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help with holding violin


hungrycanine
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I'm a beginning player (about 1 year)and am still having problems holding the violin securely at my neck. Early on, my teacher suggested I buy a Bonmusica shoulder rest, and that certainly helped. I feel confident about my shoulder-hold when I begin, but as I play, I feel the violin slipping down. This, of course, encourages me to hang on more than I wish to with my left hand and to press against the violin neck with my thumb. This happens especially as I finger the E string. My teacher doesn't have much more to say on the topic. I'm wondering if this is something I should go to a luthier with? Would s/he be the best person to recognize a problem with my current chin rest or such...that it should be raised/lowered, replaced with a different style? Or is it something I should seek help with from another teacher/player? Thanks for any thoughts on the subject.

Since I'm not sure if this is a Pegbox question or a Fingerboard question, I've posted to both. Sorry for the replication. Richard

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I'm a beginning player (about 1 year)and am still having problems holding the violin securely at my neck. Early on, my teacher suggested I buy a Bonmusica shoulder rest, and that certainly helped. I feel confident about my shoulder-hold when I begin, but as I play, I feel the violin slipping down. This, of course, encourages me to hang on more than I wish to with my left hand and to press against the violin neck with my thumb. This happens especially as I finger the E string. My teacher doesn't have much more to say on the topic. I'm wondering if this is something I should go to a luthier with? Would s/he be the best person to recognize a problem with my current chin rest or such...that it should be raised/lowered, replaced with a different style? Or is it something I should seek help with from another teacher/player? Thanks for any thoughts on the subject.

Since I'm not sure if this is a Pegbox question or a Fingerboard question, I've posted to both. Sorry for the replication. Richard

To fully control the violin you need three points of contact with the instrument, your left hand and fingers, your left shoulder, and your chin. Using your chin can help to counteract the effect of shifting down from higher positions, which might pull the instrument away from your neck. Using your shoulder and chin you don't have to hold up the instrument so much with the left hand. All of this is just my personal experience, I'm not a teacher or professional player. And I hope your post isn't the start of another argument on the forum about the pros and cons of shoulder rests.

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The solution can ultimately only come from you, of course. That said, your journey to finding the ergonomic answer might include a pit stop or two at your local music supply store. I'm talking about a good store that stocks a lot of different chinrest models as well as a lot of different shoulder rest models. The chinrest and not the shoulder rest might be the issue. You have to try different combinations. Or the solution could be as simple as putting a handkerchief or one of those latex pads (Strad pad?) over your chinrest if you have greasy skin or sweat a lot.

As for the shoulder rests - a lot of players these days use Kun. I think it's a good solution as shoulder rests go since it is adjustable and doesn't touch the back of the violin (and thus doesn't absorb sound like other types).

Lastly, I think it's important to be able play both with a shoulder rest and without one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, btw. Some folks (notably Oistrakh, Heifetz - yes, Heifetz, Zukerman, Stern, etc.) used a foam or rubberized pad under the jacket, try that too. Try using a really high chinrest and no shoulder pad.

And so on...

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The solution can ultimately only come from you, of course. That said, your journey to finding the ergonomic answer might include a pit stop or two at your local music supply store. I'm talking about a good store that stocks a lot of different chinrest models as well as a lot of different shoulder rest models. The chinrest and not the shoulder rest might be the issue. You have to try different combinations. Or the solution could be as simple as putting a handkerchief or one of those latex pads (Strad pad?) over your chinrest if you have greasy skin or sweat a lot.

As for the shoulder rests - a lot of players these days use Kun. I think it's a good solution as shoulder rests go since it is adjustable and doesn't touch the back of the violin (and thus doesn't absorb sound like other types).

Lastly, I think it's important to be able play both with a shoulder rest and without one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, btw. Some folks (notably Oistrakh, Heifetz - yes, Heifetz, Zukerman, Stern, etc.) used a foam or rubberized pad under the jacket, try that too. Try using a really high chinrest and no shoulder pad.

And so on...

Andrew Victor has posted extensively on this forum on the issue of finding the right chin rest. Someone more skillful than I am can find the posts using the search function.

As for not using a shoulder rest, I find I need one on my violin, even with a commercially available high chin rest but I can do fine on my viola without a rest but using a high chin rest.

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Thanks for these responses and thoughts. I initially used a Kun rest, and went to the Bonmusica at my teacher's recommendation, as it allows for greater adjustment and shapes to my shoulder better than the Kun did. That helped immensely, but as my playing "progresses", I'm finding that my left hand can't do the fingering I want it to do because it is also having to push the violin back up on my shoulder. It might well be that the chin rest is what needs attention. Currently, mine is to the side, and perhaps I just need to go to a well-stocked shop (not a luthier necessarily?)and explore options. Two related thoughts: 1) I'd love to play with no shoulder rest, but right now, that is inconceivable! 2) As a beginner, I find it WAY too easy to blame my problems on equipment, and not to just work though the problem, since at this stage, I'm not sure what is "technique" and what is an "equipment" issue. Thanks again for the feedback.

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As you have or will quickly learn there are no cookie cutter answers to this question. However, many people feel they do have THE answer. Soon the anti-shouder rest mafia will come on with their proclamations. But you have to do what works for you. Everyone's physiology is different so how do you know? For the first couple of hundred years there was neigher a chin rest or shoulder rest, but people played anyway, then no shoulder rest,still people played, now you have all kinds of options. The goal is the most stable hold with the least amount of stress. As a person who learned on viola and played viola exclusively for 20 years before picking up the violin, it is hard for me to relate to any issues holding a violin. It is so small and light. I use a shoulder rest and with seemlingly zero effort I can support it easily between my shoulder and chin and almost totaly free the left hand to just play notes. Just avoid any sqeezing that would cause tension in the neck, back or shoulder, and avoid raising the shoulder, if you find the perfet fit and position, you should never experience fatigue holding your violin unless you are quite small. One thing tha i have found, the dynamcis are cmpletely different withotu a shoulder rest, on my body with no shoulder rest, the left hand must be very active in holding and controlling the position of the instrument, that is why I prefer using a shoulder rest.

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I’d like to add my penny’s worth here. I hope this thread doesn’t turn into should rest against no shoulder rest debate.

You’ll get a lot of advice from people here, but only you’ll know what is right for you. Here some suggestions based on years of experience that you might like to consider:

Start with the chin rest then search for an equally and supportive shoulder rest. The one that I and most of my pupil find comfortable is the Guadganini chin rest. There must be at least 20-30 other different chin rests on the market. I have a draw full of them :-). Try them until you find one that is comfortable under you chin/jaw.

When it comes to shoulder rests, IMHO choose a rest that is not totally fixed like scaffolding under your chin. You need some degree of horizontal movement for bow pressure, i.e GENERALLY the violin should be able to rotate at an angle to the floor for the lower strings, and it should be relatively flatter when on the E string. People who don’t use shoulder rest have this ability, the violin can rotate on the collar bone. . If you watch Pinchas Zukerman’s masterclasses this is what he advocates. For this reason he’s not a fan of Kun shoulder rest, and he has said it publicly many times how much he hates Kun. I don’t like Kun either, it allows no horizontal movement, you need to rotate your body to get the effect. The same goes for Bonmusica, it curves itself around the shoulder and limits the movement.

Try wolf forte secondo, but don’t use it as it comes out of the packet. Twist it and bend to the shape of your body contour. Of course there are many other shoulder rests out there but they are mainly variations on the same theme.

Finally, last week I posted about a new rest called the ‘Comfy’ shoulder rest. This one is quite different, I found it extremely comfortable, it’s made of foam so it would mould to the shape of body and it allows that horizontal movement and yet it's very supportive. I guess it can also be used under a jacket, as well as on the back of the instrument. Effectively it could be an answer to both camps! Sadly I have not been able to find it in the US. Again, because I find it comfortable it doesn’t necessary mean It would be good for you.

I hope you find it a suitable combination soon. Be prepared to have collection of chin and shoulder rests :-)

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I'd like to add my penny's worth here. I hope this thread doesn't turn into should rest against no shoulder rest debate.

It's interesting how a few have predicted this debate would happen here, but it hasn't, and won't. I think the days of disgustedly tossing

a student's shoulder rest down on the floor in a master class are thankfully behind us and people now have a more open-minded, more intelligent approach to ergonomics.

Gidon Kremer uses a shoulder rest - that alone means it's OK !

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My girls' teacher had them go through a whole lot of chin rests and shoulder rests, but we have finally found the right combination for both of them- and they are the same for both. The girls have a chin rest (bought for $7 from shar's)with a hump on the side. The shoulder rest is the best the teacher has ever found for fitting differently sized people. There are extension feet available too. It's the everest shoulder rest.

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When it comes to shoulder rests, IMHO choose a rest that is not totally fixed like scaffolding under your chin. You need some degree of horizontal movement for bow pressure, i.e GENERALLY the violin should be able to rotate at an angle to the floor for the lower strings, and it should be relatively flatter when on the E string. People who don’t use shoulder rest have this ability, the violin can rotate on the collar bone.

Hmmm, raising my elbow has always worked for me. I prefer the instrument not move, but be a stable platform. Al motions is formed around the instrument and is thus more efficient as little energy is expended readjusting to a new instrument angle and avoiding all the calculations the brain must make to adjust the body to that new location. Its a little different philosophy than the old school, but now a valid one due to the equipment available. Just a different view.

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Most chinrests are geared towards a more square (masculine) jaw-line as it has been more difficult to fit those with a more characteristically feminine jaw-line who would like to play a flatter violin. Offset or centered chinrests also can shift the load/angle of the violin, which might be a consideration.

There are obviously many factors in placing a violin or viola on to the upper body. As a beginner, each teacher will have or offer a priority as to the best position for the player - based on the method of teaching - and the student will have to trust (at the mercy of...) the instinct of that teacher and possibly friends who are players. The only assurance I offer is that elements of playing get easier (comfortable), than more difficult, and the process is often cyclical. Some would argue it is a waste of time. I would argue that it is worth adapting one's playing or technique to a better tool, if the differences in performance are significant. For beginners, it's mostly about getting things right. I too have challanges everyday, not perhaps with the early Kayser or Kruetzer exercises, but with fast down shifts, and certainly in developing fine tone production. *cough* *cough*

The Bon Musica shoulder rest is an interesting example of trying to make a reasonable object do too many things. I'm glad it's in the marketplace, yet because it is what it is, it can have quite a few limitations for some players. I've fit dozens and it's not the easiest thing to do in many instances. If there is an idealized position available, you're certainly ahead of the game (and the minor details of that position will probably be temporary, relative to the years you'll put into playing). If one is good and practices on occasion with a mirror, check the posture to see if the right arm is independent of the main body throughout the bow stroke. If one sways or there is a variation to that bow stroke, the shoulder rest will need to be tweaked (flatter)to accomodate for that movement. The other way to ease into a Bon Musica (once it is semi-adjusted) is to lower the shoulder rest a bit - being careful not to hit the back of the violin under compression - and to put in a sponge or a folded cloth to give the player and the shoulder rest a little flexibility. The strip of foam is nice, but inadequate for some players.

Which leads to the main comment I wanted to add. This is not to be an endorsement for the Alexander Method, but the principle is important. The posture of the body needs to be vertical enough, or that there is enough dynamic movement (if this is acceptable), that the head is supported comfortably by the spine. The body needs to be able to support the head enough that the load on the chinrest is not a large amount. Maybe from dabbling in baroque styles or from playing so many instruments with differently-styled chinrests, I do like it (how it sounds), when it's not necessary to put too much pressure on the chinrest. Of course, on that rapid down shift down the fingerboard, the chin needs to compress abit to avoid losing the violin entirely to the left hand. So there are three points of contact with the violin, but the more flexible (not necessarily better) a player gets, the smaller and looser that contact might become. I'm always amazed to see fiddlers rest the violin half way down their chests, some near the sternum. They play the violin as if they were golfing, with both elbows close, in front, and forearms nearly parallel.

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I'm a beginning player (about 1 year)and am still having problems holding the violin securely at my neck. Early on, my teacher suggested I buy a Bonmusica shoulder rest, and that certainly helped. I feel confident about my shoulder-hold when I begin, but as I play, I feel the violin slipping down. This, of course, encourages me to hang on more than I wish to with my left hand and to press against the violin neck with my thumb. This happens especially as I finger the E string. My teacher doesn't have much more to say on the topic. I'm wondering if this is something I should go to a luthier with? Would s/he be the best person to recognize a problem with my current chin rest or such...that it should be raised/lowered, replaced with a different style? Or is it something I should seek help with from another teacher/player? Thanks for any thoughts on the subject.

Since I'm not sure if this is a Pegbox question or a Fingerboard question, I've posted to both. Sorry for the replication. Richard

I recently switched to the Bon Musica shoulder rest and it solved all my problems, which were similar to yours. If you can "feel comfortable when you begin" as you say, it would appear that you have the correct shoulder rest. One of the factors I never considerd previously was the violin itself. Yes, they are all similar in design and dimentions. Yet, I find that of the three violins I have, some are easier to handle than others. It is true that you want to best instrument that you can get because of the sound. But the weight and 1/2 inch difference between some may be a factor to consider. You received responses from people more qualified than I am. From a non professional point of view, it appears that you are on the right track and appear to be getting good guidance from your instructor. Your problem should work itself out as you continue your studies.

Ben Podgor

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Since I started using the Bon Musica, I can actually do what your picture shows, without that additional strap. It provides a support that rests against your chest.

Ben Podgor

Interesting. You mean you can put the violin on your shoulder / collar bone area, not use your jaw or chin, or your left arm and it just kinda 'stays' there?

Sounds futuristic!

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Interesting. You mean you can put the violin on your shoulder / collar bone area, not use your jaw or chin, or your left arm and it just kinda 'stays' there?

Sounds futuristic!

No. I am sorry if I was not clear. I do have to put my jaw or chin against it. But no hands or strap. I previously had to have some hand support.

Ben

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Hmmm, raising my elbow has always worked for me. I prefer the instrument not move, but be a stable platform. Al motions is formed around the instrument and is thus more efficient as little energy is expended readjusting to a new instrument angle and avoiding all the calculations the brain must make to adjust the body to that new location. Its a little different philosophy than the old school, but now a valid one due to the equipment available. Just a different view.

Not wishing to extend this thread beyond the original question, here's just an example of horizontal movement in the beginning of this clip that facilitates an easier performance. Raising and lowering the elbow without a slight horizontal move from the violin seems harder and more cumbersome to me. I don't like the type of shoulder rests that restrict movements and fix the violin in one place.

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I really don't see it. His upper body and instrument are rocking a little in as a unit, so the platfrom remains stable. It doesn't have to be immobile, just the relative positions of the arms hands and instruments need to remain stable. I see far more here emphasizing stability and a secure hold than anything else. Look how rock solid it is when he shifts, I require a shoulder rest to achieve that, Heifetz only needs a foam pad under his padded jacket.

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I really don't see it. His upper body and instrument are rocking a little in as a unit, so the platfrom remains stable. It doesn't have to be immobile, just the relative positions of the arms hands and instruments need to remain stable. I see far more here emphasizing stability and a secure hold than anything else. Look how rock solid it is when he shifts, I require a shoulder rest to achieve that, Heifetz only needs a foam pad under his padded jacket.

I am not disputing a need for shoulder rest, I use one myself. I'm also in agreement with you regarding secure hold for shifting. What I would like from a shoulder rest is a freedom to be able to slightly rotate the violin on its horizontal axis for smoother string crossing and a fuller tone. You get a much better counter pressure to the bow for the G string if the violin is tilted towards the floor with f-holes facing the audience. For the E string better counter pressure is achieved by a flatter violin position. Normally a foam pad or no shoulder rest gives you this facility. That's because foam gives a little, and no shoulder rest situation allows the violin rotate on the collar bone. Of course some people achieve this by body movement even with a solid shoulder rest. It's just the shoulder rest I mentioned in my previous post allows the horizontal rotation by a slight movement of the chin/jaw.

Apologies to everyone for diversion to the original topic.

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