaseline may help (haven't tried it). Triple antibiotic ointment would probably be better.

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Thank you all. My son comes home on Saturday after a month of playing 7 to 8 hours a day. I am sure that he will probably have had his fill of practice for quite awhile. More hopefully, he will be inspired to practice more but in the comfort of his air conditioned home. He has his youth orchestra seating audition on Sept 9th.

Enjoy the day!

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New York State Summer School of the Arts, School of Orchestral Studies. NY has one for Jazz, dance, Ballet, Choral Studies, media arts and more.

The School of Orchestral Studies is at Skidmore College at Saratoga Springs and is co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Admission by audition

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Though you make sense there is a difference between the allerigic reaction to nickel and a viola/violin hickey. If it is an allergic reaction than it would look like the skin is being eaten away and it hurts and itches. Trust me I am allergic to nickel and didn't realize there was nickel in the brackets but an easier fix than having to change the brackets is covering it with a thick enough cloth so the nickel doesn't have any contact with the skin. I use something that is like a pad to cover it and it helps to cut down on the violin hickey and my allergic reaction to nickel. But don't worry about the viola/violin hickey to much cause they come and go and normally aren't noticeable if they are small.

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